Evangelism and Eyesight

‘But you are my witnesses, O Israel!’ says the Lord.
‘You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—there never has been, and there never will be.
I, yes, I, am the Lord, and there is no other Savior.
First I predicted your rescue, then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world.
No foreign god has ever done this.
You are witnesses that I am the only God,’ says the Lord.
‘From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
No one can undo what I have done.’ (Isaiah 43:10-12)

 

Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message wuold be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things.’ (Luke 24:45-47)

 

And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Witness.

Over and over again, God tells us that we are witnesses to what he’s done, and that we are to tell others what we’ve seen.

Not always what we know.

Not our opinions about their character.

Evangelism starts with being a witness. It begins with seeing.

Sometimes we want to start the “telling” part of our lives without addressing the “seeing” part.

What gets in the way of seeing something?

Sometimes our vision is obscured, because we’ve let something come in between us and what we’re trying to see. Either we need to move the obstructions, or we need to move in order to get a different perspective.

Sometimes our vision is blurred, because of something inside of us needs repair or correction, sometimes by going to see a professional. No matter how hard we try, something we’ve grown up with, something that we’ve learned to “live with” is making it impossible to see Jesus accurately.

Sometimes we are simply distracted; we are looking at everything else except the object of our sight. Sometimes we just need to admit that there is too much going on in our lives, and remove the distractions and find a time and place to “see” the thing that we’ve been looking for all along.

How are you doing “witnessing” (seeing) Jesus? Do you need to move something?Do you need time and help to correct your vision? Do you just simply need to find a way to focus on his activity in your life?

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Do It Again, or Exulting in Monotony

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

This is one of my favorite quotes. On the surface, it speaks to God’s never-ending vitality, creativity, and energy. We take so much for granted, and if we could learn to approach the “routine things” in life with the wonder that God does, I believe it would drastically change our attitudes.

But there’s another truth operating here; another dynamic that is just as vital to life. The morning prayer of the daily office is based on Psalm 51, which reads,

Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Create in my a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with me. Case me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me. Give me the joy of your saving help again, and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit…

The language of “repetition”, present in the creation of the Chesterton quote above, is present in the forgiveness described in Psalm 51. In the same way that God never tires of telling the sun to rise, He never tires of forgiveness. In fact, I suspect that we more quickly grow tired of asking for forgiveness than He tires of giving it. 

To tell the truth, it’s difficult for me to pray these prayers sometimes. I don’t like being reminded that I can’t ultimately fix myself; and that I stand in a constant need of forgiveness.

In other words, it can be a humbling experience.

But that’s almost the point, I think: in a very real sense, following Jesus begins—and ends—with humility. Do I enjoy being reminded every morning that I need a clean heart? (And that I need to ask someone else for it?) Frankly, no. There will always be a temptation to stop asking, because we tire of the repetition, the monotony.

But God never tires of the “routine” of forgiving His children.

He “exults in the monotony” of giving forgiveness…

… of creating clean hearts

… of renewing right spirits

… of once again giving joy

May we all get a little younger in this regard, and be more willing to say, “Do it again, God,” as much as we need it.

2012, Goal-Setting, and Secrets

Tell me what you want to hear
Something that will light those ears
Sick of all the insincere
I’m gonna give all my secrets away…

I’ve set goals for years, and for years beyond that I’ve made random announcements about “things I’m going to do,” things that aren’t quite goals, but somehow end up being public commitments:

  • Spend a whole year in one book of the bible
  • Get a new guitar
  • Give up TV
  • Exercise religiously
  • Etc, etc.

I was always amazed that I could actually begin these activities and make some progress, but the moment I actually told someone about them, I would lose momentum, and quickly stop. It was almost mathematical: start project in relative secrecy and make good progress + announce what I’m doing to some friends = lose momentum and stop.

This made no sense to me, then I stumbled across this TedTalk. Turns out that there’s something set loose in our brain that—and this is significant—equates the announcing of a goal with the accomplishment of a goal. It’s like your own body working against you. We announce our goals in order to gain support from our community, but simultaneously our own physiology may be saying, “Whew! Good job! Glad that’s over!”

So when you’re setting your goals, be discerning. Don’t tell everything. Keep one or two back for yourself. Get support from your community, but also recognize that some things are better left between you and God.

When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you… When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything will reward you. (Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, Ch 6)