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Outreach

The fields are ready for harvest

In today’s Bible reading, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. It was an abnormal meeting because Jews never went through Samaria and women generally didn’t draw water from wells in the middle of the day. But here they are: a young rabbi and a woman with a troubled past. And they’re talking about God.

After telling her that He is the source of living water and that some day both the Samaritans and Jews will worship the Father together in Spirit and in Truth, she runs off to tell her friends and family about a man who knew everything about her. (John 4:29)

Next, the Disciples engage Jesus about his lunch plans. He dodges their questions and tells them to look up; the fields are ready for the harvest. John tells us that many Samaritans believed Jesus because of the woman’s testimony about Him. Still others believe, not just because of her testimony, but because they experience Him for themselves.

So what did Jesus mean by “the fields are ready for harvest”?

Jesus had “primed the pump” so to speak with the woman and the Samaritan people came, interested to find out more. Meanwhile, God was priming the pump of the people’s hearts, making them ready to hear what Jesus would say to them.

We think the people came, seeking Jesus, when in reality, God was already seeking them! (John 4:23) Now, after heartily endorsing the Christian Standard Bible’s treatment of John 3:16 in yesterday’s devotional, I need to point out that the CSB’s weakness on John 4:23 (CSB). It isn’t that the Father wants (CSB) people to worship Him. It’s that the Father seeks (ESV) people to worship Him. We’ll read in 6:44 that unless the Father draws someone, they won’t seek on their own. Paul confirms this in Romans 3:11 as he quotes Psalm 14:1-3.

Our efforts to tell people about Jesus will be completely ineffective if we haven’t bathed those efforts in prayer. If God hasn’t prepared their hearts, they simply won’t hear the Gospel message. And I think that partially explains why there are so many false conversions: people are pressed to make a decision for Jesus when their hearts aren’t in it. They politely pray a prayer and are told that they are forever saved and eternally secure. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Application

The best witnesses are those who simply tell their experience with Jesus and invite others to know Him, too.

That was true two thousand years ago. And it’s true now. You don’t have to burden yourself learning lots of apologetics arguments. They may help, but unless God has prepared their hearts, no argument under heaven will save them.

Talking about God with people must be preceded by prayer, bathed in prayer, and supported by prayer. There simply is no substitute for prayer in evangelism. And that’s something that any Believer can do!

Pray that God would give you boldness. Pray that God would give you the right words to say. Pray that God would prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel message. And pray that the Gospel message lands on “good soil” (Matthew 13:23)

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The Gospel Comes with a House Key - Rosaria Butterfield

In today’s Bible reading, continues to talk about the importance of walking in both Truth and Love.

Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.

I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.

Application

Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.

The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)

And that requires that we use words.

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shun

What does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians to “come out and be separate” and to not be “unequally yoked” in today’s Bible reading? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17) Does he mean that Believers are supposed to only deal with Christian businesses? In light of recent Social Media posts, maybe this means Believers should eat at Chic fil-A instead of Popeye’s. Maybe Believers should live in communes to avoid contamination from the world. Maybe Believers should make their clothes rather than wearing “tainted” branded clothes made and advertized by companies that support liberal, godless agendas. Maybe Believers should only date and marry believers. Maybe Believers should boycott businesses that are supported by groups that support liberal, godless agendas. I remember a boycott against a cruise line or an entertainment resort because they had a “Gay Pride” week. There are Christians who have taken any or all of these applications from Paul’s instructions.

Let me just say that if Believers spend all their time trying to avoid contact with the world, we won’t be able to establish relationships and win people to Christ and disciple them in the faith… which is one of the things Jesus commanded us to do! Jesus prayed in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17 that God would protect Believers as they lived in the world, but not of it. (John 17:14–18)

If Jesus really wanted us to come out and be separate — completely — He would rapture Believers immediately after becoming Christians. But who would tell the lost people then?

One of my favorite Christian artists, Lauren Daigle came under fire a few months ago for appearing on the Ellen TV show and for not clearly denouncing homosexuality. Thirty-some odd years ago, Christian artist Amy Grant came under fire for singing and shooting a music video “The Next Time I Fall in Love” with Chicago’s Peter Cetera.

Let me just say that not everyone has the same platform and not everyone can reach every audience. I will never be asked to be on the Ellen TV show. Probably no one else who reads this devo will either. What many critics don’t know is that the day she appeared on Ellen, every studio audience member went home with a copy of Lauren Daigle’s CD. Daigle’s music has been featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Dancing with the Stars. Some secular radio stations have played some of her music. No, Lauren Daigle’s music doesn’t preach the Gospel in the traditional sense, though it is clearly aimed at praising God.

Lauren Daigle is reaching people I never will be able to. And as she reaches out to them, maybe they’ll hear a little about Jesus that they’ll never hear me be able to tell them. We need to pray for people like Lauren Daigle. Pray she stays close to Jesus. And pray that she stays clean in her walk with Him so that when she tells people about Jesus, they will listen to a person of integrity.

There is more to preaching the Gospel than presenting a Four Spiritual Laws message with an invitation. And let me just say that a church doesn’t have to do a gospel presentation complete with an altar call every time it does an outreach event. For several years, our church has hosted a Fall “Trunk-or-Treat” Outreach around October 31. We also host an Egg Hunt Outreach during the Resurrection Day weekend. I clearly present the Gospel at the Egg Hunt, but because of the come-and-go nature of our “Trunk-or-Treat”, I don’t give a presentation for that outreach. Sometimes, we just need to make ourselves available to be friends. Even with people whose lives are very different from ours.

Application

People don’t always need to know what we’re against. Many times — most times — they need to know what we’re for. Though oftentimes, we do the exact opposite of this.

Paul’s point in saying Believers should come out and be separate is that we should be different. But I don’t think Paul was telling us to be weird.

And God hasn’t left us up to our own devices to be different. He gave His Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy lives. Not weird lives.

Perhaps Paul’s emphasis of “come out and be separate” has more to do with what (Who) we are coming out to and being separated for rather than than what we are coming out and being separated from.

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account reconciliation

Again, I’ll highlight what I have said before, that when you see a word or phrase repeated in close proximity in the Bible, it’s a signal of its importance. In today’s Bible reading, Paul uses reconcile five times in only three verses. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

The word reconcile is used in accounting. You may have reconciled your checkbook to make sure that your income and expenses come into agreement. Hmmm…. come into agreement. That’s what it means to be reconciled!

One of my Greek lexicons (a fancy word for dictionary) says this about reconciliation:

to reestablish proper friendly interpersonal relations after these have been disrupted or broken (the componential features of this series of meanings involve (1) disruption of friendly relations because of (2) presumed or real provocation, (3) overt behavior designed to remove hostility, and (4) restoration of original friendly relations)—‘to reconcile, to make things right with one another, reconciliation.’[1]

The fact that God reconciles people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18) demonstrates that the relationship was broken in the first place. And the relationship was broken by Adam and all of his descendants. Otherwise, Paul could speak of us reconciling ourselves with God.

But God is the one Who takes the initiative because we, as fallen creatures cannot. In fact, even if we could take the initiative, we would not. Yes, we are that fallen! We are that broken!

Until we can understand the gravity of our sinful condition, we can’t grasp the incredible goodness, grace, and mercy of God to reconcile us to Himself. Because God has reconciled His children to Himself through Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God and peace with each other! “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15, (CSB)

And we get to be a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation! He has made us His ambassadors to plead with our family, friends, and acquaintances, “Be reconciled to God!” What an amazing priviledge!

And what an amazing responsibility!

Application

Have you been reconciled to God? Have you recognized your infinite debt to God due to your own sin? He has done all that is necessary to restore you to Himself, if you will only accept His offer! Be reconciled to God!

If you have been reconciled to God, have you told your family, friends, and acquaintances about this glorious God Who has extended His grace to you, and to them?

Who can you tell today?

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 501. Print.

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"Read Me" on a Dusty Bible

When the New Testament writers told their stories, they had the memorized and printed Word of Scripture to draw from. Their Bible (our Old Testament) was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It had been recorded in the language of the common people at the time.

By the First Century, many people in what is now Israel still spoke Aramaic. But many others throughout Asia Minor and Southern Europe spoke Greek. Scholars observed differences between Attic Greek and the New Testament Greek and thought that it was some kind of “Holy Spirit” Greek, something that only appeared in the New Testament.

However, at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many documents were discovered, written in this new form of Greek. These documents were everyday types of documents, not Scriptures. Scholars discovered that this new Greek wasn’t special at all. It just happened to be the language spoken by common, everyday people throughout the area conquered by Alexander the Great. This new Greek was called Koine (pronounced COIN-ay) Greek, or common Greek.

Side Note: We in Western Christianity have the Bible in our common vernacular than at any other time in history. While many of our homes have the Bible in several English translations, many other parts of the world only have the Bible in one translation and it isn’t even in their Mother Tongue because translators haven’t yet learned their language. I plan to share some news about a new tremendous translation effort in the coming months.

You may have heard the expression, “You may be the only Bible many people ever read.“? I think the idea came from 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, in today’s daily Bible reading.

Now, if that expression is true, what do people conclude about the Bible they read?

Do they see condemnation and pain? Do they see encouragement and comfort? Do they see a religious holier-than-thou attitude? Do they see redeeming love?

Oftentimes the Bible people read when they look at us reflects the Bible we read when we were growing up. I know a lot of Believers who grew up under “hellfire and brimstone” preaching. They never heard of God’s love. One friend said she always felt that God was mad at her and if she messed up, He might squish her. Many Believers today have only heard of a loving God and have heard nothing of God’s righteous judgement.

Unfortunately, those who know only God’s judgment and those who know only God’s love have an incomplete view of God. Despite the common belief, the God of the Old Testament is the same God we see in the New Testament. He doesn’t change. (Hebrews 13:8)

Application

If we are the only Bible some people ever read, then when people read us, they need to see a complete view of God, or as complete a view as possible, given that we are fallible, errant, and not inspired. That can only happen as we read across the genres of the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Prophecy, the History, the Poetry and Wisdom Literature, the Teaching Literature, and the Apocolyptic Literature. As we read, study, and apply the written Word, our attitudes, our beliefs, and our behaviors will begin to reveal a more complete Bible for our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to read.

Spend a few minutes today contemplating the statement, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.” Ask God to show you how you can reveal a more complete view of God in your attitudes, your beliefs, and your behavior.

Realize that you may be the only Bible that people read. Help them read between the lines. Tell them how God has made a difference in your life. Give them the Gospel message in words, not just actions. Without hearing the Gospel message, they will never come to a saving faith.

So faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
Romans 10:17 (CSB)

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