Great Commission


John 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He commissions and empowers us to be His witnesses

Who would have thought split pea soup would be the catalyst to lead someone to the Lord!  Back in grade school, when I was 7 years old, my best friend and her brother were over for lunch one day.  My mom had made split pea soup for us, not exactly kid food, and as she left the kitchen she cautioned, “Don’t add crackers to your soup or it will be too thick to eat.”

As we looked at our bowls of green goo in awe, we decided that crackers could only help the situation and started to crush many crackers into our soup and soon learned that mom was right.  We could have built a monument with the mortar that sat in front of us.  I started to cry just as she came back into the kitchen. Money was tight, and this was wasteful.

Mom decided to use this situation to talk about obedience and pleasing the Lord.  At the time I really didn’t understand what came over me, but I started to sing an old hymn of the church, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.”  Well, at 7 years old I certainly did not understand all the theology behind that song, and neither did my friends, but they started to weep.  In a matter of moments, they were repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Carol and Michael were the first souls I helped lead to the Lord, but it was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin. 

@ John 20
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (21-23)  When we read this scripture, it’s easy to get hung up on the question as to whether or not Jesus was saying that the disciples could forgive sin.  Unless they were the pure, spotless Lamb of God and had sacrificed their lives on the cross for sin, absolutely not.  However, this was Part 1 of a Spirit-given commissioning for these new believers to present the Gospel, God’s terms for salvation, to the world.  Part 2 followed in Acts 2 when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, the dunamis, the dynamite explosion to be His witnesses.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they were not alone in presenting their message because the convicter, the convincer of sin, the Holy Spirit would be with them. “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (16:8)  The Holy Spirit is the great evangelist, and we are His voice.  Understanding this truth should remove anxiety and apprehension from sharing the Gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit convicted my friends of their sinful nature because that is His job.  Having already received the Lord as my Savior, I had been commissioned by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ, and it was so very easy because He did all the work.  I mean, if at 7 years old I could be used in this way, what is my excuse today?  We are His voice, and when we do our job in obedience, He is right there with us doing His job! 

Moving Forward: I pray that I will never let doubt and apprehension diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ.  When I share the goodness of God and the salvation He has given through His Son, I am partnering with the Great Evangelist!

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 1- 4

Psalms 96-98 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is great and worthy of all praise! 

@ Psalm 96
Sing a new song to the Lord!”(1)  One dimension of this verse has come to life today in our church services and worship music.  Creative young souls are writing songs filled with a heart of love for the Lord, and I enjoy their expressions, their rhythm and their passion.  Their anointed songs are new and represent their understanding of who God is as well as their experience with Him. But then, I also enjoy the old songs of the church, the hymns and gospel songs of long ago when creative young souls wrote songs filled with a heart of love for the Lord.  The new songs and the old are all beautiful testimonies of God’s presence in our lives.

However, I believe the writer of this Psalm does not really intend new to mean a song that is different or newly written, but more so one that is a fresh and up-to-the-minute response to God’s goodness and greatness in our lives.  It may be a newly written song or an old one, but regardless, it is a song that is fresh from our hearts to Him.  Sometimes when He displays His power and majesty in my life, it causes me to burst out with a spontaneous new song that no one has ever sung before, fresh from my heart.  It’s for His ears only, and that’s probably a good thing.

When a new song is vibrant in our hearts and minds, the Psalm goes on to tell us what to do with it, “Each day proclaim the good news that He saves. Publish His glorious deeds among the nationsTell everyone about the amazing things He does.  Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!”(2-3) 

Each day

1) proclaim – publicly state or make known

2) publish – print, distribute, circulate, announce

3) tell – inform, advise, enlighten.

Share about His salvation and the amazing things He does with everyone, everywhere. How are we going to do that along with all our other responsibilities?  If the song is there, the fresh song, we will find a way!

For 40 plus years, my friends Jim and Della found a way to share their song with at least one person every day, everywhere they went.  Jim was quite the rascal before he found the Lord, and he never forgot the freedom that came to his bound-up soul the day he accepted Jesus as his Savior.  His eyes always filled with tears when he shared his 40 year-old-song because it was fresh in his heart, and he wanted everyone to experience it.  Jim and Della led hundreds of people to the Lord by sharing their song each day, one soul at a time, everywhere they went.  If the song is fresh, we will find a way to share it.

“Publish His glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” (3)  If God has allowed us the privilege, and I do mean privilege, of going on a mission’s trip or outreach, we understand the great need, the great opportunity and the great sacrifice of sharing our song to the nations.  For most, the going and telling the nations each day is impossible, but God has appointed those to serve as our representatives, our hands and feet if you will, to go to the nations – our missionaries.

Because their song is fresh and up-to-the-minute, our representatives leave family, friends and comforts to go share the good news of His salvation and good deeds with everyone, every day.  Their tools include Bibles, books and lessons that our monies publish or announce through incredible mission’s groups like Wycliffe, Life Publishers (Book of Hope) and Light for the Lost.  Our missionaries represent new songs proclaimed, published and told to the nations every day!

If our song is new, fresh and up-to-the-minute, we can’t help but share the good news of God’s salvation and greatness with those we meet each day.  And if our song is new, fresh and up-to-the-minute, we can’t help but support our representatives who take our song to the nations.  It’s time to sing a new song!

Moving Forward:  The song is new and fresh today – I can’t help but sing!

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 17-18

John 1-2 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He became human and dwelt with us, revealing Himself to us

My mom was a personal soul winner like no one else I’ve ever known.  Although she was somewhat shy by nature, when it came to sharing her love for Jesus with others, she was fearless!  Her favorite tool was a small booklet of the Book of John, and I can’t even begin to number how many she gave out to those she had led to Lord.

Sometimes she would run out of her copies of John, but I can still hear her telling the new ones in the Lord, “Just read the Book of John! Read the Book of John because it will tell you all about Jesus.”  Mom loved this book because as a new Christian, before she found a church home or Christian friends, God directed her to read it.  Within the pages of John, she fell in love with her Savior, discovered her Shepherd and met the Great Physician.  Needless to say, the Book of John is a favorite of mine, too.

While the other gospels include wonderful, anointed biographies of the life and times of Jesus on earth, John’s approach in writing was different, more thematic.  Just as a lawyer systematically presents his argument to a jury, John gave a deliberate and methodical case for the deity and power of Jesus.  His closing argument, if you will, is found nearly at the end of John in chapter 20:30-31, “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.”   Persuaded by the powerful words of John and our own undeniable experience, my mom and I accept the verdict – Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God!

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1)  In our language of today, the term Word is an unusual way to begin a case for the deity of Christ, but in John’s day, it was a term familiar to Jew and Greek alike.  To the Jew it was a term used for God; and to the Greek, Word was a term used to represent the current philosophy or reason of an expressed thought.  During the troubled times of persecution after the fall of Jerusalem, John was able to capture the attention of both the Jew and the Greek.

Similar to the Greeks, today much of the world’s thinking about God and His Son is ruled by philosophy and reason without faith – He was simply a good man or possibly a prophet. Just as my mom had discovered, the words of John along with the testimony of our personal acceptance of Him are powerful tools to convince the world that Jesus is the Son of God.

I love the unforgettable words from John – “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29), “For God so loved the world that He gave” (3:16), “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep” (10:11), “Now you are my friends (15:15), and so much more.  Just read the Book of John!  Read the Book of John because it will tell you all about Jesus. And we will read it.

Moving Forward:  I’m convinced, and willing to share with anyone who will listen, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Word, the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the Mighty Counselor, the Healer…and my friend. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Thessalonians

Proverbs 14-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is looking for clean hearts, not clean barns 

@ Proverbs 14
Home decorating is one of my hobbies.  My children often said that at Christmas our home looked like a gift shop, and I guess I did overdo it a bit.  While I’m fairly traditional in style, I enjoy visiting homes decorated with different perspectives and degrees of formality.  With each year, our home gets more and more casual to fit our lifestyle, but elegant homes are still a delight to see, except for one that I visited several years ago.

I walked into a world of white – white walls, white carpet, white furniture, white kitchen, with only a touch of chrome and black here and there.  It was really dull.  Some may consider this style to be serene, but it made me nervous.  I was afraid to breathe for fear my exhaust would stain the walls.  I tried to imagine children running around the house, a science project on the table or spaghetti sauce on the stove, but I just couldn’t go there.  Spaghetti sauce, being red and all, just wouldn’t match.  When our lives are filled with people and projects and productivity, there’s going to be some mess.  I know this to be true.

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (4)  A barn without animals doesn’t require much attention – no hay strewn about, no feed to manage and certainly no dung to shovel.  But then, of course, that means no milk to drink, eggs to fry or horses to ride.  It’s just a clean, lifeless place.  And sometimes that’s what life becomes when we try to keep it serene and perfect with no spaghetti sauce.

When we began in youth ministry many years ago, I knew that life was going to get messy.   Lock-ins, car washes and field trips have messed up most of my Saturdays for as long as I can remember.  Christian concerts and praise bands have messed up my hearing to be sure.  Sleep at camp?  Forget about it.  But I wouldn’t trade a moment of all that mess for anything in the world.  The time and energy spent to clean up a messed up soul through the power of God are insignificant in light of eternity.  We are messy people, with our issues and attitudes, but the clean we really need to be concerned about is a clean heart.  “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

We know that interacting with a troubled co-worker or neighbor or unkempt person on the street with all their issues is probably going to mess up the nice, clean life we enjoy, but don’t we want them to see God too?  Patiently helping and guiding the messy teenagers that cross our path at church or in our home may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but I can testify that it is priceless.  So why don’t we mess up the barn, cook up some sauce and add a little color to our lives!

Moving Forward:  Looking for some messy people today.  I won’t have trouble finding them – it takes one to know one.  Thank you, Lord, for cleaning up messy lives!

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 43-48

Ezekiel 19-24 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He’s looking for someone to stand in the gap

The first time I visited London I was amused by the terminology the Brits used in the Underground train system.  Warning passengers to watch out for the space between the platform and the train, it was announced as well as printed on the platform, “Mind the Gap.”  My mind immediately looked for a Gap Store, but perhaps that’s just me. However, I appreciated their warning because missing that step could have been a very painful learning experience, maybe more painful than reading Ezekiel 19-24.  God’s message to Israel regarding the gap takes this warning to another level.

Ezekiel’s ministry of unheeded warnings to the captive Judeans in Babylon was coming to a close.  God had spoken to His people through many prophets only to be ignored and scorned, so when a group of leaders came to Ezekiel asking for a word of encouragement from the Lord, His response was not good.  “Some of the leaders of Israel came to request a message from the Lord. They sat down in front of me to wait for His reply. Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, tell the leaders of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: How dare you come to ask me for a message? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I will tell you nothing!”‘” (20:1-3)

At one time or another, we all have gone to someone with a question or piece of news and had the person jump down our throat, metaphorically of course, with an unexpected and unhappy response.  Sometimes we are so caught up in our own self-serving life that we are absolutely clueless how much we have offended someone.  Israel was about to find out how much they had offended their God.

God’s message over the next couple of chapters was scathing at best, and Jerusalem and its inhabitants were reminded of their rebellious history, even as far back as their trip out of Egypt where God held back His hand of judgment.  In the message, Jerusalem was called a City of Murderers, the people compared to worthless slag from melted silver and the nations of to Judah and Israel were compared to vile prostitutes.  Only a handful of kings and prophets throughout their history attempted to turn these nations back to God, and all the rest were found guilty – guilty prophets, guilty priests, guilty princes and guilty people.  Whew!  I can feel the heat.

However, even in this dissertation of judgment, God could not hide His true heart, “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” (22:30)  But I found no one.  How His people had broken His heart!  How He longed to restore, renew and revive.  God offered mercy and grace, but no one wanted them.  Ezekiel and others tried to stop the hand of God as Moses had done in the wilderness, but they were without a defense because of the utter wickedness of His people.  No one could speak for them.

God is not looking for cautious gap minders or fence sitters today.  He’s looking for gap standers, those who will rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards our lands.  He is looking for gap standers who will build a defense in the courtroom of judgment by seeking out and presenting to Him a people who will love and serve God. 

Moving Forward: Challenged by God’s heart today, I will join with so many others around the world to stand for righteousness and to seek out those who will love and serve Him.  See you at The Gap!

Tomorrow @ Luke 17-18

Ezekiel 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He gives hope for restoration through discipline

Our heavenly Father is not the kind of parent who gives empty threats or perhaps is too busy or too lazy to even care.  It’s painful to watch the parent who threatens punishment for a willful child over and over again but never follows through with discipline.  And of course, that child usually remains willful.

Almost 900 years before Ezekiel was written, God had threatened to wipe disobedient Israel off the planet because of the worship of the golden calf.  Up to this point in our reading, He hadn’t done it.  It wasn’t because He was lazy or too busy – something He could never be – but because He was and is longsuffering and merciful.  Aren’t we thankful for His mercy!  However, we find in the book of Ezekiel that punishment had finally come to the house of Israel.

Punishment of our children is seldom helpful to them if we don’t explain the purpose of it.  It may make us feel better to punish them, and children will tell you the old “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is a myth, but it won’t bring about a change in behavior unless they understand the reason for their punishment.  God was interested in change for His wayward child, Israel, and sent prophets to warn of punishment and to explain the reason for it.  Ezekiel was one of them.

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet who grew up during the great spiritual reforms of King Josiah, a king who did right in the eyes of the Lord.  Ezekiel had been exiled from Judah to Babylon during the second exile in 597 B.C., and at 30 years old, this young prophet had an encounter with God that changed the course of his life.  “On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God,” (1:1) and Ezekiel goes on to explain the four living beings that he saw.

Let me just say, if I had experienced this, I would be on the ground with my face in the dirt, and apparently so was Ezekiel, “Stand up, son of man,’ said the voice. ‘I want to speak with you.’  The Spirit came into me as He spoke, and He set me on my feet.  I listened carefully to His words…‘I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation…I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’  And whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet among them…but the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.” (2:1-5;3:7)  Whew!  This was going to be a hard sell for Ezekiel.

It was disheartening for Ezekiel to realize that he would spend the ensuing years of his life as a faithful watchman over Israel, warning of impending doom, yet assured by God that no one would listen. Over the course of time, we learn that very few, just a remnant, listened to the prophet Ezekiel, but they came through the punishment understanding why it happened and more determined than ever before to follow after God.

Today as we attempt to reach a nation much like the one of Ezekiel’s day, we can only hope that God doesn’t choose to use us with the methods and illustrated sermons in Ezekiel.  Would I be willing?  I might not mind 430 day of rest, but 430 days of the same meal?  Help!  But there has never been a day when the gospel has been easier to share than today through the unlimited media of television, radio, the internet and print materials, not to mention the convicting power of the Holy Spirit working through us.

Yes, we will meet some opposition and perhaps persecution along the way, and we may not be as popular as we would like when we share the gospel of Jesus, but our responsibility is not how it is received, but solely in the telling of it. “Whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet, [a messenger] among them.”  Ezekiel 3:18 assures us that the Lord will not hold us responsible if they do not listen. 

Moving Forward: I will be His watchman over my nation, my personal world that I move in throughout the day.  With His wisdom, I will share the good news, not hindered by fear of rejection but emboldened by His love. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 11-12

Luke 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to be fishers of men

I grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  I have many grand memories of canoeing on the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, swimming in their cool spring-fed waters during the hot summers, almost drowning in Cedar Lake (not such a grand memory) and fishing in lakes all over Minnesota.  Lots and lots of fishing.

I’ve sat for hours in a boat or on a pier with hardly a nibble, waiting for the big one to come along. I’ve caught hundreds of sunfish, perch and trout and I’ve even snagged a walleye or two. I love to fish, I don’t know why, but I do.  And there’s nothing like taking fresh-caught fish, cleaning them up and pan frying them on the spot, tasting their freshness while dodging all those bones.  Great memories!  However, our fishing story today reminds me of another kind of catch, one with an eternal destination. 

@ Luke 5
“[Jesus] said to Simon, ‘now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing.  But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!” (4-6)  Fishing with Jesus – now that was a sweet catch!  I’m blessed by the fact that Jesus is concerned about our temporal needs, abundantly providing for us at just the right moment, but as we continue to read the story, we understand that the compelling goal of Jesus was to complete His mission. He was looking for fishers of men.

My mom was a fisherman and very successful, but she wasn’t after trout or bass or grouper.  She was always fishing for people.  In her lifetime, she caught hundreds and hundreds of lost and hurting people and reeled them into the lifeboat, one by one, day in and day out.  In all my years of observation, I never saw one person refuse her message of the love of Jesus.  Although she was delightful in every respect, her success was not due to her eloquent speech or charismatic personality.  No, she was a successful fisher of men because she got into the boat with Jesus and threw out the net, so to speak.  Every morning as she made the beds and prepared for the day she asked God to lead her as she went about her day to those who were in season, ready to be caught.  And He did.

One of the things that made mom a great fisher of men was her acceptance of others.  It’s easy to be busy judging and condemning the bad behavior of others rather than being about the business of catching them.  Not mom.  To her there wasn’t a living, breathing soul that did not deserve to hear about the Lord, no throwbacks for her, everyone was a keeper.  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.  Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (6:37)  Mom even shared the love of Jesus with those who had wanted to hurt her at one time or another because all she cared about was their eternal destination.  She’s in heaven now with a boatload of catch.

The stories of her fishing expeditions are endless, but on one occasion mom left the grocery store with a cart full of groceries. She was walking to her car when a woman approached her.  It was one of those moments when Jesus said, “Cast your net.”  Without concern for the melting ice cream or wilting lettuce, she turned her attention to the woman who said, “I really need a cigarette.  Do you have a cigarette you could give me?”  Mom smiled and said, “No, I don’t have one, but I have something that will satisfy you much more than a cigarette.”  She shared with her the wonderful love of Jesus and His power to satisfy.  The tearful woman accepted the Lord as her Savior and started attending church with her.  Yes, mom was quite the fisherman.

After filling two boats full of fish (be still my heart), Jesus said to Simon, “From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’  And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” (5:10-11)  If you’re looking for me, I’m with Simon – Gone fishin’! 

Moving Forward: Net in hand…looking for the catch of the day!

Tomorrow @ Galatians 1-3

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