Friday, September 30, 2011

Collect Souls for Jesus!

Many people go through life collecting things. Some of these collections, like rare stamps or coins, may have great monetary value, and the collector may even count on selling his prized possessions to support him in his old age or to finance a child’s college education. Some collections have no intrinsic value but become an heirloom to pass on through the generations, like baby’s first tooth, lock of hair, photo, and rattle. Other collections, like dried flowers pressed in a book to commemorate special occasions, are valuable only to the collector for the memories they bring to mind.

While material collections may bring security, pleasure or happiness, we should be careful not to give them undue importance:

Luke 12:15 And [Jesus]said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Then there are the “collections” that can actually harm the collector or those around him – pornography magazines, leftover prescription medications, notches on a bedpost representing sexual conquests, music or DVDs reflecting questionable values, and empty chocolate boxes, wine bottles, or menus from restaurants where the collector overindulged fleshly appetites. Taken to an extreme, collecting anything material, even if valuable or pleasing, can lead to hoarding, with the resulting clutter preventing repairs and visits from friends and even endangering health.

But the bottom line is that when we leave this earth, we can take none of these collections with us, and we should use what God gives us to further His kingdom, storing our treasures in Heaven where they bring us eternal benefits (Luke 12:16-34).

As the Rapture draws nearer, we should all realize that the only treasure that matters is what we can lay at Jesus’ feet and that will withstand the purifying fire. The gold, silver and jewels that emerge unscathed from the fire of judgment are those deeds done with the right heart and the right motive to further Christ’s kingdom, while those “good deeds” we did out of pride or for our own selfish motives will burn up like wood, hay and stubble (1 Cor 3: 11-15).

One of the best crowns we can lay at Jesus’ feet is the soulwinner’s crown – a living crown of those souls we helped bring to Jesus (I Thess 2:19-20) – not necessarily by being the one who led the unsaved person through the sinner’s prayer, but rather by playing any part in the process. Planting or watering the seed by witnessing, sharing a tract, inviting someone to church, supporting missions can all make a difference (1 Cor 3:5-9). Not until we reach Glory will it be fully revealed to us how each prayer we prayed for missionaries, or how our gifts to support missions, led to specific people being saved! What a blessing it will be to meet these people in Heaven!

A prime example in the Bible of a “soul collector” is the apostle Andrew. As soon as Andrew was saved, he shared his acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah with his brother Peter (John 1:41). Even though Peter, and not Andrew, became part of Christ’s inner circle, Andrew did not appear to grow bitter, but rather kept right on collecting souls for Christ. Although it was Peter who preached the sermon at Pentecost that led to thousands of souls being saved (Acts 2:41), Andrew must have shared in that crown to lay at Jesus’ feet, simply because he was the one who brought Peter to Christ!

Through Andrew’s passion for collecting souls, he was able to play a part in one of Christ’s recorded miracles by bringing the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus, resulting in the multitudes being fed, and no doubt many being saved (John 6:8-9). Later, Andrew shared the Gospel with the Greeks (John 12:20-22), even though many of the Jews did not yet realize that God intended for them to be part of His Kingdom too, and not just His chosen people the Hebrews.

So let’s follow Andrew’s example, lay up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20), and be soul collectors for Jesus!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Are You Suited Up?

As soldiers for Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4), we are involved in spiritual warfare every day (Ephesians 6:12). Our sin nature attacks the indwelling Holy Spirit, and Satan wages war against God, His angels, and every believer. Time is short, and we must use each moment wisely and with Holy Spirit inspiration to gain ground in this battle. Until we meet Christ in the air at the Rapture, our marching orders are clear.

First, we must be saved, turning away from our sins and trusting that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ allows all who have faith in Him to have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:3-8; John 3:16), Then, we must stand fast on what we believe (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17), not being lured by the enemy into traps of false teaching. We must follow God’s general will for our lives, which is to study His Word, to follow His commandments, to yield control to the Holy Spirit, to submit to one another and uplift one another in self-sacrificing love (Colossians 3:12-25; James 2:14-17), to pray, rejoice and give thanks continually (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-19); and to attend church (Hebrews 10:25).

We must follow the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) while there is still time. Those who heard and understood the Gospel before the Rapture, but rejected it, will be deceived by the supernatural acts and powers of the Antichrist, and their hearts will be blinded to the truth of the Gospel (2 Thess. 2: 8-12).

And finally, to be effective in this battle, and to follow the orders above, we must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18). We wear a raincoat in stormy weather, a helmet if we’re riding a bike, and oven mitts if we’re lifting a turkey out of the oven. A pro hockey player would be laughed off the ice if he showed up for a game without his gear, and a surgeon would be banned from the OR without his scrubs.

Many people put a lot of time, effort and money into being appropriately attired for various activities, putting on each garment and accessory with care. Those who wear uniforms to work know that each part of the uniform must be neat, clean, and in good repair, or they risk losing their jobs. Being in God’s army means that we could be deployed on a special assignment at any moment, and that enemy forces will be waiting in ambush to destroy us and our mission (1 Peter 5:8). Yet how often do we foolishly set out without the protection of God’s armor?

The phrase “a chink in the armor” means that even a tiny hole or defect in the protective gear leaves its wearer vulnerable. Our defense is only as strong as the weakest link, which means we must start each day prayerfully putting on each piece of the armor of God.

The truth of God’s Word will guard our purity and keep us from sexual sin, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus is the breastplate protecting our heart from doubt as the devil criticizes us for our past sins (1 Thess 5: 8; Ephesians 6, v.:14). Preparing to spread the Gospel will keep our feet marching to places where we can witness for Him (v. 15). The attacks of the devil bounce off the shield of our faith in Christ, turning the attack back against Satan (v. 16).

Our salvation is the helmet (1 Thess 5: 8), protecting our head, our mind and our senses, allowing us to filter all we see and experience through the perspective of being a child of God. The sword of God’s Word is our only offensive weapon (Eph. 6: v. 17), and it is all we need! God used it to speak all of creation into being, Jesus will use it at the Battle of Armageddon to defeat Israel’s enemies, and it is enough for us!

So let’s get ready for battle, and prayerfully (v. 18) put on each piece of armor so we can fight a good fight (2 Timothy 4:7), ward off Satan’s attacks, and bring glory to Jesus!

Ephesians 6: 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett

Friday, September 16, 2011

What’s the Hurry?

I believe that most born-again believers who seek God’s will have a sincere desire to lead people to the Lord. Through His Word, we have life-saving information that can change the destiny of souls from eternal punishment in hell to eternal and abundant life with Christ. So why wouldn’t we want to tell people? If we had practical, easy-to-follow information about how to cure a deadly disease like cancer, wouldn’t we be shouting it from the rooftops? (Luke 12: 2-3)

Yet, when it comes to witnessing, many believers feel inadequately prepared to share the Gospel, or too shy to share their faith with others, or too afraid that others will reject, mock or even persecute them for their “intolerant” or “narrow” Christian views. There are, of course, good counterpoints to all these arguments. We don’t need a seminary education to share the Gospel – the woman at the well, once realizing who Jesus was, rushed out and told everyone (even those who ostracized her) that she had found the Messiah, and she led many to Him (John 4:4-42).

For those who feel they are too shy to verbally witness to someone, God can use them anyway because He looks not for ability, but availability. The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say (Luke 2:11-12). Moses was a shy, stammering, reclusive desert dweller (Exodus 4: 10-12), yet God chose him to speak up to Pharaoh to set God’s people free from captivity (Exodus 3-4). And thanks to modern methods of communication, even the painfully shy or actually mute are without excuse – most people in the developed world can witness through the forum of the Internet, and anyone can enclose a tract with a bill payment, or even leave one with a tip in a restaurant or in a public place where it can be easily found.

As we get further into the End Times, Christians everywhere can expect persecution (Matthew 24: 9-10). In America we are still blessed to be able to assemble freely for worship and to have easy access to Bibles and Christian literature, while our brothers and sisters in other countries face imprisonment, torture, and even death for their faith in Christ. How often do American believers pass up opportunities to witness because we’re afraid our liberal friends will avoid us or think we’re politically incorrect?

Yet Jesus said that if we are ashamed of the Gospel, He will be ashamed of us before God the Father and His angels (Luke 2:8-10; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). Lost people may think we are narrow-minded to say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that there is no other way to Heaven (John 14:6), but we know that many will die and go to hell while trying to enter Heaven by the broad gate (Matthew 7: 13-14).

So let’s assume that we are born-again believers, seeking God’s will, with the ability to share with others how Christ has changed our life and maybe even with a few Bible verses to point someone to salvation. Let’s assume that we choose to obey God rather than to fear the criticism of men. Now we’re all set to witness, but do we? At that point a dreaded enemy drags down all our good intentions – procrastination.

We’re around our family a lot, so we’ll just wait for a better time to share the Gospel, when our spouse isn’t consumed with financial worries and our children aren’t pressured over final exams. We see our coworkers every day, but they’re not going to be open to hearing our testimony when we all have to work overtime to meet our deadline. We could invite our neighbors to church and tell them about Jesus on the way over, but they’d probably make us feel guilty for not mowing our lawn on Sunday like they do. And as for strangers God places in our path each day, we’d like to witness to them, but we have to hurry to get home, or to work, or to church, or wherever.

So we put off witnessing, which is why the laborers are few even though the fields have a bountiful harvest ready to be gathered in (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2). We’re not promised tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1), but we act like we have all the time in the world. We invest (or foolishly spend) our time in what’s important to us in this life (Luke 12:16-21), not realizing that our life is but a vapor (James 4:14). Before we know what hit us we’ll be face to face with Jesus, without excuse for why we didn’t share the Gospel. Or, we will be rewarded eternally for sharing the Good News of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross to pay our sin debt, and of His resurrection that all who believe in Him will have eternal life (John 4:35-36).

David Jeremiah retold an illustration first offered by New Testament scholar William Barclay, about Satan discussing with three of his demons their plans for tempting and ruining man. To paraphrase slightly, the first demon said, “I’ll tell them there is no God.” But Satan replied, “That won’t fool anyone – they know there is a God. The second demon said, “I’ll tell them there is no hell.” Satan said, “That won’t work, because men know deep in their hearts that they are sinners and deserve to be punished in hell.”

The third demon hit the nail on the head. “I’ll tell them there is no hurry.” Satan smiled knowingly and replied, “You will ruin men by the thousands. The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time.”

So let’s not put it off a moment longer – let’s go share the Gospel today!

Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are You Still Standing?

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of 9-11, it is sad to remember that the twin towers of the World Trade Center are no longer standing. Instead, a painful void in the skyline symbolizes all the lives lost that day, as well as the loss of peace, security, freedoms, and other positive emotions and values that were threatened by these terrorist attacks.

Yet, still standing in the midst of the destruction was a 17-foot-long crossbeam, weighing at least two tons, miraculously planted vertically in the devastated landscape, with the correct proportions to represent a cross. This symbol reminds us that God had not abandoned us on that tragic day (Jer. 29:11-13; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 91). His presence was clear in the countless stories of people spared from being at the Trade Center that hour because of strange “coincidences,” as if there are ever any coincidences with God (Romans 8:28).

His sheltering angels caught His children who leapt or were thrown from the burning buildings and carried them to Heaven. His Holy Spirit empowered those on Flight 93 to have the courage to crash the plane in a remote area of Shanksville, rather than let it destroy its intended target, which would have resulted in far greater loss of lives and national security. And His power, boldness, and self-sacrificing love filled the hearts of those firemen, police and rescue workers who gave their lives that others might escape death.

Yes, the 9-11 cross is still standing, now in the 9-11 museum despite lawsuits by an atheist association that is attempting to have it removed. But sadly, America seems to be teetering off balance from its foundation on Biblical principles cherished and upheld by those who framed this nation. As we as a nation turn our back on God, as we lose our footing down the slippery slope of political correctness, as we fail to take a stand for what is right, we will surely fall.

As born-again believers, it is our responsibility to humble ourselves and pray for forgiveness, individually and collectively as a church and as a nation:

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

And, as Christians, it is our duty to stand fast on the rock of our salvation, to stand up for what we believe, and to not back down in fear of those who speak against the truth or who seek to prevent us from worshipping the God of our salvation. When Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God as we fight the battles of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6: 11-18), he tells us to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (v.11), “to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (v. 13).”

As in any battle, sometimes we stride forward making great advances against the enemy, but at other times we are doing well just to hold our ground. The important thing is not to retreat, not to fall, not to backslide as Satan attacks us. As we remember 9-11, let us stand fast in our profession of faith (1 Corinthians 16:13), in our responsibility to uphold what is right in our nation and globally, in our unity to spread the Gospel (Philippians 1:27-28), in our love for one another, in our Christian liberty through grace (Galatians 5:1) and especially in our position as born-again believers, children and ambassadors of the one true God (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 16:13-15).

Jer. 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Love in Christ,

Laurie Collett

Friday, September 2, 2011

God Notices Your Labor!

As we celebrate Labor Day this weekend, many may be in less than a joyful mood due to financial worries. For those looking for work, the long weekend may be no different from other days, and just a painful reminder that they are unemployed. Many are working to make ends meet at a job that does not meet their expectations or qualifications. Others find that their job responsibilities have grown because fewer people are hired, but their pay stays the same or even decreases. Even worse, it often seems that our employers, coworkers or clients don’t notice our hard work or appreciate the good job we do.

But God always notices! He knows our hearts (Psalm 139:23), and He can tell whether we’re working in joyful service because of how He has blessed us beyond measure, or whether we’re going through the motions grudgingly, doing the minimum we need to do to get by.

By forgiving our sin debt, by giving His only begotten Son to die for our sins, and by giving eternal life to all those who repent and believe that Jesus rose from the dead (John 3:16), God has blessed us far beyond what we could ever imagine. And yet, He delights in heaping blessings on us even beyond that, and in great abundance (John 10:10; Luke 12:32; James 1:17). This gives us reason to find joy in all circumstances and to give thanks for everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), even if our sin nature feels we have reason to complain rather than to be thankful.

For every task we do at work or at home, no matter how menial or insignificant it seems, there is a reason to find joy in it and give thanks for it. If we are washing our dirty dishes, we can be thankful for the good meal we ate, the family we shared it with, and for running water. If we’re losing patience because of customers’ endless complaints, we can be thankful that there are customers so that we have a job, and we can rejoice in the opportunity to bring them satisfaction and peace rather than anger (Matthew 5:9). In whatever situation we find ourselves, we can thank God by putting our whole heart, soul and might into glorifying Him, making each moment of our life a living prayer to Him. He will always remember and reward us for our service and worship even when no one else notices.

Col. 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.… 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), and Christians should give a good testimony at work and wherever a job needs to be done because we are willing to go the extra mile and with the right attitude.

Even when we assemble for worship in God’s house, no good deed is too trivial to escape His attention! A kind word or smile for someone who is hurting may be exactly what God intended to encourage that person to be faithful to His will (Hebrews 10:23-25). When was the last time we gave thanks to the person who showed up early Sunday morning to turn the air conditioning on, or to the person who made sure there was toilet paper in the restroom? Do we even know who these people are? But God knows and keeps track of their faithful service to His children and to all who come to hear His Word.

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Our labor is not in vain! Employers, coworkers, and customers, and even family, friends, and Christians, may not always show their appreciation, but God faithfully keeps track of all we do to His glory and will reward us in due time, if not in this world, then in Heaven where we can enjoy the benefits forever!

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Love in Christ, and may you have a blessed Labor Day weekend!

Laurie Collett