Nov 1, 2016

Fall 2016 ~ A Season Of Reflection


Hear the heart of the Father!

26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

28Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29I will save you from all your uncleanness.  ~ Ezekiel 36

Wow!  This passage was intended prophetically for Israel, yet the parallel between God's plan for faithless Israel is so similar to God's plan for me....and my neighbour.  Here in this passage written 2500 years ago, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel explaining his plan for reckless, wanton, exiled Israel to be "brought back" to their land and be restored in fellowship to the Lord who loves them dearly.  God very much wanted to straighten out their beliefs and practices!  This prophesy has yet to be entirely fulfilled, but there are signs that it could soon.  But suffice it to say that the God of the bible is in the restoration business!  Like Israel corporately, God longs to take each of us to a new place. God longs for increasing our dependence on Him.  He wants a relationship with this world who has rejected Him.  Key to this plan He has, is for each of us to be witnesses of His Gospel!  

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. ~ 1 Peter 3

This season finds me yet again burdened for lost proximate people. People all around me. People I work with.  People I meet when I'm cycling or going about my daily activities.  I often wonder they know about Jesus?  Could I share with them a few words that will change their destiny?   I am determined to be a witnessing Christian, someone who will not sit back and allow His Name to be trampled, but instead be lifted high.  

Because of my determination this way, the Holy Spirit allows me to have interesting conversations with people who need the gospel.  I recently prayed with a despondent colleague in a difficult work situation.  He seemed surprised, yet responded as I led in prayer.  (After we'd prayed, he reported to me that the thing he very much feared didn't come upon him after all.)  Another person is caught up in a cult and I was able to share the Gospel with him.  Yet another explained he is a professing atheist. His story is one of family separation and relational conflict.  After being brought up in Islam, he went to a Catholic school, leaving him more confused than ever.  While he was difficult to speak to, he appreciated my listening ear and my open and declared faith in Jesus.

  My long-time neighbour 'Rob', describes himself as a Jehovah Witness "pastor" and has at times gone out of his way to explain to me how much alike we are in regards to his belief system as a Jehovah Witness and mine as an Evangelical.  I tried not to take his bait for some time, deciding just to listen to him.  You see, I don't really think we are very much alike at all.  However the Holy Spirit has put a burden in my heart for him.  My reality sees little in common with his cult, but I sense the love in me that God has for him.  I think he sees me as a "potential convert", and well to be honest, that's how I see him. 

When I mentioned Rob to my dad a few years ago, Dad began immediately to pray for him. We have prayed for him often as a family during our evening supper devotions.  I have had a burden for his salvation for a long time and had also begun again seeking out the Holy Spirit's leading in prayer for an opportunity to share Jesus with Rob.  I was not disappointed.  Amazingly, a few weeks ago, after I'd been praying for him, he came right over to my front lawn.  Isn't it funny how that happens? Something inside said to me, " prayed about witnessing to him? he is!"  I quickly jumped at the opportunity to witness to him of God's saving power.  

His immediate difficulty is that the belief system that his headquarters in Brooklyn want him to have. JW's closely follow their authority figures in the Brooklyn-based Watchtower 'Governing Body'.  Their Governing Body requires him to follow their very-distorted 'company-thinking-speaking policy' on all their talking points.  Strangely enough, they teach that Jesus isn't the Son of God, but rather a version of Michael the archangel!  Where this and their other strange information came from is a mystery, but they didn't get it from reading the bible.  It is obviously confused, man-made 'theology'.

As an aside here, it really is amazing how JW’s have ‘developed’ in denying the deity of Jesus as God and not allowing their constituency or teachings to reflect what the bible teaches plainly.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in many passages like Hebrews, Colossians, Revelation and elsewhere; the apostle Paul declares the deity of Christ, as does Thomas and John and others.  Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father all testify to his deity. Christ’s very name ‘Yeshuva” means, ‘God is Salvation’ or ‘God Saves’ or ‘Jesus Saves’ in its translation to English.  Yet, the JW’s continue to deny something so obvious.  (Their own misguided and mis-translated ‘New World Translation’ actually even declares Christ’s deity; but they fail to see it.)

 I was however faithful to speak the words that I felt the Holy Spirit led me to speak to Rob.  He probably wasn't expecting the response he got from me, as I challenged him with the claims of the Gospel, unpacked for him the Trinity and confronted Rob with the message of Christ and salvation.  I tried to be winsome with him, yet at the same time challenging.  But, I really doubt that I can convince Rob to make spiritual changes in his life because of a good argument; he has to see God's love at work in my life.  I'm aware that without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Rob has nothing but the head knowledge he has learned.  I have significant heavenly resources to bring to the table, including the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.  While we are both relishing this encounter, I'm immediately aware of their strategy.  The terminology JW's use, sounds similar to words evangelicals use, but with different meanings.  He soon wanted to have me attend their 'bible study' and go through with him 'a really good study book' (which wasn't the bible).  

I am not able to report that Rob or the others has accepted Christ yet.  I continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them, and that something I've said will lead them to investigate the claims of Christ and that they surrender to his Lordship.

          Witnessing reminds me of a job I once had.  I remember transporting vital human organs on one of my aviation jobs flying light jet aircraft.  I'd fly in haste to an airport near a recent auto or industrial accident.  Often it was at 2am, when I was barely able to stay awake in the middle of the night.  Together, with a team of doctors, our team would carefully retrieve the vital organ from the body of a recently deceased person.  The medical team's objective was not only to remove the lung, liver, heart or priceless organ, but to then confirm that it was in good condition and a suitable match for the intended recipient.  On more than one occasion, the team would return to the airport with failure showing on their faces when they were not successful in their mission and the organ couldn't be utilized.  Our spirits would lower as we flew home empty-handed. But other times they returned carefully clutching the Coleman cooler containing the precious organ being kept cool on ice, knowing they soon would be saving someone's life when they returned to their hospital.

 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

Christian, you have that treasure inside you are like that "Coleman cooler" of priceless, precious life-giving organ. You have the understanding, the message of the good news of Salvation down deep in your heart. In fact God has strategically placed you where He needs you for the mission!  I am confident, if you'll ask Him for a witnessing opportunity, he will gently prompt you through his Holy Spirit. The question is are you going to respond in obedience to share that message with your world? Are you up for it? Are you praying passionately asking the Holy Spirit for an opportunity? Do you have a burden for the lost?

Not long after my encounter with Rob, I found myself reading Unmuzzle Your Inner Sheep, by Royal Hamel a Guelph, Ontario pastor.  Perhaps you need to read this excellent book on personal witnessing.  Checkout this link to his website.   This is an excellent book for practical witnessing ideas!  God bless you as you begin a great adventure sharing 'unmuzzling' your faith.  I promise you it is rewarding!

~ St. Mark

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