February 19: Reaching Around the World

Read Acts 10:1-48

Before the day is over I will have spoken to people from California, Indiana, and South Carolina. I will engage in conversation with people from Africa, France, Canada, Germany, and Poland. I am not unique. No matter where you are in the world, you are part of an international community. Even the rolling rural hillsides of Wooster and Wayne County reflect that international flair.

Among all of those people groups, are there any around which you make a wide berth? There was for Peter. His whole background had taught him that every non-Jew was a person to be avoided.

But God graphically and practically taught him a simple lesson that all of us would do well to learn . . . even those of us who may for various reasons avoid certain people groups out of ignorance or personal discomfort. The lesson is simply expressed in these words, “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation.” Of course, that reality is also made clear in the Great Commission where we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.”

In many ways, the nations have come to us. They are employed in some of our local businesses. You will see them in our schools and colleges. You can encounter them in the stores where you shop and the restaurants where you eat. Rather than fearing them or avoiding them, ask God for wisdom to engage them in conversation.

  • Welcome them to America
  • Invite them to Grace
  • Inform yourself and them about Grace’s ministry to Internationals

Seek to reflect God’s heart by not playing favorites!

sbk

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February 18: The Essence of the Gospel

Read Acts 16:16-40

If you’ve been at Grace Church for long, you’ve probably noticed our Sunday morning commitment. We recognize that every Sunday there are people in our worship services for the first time. There are people there that don’t know much about the Bible or God’s plan of salvation. Our commitment is to give a clear explanation of the gospel. No matter what topic or biblical text we are dealing with, we make sure that we answer the question of the Philippian jailer, “. . . what must I do to be saved?” (v. 40).

That isn’t all we do, of course. Pastor Nick and others who speak also provide spiritual meat and practical teaching for believers.

It is the assurance of that commitment to make the gospel clear that allows me to confidently invite others to join us in our worship services.

But the worship service isn’t the only place where the gospel is passed along. Pastor Nick isn’t the only person who should explain it. Every one of us must be able to do the work of an evangelist. Each of us must be able to tell others what they must do to be saved. All of God’s people should be capable of clearly explaining the essence of the gospel. Can you? How would you answer the jailer’s question? I trust that these basic truths would be part of what you would share.

1.      The reality and consequences of our sin. God is perfect and people are not. As a result of our sin, we are deserving of eternal punishment.

2.      God’s provision for our sin through Christ. Jesus came as the God-man into this world. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, God made forgiveness and eternal life possible.

3.      Our response to Christ through repentant faith. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness. It is given as a gift as we admit our sin to God and embrace Christ’s work on the cross as our only hope.  We are transformed as we, by faith, embrace God’s way instead of our own.

As you look for opportunities to share Jesus today, ask God to grant you opportunity to explain the essence of the gospel.

sbk

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February 17: Scattering Seed

Read Luke 8:1-15

Scattering seed can be a very imprecise, maybe you could even say wasteful, means of planting. Just try sowing grass seed on a new lawn. Not all of the seed ends up in the choicest of locations.

When you gather a handful and cast it out, you will discover that some areas end up densely seeded and others sparsely. Meanwhile, some of the seed even lands in areas you wouldn’t choose to place it if you were being more selective.

Nevertheless, this is the illustration used by Jesus in this parable. He is describing how the Word of God came in contact with the lives of thousands of people to whom He ministered. Some of them were hardened and would not respond. Others would show signs of initial germination only to later die out. Only some of those in the crowds that gathered would reach maturity and produce a crop. It is certainly a worthwhile endeavor for us to ask what kind of soil we represent.

But I want you to also pause and think about how carelessly broad the ministry of Jesus was. His words fell upon people who made no pretenses about faith and also upon those who were only a flash in the pan. Only a minority in the crowd made true lasting commitments. But that was okay. The offer was for all, and, therefore, this broad scattering of the message was the best.

As you extend the gospel of Jesus, you will likely discover an innate tendency to carefully discriminate between people. You will likely err on the side of selective and careful planting among people you deem to be safe and hopefully responsive. Resist that temptation as you remember that the offer is for all, and that some who will respond might catch you by surprise. Sow broadly, even wastefully, knowing that there are some who will respond.

sbk

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February 16: Crystal Clarity Confidence

Read 1 John 5:1-21

In my mind, some of the verses you just read communicate the crystal clarity that people can have regarding their relationship with God and their eternal future. Perhaps you will find them helpful today as you look to share the truth of Jesus with someone today. Here are the specific verses I had in mind:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (vv. 11-13).

These verses communicate something that is helpful . . . confidence! The last sentence clearly states that a person can be assured of eternal life. It says that those with whom you speak today can have “yes” or “no” certainty regarding heaven.

At first glance, confidence like that may seem prideful. In fact, I just read an author yesterday who basically argued, “Who are you to pretend to have confidence like that? Only arrogant people would make such claims!” But a closer look at verses 11 and 12 reveals the fact that God is the giver of eternal life through the provision of His Son Jesus. The crystal clarity confidence comes not because a person is better than anyone else. After all, we are all sinners. Instead, God offers crystal clarity confidence based on our response to Jesus. Those who believe in Him have that confidence and hope. Those who do not place faith in Him lack that assurance. Every person alive either has reason for confidence or reason for concern. Every person alive either has the Son or has yet to fully embrace Him. Every person alive either has eternal life with God or can anticipate suffering eternal separation from Him.

Now, if God gives you opportunity to share today, those kinds of truths need to be stated in love and with gentleness. But when you do so, you may help others to see themselves with crystal clarity!

sbk

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February 15: Your Life Is Like a Business Card

Read James 1:19-27

A true relationship with God requires more than a business card. It requires genuine, personal, repentant faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, His burial, and resurrection. The outworkings of that kind of faith become a calling card of their own. James points out that your genuine faith will reflect transformation in . . .

1.                  What you say. (v. 26) Those with real deal faith will bridle their tongues. Rather than giving free rein to the words that flow from your mouth, instead of responding impulsively, emotionally, or lewdly to others, you are to be self-controlled in what you verbalize. Of course, the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. (See Matt. 12:34.) It requires then, that you not only be concerned about what comes out of your mouth but also about what you allow to enter your mind and heart.

2.                  How you relate to the least. (v. 27a) Those without spouses or parents are not usually the ones attracting the attention of others. They are ones who are not typically able to reciprocate the generosity of others. But the selfless love of giving yourself on behalf of widows and orphans is a mark of true faith transformation.

3.                  How you interact with the world. (v. 27b) There is no doubt that this world is your temporary home. Here, you must live, eat, work, and relate to your surroundings. God has also called you to be His representative in this world. But amidst the eating, working, representing, and living, your life is to be uniquely different from the thought patterns and personal practices of those without Christ.

Today, as you look for opportunities to reach out to people and share the truth of Jesus with them or invite them to Grace, keep in mind that your life is like a business card. Is it consistent with the desires of the one you represent?

sbk

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February 14: The Community’s View of Our Church

Read Acts 2:42-3:10

“The people of that church are loving.”

“That church really helps our community.”

“That church is concerned about more than filling their pews . . . or their offering plates.”

In my mind, those are the kinds of unsolicited comments that might be heard in an area of a church that is “enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). The first church in Jerusalem enjoyed that kind of favor. Apparently, even outsiders had an awareness of the church’s existence and its impact on the community. As a result, even those who weren’t part of the church nodded their heads and gave a thumbs up when they thought of the church and its people. The church had a positive reputation.

What does it mean for a church to have a positive reputation? I believe the answer to that question has changed during my lifetime. There was a time when a positive reputation was granted on the basis of the moral character of the leadership and doctrinal purity of the preaching. While, those things are still critical today, people . . . even those outside the church . . . are concerned about such things as justice and poverty. As a result, churches that address those issues often “enjoy the favor of all the people.”

Children in a “Grace Place” orphanage in Asia.

Let’s be clear, such social action is not the gospel. But a concern for such things as justice and poverty is a natural product of the gospel’s impact. That is part of the reason for our church’s involvement in assisting under-resourced people. It is a driving force for the help we offer to widows, orphans, and abused children in Asia. It has caused us to drill water wells in Africa and to help families in hurricane-ravished places like Texas and Florida. This causes people to make friendly visits to nursing homes, build wheel chair ramps, offer assistance with homework, or throw a Christmas party for children of the incarcerated. Those are the kinds of things the gospel message motivates us to do . . . and, ironically, those are the kinds of things that give a church a positive reputation in the community.

As you look to share the truth of Jesus with someone today, perhaps you will have opportunity to point to a ministry or two that could serve the person to whom you are talking. Or, perhaps, by mentioning it, the person will come to realize that Grace is a church that has the good of the world in mind.

sbk

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February 13: Grace and Government

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Recently, we read here about the powerful witness of the Christian life that chooses not to grumble. Paul tells us that by choosing not to complain or argue, we “shine like stars in the universe” (Phil. 2:15). We discovered that God enables us to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit rather than normal human responses like whining and fault-finding.

Today, we identify one specific arena in which I believe God wants to heighten Christian witness and transform our complaining tendency into focused prayer. But, be careful. It is an area where the media camps out in ridicule. Emails get forwarded. Cartoons poke fun. People are rallied. If you have read today’s Bible text, you may know that I am talking about the subject of citizenship . . . your attitude towards and relationship with government and its leaders.

Do you know what the New Testament teaches about citizenship? Even though we find a couple of rare examples where God’s people concluded “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), people like Paul encourage us to:

Rather than being constantly up in arms with government and its leaders, God wants us to participate in the process through voting. But it is also His desire that we “live peaceful and quiet lives” (1 Tim. 2:3) and pray “without anger and disputing.” That kind of life stands in contrast to the contentious attitude generated in our culture today.

By choosing to pray for government leaders rather than complain about them we communicate a trust in the One who stands above those visible figures.  (Is. 40:22-24)

sbk

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