Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Witnessing

“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.”

From ” Life Together”

Evangelistic Acts

“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!

Prayer for the Growth of the Church

This prayer comes from the book Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck.  It was written by John Calvin.

“Grant, almighty God, since thou dost try the faith of thy people by many tests that they may obtain strength from the unconquered fortitude of thy Holy Spirit.  May we constantly march under thy standard, even to the end, and never succumb to any temptation.  May we join intelligence with zeal in building up thy church.  As each of us is endowed with superior gifts so may he strive for the edification of his brethren with greater boldness, manliness and fervor, while he endeavors to add numbers to the cause.  And should the number diminish, yet may some seed always remain, until abundant produce shall flow forth from it, and such fruitfulness arise as shall cause thy name to be glorified throughout the world, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

What God Has Done

“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away saying ‘Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.’…”Luke 8:38-39

This was part of our Bible study on the book of Luke this week.  After Jesus healed a demon possessed man, he in effect, sent him back to his home to become a missionary.  He didn’t have any extensive instruction or education.  All he had to do was tell others what Jesus had done for him. It reminds me of another similar story in the book of John.  Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth.  The man is brought to the Pharisees who try to manipulate him into saying that Jesus is a sinner. Exasperated he tells them,

“…One thing I do know;  that though I was blind, now I see.”  John 9:25

As witnesses, all we need to do is tell about our own life and how Jesus has changed it.  We don’t have to be eloquent or persuasive.  We don’t have to worry about the outcome;  that’s up to God.  We just have to state the  facts about God’s action in our life; and it can be as simple as this:  “I was blind and now I see”.

 

What’s On Your Bucket List?

I sometimes hear people say something’s on their “bucket list.”  In other words, it’s something they really want to see, do or accomplish before they die.  So what’s on yours?  Do you want to travel to Europe?  Write a book? Rise to the top of your profession?  Become a parent? Build a house? There’s nothing wrong with having goals such as these.

The apostle, Paul, however, had an even more important item on his bucket list.  Listen to how he describes it in Acts 20:24:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

So today I just want to challenge you (and myself) to compare our bucket lists to Paul’s.  What’s really important in the long run?  Does anything I may have or accomplish compare to the joy of telling one more soul about Jesus? Your life may be the only Bible some people ever read:  is it pointing to the One who wrote it?

 

Open Your Eyes

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:35

I’m a pastor’s wife and I’m retired.  Most of the people I come into regular contact with go to church.  Who does God expect me to witness to?  This sounds like a good excuse, doesn’t it?  I’m sure many other Christians feel this way.  We keep ourselves busy with “church work” and “church people.”  It’s all we can do to keep our little piece of the Kingdom functioning smoothly–isn’t that enough?

Well, actually, it’s not.  This kind of attitude is treating the church as our club, our community organization, or our circle of like-minded friends.  Jesus didn’t stop after sharing His message with the twelve disciples.  He touched people in His daily life, all kinds of people;  tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, widows, you name it!  He wasn’t annoyed to be interrupted or inconvenienced.  Each encounter became a divine appointment.  We have those too, if we would just open our eyes.  What about the cashiers at the store, the workers at the library, the beautician or barber?  I am guilty of going about my everyday errands without thinking about the people involved.  Jesus never forgot.  He stopped.  He had compassion.  He asked questions.  If I pay attention, maybe I can do that, too. I may not “convert” anyone.  They may never join my congregation.  But by my words and action, my witness, maybe I can be one link in the chain that leads them to Christ.

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:37

 

 

Send Me

This has always been one of my favorite hymns, and it certainly assures us that we can all do something to reach the lost.  Here are it’s story and words:

This hymn was written…while the author(Daniel March) was a pastor in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. On the 18th of October he was to preach, by request, to the Christian Association of that city. At a late hour he learned that one of the hymns selected was not suitable…In great haste, he says, he wrote the hymn, and it was sung from the manuscript.

Hark, the voice of Jesus calling,
Who will go and work today?
Fields are ripe and harvests waiting,
Who will bear the sheaves away?

Long and loud the Master calls us,
Rich reward He offers free;
Who will answer, gladly saying,
Here am I, send me, send me?

If you cannot cross the ocean,
And the distant lands explore,
You can find the lost around you,
You can help them at your door;
If you cannot give your thousands,
You can give the widow’s mite;
What you truly give for Jesus,
Will be precious in His sight.

If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say He died for all.
If you cannot rouse the wicked,
With the judgment’s dread alarms,
You can lead the little children
To the Savior’s waiting arms.

If you cannot be the watchman,
Standing high on Zion’s wall,
Pointing out the path to heaven,
Offering life and peace to all,
With your prayers and with your bounties
You can do what heaven demands;
You can be like faithful Aaron,
Holding up the prophet’s hands.

If among the older people,
You may not be apt to teach,
Feed My lambs, said Christ, our Shepherd,
Place the food within their reach.
And it may be that the children
You have led with trembling hand,
Will be found among your jewels,
When you reach the better land.

Let none hear you idly saying,
There is nothing I can do.
While the lost of earth are dying,
And the Master calls for you;
Take the task He gives you gladly;
Let His work your pleasure be;
Answer quickly when He calls you,
Here am I, send me, send me.

 

What’s Your Story #2

Years ago I worked with a younger woman named Vanessa.  We became friends, although we didn’t see each much outside of work.  We talked quite a bit, especially about our husbands and children.  I probably talked about church a lot.  One day Vanessa told me that she and her husband came from very different faith traditions–neither one felt completely comfortable in the other’s family church.  One was quite formal, the other very informal.  As a consequence, they weren’t attending church at all.  Out of my mouth came words that really surprised me,  “why don’t you come to my church, I think it’s somewhere in the middle!”

I was immediately nervous, fearing Vanessa would now think I was going to try to “convert” her at every opportunity and our comfortable work friendship would become strained.  Well, that didn’t happen but we didn’t broach the subject again, and she didn’t show up at church the next Sunday.

Time passed, and our church had their yearly yard sale.  Vanessa and her family stopped by and spoke with me and some other members.  Then a few weeks later, her family did come to Sunday worship.  Eventually they became members.

My point?  Well God uses even our fumbling, reluctant witness to call people to Him.  The Holy Spirit works in us and through us even when we’re not paying much attention.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

When have you felt the prompting of the Spirit and where and to whom has it led you?

 

 

What I see.

When it comes to witnessing, I’m thinking some wise, much-older-than-me person passionately and articulately explaining to those who don’t know, just what Jesus Christ is all about. And almost magically channeling God Himself as a crowd gathers round’ in awe. Over to the side in a dark corner, I watch, and I just know I could never be that guy, (Or girl). But witnessing can be evangelizing in the literal sense of the word. I’m begging to learn that I don’t have to be a savant genius christian that knows everything all the time to share God’s love.

“ . . . for My strength is made perfect in weakness,”

Literally through watching, observing, learning, and growing in faith, then sharing my experiences, and adhering to God’s word in action, I can be evangelizing without knowing it. Not that I don’t mess up. I do. A LOT. Still, I know that the same God that created the universe in six days can certainly use me if that’s what he wishes to do.

Now in full disclosure, I’m an adult who’s led a fairly ‘sheltered’ life and not had it all that hard; relatively. My parents loved and provided for me and my siblings to the best of their ability, and I cannot rightly complain about them.

At the same time, I have seen things that have shaped me as human being. I have heard stories and testimonies of others that, sometime later on, I may share with all of you. Terrible things. And I remind my children (in part because of these experiences) that they need to guard against what they see and hear. Those things cannot be unseen and unheard.

One of the things that I’ve seen I think I need to share now. It’s glued itself to my psyche. Bonded with my soul and vividly shows itself like a brightly preserved image painfully reminding me that this world needs good people and simultaneously echoing the anguish of a child that deserved better.  I see a child staring at his adult authoritative figure, as innocent looking as a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet, he had just caused a huge ruckus on my bus which was now parked on the side of a dirt road.

He had just lashed out violently at anyone unlucky enough to be in his path. Pushing, hitting, kicking his way around. I had managed to keep him away from the others now that I was parked. I didn’t hurt him. I didn’t yell at him. I simply put my body between his and the others. I let him climb over the top of the bus seat a couple of times. I even let him hit me. I told him he could hit me all he wanted, but no one else. (He was small it didn’t hurt.) Soon, the school security guard arrived. Who was quite stern. And then my boss, also stern. And my boss is the taller-than-I female he was guiltily staring at. She told him she’d be taking him off the bus. And then I believe God guided me to inform him of something. “She’s not going to hurt you.” I said.

Here is where yet another image was burned into me leaving a permanent mark. I saw a frustrated, broken child break into tears, and put his small arms around my boss’s neck as if he was simply giving her a hug because he was glad to see her. His face now buried into her shoulder, she carried him off and drove him away.

I drove him to school one more time. This time in a suburban with no other passengers. We spoke as if nothing happened. And something I remember him saying, that I can’t unhear, was that, I wasn’t as angry as his mom. I didn’t understand, so wanting to encourage a relationship I told him that all moms got angry sometimes. After that he was silent. And I’ll never forget his thoughtful little face looking out the window.

I went back to his house one other time. They said he had an appointment so I didn’t get to drive him to school. Then, when asking my boss about picking him up again, I learned that I would not be doing that anymore. His parents were now in jail, and he and his brother were now in his grandmother’s custody. He and his brother were victims of physical abuse. I think about him almost daily. And he is the only student I’ve ever shed a tear for.

Yet here this memory stands, as a witness to me, and now you. And I believe my boss and I gave that boy a glimpse of what it meant to be loved. For a moment in time he saw kindness when my boss carried him like mother would. And he was witness to our patience and gentle examples. I pray that those things are what sticks with him. And even though I can’t tell you his name, I think sharing his story may cause someone else to have just a little more patience with that ‘difficult’ child in their life.

I don’t know how God is planning to use me. And I still say I’m not very good at witnessing in the traditional sense. But I do know I can type a little better than I can speak, and I can share in this way what I’ve seen as I try and set a good example.

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent,”

Moses said that. The one and only legendary Moses of ancient times. Descendant of even more legendary, angel-wrestling Jacob. Son of Isaac, who was of course the son of Abraham. But here Moses having just witnessed an amazing thing, and presumably having just heard an intimidating thunderous voice; resists obeying God. Why after witnessing all that, did he for the third or fourth time proceed to tell the Lord, God Almighty, that he was not the guy for the job? I mean, don’t we give lesser authoritative figures more respect by simply doing as they say, because they said so? Would a soldier tell his commanding officer ‘No.’? Not likely.

Moses even protested yet once more after that and angered God. Still in God’s ever so patient way He had mercy on Moses and suggested that his brother Aaron be the mouth piece he thought he needed. Now there are a lot of things I don’t like doing. Public Speaking chief among them, (Sorry Becky) but I’d do it if asked. Just like I do a hundred other things I don’t like to do because they need done. I wonder though, would I be so compliant if the Holy Spirit did not reside in me? A gift from God himself, made possible by the blood of his precious Son.

I ask why did Moses do that, forgetting that Moses was not afforded the luxury I know I have. Without the faith that has grown from the hearing of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s washing and Christ’s Blood paying for my imperfection; I would not be the person I am today.

Even now, with all that knowledge of head and heart, I am worse than Moses. Not only am I telling God that I’m not eloquent; I’m hiding in a corner and staying silent. I have no right. I should be shouting from the roof top whether I want to or not. It’s the least I could do. Woe to me, and to my sinfully quiet soul. Undeserving of a pursuant Spirit. Here in lies the beauty of it all . . . even with my whinny, lippy attitude God still loves me, and encourages me, and affords me His patience and time. He whispers ever so gently when He could thunder ever so piercingly.

Therefore, in the moments when I recall His amazing grace, I try to at least show a tiny glimpse of my Savior with a smile, with a kind word, a patient sigh, and an obedient act. When I forget that I’ve been given much, it serves as a reminder to be merciful to others who have also forgotten how much they’ve got. And it’s enough because God said “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” my weakness. Am I a good witness? Probably a better one in the literal sense. I see plenty. Verbally, let’s just say thank the good Lord for a more eloquent written form of words.  In the evangelistic sense . . .  yikes.

The miracle is that God can use even me.