Don’t falter!

If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? ~Proverbs 24:10-12 NIV

evangelism“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

~Charles H. Spurgeon

This passage is aimed squarely at you. And it’s promising great reward to those who obey. The Lord promises here to repay you, no matter what you’ve invested. No matter how much it cost.

Have you learned how to share the Gospel? There are several reputable organizations that will train you. Some will even take you out and show you how it works.

Maybe you’re one of the few Christians who is comfortable sharing your faith. If that’s true, good for you!

Learn to “give a defense for the hope that is within you.” Others may be counting on it.

 

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Take the long view

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. ~Proverbs 24:19-20 ESV

Prayer SilouhetteHave you ever wondered why immoral, greedy, self-centered, egotistical, law-breaking people who do truly bad things sometimes experience great worldly success? This passage encourages you to stop concerning yourself with what wicked people do and have.

In 2 Timothy 4:7-9 the apostle Paul explains the hope of every Jesus follower:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

A Christian has God’s promise of eternal life. Evildoers have no such hope. There is nothing — nothing — for a believer to envy about wicked people. While they may appear to prosper for a time, in the long run, they will not.

So when this passage assures you that the wicked have no future, that should be all you need to know. Not only is there nothing for them in the future, God himself promises to extinguish the lamps of those who fail to repent of their rebellion against Jesus Christ.

Rather than waste your time today musing about why some bad people have a good life, think about a person you know who does not believe Jesus Christ is God. Pray for their salvation. Ask the Lord to reveal himself in his great mercy to that person. Jesus would do no less.

Bearing fruit?

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. ~Proverbs 11:30 NIV

Tree of Life - Purple Rain, by Marcia BaldwinThis verse speaks to the Christian’s responsibility to tell others about how eternal life can be found in Jesus Christ. Other translations render the last half of the verse, “he who is wise saves souls.” This isn’t about disaster relief in the common sense. It’s about eternity.

According to research by The Barna Group, there is evidence to suggest that the obedient Christian church doesn’t shy away from evangelism. Consider these fascinating statistics compiled by Barna. Each question measured the response of born-again Christians who share their faith in Christ, compared to born-again Christians who do not share their faith. In every case, evangelizers appear to be more orthodox in their beliefs:

  • The Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings – 77% to 57%
  • I have a personal responsibility to share my faith in Christ – 67% to 38%
  • Satan is not just a symbol of evil – 44% to 26%
  • A person cannot earn a place in heaven through good behavior – 56% to 34%
  • Jesus Christ did not sin during his time on earth – 74% vs. 45%
  • Every word in the Bible is true and can be trusted – 81% vs. 61%

Note: Each of the above statements is 100 percent true. It is disappointing to see such a stunning lack of Bible knowledge among self-identified Jesus followers.

There are numerous references to the “tree of life,” from Genesis to Revelation. Genesis 2:9 describes it as the central focal point of the Garden of Eden. In Revelation 22, the Tree of Life is present in the New Jerusalem.

So who are “the righteous?” Romans 3:10-18 makes it clear that no human is righteous on his or her own:

as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

People are only viewed by God as righteous when they appear clothed in the righteousness of Christ — that is, those whose sin has been forgiven by him. And, according to this verse, a truly wise follower of Christ not only tells others about eternal life in Jesus, but sees many place their faith in The One True, Living God. Those who truly follow Jesus Christ can be identified by the fact that they tell others about Jesus, and help others place their faith in Jesus.

As you seek godly wisdom today, spend some time in self-reflection: Are you telling others about eternal life in Christ?

Don’t hesitate

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you. ~Proverbs 3:27-28

Love Thy NeighborHow eager or reluctant are you to give away things? Perhaps you have an opportunity to pass along a kind word. Or maybe a chance to volunteer your time and expertise. You may be able to contribute some of your money. Or maybe the Holy Spirit is urging you to share your testimony and invite someone to follow Jesus. Whether it’s one of these or some other tangible expression of charitable generosity, these verses remind you to avoid hesitation at such moments.

But who might be a person “to whom it is due?” And who is your neighbor? Think for a moment about the people in your life you deserve your gratitude, kindness or encouragement. Your parents? Maybe your husband or wife? Other family or loved ones? That special teacher or coach who poured into your life or the life of your child? A youth ministry worker?

Is it in your power to render some appreciation or token of your gratitude? Do it. Send a note or an e-card. Send flowers. Return their tools. Pray for them. Make a phone call. Stop by in person to say what’s on your mind. If you have the ability to follow through on what the Holy Spirit is urging you to do, don’t wait. Do it without wavering.

In Luke 6:30-31, Jesus expresses this Old Testament principle, and adds a new twist:

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

Jesus expands upon the original teaching in Proverbs 3. Rather than just considering the needs of your neighbor, you are instructed to give to everyone who asks. And even if someone takes something of yours, you are not to demand or expect that it be returned. And above all, give other people the consideration you expect: Be polite, kind, generous, forgiving — exactly the way you’d like to treated by them.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7:

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

This verse appears in the context of handling money — charitable gifts. But the principle applies whether you’re contributing bills and coins, your time, your advice, explaining how to find eternal life in Jesus, or giving anything else away. Give happily. Give with abandon, not because you are compelled, but because it makes you happy.

As you study God’s word and pray today, ask the Lord to make clear what you are supposed to give to someone else today. Pray for insight to see the opportunity to give, and for determination to give generously, without hesitation.

Good news!

As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country. ~Proverbs 25:25 NKJV

Supernatural 8x03 (1897).jpgHave you ever experienced receiving good news from family or friends who are living far away? Not so many years ago, it might take weeks or even months for a letter to make its way a few thousand miles. Today, with electronic communication, we can stay in touch almost instantaneously with people living on the opposite side of the world. It’s always a relief to hear that your loved ones are healthy and doing well, isn’t it?

The phrase “good news” appears more than 25 times in the Old and New Testaments, including Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus quoted as he began his public ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

God the Father appointed Jesus as the one to bring good news to us. About 2,000 years ago, an angel announced “good news” from far away to a small group of shepherds near Bethlehem. The story is told in the second chapter of the book of Luke. Verses 8-11 detail the announcement:

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus came to earth from a far-away country – heaven. His birth, death, and resurrection are the very hope of mankind – good news, indeed.

As you spend time with the Lord today, give him thanks for sending good news to you from far away. Ask him for opportunities to share the good news of eternal life in Jesus.

Does God hear your prayers?

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness. ~Proverbs 15:8-9 ESV

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure. ~Proverbs 15:26 ESV

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. ~Proverbs 15:29 ESV

Activating God's FavorThese four verses in Proverbs 15 form a theme of sorts: God is not on the side of people who think or behave wickedly. What does this mean for you? Let’s ponder each of the thoughts expressed here.

According to Proverbs 15, wicked people:

  • offer sacrifices to God, which are rejected
  • make lifestyle choices that disobey and displease God
  • are filled with habitual thoughts that do not honor God
  • are distant from God, who doesn’t listen to their prayers

By contrast, righteous people:

  • pray to the Lord, who accepts and acts upon their petitions
  • pursue a life guided by godly wisdom, which endears them to God
  • can expect God to listen to their prayers

But who is actually righteous? Who can enjoy these benefits? Romans 3:10 says, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one…'”

If you are a Christ-follower, you have been redeemed by the death and blood of Jesus. God no longer sees your own righteousness, which scripture describes as “filthy rags.” The Bible teaches that Christians are seen by the Father as clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

All of us were once considered wicked, as described in these verses. But by the grace of God – undeserved favor – he drew you to himself. When you approached the Lord and sincerely asked for forgiveness, you instantly crossed from being one whose sacrifices were rejected to being a person whose prayers are embraced by the Creator.

Quoting from Isaiah 49:8, the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2:

for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”

There was a time, not long ago, when the Lord did not listen to you. But your contrition and repentance activated God’s favor on your behalf.

Today is the day of salvation, and God stands ready to listen to you and help you. Do you have friends or family members who God considers to be wicked? As you pray for them today, ask the Lord – who is not willing that any should perish – to lead them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Feeling refreshed?

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. ~Proverbs 25:25 ESV

water splash in a glassThere’s nothing so refreshing as a drink of cold water when you’re really thirsty. It’s refreshing, and somehow truly satisfying.

It’s no surprise that your body craves water. A majority of the typical human body weight is actually water. According to Dr. Arthur C. Guyton’s Textbook of Medical Physiology:

The total amount of water in a man of average weight (154 lbs) is approximately 42 quarts, averaging 57 percent of his total body weight. In a newborn infant, this may be as high as 75 percent of the body weight, but it progressively decreases from birth to old age, most of the decrease occurring during the first ten years of life.

This verse likens a good word from far away to a refreshing drink of water.

Have you ever received a good word from a friend or family member far away? Not so many years ago – before instantaneous communication made possible by the Internet and email – a phone call from over overseas was an expensive, big deal. A few years before that, a long distance call within the United States was expensive and somewhat extraordinary.

Imagine what it must have been like for Christian missionaries leaving their home in the 19th century. They traveled for weeks by boat to reach their destination. And once there, letters were the only means of communication with people they knew and loved. Many weeks might pass before the recipient opened the letter and read an encouraging word from the sender. But think how his sister, Amelia, must have felt when she did read Hudson Taylor’s letter about his efforts to reach China for Christ.

When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he traveled throughout Israel, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. As you study the four Gospels, you’ll find the writers refer many times to Jesus speaking of God’s kingdom, and frequently this is tied to the phrase “good news” or “gospel,” (which actually means “good news”).

God’s story begins with creation and culminates in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as a substitutionary death for all who would be reconciled to God. This is not only good news from far away, it is the best news anyone can ever hear!

Jesus promised that when he left earth and returned to heaven, he would prepare a place for you. It must be some place:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. ~John 14:1-3

Good news, indeed. Feeling refreshed?