Be A Witness For Jesus

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John 1:6 – 8

Testifying Concerning the Light (Jesus)

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The first five verses of this chapter of John take us on a tour of spiritual grandeur that is mind stretching, taking us all the way back to the very beginning of time itself.  Verse 6 and following helps to give the historical setting into which Jesus, the Eternal Word stepped out of eternity and entered into our world of space and time. But we don’t start this opening scene looking at the life of Jesus, but the one who would prepare the way for Jesus and His ministry.

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The College Press NIV commentary gives us a good picture of the ministry of the man who preceded Jesus, whom we have come to know from the Gospels as John the Baptist.  It says:

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. History within earthly time is now reached with John the Baptist. He was sent from God, his message was repentance, and his action was immersion in water, so that his audience could publicly certify their repentance.  1

Something that I find interesting in John’s Gospel it that although we learn a lot about him through the messages he proclaimed and the interaction he had with the Jewish leaders, we do not know much about the success of his preaching among the people.  We need to turn to other gospel writers to see that multitudes of people were constantly coming to John to publicly confess their sins and to be baptized.

In anyone’s books today, that would be considered a very great success.  You would think that John would have been proud of his accomplishments.  Not so with John the Baptist.  He knew the very heart and mind of God and he knew that the purpose of his ministry was to bear witness to God’s Son.  The primary purpose of this life was to be there at that specific time to be able to give testimony concerning one man, Jesus.

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Again looking at the NIV Commentary, we can see better who John the Baptist was:

John’s real purpose was not (1) to save the world (he never died or rose for anyone), nor (2) to seek recognition as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy (he acknowledged that he was not the Messiah), nor (3) to found the Kingdom and/or the church (he was not even a part of or in the kingdom/church [Matt. 11:11]). John’s purpose was (4) to testify or to bear witness to the Light, who was Jesus.  2

Now in a way, all of us are witnesses in life.  We witness things happening around us and what others are doing.  Some of us are called by our judicial systems to testify as an eyewitness concerning what we may have seen happened.  That is a rare thing to be called into court to be a witness.  But as for John, the entire meaning and purpose of his life was to be a witness leading others towards the Light, leading them to Jesus.

That sound awfully radical, doesn’t it.  And yet, remember what Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Just like John, there is meant to be a primary purpose that permeates our daily lives (regardless of what else we may be doing in life) and that is to lead people to God and to Jesus by what we say and do.

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One more thing to notice concerning “being a witness for Jesus” is that there is a goal to be kept in mind.  Specifically, just like John, the goal of us speaking the truths concerning Jesus is so that people will “believe the message that we speak.”

I know that it is hard for most of us Christians today to even speak up at all about our faith in Jesus.  To not only state the facts about Christ, but to try to even persuade people to believe these truths is a huge step that many of us feel uncomfortable to do.

But let us remember what is given to us in verse 8 above.  Again just like John, we are not the Light.  Jesus is the Light.  And light is something that draws the attention of people.  When the sun comes out from behind a large cloud, faces turn towards it.  Many insects will swarm around a light bulb or a candle.  When we are in the dark and feel lost, if a flashlight turns on, we immediately breathe a sigh of relief and head to that light.

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I found an interesting little story that says:

Dr. Alexander of Princeton once described a little glow-worm which took a step so small that it could hardly be measured, but as it moved across the fields at midnight there was just enough light in its glow to light up a step ahead, and so as it moved forward it moved always in the light.  3

I feel like all of mankind can be compared to this little glow-worm.  We don’t often know where we are going in life.  But if we can let Jesus, the True Light, shine in our darkness, no matter how deep that darkness is around us, we will find our direction and purpose in life, just like John the Baptist did.

Bryant, B. H., & Krause, M. S. (1998). John. The College Press NIV commentary (John 1:6-7). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.

Ibid.

Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.


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God is To Be Praised!

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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I will tell of the kindnesses of LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. Isaiah 63:7

All too often, our faith is man-centered, rather than God-centered. We think it’s all about us, when it always has been and always will be about Him! In this verse, Isaiah is focused upon God and His kindness to His people.

Isaiah demonstrates for us a marvelous way of staying God-focused. He committed himself to speaking of the kindnesses of the Lord. God had been good to His people as His deeds demonstrated, and Isaiah was going to make sure that the Israelites were aware of this fact.

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Are you telling others how good God has been to you? Are you aware of the “many good things” he has done for you? Speak it out! Let yourself hear yourself telling others of the kindness of God. This will keep your focus in the right place.

Father, thank You for your loving kindness toward me. You are so good. You have blessed me with Your Presence and awesome love. Give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life. I want to speak of Your loving kindness with clarity and boldness.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod. Click on the link for more information on this resource.

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Tonight I am sitting in my hotel room and I am reflecting on the devotional thought that my friend David Butts has written above.  It is wonderful to be able to pause and to think about the “many good things that God has done for me.  Actually, there are so many wonderful blessings I have received from the Lord over the years, that I would not be able to write them all out in one article, or even in 100 articles.

That, in fact, is a big reason why I write articles three times a week for The Listening Post.  There is just so much that God has done for me.  And when a memory of some outstanding experience comes to me, or when I read devotional thoughts from others, or when I read a passage from the Bible and the power and the joy of His Word comes through to me, I find myself now quickly jotting down the thoughts and then going to the computer to write up another blog story.

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One line that catches my attention from David’s devotional above is the one, “[Father] give me both the opportunity and the courage to let others know how You have worked in my life.”  Up until this last year, I was very reluctant to pursue this idea of writing down “my story” with others.  Part of me felt that this was rather egocentric and arrogant to talk about me.

I have had to get over that feeling.  I’ve come to realize that in most cases (as long as I am writing carefully and prayerfully) that when I do share stories about me, that in fact I am really sharing stories about God who is the One working in and through me.  I must admit though, that even as I seek to honor God and be a blessing to others through my blog writing, that I am being blessed by the feedback I get after an article is published, and just knowing that many hundreds of people are visiting my site.

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One other thing that I would like to mention in this article in which I am wanting to lift up God and praise Him for His goodness is in regards to my health.  I do talk in many stories about my muscle disease (a mitochondrial myopathy) and I want to be careful that people don’t think I am complaining or that I am upset at God for Him “giving” this disease to me.  Even if I used milder words such as “God allowed this to happen,” people might think I am still upset at God.

On the contrary, I have many reasons to praise Him for His goodness, especially with regards to my condition.  Normally, this muscle disease shows up in puberty and the person’s muscles and body strength and energy do not develop properly.  My sister had this disease (it is a genetically inherited condition from mother to children) and she was weak from the time she was 12.  Due to health complications, she died of congestive heart failure in 1992.

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But consider how gracious God was toward me.  I had a very active and healthy life until the disease hit me three years ago at age 48.  So I consider it an act of His grace that He allowed me to have 36 years of good health from my teenage years till now.  And this disease could have flared up in 2007 when our family was still in Africa, but God waited and held it off for 8 more months.  Then I lost my ability to walk normally while living at home in Calgary, which is also where my geneticist works who diagnosed me and is a world-class specialist for this muscle disease.

No, I am determined to remember always that God is good and shows his loving kindness to those who love Him and obey Him.  So if I keep things in proper perspective, specifically if I can remove the focus away from me and turn the focus on God, then I will gladly “be bold and courageously tell others” how good God has been to me.

Impacting Others for Jesus

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Part 1 click here.

Part 2 click here.

Part 4 click here.

Who am I?  Part 3

The man was beet red in the face and shook his fist near my face when he yelled at me, “You Bible Thumper!”  But then he backed off and calmed down when he saw that he was not going to get a reaction out of me.  And then he said the most interesting thing.  He said, “I’ve seen Bible Thumpers and Holy Rollers in my day, but you….you’re different!”  And then he just shook his head and walked away.

Now I kind of doubt that many people could guess where this little stand-off took place.  I was 17 at the time, and I was in the bunk areas of the HMCS Saskatchewan, a destroyer in the Canadian Navy.  Previously, from age 13-16, I had been a part of the Sea Cadets, which entailed going down to the navy base in Calgary each Wednesday night, and then had the option of going to navy boot camps on Vancouver Island each summer.

Those were great years, as I proudly wore the uniform, marched in a number of important parades as part of the Cadet Navy Band, and got to spend summers on the west coast of Canada while I was still young.  Then, when I heard that a person could join the Reserve Forces as long as they turned 17 by the end of the year, I immediately joined up in March of 1977, eight months before I turned 17 in November.

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Much of the Reserves was like the Cadets, except that now I was in an adult world.  I worked hard that Spring and qualified for summer boot camp training again on Vancouver Island.  After surviving Boot Camp, I opted to stay out there, and worked in the naval dockyards for the rest of the summer.  Then the big moment came at the end of August.

An officer came up to me and asked if I would like to join the crew of a destroyer and be a part of a fleet maneuvers exercise for ten weeks.  We would sail from Victoria, British Columbia all the way down the west coast of the Americas making stops in San Diego, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama City, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), the Galapagos Islands, and Long Beach (Calif.)  So I phoned home to Calgary and said to my parents, “I’m heading to Peru with the Navy, but I’ll be back for Christmas.”  And they said, “Okay, see you then.”  : )

So at age 16, I sailed the ocean blue and saw the world, or at least a part of it.  And I loved almost every minute of it.  I’d been in Cadets, and then Reserves, for almost four years and now I was finally sailing on a large ship bound for adventure.  (Funny thing is, when I got back to Calgary, I quit the Navy, because all I really wanted was a chance to go out to sea, and I did that.  Then it was time to pursue my calling into missions.)

Back to my experience on the ship.  It was hard work, but I felt alive.  And spiritually, I felt like I could connect with God out on the ocean in a way that I couldn’t back home.  Which is kind of funny because of the 200 crew members or so, I only knew of three Christians.  One was the chaplain, one was a low ranking sailor at the other end of the ship whom I didn’t see much, and the third was the XO (Executive Officer, second in command.)

So spending time with God was pretty much a solitary journey for me.  When off duty, I would often sit near the stern and sing hymns and songs to myself.  When in port, I would go alone to try to find a church in the area.  And when I woke up each day, I would sit on the edge of my bunk and pull out my Bible and read from it for a while to give me some good things to think about during the day.

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What I didn’t do was to tell people I was a Christian.  I didn’t have to.  It didn’t take too many mornings before someone noticed me reading my Bible, and then everyone knew I was a Christian.  And that is when all the jokes, and ridicules began.  And of course I was always given the dirtiest job assignment to do.  I was even almost pulled into a prostitute house twice, but God saved me in those moments.  And for the most part, I never raised my voice or spoke back at these men.

Now I’m not saying I was a pushover or a pansy.  When I was mistreated, ridiculed or given dirty jobs, I would stand there and look them in the eyes for a minute or two to let them know I was a man inside who could stand his ground, but then I would turn away and go with a smile or a tune on my lips and go about doing my job.

And that’s what led this other man to confront me on the day we docked back in Victoria.  He had called me so many names, and tried to get me to drink, to smoke, to swear, to lay with a woman, but he had not succeeded.  And he had not broken my spirit.  And through all this, I rarely ever said a word.

And this was more than he could take.  He loved to argue with those “Bible Thumpers”, and he loved to mimic and ridicule those “Holy Rollers”.  But he didn’t know what to do or what to make of this quiet, yet strong, devoted Christian young man.  I realized then, when he said, “You’re different!” that it was a compliment.  Not to me, but to Jesus who was living in and through me.  I saw that by not saying a word, I had the opportunity to impact someone for Jesus.