Me on the Altar

5 Attributes of a Living Sacrifice: Monday Devotional

Sacrifices are…

1. Pure and Spotless

In Exodus 12:5, God gives instruction to Israel what kind of lamb he is looking for in their sacrifices. “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.”

Image result for lamb without blemish

Do you realize that God is looking for the same qualifications in you as a living sacrifice? As you bring yourself before the Lord to be used by Him, you must ask yourself, “Am I without blemish?” Is there any known sin in your life that needs to be confessed to God? Are you willing to ask God to search your heart and see if there is anything offense to Him persisting in you (Psalm 139:23-24)? Once you have consecrated your heart and life to Christ, which is truly a daily choice, you are ready to step onto the altar.

Jesus shares a startling statement in the middle of His Sermon on the Mount. It has been called the most terrifying verse in Scripture. Jesus says in Matthew 7:22-23,

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus key words here are, “I never knew you.” So, what should we do? Say this simple prayer today. “Jesus, know me.” This prayer has the power to be so sobering, yet so intimate. Lord, come so close to me that Your Presence casts off my impurities. Then, I will be the kind of sacrifice you are looking for! And be assured today, you don’t have to be purified to come to Him. He purifies you as you commune with Him.

My Response to the Coronavirus

Let me begin by sharing both an observation and something Jesus said that is unbelievably relevant to our current events.

First, my observation. The emotion of fear is the most controlling emotion we experience. While love is the most powerful, fear is the most controlling. God does not author fear, He authors faith. The coronavirus and the news reports about it sure has the power to create fear, don’t they?!

Secondly, here is what Jesus said in Luke 21:26, “On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” Jesus spoke these words in response to His disciples about the end drawing near. The words used in this sentence refer to “anguish, anxiety, fear and doubt” about what is going on in the world. Sounds familiar to our present day, does it not? So, how are we to respond?

1. Compassion

Let me ask you a question. When you first caught wind of the coronavirus, which did you think first: I hope those affected are OK, or I hope I don’t get it. You answer could show you us a lot about how you’re doing with selfishness. Our first response should be like Jesus- compassion. Praying God heals those affected. Praying for the families that are under distress. Praying that the church in the affected areas has a chance to shine. And that the Gospel is able to go forth in the darkness! Let us be moved first with compassion anytime we hear other people are suffering.

2. Caution

When you hear the word caution, you probably think I am going to start talking about all the ways we should be caution so we do not get the virus. Nope. Consider this thought. From the reports, it is clear that someone, somewhere, at some point, made a mistake. Whether they brought something out of a lab in error or sold meat that was unsanitary at a market, they made a mistake. They were not cautious enough and it has had lethal ramifications.

I think this is a good opportunity for us to look at our lives and our actions. Do you realize that your words and actions have consequences? Some are good and some bad. Proverbs 4:26 says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Give careful thought to each step you take. A little sin can do a lot of damage. Be cautious with your life. It is precious and so are others’ lives around you.

And, yes. You should be washing your hands and drinking lots of water these days, too.

3. Christ

Isn’t it a joy to know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever? While viruses attack and tornadoes destroy, our God is unchanging. Many are filled with fear by the coronavirus, even some of you reading this blog post. And while I completely understand, I want to challenge you to look to Christ and not the virus. We can trust God with our lives. In the unlikely event that He did allow one of us to be affected by this virus, we can rest assured He would use it for our glory if we are one of His children.

The Bible says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” We could say the same about the coronavirus. The only reason it is scary is because it has proven deadly. However, if you are a believer in Christ, you do not have to fear death. These uncertain times should simply draw us into Jesus. If you feel afraid, talk to Him about it. He will give you perfect peace as you trust Him with your life. Your eternity and future are secure in Him.

Closing thought: Jesus went on to give us the answer in Luke 21:36 to his comments about men’s fears with the uncertainty of times. He says two simple truths, “Watch and pray that you may be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man.” Friend, just watch and pray.

God, I ask with boldness that you would stop this cornovirus. You are our healer and you are more powerful than this illness. Would you break off this attack in Jesus’ name and show your power. I pray that those affected would come to know you during this time. You said that if anyone calls on your name, they will be saved. Thank you for your peace and salvation. We love you. Amen.

Motivated by Love

What should motivate us to share out faith? The answer is love and obedience. The two go hand in hand. In fact, Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” Our obedience proves our love. Today, we are going zero in on the motivation of love.

Love. Love should be the motivation for our witnessing. Our love for other’s lives and eternities should compel us to share the hope we have found. Here are 3 reason why we should be witnesses motivated by love.

1- God was motivated by love.

Since God’s motivation to come to us was love, our motivation to go to the lost should be the same. John 3:16 states clearly, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Why did God have Jesus crucified on our behalf? It was love. And that is our example. God would not stop at any length, including giving up his own child to reach us. Let us be willing to be radically selfless and compassionate as we reach out to unbelievers with the good news of Jesus.

2- Love has power.

Mediate on these truths from Scripture.

  • “Love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8
  • “Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18
  • “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
  • “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love is the most powerful force that God has given to us. We must ask Him to give us it in abundance because of the power it possesses. If someone has sin, love can cover it. If someone is afraid (or maybe you are afraid to share your faith), love can cast the fear out. It is the greatest virtue of all. As we share our faith, may our relationships and conversations be covered with love.

3- Love softens people’s hearts.

When we approach a friend or first time acquaintance with the Gospel, our approach is important. If we come across as genuinely interested in someone’s life and happy to be talking to them, it will go a long way. If we are willing to listen to their opinion and their questions, they will feel comfortable. If we show them that we are sharing Jesus with them because we really believe He can help them, they will be more willing to listen. Love helps us to avoid the traps of arguing with people or communicating with a dry, religious posture. Scripture states in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” When love is our motivation to share Christ, people are more likely to open their hearts to Him.

A few months ago, my friend and I were sharing the Gospel with an atheist. This was our first time meeting him. As we talked, he asked, “Why would you guys come to me to talk about my faith?” I responded that we had come because we loved him and cared about his eternity. My response seemed disarming to him, and he willingly engaged with us for about 20 minutes. We respectfully listened to his perspective and shared truth with him as we were able. We did not convert him that day, but we were able to plant seeds and love helped open to door to the conversation. At one point he remarked, “It is not everyday you get to talk to people about faith like this.” It was clear he was happy we had taken the time to discuss spiritual truth with him.

As we close, I would like to pray for God’s love to motivation your witness.

God, I pray that you would fill us with your love. Your life is better than life. I pray that we would also be full of love for those in our lives who do not yet know you. Would you give us opportunities to share about the hope we have in you? May your love compel us and motivate us to eternity-minded and not earthly-minded. Thank you for your never-ending, unfailing love. Amen.

Soulja Boy’s Great Witnessing Advice

I have never felt guilty or like I did the wrong thing after sharing about Jesus with someone. Never. It is kind of crazy. I think there have been times where I have pushed too hard, other times where I left truths out and was too soft. Other times where the person seemed in a rush and I was inconveniencing them. Other times where I felt very unsure before initiating the conversation, but EVERY SINGLE TIME my feeling after has been the same. I am glad I shared the Gospel. A peaceful feeling has followed, every time I decided to tell them about Him.

If you are not familiar with Soulja boy, he is a rapper who hit the scene with his 2007 song, “Crank That.” He is not a Christian rapper and I cannot condone his lyrics, but his rapper name is interesting. It is not just “Soulja Boy”, but rather the name on his albums is “Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em”. And that is the advice that we should take from him.

Tell ‘Em

Dr. Bill Bright was a great evangelist who started Campus Crusade for Christ, a ministry which now shares the Gospel on 5,300 college campuses across the world. He gave some wonderful evangelism advice along these same lines.

“Failure in witnessing is failing to witness.”

He followed it up with a simple encouragement on how to “succeed” in your witness for Christ.

“Success in witnessing is sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results with God”

My wife Rachel and I were discussing this principle recently and found both our experiences were the same. We never felt like we misstepped when we shared with someone, but we often felt guilt or unsettled when we passed an opportunity by. When you put each opportunity in view of eternity, this makes sense. God is in the business of rescuing people from hell and reconciling them to himself. He uses us to do this. 2 Corinthians 5:20 states, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God we’re making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” If an ambassador for the American government decided not to go on an assignment given by the President, they would probably feel bad too.

Here are 2 simple stories to illustrate this truth.

#1 Just this week, I saw a gentleman at a facility I where I was doing some grief counseling. As I walked by something in my Spirit leaped and I felt I should engage with him. But…I ignored it. After taking a few steps and seeing a tattoo of a devil/demon on his arm, I felt a confirmation in my Spirit that I had crossed his path for a reason. Maybe just to show him a loving Christian and plant a seed. However, I still ignored it. As I walked to my car, I felt I had missed an assignment.

I prayed in the car that God would send other believers his way and prayed for his salvation. But, it still didn’t cure my guilt. I will have to live with the “what if” of that missed opportunity.

#2 A few months back I had a few open minutes in my schedule. I needed a swimsuit so I decided to seize the opportunity to look for a swimsuit at the annual Dunham’s Sports tent sale! (Shout out to Dunham’s for offering sporting goods that I can afford, compared to Dick’s.) A young man directed me to the suits and I browsed them. Not really finding anything worth the purchase that would compliment my skinny beach body, I began heading back toward my car.

The young man who had helped me was by himself sorting a few items. I am unsure if I felt a strong prompting from God to talk to him, but I took a step of faith. I told him I was a Christian and asked if he had ever heard the Gospel before. He surprised me by answering, “No.” I shared how God loved him, but his sin had created a separation between him and God. Then I explained how Jesus had come and died in his place so that he could be reconnected to God and spend eternity in heaven. I then asked if he would like to put his faith is Jesus.

Sadly, he declined. But he cited that he felt he would need to learn more. And that is understandable. In the same way he would not marry a girl the first time he met her, he may not make Jesus the Lord of his life at first introduction. I am always encouraged by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” Hopefully things work out for me like they did for Paul. Maybe some guy named Apollos will come along and seal the deal for my new friend.

Take the step of faith today. Tell someone. Silence the enemy’s voice and your fears and share your faith. As long it you open your mouth, you will succeed! Go and tell ’em. “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Romans 10:14.

The Role of Prayer in Evangelism

I will be honest, sometimes I feel stupid when I evangelize. I am trying to communicate with the individual about spiritual things and my words hit such a wall, I might as well be speaking a different language. I bear my heart with the truth of Jesus’ love and saving power, and it is met with a “no comprendo, senior.”

There is a reason for this. It is because the Gospel is not natural, it’s SUPERnatural. So to the natural man, it won’t make sense. In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:4 states clearly,

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Satan has blinded the mind of the unbeliever. Blind means can’t see. Means no vision. Means eyes are closes. Means darkness. Blind. No wonder we encounter people that don’t understand the Gospel. Going further, Jesus referred to unbelievers as having a “strong man” that must be bound before they can believe. The strong man is a demonic stronghold of unbelief in one’s life.

So, what is the solution to this seemingly immovable problem? The answer is simple and attainable: it is prayer. If I could say that prayer is EVERYTHING in evangelism, I would. However, we often do have to speak the words of the Gospel to seal the deal!

If we want to win the lost, we must learn to pray for them. Prayer for those who don’t know Christ must be motivated by love and be teamed with determination. We must “pray through” for those who don’t yet know Christ. “Praying through” is more than a one line prayer. It is wresting, pulling down strongholds, warring, claiming God’s promises, groaning, and praying in the Spirit.

We know that Christ is more powerful than the enemy, but prayer is the currency of the Kingdom that brings the victory to pass. Jesus affirmed the need for fervent prayer through the parable of the persistent widow. If you are not familiar with this story, basically a widow annoys a judge enough to get him to act on her behalf. Then Jesus asks a few powerful and pointed questions as he finishes the story in Luke 18:7-8:

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Will not God? What powerful words. Will not God answer us? He will, when we cry out day and night. When we come with faith and fervency.

A couple years ago, I had the blessed opportunity to do a Bible Study with a few neighbors. Two of my neighbors were pretty engaged in the studies that I led, but one of them stayed distant and uninterested. He would often sleep upstairs through the studies, stay on his tv monitor, or act disinterested.

One night before our study, I decided to pray for the third neighbor. Not just a few sentences to God, but doing war in the Spirit for him. I probably went 20 minutes, imagining armies of angels to block the demons attacking him and calling out what I envisioned.

I will never forget the study that followed. I would have thought he was a different person. Not only was he not sleeping or watching TV, he was engaged full-throttle with more questions than anyone else. Interestingly enough, a lot of his questions were about the spiritual realm, angels and demons. He showed genuine interest in the Scriptures and participated all the way through.

I wish I could finish by telling you that he received salvation that night. He did not. But, I learned definitively, that night, the power of prayer. It was as if he learned the language I was speaking as I prayed. That is what the Holy Spirit does. He teaches natural people the supernatural.

One more story. A pastor in New York had a daughter who went wayward. She got involved with a guy older than her and ended up getting kicked out of Bible College because of their immoral relationship. Shortly after her exit from Bible College, she ended up pregnant. After struggling through the decision to keep the baby, she found herself living in her friend’s house with her child, hopeless and far from Christ. One night, her friend went to a prayer meeting that was actually hosted at her parent’s church.

The pastor and his wife shared with the church that night about their eldest daughter’s situation and asked the church if they would pray. The church took that time to pray earnestly for her life. Meanwhile, the girl at home was having a particularly difficult night and climbed into bed early. Unable to sleep, she looked up and saw a dark figure creep up to the foot of the bed and declare that he owned her and her daughter’s life. However, suddenly, another figure, full of light, joined them in the room and overtook the dark figure. She instantly felt complete freedom and joy fill her. She woke up the next morning and the feelings of peace had stayed. She repented of running from Christ and her sin, and reconciled with her parents later that day!

The prayer that night was so powerful, no person was even needed to witness! The angel defeated the demon and two lives, both the young woman’s and the daughters, were saved in that night.

I am reminded of a final story in Scripture that will encourage us. Peter was placed in prison and Scripture says that his Christian friends prayed earnestly for his release. You can read about the miraculous deliverance God orchestrated in Acts 12.

I want to encourage you that you could free one of your friends or family members from the prison Satan has them in through your earnest prayer! What a beautiful picture and beautiful hope.

Practical tip: When we talk about intercessory prayer, it can be intimidating. The enemy would want you to feel discouraged before you even start. You might say, “I don’t know the first thing about pulling down strongholds.” Here is a helpful tip that will give you everything you need to “pray through” for someone—

Just imagine that you are in their shoes. You are the blind one, headed to hell. How would you want someone praying for you? What would they need to pray for to free you from that prison? Just pray what comes to mind when you switch roles!

Prayer: Oh God, I pray that you would teach us to pray for the lost. Help us to not give up and hold you to your promises. You said your will is that all people would be saved and come to repentance. And you died so that their salvation is possible. Pull down blinders in Jesus’ name and open doors for those reading this blog to bring your Gospel to those who need it now. Amen.

PS. The girl’s name from the previous story is Chrissy Cymbala Toledo. You can read her full story through an internet search or in her book Girl in the Song.

Nothing Kills the Flesh like Witnessing

My pastor told me that he was on vacation once and he met a gentleman who told him that he did a lot of “street witnessing”. The man explained that he made it a point to regularly share the Gospel of Jesus with the people he encountered. Then he made this statement, “Nothing kills the flesh like street witnessing.” I have found that statement to be very true.

It is very hard to be selfish when you are telling others about Jesus. There are reasons for this. You are not talking about yourSELF, or making the other person feel good by talking about them, but rather you are making the object of the conversation, Jesus. The devil and your flesh (the sinful part of you) don’t like Jesus because He comes destroy Satan’s work, subdue your flesh and awaken your spirit. Thus, the flesh gets upset when you talk about Jesus.

Just this morning I walked into a McDonald’s on my way to a counseling appointment. I had driven for about 45 minutes and needed a potty break! As I stepped into the restaurant, a woman caught my eye and the Holy Spirit whispered, “She is why you are here.” As I went to the restroom, the fight commenced between my flesh and spirit. People might think that it is easy for someone like me to talk about God with people, but it’s not. It is usually a battle. Phrases like, “I don’t want to,” “This will be uncomfortable,” “What if she gets offended,” immediately rush into my mind. That is where I use the truth to combat the lies of the flesh. I respond, “The Gospel is God’s power unto salvation,” and “You love me by obeying my commands.” I remind myself that by faith, something wonderful could happen.

I stepped out of the bathroom and asked about the game she was playing on her computer. Then, sat down. I proceeded to tell her I felt God had prompted me to come talk with her and asked how she was doing. She closed her laptop and shared that her friend was suicidal and she was going to talk with him today. We prayed together for her friend and she was very grateful. She then encouraged me for my boldness!! I don’t get that every time I witness. Then, I found out she had faith in Christ and I encouraged her to give go all the way with Christ and life her whole life for him. As I got up to go, she said, “You made my entire day!”

It is true. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Even after encounters life these, I can feel my flesh gripe and complain. But I encourage myself in the Lord and praise Him for positive encounters. Here’s a couple tips on how to kill the flesh:

  1. Keep an eternal perspective. The flesh is focused on the temporary. The Spirit is focused on the eternal. When you can step back and remember that you have the ability to introduce someone to the “spring of water welling up to eternal life,” it makes witnessing easier. Your minutes of discomfort could save them from an eternity of discomfort.
  2. Use Scripture. One of my favorites is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We have to remind ourselves that our flesh is good for nothing. Our flesh is what gets us into trouble, the thing that led us into sin and away from Christ in the first place. But now, through Christ, it is dead! Let’s keep it that way through reminding ourselves of Scripture.
  3. Pray. Pray for opportunities, pray for boldness, pray in the Spirit. Paul asked the Ephesians to “pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…as I should.” Pray this over yourself, ask your church to pray it over you.

I love how even the Apostle Paul shows us the struggle is real. If witnesses was easy for anyone, surely it was for him. But here he is, saying, “pray for me to keep preaching as I should, it’s not easy to keep denying this flesh, I need your support.”

Kill that flesh and watch God use you in miraculous ways today!

Dealing with Rejection In Witnessing

If you have lived for any length of time on earth, you have dealt with rejection. Getting turned down for a date, not making the cut for a try out, getting passed over by a prospective job, or being laughed at by friends or family. Rejection has a way of hurting like few things do. However, when we are rejected for your faith, Jesus gives us special promises that can be great encouragements to us.

There are a series of statements found in 1 Peter 3:14-15 that help us with rejection. “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” First of all, Peter encouraged us to remember that the blessings in our lives for doing the right thing and following God are not contingent on people’s opinions. The verse goes on give us further courage, “Do not fear their threats, do not be frightened”. Sometimes when people reject you, it can literally scare you. But Scripture says “The fear of man will prove to be a snare.” So, we can avoid that snare by fearing God and not man. In one of Paul’s letters, he states, “If I was living for the approval of men, I would not be a servant of God.” Peter actually hits on this concept with his next statement, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.” Why does he make this statement here? Because we can easily make an idol our of people’s approval. But Peter says, keep Christ on the throne of your heart and not what people think of you. Peter finishes by saying, “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.” This is exactly what we are called to do, make know Christ and prove His significance to all who are willing to hear.

And sometimes, when we share, people don’t like it. I can recall several times where I have been rejected for my faith. I will share a few stories here which hopefully will comfort you and help you in your witness.

My senior year of high school, many of my peers knew of my faith. I was leading the Christian club and had the opportunity to go one morning to go on the video announcements in front of the whole school and invite them to a Christian outreach event. As I walked into the lunch room that day, a classmate who I knew fairly well shouted, “Jesse, you’re nothing but a Jesus freak!” I was not able to respond but as I reflected, I thanked God for two things. One- he had notices my fervor for Christ and two- that I was being persecuted for righteousness.

Several years back I felt a prompting from God to share a Scripture with a gentleman across from me at Starbucks. I was hesitant but meditated on the Scripture and prayed for the courage to approach the man. I finally walked up to him and asked, “I was praying and felt God would like me to share a Scripture with you, can I share it with you?” The man looked at me and said simply and firmly, “No.” And that was it, I walked out of the Starbucks. While I felt discouraged afterward, I was glad that I acted on my faith instead of letting an opportunity pass me by. I rarely feel guilty for stepping out in faith, but have feel guilty plenty of times for passing up open doors God is giving me for the Gospel.

A number of weeks ago, I was at the mall and approached a young man and handed him a little pamphlet with the Gospel and a testimony contained in it. We had a very short encounter and I told him that I simply wanted to encourage him in his faith. The conversation did not go much further so I proceeded about my walk. A few minutes later, I received a text message on my phone from a gentleman who identified himself as the young man’s father. I initially thought the young man was in his adult years but realize now he could have been a teen. This is a copy of the message:

Certainly, the text took me back at first glance. But I quickly was reminded that Jesus’ name brings up these kinds of emotions in people. I do not have any anger toward this friend of mine, I love him. We can be amazed that such a simple pamphlet could create such a response. But we must keep in mind that the battle is spiritual. This simple Gospel seed has “stirred the hornet’s nest.” Thus, I pray that the blinders of the enemy are taken off his eyes and if he has been hurt by a church or believer, that he would be healed.

Here are 3 simple truths that I remind myself when faced with rejection when witnessing:

  1. We are getting just a taste of the rejection Jesus experienced. Remember, Jesus was ultimately crucified for the message He preached. And John the Baptism beheaded. I’m thankful I have not experienced these yet but feel closer to Christ when I am rejected for him.
  2. The only failure in evangelism is not sharing. This was an idea presented by Dr. Bill Bright who started campus crusade for Christ on college campuses. Our only duty is to share the good news, the individual’s response is out of our hands. We don’t save, we just share.
  3. Jesus said we are blessed if we are rejected for him and have a great reward in heaven because of that persecution. Blessing and heavenly rewards are pretty great consolation as we endure a few moments of emotional pain.

I pray that my words have encouraged you to be bold with the Gospel. I am willing to be rejected by everyone if it means one person can spend an eternity with God and I hope you are too! Remember, Jesus said, “If they hated me, they will hate you.” The cross will always be an offense to sinful humanity, but it is God’s power for salvation!