authority, Bible promises, called, compassion, disciples, evangelism, follow Him, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, lordship, power, preaching

The Great Commission, #111

“Jesus came near and said to them, 

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””

Matthew 28:18-20

Well now. Red Letters is now done. We’ve traversed our way through Jesus’ acts and teachings. I’m quite aware that I have overlooked much of it. I just maybe lose some sleep over this.

But I rest in John 21:25–

” And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the book that would be written.”

John 21:25

“Authority” is the key.

The Greek means “freedom of choice,” or having “the power to make decisions.” Jesus alone has that right, if we’re to evangelize the world, it must be under his auspices. We need to remain dependent on him, and serve under his authority.

Very precise instructions are given.

  • Discipleship
  • Baptism
  • teaching them to observe
  • under command
  • his presense–right until the end.

Each of these is under his authority. He’s in full control of each believer, and commissions them to act on his behalf, and under his lordship. In a definite sense we don’t act apart of him–everything we do, all of our actions must reflect that truth.

Someone wiser than I reflected that we’ve essentially changed this to “the great omission.” Perhaps that’s true for many Christians–and churches. It’s easy to do, and often we alter the express command of Jesus into our own personal improvement plan.

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.”

   Charles Spurgeon

The adjustment is terribly subtle, and the enemy has his fingerprints all over it. His work makes perfect sense. Stop the Church at any price. Some suggest that we’ve become a cruise ship now, instead of a battleship. I think that a simple study of the history of the Church would back that up.

“Everything God does is love — even when we do not understand Him.”

   

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It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

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The Skull, #102

“Two criminals were also led out with him for execution, and when they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified him with the criminals, one on either side of him.

“But Jesus himself was saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Then they shared out his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 23:32-34, Phillips

This is easily the darkest and evil point in human history. The Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity) allows himself to be crucified. Do we have the slightest idea what that means? Is this really something we can grasp?

The word “Calvary” means “place of the Skull.”

When criminals were put to death that’s where it took place. Since Romans liked to execute people, I imagine it was semi-permanent, with vertical poles set in place. The “skull” was visible to all, situated on a main highway. The men who were lifted up would’ve been able to see Jerusalem’s walls, and perhaps even the Temple.

Jonathan Edwards comments about putting people to death like this:

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.”

“Maximum pain and suffering.” Doesn’t that bring it into perspective?

Jesus spends his last few hours praying for his enemies. While he was suffering and dying, the soldiers were rolling dice for his robe. But as he was hanging, the nails holding him in place–he was praying. The pain must’ve been beyond belief. (It’s worth noting that we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word meaning “from the cross.”)

Jesus took my sin–he took yours too. He absorbed every ounce. And yet taking on all that, he was still innocent. He did not sin, but he carried every single drop of it. Why would he do this?

At that precise moment, the Father turned his back on him.

With all of that sin (my sin, and yours) God turned away, (Isaiah 53:10). He was now totally alone, and the wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus, at that moment, was in our place–he substituted himself for us. He died, so we might go free, (2 Corinthians 8:9).

What more can I say? The darkest moment for him became the brightest one for us. He hung there, completely horrified–he was now all alone. God left him at that moment.

I now must live differently.

Once I really truly understood this, everything changed. God is now my friend, I’m at peace with him. When Jesus died on “the place of the skull” he substituted his life for mine. He died, and now I live. It was the greatest exchange in all of history, (1 John 4:9-10).

I now choose to turn away from those things that Jesus Christ went to the cross for.

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Behold, the Hen of God, #78

havenlight.com

“So many times I have longed to gather a wayward people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings—but you were too stubborn to let me.”

Matthew 23:37, TPT

Scripture tells us that Jesus only wept twice. The first at the tomb of Lazarus, when he cried over the evil and destructive power of death. The second is here–the night before he was crucified, where he stood on the Mount of Olives–and wept over the city of Jerusalem. The disciples saw (and noted) that his tears rolled down his face.

Mother hens do not provide milk for their chicks, they simply aren’t equipped for that. Instead they teach them by example–and occasionally hold food in their beaks until the little ones get the idea that they can scratch on their own. The yolk sack from their eggs they are hatched from will provide food for the first 72 hours–after that, they’re on their own.

Chicks will always return to their mother. She provides them with heat and shelter. You’ll see then snuggling up to mom, especially when the weather gets cold, wet–or for protection. The little chicks instinctively know that she has all that they need. They’ll always stay close to her.

There is no “magic force field” for the believer. We’ll face all the things that the unbeliever does–but he does cover, and lavishly provides the grace and peace that we need. Life can be brutal and nasty, there is no question about that.

“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past.”

Psalm 57:1

The Lord will always protect his people. He’s intensely aware of us–he shields and provides everything we need. He covers us, keeps us and protects us. We truly belong to him.

Do we really understand this? Do we really grasp the profound implications of his promises?

I have many questions (of course.) Why do we do the things our Father hates? Do we bring him tears by the way we behave? Will we come to him at the first sign of “danger?” The city of Jerusalem was stubborn, and unreceptive–can I also resist him?

“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.”

Psalm 5:11

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Mary Knows Best, #73

“The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, 42 but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, (context vv. 38-42)

I grew up in America’s rural dairyland–the great state of Wisconsin, with its cheese and bratwurst. Our high-school classes included Agronomy and Animal husbandry. We were taught how to judge cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. I know the differences between a holstein and a brown swiss. To this day, I know what to look for if you need to buy or breed farm animals. Amazing, huh?

I remember our field trips to visit the different farms. I remember once seeing a cow who had a plexiglass “window” that you could see into a cow’s four stomachs, and watch hay as it was being digested. Useful stuff.

The sisters both loved Jesus, of that, I have no doubt. But Martha did the work, and Mary only sat and listened. It was Jesus who understood what was going on. He discerned the frustration of Martha, and knew the eagerness of Mary. Jesus saw inside. He understood them both completely.

He understands your heart, and mine. His sees us as clearly as one would look through a window pane, and he knows everything there is to know. And yet–he will never condemn you. His love for you is limitless, and forever; it won’t ever change, even on your worst days.

One thing means one thing. Not two things, or three. One thing.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”

Psalm 27:4

“When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing…come, follow Me.” 

Luke 18:22

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 3:13-14

We must discern what is best. We must look, decide, and judge what needs to take precedence over other things. How and what we decide determines everything. We each get to pick, and to choose, and then we get to live with the consequences. The repercussions of our decision reverberate throughout our whole life, and into the lives of others.

“The one thing needful evidently is that which Mary chose — that good part which should not be taken away from her. Very clearly this was to sit at Jesus’ feet, and hear his word.”

CH Spurgeon

Our decisions determine our destiny. You and I will make a choice. Will you work, or will you sit? You must decide what you should do. I strongly suggest that you decide wisely.

Will you decide to sit at his feet today?

“The way to get the revival is to begin at the Master’s feet; you must go there with Mary, and afterwards you may work with Martha.”

CH Spurgeon

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A Really Hard Reality, #53

30 “They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,” 

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 

32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Mark 9:30-32

There are no illusions found in these verses. This passage is painfully practical, and whenever I read it I’m forced to take another slug of reality–Jesus will die. Evil men will kill Him. I don’t want to see His ministry end like this. Deep inside, I want to His ministry to continue. I need to hear more parables, and see more miracles.

But thinking squarely isn’t always my best point. I sometimes like illusions. They seem like necessary padding for the stark rigors of living. They’re nice to have around. But I do know that gripping reality is needed. It’s harsh and rude, and some of us avoid it like vampires dodge picnics.

The disciples must get real and extend their thinking about the Kingdom. They’ve been witnesses to all those supernatural things that the Messiah is doing. It’s all been very good. But now they must think deeper, and even more redemptively. Jesus will-must die, and He will rise. Why?

The Holy Spirit is always pouring love on us. I know that all that He does is done by love. Whether it’s touching a leper or feeding 5000, it’s love that is Jesus’ reason and clearest motive. Easily seen in these amazing miracles, and somewhat harder to picture when it comes as betrayal and murder. (God help us adjust.)

Jesus will (must) die. That is His accurate prediction. The disciples must clear the decks and assimilate this fresh information. They’re needed to grab this and make it part of their understanding. They are now witnesses, completely and wholly grasping the deepest realities of the Kingdom.

The gospel of the Kingdom up to this point is indeed a wonder. Teachings and healings, miracles and resurrections are becoming the norm. We all want to see them continue. We are shocked when Jesus takes this morbid perspective! How perfectly awful. (NOT the way to win disciples!)

The death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection, is the next necessary miracle. It is needed to redeem and ‘heal’ the entire world. Oh yes, Jesus touched a leper, forgave the whore and raised the dead–but these are miracles that primarily touched individuals. He intends to kick it up a notch.

Jesus is going to die for us all. Isn’t that outrageous?

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God’s Sign Language, #47

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

This disturbing union of Pharisee and Sadducee was telling–they were polar opposites. One group was ultra-conservative, and the other flaming liberal, the yin and the yang. They detested each other. To somehow unite these hated enemies must have taken someone with some flair!

Leadership could no longer discern between what was right and what was wrong. These men had gravitated into high office for selfish reasons. They were hypocrites; they loved the praise of men immensely, and would never dream of giving up the power and prestige.

Hypocrisy becomes my way of ensuring that I can retain all that honor. When our positions of oversight, direction and wisdom are taken over by confused leaders who haven’t the slightest idea of what God is speaking we are in critical danger. We need those who can interpret these things to us without caving into either the fear or praise of men.

The Jews of Jesus’ day had a saying that if all the hypocrites in the world were divided into ten parts, Jerusalem would contain nine of the ten parts. Jesus wasn’t the first one who saw the religious lies of His day. It was more or less understood by everyone.

Jesus the Messiah had truly come. He preached, taught and healed. He revealed Himself over and over to the Jewish people. He explained the Kingdom of God. The Jewish “leaders,” didn’t recognize Him, they refused to see. They were the hypocrites who gravitated to ministry for the prestige that was given; never for the responsibility of the office.

Truth is as critical to a church as love is.

We are to be known by our love, but we’re also to be understood as being people of truth. We must understand the difference between black and white. We need leadership who will look at these sticky issues and explain it to us. We need them to decipher the moment.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Church. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be an adventure. Let’s keep listening to Jesus, reading the Word, and hearing each other. Let’s avoid hypocrisy as if it were the smallpox. Let’s pray for leadership that understands the moment, and that knows the dark evil of the praise of men.

“For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who do or teach anything wrong, but it is by all means vital for the lover of truth, regardless of the threat of death, to choose to do and say what is right even before saving his own life.”

A.W. Tozer

  

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Five K Plus, Entry #42

 But Jesus said, 

“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 

17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 

Matthew 14:16-17, (context, vv. 14-21)

The people are hungry. The disciples are worried. A very large number had come to listen to Jesus speak/heal. Earlier that day (in verse 14,) He responds and heals all that were sick, ministering to everyone out of deep, deep compassion (also found in verse 14.)

The crowds wanted to see some healings, (which was pretty much their ‘entertainment,’ breaking up a fairly dull existence,) And perhaps some of them scoured the streets to find the really hard cases–just to see if Jesus could pull it off. (“Let’s get ‘Joshua,’ he’s blind, and crippled and a leper besides–he’ll be a real challenge!”)

The dusty day was done (v.15.) The surroundings were “desolate,” and the crowds were getting antsy. But the merchants were happy, they’d sellout and make a bundle! And the disciples–well they were concerned about the crowd dispersing. They hoped that Jesus would dismiss everyone before it got too dark. (Apparently, not only did they forget to bring food, but they left their flashlights at home.)

It’s interesting to note that Jesus seems to look for new ways to teach His disciples. (They need to learn the Kingdom.) Jesus wants them to become involved in this particular miracle. They would distribute the food, and perhaps mingle a bit. (No sidelining for you, Thaddeus.)

And could it be this is how He operates with all of His disciples? Could it be our response all these crazy-life thingees we have to deal with are revealing to us–and to everyone–how deep, and wide, and far our discipleship really does go?

Jesus throws out a challenge, but in order to make this happen, the disciples had to shake down a kid, and take away the lunch mom had packed. All this for two fish, and five loaves of bread. Apparently no one else thought to bring bring any food. Perhaps no one expected it to be a long day, and packing a dinner basket around was a hassle. Who knows?

Five loaves, two fishes.

The official count was 5000, plus the women and children. I imagine that the disciples were a little confused. Maybe intimidated too. Perhaps there was an effort among them to discourage Jesus from keeping the crowd hanging around? “Surely Jesus wasn’t serious, He just needed to understand these things.”

The disciples think taking away the boy’s dinner was completely idiotic in the light of the situation. Then maybe Jesus would then understand all this silliness, and make an announcement that the day was done. The crowd was milling around, perhaps ‘catching up’ with friends and distant relatives–the kids were playing tag nicely for a change. And maybe they stuck around to see if Jesus would heal (or teach) again. They certainly didn’t want to miss the show.

The disciples had already seen a ton of miracles. They had heard tremendous teachings. (Those parables were mystifying though.) But everything about Jesus as the real Messiah seemed to click (at times.) And I do think they understood–at least to a degree. And yet Jesus is stretching His disciples even further into this whole idea of discipleship.

I think Jesus wanted them to learn about the two tools they should use:

  • One–for each one to understand God’s amazing love for people.
  • Two–for them to grasp God’s almighty power in every situation they will face..

The disciples must learn to use these. In order to pull off this idea of making disciples throughout the big blue earth–they’ll definitely need lots and lots of compassion, and a really strong confidence in God’s power. After all they merely had to break through every bit of darkness they came across; and carry in the light. Just like Jesus! Easy, right? (“Holy Spirit, we need all the strength you can spare.”)

The twelve really have to become aware, and snatch up these two–they’re not trivial. They seem to be the very steady heartbeat of discipleship. Understanding these two principles causes the deep nature of the Kingdom to enter these hard human hearts. (Some of us need a ‘transplant.’) We have to apply His compassion again, like a bandage on the wounds. We need to wield His power once more, cutting away the lies.

Both dear one–are really, really needed right now.

“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”

-Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China for 51 years

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Forgiveness Finds a Place at Simon’s Table, Entry #36

“And Jesus answering said to him, 

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” 

And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

Luke 7:40, (context, 36-40)

This has to be one of my favorite passages of scripture. Simon, who is a Pharisee, has invited Jesus for dinner. I suppose he intends to impress Him, or at the very least he wants to Jesus to look more favorably on his religious sect. It’s simple PR work for him. (Maybe even tax deductible?)

But in comes this woman, and she spoils everything. The ESV translation describes her as a “sinner” and a “woman of the city,” (whatever that means?) She bursts into the dining room wielding an alabaster flask of ointment. She kneels and weeps, and uses the locks of her hair to rub the perfume on the dirty feet of Jesus.

She is crying, and I have to believe she’s very aware of her sin–nobody has to tell her that she has wasted her life. Simon, on the other hand, finds her behavior with Jesus quite objectionable. He’s obviously disturbed by her presence, and he only can only see her outside actions, his vision never really extends to see her broken heart.

And yet Jesus is quite aware of the tension that’s now developing. He’s spiritually sensitive to all that’s swirling around Him, and we see Him jumping at the chance to teach Simon (the Pharisee) a lesson on true forgiveness.

It seems that a certain moneylender had two men that owed him money. One was indebted with just a modest sum; the other was bound by a huge debt. It seems that both men couldn’t repay what they had borrowed. So inexplicably, the lender cancelled the debt of both of them, the little and the big. These men were now free. They owed nothing–not a red cent.

OK now. Who will “love him more?”

Jesus compares the responses of these ‘ex-debtors’ and takes it to a very logical conclusion. “Who will love him more?” Simon obviously understands this line of reasoning, and we hear him responding correctly to Jesus’ lesson on mercy and grace.

Simon realizes there are those out there who are terrible sinners, they are wicked and have walked in sin and darkness for a very long time. They’re irrevocably stained by their sin, it has shaped them to the point that their personalities have been altered. Sadly, they know all of this, and it breaks their heart in two. They tell no one, but God knows.

The schooling Simon receives is the Kingdom logic that corrects his definition of God’s mercy. The kindness that God bestows on us is proportional, those who “owe” much are forgiven much. And as a result they love much.

When you see a person weeping at the altar, overcome by their sense of sin and they seem terribly broken, you’ll understand the love they now have for Jesus. A tremendous debt has been forgiven, and they get up and walk away as free men and women. They now finally understand how to love. They have been forgiven.

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”

― John Stott

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A Definite Drunkard, Entry #34

Please think about this image for a second

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:19, (context, vv. 16-19)

What part does excessive “eating and drinking” don’t we understand? It doesn’t seem entirely ‘religious,’ especially in the thinking of us who observe the life of a pastor or a shepherd. We demand a certain restraint, a standard of separateness from common sinners. That’s seems to be our personal view anyway.

Is gluttony wrong? Is getting a bit tipsy also unacceptable, especially when it comes to “true” religion? Quite often it seems, we have a pious approach toward what we think is ‘true’ faith. We often believe that truth equates to being an ascetic, separate from common sinners. We believe if we are truly holy we will segregate from the ungodly.

It seems that Jesus doesn’t relate to, or accept this viewpoint. He’s single-mindedly serving the Father, in perfect holiness and in true connection with Him. And yet we see Him cavorting with tax-collectors and sinners. We observe Him actually sitting with those we reject as ungodly or unholy.

I must say this before you start looking for rocks to stone me with!

Scripture clearly tells us that we’re to live holy lives. We’re to be wise and have self-control in everything. We should always remember our own ‘black hole’, and begin to see our new life as really incredible. We must allow the “fruits of the Spirit” to grow inside us. And lived rightly, it’s a place of real holiness; and certainly not the ‘pretend’ righteousness of the Pharisee.

Listen very carefully: The Pharisees reject and label those who seem to flaunt the religious norms, but broken believers will truly forgive others, like those who have been radically forgiven themselves. There is a stark difference.

But think about it, aren’t we all a tiny bit ungodly?

Don’t we somehow grade people by their outward appearance and the level of their attainment? It absolutely astounds me that Jesus seems far more comfortable with the outcasts than He does with the Pharisees of His day. He sits with them, and eats and drinks in a fashion that we would regard objectionable.

Jesus loves every person. He loves the unmade, and the unvarnished. He loves being with the ungodly. Yes, He does understand the awful nature of sin; the horrible damage it inflicts on a person’s soul. And yet I’ve come to the conclusion that all my righteous and holy religion is nothing but a very bad smell in God’s nostrils.

Jesus isn’t afraid that we will somehow taint Him by our words, conduct or behavior. He passionately loves those who we deem as outside the norm of our religion. Jesus loves being with ‘nasty’ people. I think He purposefully seeks out the wrong ones!

It fascinates me that Jesus is never afraid that the leper will corrupt or defile Him. He isn’t fearful that somehow He will be contaminated. That’s exactly what the Pharisees thought. But instead it’s the reverse with Jesus. He heals us, and it’s always a one-way current. He touches us, but we’ll never ‘poison’ Him!

Just maybe our awful failure in evangelism is due to our inability to really relate with the lost. We withdraw and then wonder why the unsaved don’t understand the things of God. Have we become so religious that sinners don’t feel comfortable with us, or Him? Could it be that we’re a bit off course? Are we really filled with His Spirit?

“The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

-Billy Graham

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