Tell and Proclaim this Christmas!

Turning onto the highway, I saw the large red and yellow letters which covered the entire sides of the semi-truck. You couldn’t miss it – “JESUS”. The back of the truck posted a website for more information about Jesus and God’s love. Not able to grab my phone to take a picture or write down the website, I did smile a big smile, thinking – “Thanks, brother, for announcing to other drivers your love for God’s son, Jesus, and a desire to share him with others as you go about your work traveling on highways. You aren’t afraid of what others will think or say. You just want to proclaim the news of Jesus literally wherever you go”.

The story of Christmas is a story of signs, announcements, proclaiming, and telling. The angel Gabriel was sent from God to tell Mary she would give birth to a son – “you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)

At the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to shepherds in a field at night, telling them, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Then a multitude of heavenly angels began to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

The shepherds then went to look for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Upon finding baby Jesus, they “…told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.” (Luke 2:17-18)

Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated as Jewish law required. While there, Simeon, a prophet saw baby Jesus and began praising God proclaiming:

“’I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations’… Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said.” (Luke 2:30-33)

At that same time, Anna, a widow and prophetess also began to praise God and “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)

This Christmas song reminds us that this season especially is the time for all who know and have “seen” Jesus’ work of love and forgiveness in their lives to proclaim, to tell, to announce:

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born

Are you telling?  Are you proclaiming the message of Jesus- God’s salvation “prepared for all people”- to others? Painted on a truck, shared with a neighbor, told to a co-worker, written in a Christmas card, introduced to a foreigner in your city, and talked about in your home with children, parents, aunts and uncles?

Or maybe like the shepherds, you have been told the message of Jesus every Christmas but instead of seeking him you are skeptical of the announcement, not leaving your “field” to find him. This year, go, seek and find Jesus.  For he said, “seek, and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Join with the angels, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna praising God for Jesus, who came “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:79), and make telling and proclaiming your celebration of Christmas.

 

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Are You Fearless for God?

Many Christians have lost everything fleeing there homes instead of giving up their faith in Jesus. They live in “tent cities” with no where to go.

 

This week, on October 31, among the “noise” of Halloween, some people celebrated the fearless act of a godly man who just couldn’t remain silent about the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther had studied God’s Word and came to see that forgiveness and salvation, our righteousness “is by a gift of God, namely by faith.” He believed, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).

This belief was not accepted by the religious people and the culture of his day. But with great courage and boldness, in 1517 Martin fearlessly nailed his 95 Theses proclaiming these truths on the door of Whittenberg Castle church. He was summoned to a trial by the Holy Roman Emperor to recant his beliefs but passionately proclaimed, “I cannot and will not recant…here I stand, I can do no other.”

Martin Luther is only one of thousands, millions, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ who have fearlessly, passionately and courageously proclaimed their faith in Jesus and God’s Word, and would not “recant” even if it meant death. These believers just couldn’t remain silent. Through torture, imprisonment, accusations, loss of homes and family – these are the persecuted who desire to obey God instead of follow the world.

In the early church, great persecution came to the followers of Jesus who wouldn’t stay silent about the One who had forgiven and loved them. It was assumed that this would be a part of their lives, as Paul wrote:

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life, in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Timothy 3:12 

 Every believer in Jesus, who abides with Him, loves God’s Word, and boldly shares its truth with others will be persecuted in some way. Around the world we have seen Christians beheaded and crucified, refugees forced to leave their homes, countries and families and others who have stayed in those countries to share the love of Christ with their enemies. These are all part of the body of Christ. They feel alone and left behind by the rest of the world – even by other believers who have more of the world’s goods and more freedom. Most of them only ask for prayers or Christian materials so that they can continue to share the goods news of Jesus with others. They have truly given their whole lives to Jesus and live with a passion to tell others about their God who saved them from their sins and has given them hope. They must continue the work. They remain fearless.

I count it a privilege to be a volunteer voice for my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world through the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. Although I may not be able to visit them and personally cry with them in prison, I can pray for them and share their stories with others. Through Voice of the Martyrs and other ministries, I can support them and their families financially sending clothing, food and Bibles.

God commands us as followers of Jesus to not forget our family who are persecuted:

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”     Hebrews 13:3

This Sunday, November 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. How will you remember them? Will you tell others their stories? Will you share them with your Bible study or church? I strongly encourage you to go to http://persecution.com and sign up for their newsletter, adopt a front-line worker to pray for, be a voice for the voiceless – remember those in prison for their faith in Jesus. And if you want someone to be a voice at your church or community group contact me. I would love to share their stories.

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible

Many Christians meet secretly to read the Bible.

Our Vocation

times-square

Around the world this morning, people woke up to the sun rising in large cities and the countryside. People from all countries and languages began their new day. Business people opened storefronts, farmers went to the fields and parents helped children pack their books for school. In every season of life, most people have a job – a vocation, a purpose to make a living and to live in this world. Others may be looking for that job, that next step to working in this world.

God created work in the Garden of Eden and work is good. We can glorify God in our work no matter what we do. The farmer provides food for others, the doctor provides healing for the sick, the teacher gives knowledge and a love for learning, the businessman provides work for his employees, and mothers and fathers work at home to take care of little children.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, what is our true “job” besides the need for work to provide food and clothing for our families?  Is our identity in our earthly job or in our heavenly purpose?  Who and what identifies us? When people ask us, “what do you do?”, what should we answer? What is our true vocation?

In The Valley of Vison, a devotional book of Puritan prayers, one prayer called, “Vocation” is a reminder of who we are in our true “vocation” for Christ:

Heavenly Father,  Thou hast placed me in the church which thy Son purchased by his own blood.

Add grace to grace that I may live worthy of my vocation...

 

 I am a tree of the vineyard thou hast planted.

Grant me not to be barren, with worthless leaves and wild grapes;

Prune me of useless branches; water me with dews of blessing.

I am part of the Lamb’s bride, the church.

Help me to be true, faithful, chaste, loving, pure, devoted;…

 

May I live high above a love of temporal things, sanctified, cleansed, unblemished, hallowed by grace,

Thy love my fullness,

Thy glory my joy,

Thy precepts my pathway,

Thy cross my resting place…

Today, no matter what your job is whether you are working or looking for work as a Christian, your “vocation” is to be a light to the world wherever God has placed you in His vineyard. Through His blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit given to us who believe we can bear fruit that the world knows nothing about. We can love others, have supernatural peace and joy in our circumstances, show acts of kindness and goodness, be an example to the world of faithfulness in our commitments and discipline and self-control in our speech and affections.

God is glad to give us work but ultimately desires us to give Him the glory in whatever we do. As you work today, meeting deadlines, managing finances, communicating with others, serving others with “mundane” tasks, desks piled high with papers or a field ready to harvest, remember your vocation as a believer in Jesus. He is your vocation as you work in this world!

 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

 

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Colossians 3:23

 

“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 4:11

 

An Orchard full of Fruit

When our family lived in Deerfield, Illinois we would go every year to Wauconda Apple Orchard to pick apples.  We were always excited to see the trees filled with apples of various colors and flavors.  The smell of the fresh fruit hanging in bunches on the trees to be picked and eaten brought such enjoyment.  A fresh apple off a tree is so much juicier and sweeter!

Just like fresh apples are a visual of a healthy apple tree rooted and grounded in good soil, so is my life a visual to others of being rooted and grounded in Jesus.  When I became a Christian, I experienced so much joy in my life and a deep love and mercy for others at school.  It was visible to those around me, especially my parents. It was nothing I did myself but Jesus living in my life made a difference.  It was fresh fruit – just like the fresh young fruit from the tree.

In Galatians 5:22 Paul listed some spiritual fruits that are evidence of a relationship with Jesus -“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”  These nine fruits are a basic list of some things that we can expect to see in our lives as we allow Jesus to live through our lives.  There are other fruits He produces in our lives as well.  An important one to me which He produced in my life as a new believer was the fruit of being a verbal witness of Jesus to others. I call this the tenth fruit.  Jesus told his followers as he was leaving this earth, “You will be my witnesses” in all the world- Acts 1:8.  

These are ten fruits that I desire for Christ to continually produce in my life. I can’t produce these fruits on my own. Jesus wants to produce fruit in our lives through every circumstance and relationship, fruit that is fragrant and appealing to others around us.  I pray Jesus will produce a fragrant aroma of fresh fruit like juicy apples hanging from a tree in my life.  Today I’ll ask for more kindness towards those in my life.

What fruit are you asking him to produce in your life?

My brethren, let me say, be like Christ at all times. Imitate him in “public.” Most of us live in some sort of public capacity—many of us are called to work before our fellow-men every day. We are watched; our words are caught; our lives are examined—taken to pieces. The eagle-eyed, argus-eyed world observes everything we do, and sharp critics are upon us. Let us live the life of Christ in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master, and not ourselves—so that we can say, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.” —Charles Spurgeon