Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Let Failures Keep You From Witnessing

            Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 2)
21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us ... one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. ” ... 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles."          Acts Chapter 1 
        It is this passage of Scripture that has led to an erroneous division in clergy (those who make a living as a minister) and the laity (those ministers who earn a living other than through the church). The word “lot” is kleros from which we get clergy, so whenever we read “the lot fell on Matthias,” it could also be said, “and the clergy fell on Matthias.” But as we see in Acts 1:8, it’s not just the clergy who are to be witnesses for Christ, but everyone who receives the Holy Spirit, or in other words, all Christians.
       As we saw in the previous blog, some use the excuse of "not being a member of the clergy" to not be a witness. Look at what Robert Coleman said about the division of the clergy and laity in his book, The Master Plan of Discipleship:
Biblically speaking, we cannot define clergy and laity as mutually exclusive terms…Radical distinctions between the pulpit and the pew did not develop until well into the second century. The word kleros…has the meaning of “a share, a land received by lot, or inheritance.” …When the reference is to recipients of God’s promise as the church, the terms relate to all believers who have received the inheritance of Christ (Acts 8:21; 20:32; 26:18; Rom. 4:13, 14; 8:16; Gal. 3:18, 29; 4:1, 7; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Titus 3:7; Heb. 6:17; 9:15; 11:7,8; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; 5:3). In the New Testament usage of these term, then, everyone in the church is a clergyman or an heir of God. (pg. 11)
         But there are other reasons people use which keep them from witnessing.
 Don’t Let Failures keep you from witnessing 
        Not only should we not let excuses keep us from witnessing, but we should not let our past failures keep us from witnessing. Look at Peter. He was the disciple who whenever he didn’t know what to say, he said it anyway. Peter was a go-getter and Jesus liked that, but even go-getters get gotten at times by some type of failure.  
        During the 10 days of waiting and praying after Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter had to have been reading through the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, which still is so inspirational during times of affliction and sorrow. He obviously turned to Psalm 69 because that was what he quoted about having someone take Judas’ spot in Acts 1:20.  
        Here are some of the verses that gave Peter comfort. 
1 Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I have come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying, my throat is dry. My eyes fail while I wait for my God. 
        Now don’t you think that was a great passage for Peter to read? During the past three and a half years, Peter had proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, swore he would never deny him, yet only a few hours later, he swore he never knew the man. The Bible says after the third denial, he, like the Psalmist, wept bitterly. All the disciples were grief-stricken by the events and by Jesus’ absence. Death is devastating. I don’t care who you are and how much you know that they are "better off in heaven" and free from suffering, still, death is absolutely devastating. The Psalmist said he cried so hard that his throat went dry and he couldn’t even see. There is no shame in crying over the things that God cries over.  
        Let’s read some more from the same passage which Peter read in Psalm 69:
5O God, You know my foolishness and my sins are not hidden from you. 6Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me. Let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel...19You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries are all before You. 20Reproach has broken my heart and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 
        At this point of loneliness and sadness, Peter turned his thoughts toward his own failures. He may have been isolated and ostracized from the other disciples. It probably sunk in to him how lonely it must have been for Jesus to have suffered and have all to forsake Him. The fisherman apostle undoubtedly continued to read this Messianic prophecy in the next verse, Ps. 69:21. “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” 
        Peter’s heart must have leapt out into his throat from his chest when he read this, knowing that Christ had also been given vinegar to drink on the cross. Psalm 69 then speaks about calling out for vengeance on those who betrayed him. Who else was a greater betrayer than Judas himself? Talk about a gruesome, painful death, Judas’ own bowels had bloated and spilled out after he had hung himself in remorse of being used and tossed away by the devil himself. No wonder Peter quoted Psalm 69:25 and applied it to Judas. “Let their dwelling place be desolate. Let no one live in their tents.” 
        Peter failed Christ, but was restored by Him. Judas, on the other hand, failed Christ but didn’t repent and did not experience the restoration, but rather the wrath of God, culminating in his death. As the Psalmist said, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28) 
        If you have ever failed (is there anyone that this doesn’t apply to?), learn what Peter learned: “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Prov. 24:16). The righteous fall just like everyone else, but they get back up again. Jesus restored Peter. Don’t let your past keep you from living your future for God and don’t let your failures keep you from being a witness to God. By the way, who was it that wrote this Psalm? Oh, yeah, David. Not David the adulterer, David the murderer, David the liar. David, the forgiven one. David, the man after God's own heart, even when it was broken.
        Judas was overcome by his remorse and died. Peter, on the other hand, overcame his remorse and lived to be the leader in the church. If you have failed and you feel like you are the chief of all sinners, look at Peter. Look at Paul, who coined the phrase, “the chief of all sinners.” And ladies, look at Mary Magdalene, who was likely a prostitute, although we are not for sure. We do know that seven demons were driven out of her, yet she became a close follower of Christ.  
        So what am I saying? If you have failed in the past, just remember Peter, Paul and Mary.

Good news on book publication (kind of)

Romans 8:28 states that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. I am claiming that on the publication of the GoJODaaT.

Crossbooks, my publisher that I have been working with for nearly a year now, has gone out of business. So why is that good news? I believe that is going to lead the book to be published by a larger publishers, either by B&H directly (affiliated with Lifeway) or another publisher such as Thomas Nelson (the publisher of my preferred translation in the book, the New King James Version).

So above is the suggested cover design and my prayer is that God will actually achieve a wider distribution than Crossbooks would have provided. Drop me a note if you will join me in prayer (I believe you have to create a log in account in order to post comments).

I will be updating my corrections to the blog over the next few weeks so that a "cleaner" reading of the devotionals will be on the internet. You may begin by going to .

Key Principles for the Church: # 2 - - WITNESS

Key Principle #2: WITNESS (part 1)
ACTS 1:8-26
6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
     Lawyers and judges say that one of the most convincing (but sometimes least accurate) evidences you can bring to a trial is to have an eyewitness of an event, depending of course on the reliability and believability of the witness.

        Luke researched the gospel and also the book of Acts by going to eyewitnesses of the events. I think it is extremely important that Luke says several times that Mary “pondered these things in her heart.” How would he know that unless he spoke directly to her?

        The use of witnesses by Dr. Luke was very important to him and it is also important to God today. God gives us dunamis power (Principle #1) for many reasons, but the ultimate reason is so that we can be a witness both verbally and demonstratively in our lives. This leads us to see that giving a testimony about our faith is the second key principle found in the book of Acts. The Greek word for witness is martyr and the English word martyr signifies the most radical form of witnessing: to testify so strongly that you suffer and possibly even die for your faith.

        If being a witness is so important and was so import to Luke and to Christ, who said, “You shall be my witnesses,” what, then, stops us from being a good witness for our faith? Another word for witness can be a testimony or a proof to the world, or in the case of Acts 1:6, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, that Jesus is who said he was. So there may be several reasons that stop us from being a witness or a proof for Christ, but none of reasons are good reasons. There are at least three reasons that come to mind why the early disciples could have used for failing to be a witness.

        Today’s blog will look at the first reason some use: Excuses.

Don’t Let Excuses Stop You From Witnessing

      Don’t let excuses keep you from witnessing. Someone has defined an excuse as "a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie." Some people erroneously think that only certain people are spiritually gifted  to witness, and others are called for other things, such as service, mercy, teaching, giving, exhortation, pew-sitting. Yes, some people think that pew-sitting is their spiritual gift. A few of those people think that they are only called to sit on a certain pew and no one else better sit there, especially a visitor.

       Someone said in a class the other day, "I can't get up and speak. I'm no Moses." I immediately said to him, "Moses wasn't a Moses either." He immediately knew what I was meaning. Heroes like Moses, or in today's reading, Peter, were not some supernatural saints. Peter was a fisherman. Moses was a shepherd. The only thing that can keep us from being a witness is an excuse.

      The gift of an evangelist is a spiritual gift, but it’s not just the evangelists who are called to evangelize. The overwhelming preponderance of Scriptures shows that it is the entirety of the body of the church who is called to witness. In the last 20 or so years in which I have served in the full-time ministry, I’ve learned one thing (well, I hope I have learned more than one thing): I came across many more people in the ten years of secular work who were unsaved than in the years of full-time ministry work I’ve done. The reason being is that when you are in the full-time, vocational ministry, almost everyone you come across is already saved. The co-workers are saved (at least for the most part). The friends that you have in the ministry are mostly all saved.

        Now it is true that when you are in the ministry you get some opportunities to see people in an unsaved environment but the situation is not as natural as it would be if you were not in the full-time ministry. Sooner or later in a social setting, and most of the time it is sooner, people will ask you, “So what do you do for a living?” and no matter how you phrase it, the people pretty soon pigeon hole you as being a minister. My great-grandfather, who was a preacher and county minister for Parker and Palo Pinto counties, would share, “Well, I sell fire escapes.” But even with that line, pretty soon people figure it out.

        It’s like the phrase I once heard about being a Texan. You can always tell a Texan, but you can’t tell him much. Well it’s true of ministers too, you can always tell a minister, but you can’t tell him much. 

        People have an opinion of you that a minister is "paid to be good' and in many cases, the ministers are over paid for the little amount of good they do. You may laugh at that, but does that mean everyone else who is not a paid minister is "good for nothing"?

        I hope you and I are both "good for nothing". I hope that your minister would be just as good if he wasn’t paid by a church as he would be if he was. But on behalf of all ministers everywhere, if you are a part of the budget and finance committee, don’t let your minister be "good for next to nothing". Pay your minister as an esteemed member of the body of Christ and pay him well because the Bible says that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

        Even if it were true that ministers come across more opportunities to witness, to leave witnessing and evangelism only to the clergy would still be unscriptural and it still wouldn’t be right.

        The people who say witnessing is not for everyone are people who generally don’t want to be obedient to the Scriptures and as a result as we saw this morning, they don’t experience the full power of God. Notice that Jesus says “you shall be witnesses to me.” He doesn’t say, “You can be witnesses to me” or “you may be witnesses to me;” He says you SHALL BE witnesses to Me. You’ll either be a good witness or a bad witness but you will be a witness.

        There are those who want to be a witness in their Jerusalem, but they either don’t want to or cannot go to Judea, Samaria or to the end of the earth. You don’t necessarily have to be a goer, you can be a sender. That’s what the missionary offerings are for. In all of my missionary journeys, someone else has always helped send me in part or in whole, either financially, spiritually, prayerfully or emotionally through encouragement.

        On the other hand, there are some people who will go across the globe to be a witness for Christ on a mission trip but they won’t go across the street. They will go around the world, but not around the corner. God has called each of us to be a witness for Christ.

        Don't let a "skin of a reason stuffed with a lie" keep you from being a witness.