Category  |  Evangelism

Twinkle

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is an English lullaby. Its lyrics, originally a poem by Jane Taylor, capture the wonder of God’s universe where stars hang “up above the world so high.” In the rarely published later stanzas, the star acts as a guide: “As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveler in the dark.”  

In Philippians, Paul challenges believers in Philippi to be blameless and pure as they “shine . . . like stars in the sky” while offering the good news of the gospel to all around them (2:15–16). We wonder how we can shine like stars. We often feel inadequate and struggle to think our “light” is bright enough to make a difference. But stars don’t try to be stars. They just are. Light changes our world. And it changes us. God brought physical light into our world (Genesis 1:3); and through Jesus, God brings spiritual light into our lives (John 1:1–4).

We who have God’s light in us are to shine in such a way that those around us see light and are drawn to its source. As effortlessly as a star hanging in the night sky, our light makes a difference because of what it is: Light! When we simply shine, we follow Paul’s directive to “hold firmly to the word of life” in a world in deep darkness, and we draw others to the source of our hope: Jesus.

God’s Brand

Scooping up the smallest children, a frantic maid raced out of the flaming house. As she ran, she called loudly to five-year-old Jacky.

But Jacky didn’t follow. Outside, a bystander reacted quickly, standing on the shoulders of a friend. Reaching into the upstairs window, he pulled Jacky to safety—just before the roof caved in. Little Jacky, said his mother Susanna, was “a brand plucked from the burning.” You might know that “brand” as the great traveling minister John Wesley (1703–1791).

Susanna Wesley was quoting Zechariah, a prophet who provides valuable insight into God’s character. Relating a vision he had, the prophet takes us into a courtroom scene where Satan is standing next to Joshua the high priest (3:1). Satan accuses Joshua, but the Lord rebukes the devil and says, “Is this not a brand [burning stick] plucked from the fire?” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord tells Joshua, “I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (v. 4 niv).

Then the Lord gave Joshua this challenge—and an opportunity: “If you walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house” (v. 7 niv).

What a picture of the gift we receive from God through our faith in Jesus! He snatches us from the fire, cleans us up, and works in us as we follow His Spirit’s leading. You might call us God’s brands plucked from the fire.

Legacies of Love

I was paging through my great-grandmother’s Bible when a treasure fell into my lap. On a small scrap of paper, in a young child’s handwriting, were the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4 kjv). Scribbled beside those verses in wobbly cursive was my mother’s signature.

My great-grandmother had a habit of teaching her grandchildren to write Scripture verses so they would learn them and take them to heart. But the story behind this verse brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather died when my mother was very young, and her little brother (my uncle) died just weeks later. It was in that tragic season that my great-grandmother pointed my mother to Jesus and the comfort only He can give.

Paul wrote Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Faith isn’t inherited, but it is shared. Timothy’s mother and grandmother shared their faith with him, and he believed.  

When we encourage those close to us to have hope in Jesus, we offer them a legacy of love. Through a simple note, my mother left evidence of my great-grandmother’s love for her Savior and her family. Oh, to share Him with those who come after us! 

We Would See Jesus

As I looked down at the pulpit where I was sharing prayers at a funeral, I glimpsed a brass plaque bearing words from John 12:21: “Sir, we would see Jesus” (kjv). Yes, I thought, how fitting to consider how we saw Jesus in the woman we were celebrating with tears and smiles. Although she faced challenges and disappointments in her life, she never gave up her faith in Christ. And because God’s Spirit lived in her, we could see Jesus.

John’s gospel recounts how after Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see John 12:12–16), some Greeks approached Philip, one of the disciples, asking, “Sir, . . . we would like to see Jesus” (v. 21). They were probably curious about Jesus’s healings and miracles, but as they weren’t Jewish, they weren’t allowed into the inner courts of the temple. When their request was passed along to Jesus, He announced that His hour had come to be glorified (v. 23). And by that, He meant that He would die for the sins of many. He would fulfill His mission to reach not only the Jews but the Gentiles (the “Greeks” in verse 20), and now they would see Jesus.

After Jesus died, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in His followers (John 14:16–17). Thus as we love and serve Jesus, we see Him active in our lives. And, amazingly, those around us too can see Jesus!

Dedicated to Love

As a convert to Jesus Christ, Nabeel Qureshi has written books to help his readers understand the people in the religion he left. His tone is respectful, and Qureshi always displays a heart of love for his people.

Qureshi dedicated one of his books to his sister, who has not yet put her faith in Jesus. The dedication is brief, but powerful. “I am begging God for the day that we can worship him together,” he wrote.

We get a sense of that kind of love as we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief,” he said, “for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them” (Romans 9:2–3 nlt).

Paul loved the Jewish people so much that he would have chosen separation from God if only they would accept Christ. He understood that by rejecting Jesus, his people were rejecting the one true God. This motivated him to appeal to his readers to share the good news of Jesus with everyone (10:14–15).

Today, may we prayerfully dedicate ourselves to the love that aches for those close to us!

Living Out Loud

While staying at a hotel in Austin, Texas, I noticed a card on lying on the desk in my room. It said:

Welcome

Our Prayer is that your stay here will be restful

and that your travels will be fruitful.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and make

His face shine upon you.

This card from the company that manages the hotel made me want to know more, so I accessed their website and read about their culture, strength, and values. In a winsome way, they seek to pursue excellence and live out their faith in the workplace.

Their philosophy reminded me of Peter’s words to the followers of Jesus scattered throughout Asia Minor. He encouraged them to demonstrate their faith in Christ in the society where they lived. Even as they faced threats and persecution, Peter told them not to be afraid, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 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” (1 Peter 3:15).

A friend of mine calls this “living a lifestyle that demands an explanation.” No matter where we live or work, may we in God’s strength live out our faith today—always ready to reply gently and respectfully to everyone who asks the reason for our hope. 

Side by Side

In ancient times, a city with broken walls revealed a defeated people, exposed to danger and shame. That is why the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. How? By working side by side, an expression that can well describe Nehemiah 3.

At first glance, chapter 3 might appear to be a boring account of who did what in the reconstruction. However, a closer look highlights how people worked together. Priests were working alongside rulers. Perfume-makers were helping as well as goldsmiths. There were some who lived in nearby towns and came to give a hand. Others made repairs opposite their houses. Shallum’s daughters, for example, worked alongside the men (3:12), and some people repaired two sections, like the men of Tekoa (vv. 5, 27).

Two things stand out from this chapter. First, they all worked together for a common goal. Second, all of them are commended for being part of the work, not for how much or little they did as compared to others.

Today we see damaged families and a broken society. But Jesus came to build the kingdom of God through the transformation of lives. We can help to rebuild our neighborhoods by showing others they can find hope and new life in Jesus. All of us have something to do. So let us work side by side and do our part—whether big or small—to create a community of love where people can find Jesus.

The Babushka Lady

The “Babushka Lady” is one of the mysteries surrounding the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. Captured on film recording the events with a movie camera, she has proven to be elusive. This mystery woman, wearing an overcoat and scarf (resembling a Russian babushka), has never been identified and her film has never been seen. For decades, historians and scholars have speculated that fear has prevented the “Babushka Lady” from telling her story of that dark November day.  

No speculation is needed to understand why Jesus’s disciples hid. They cowered in fear because of the authorities (John 20:19) who had killed their Master—reluctant to come forward and declare their experience. But then Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit soon arrived and you couldn’t keep those once-timid followers of Christ quiet! On the day of Pentecost, a Spirit-empowered Simon Peter declared, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

The opportunity to boldly speak in Jesus’s name is not limited to those with daring personalities or career ministry training. It is the indwelling Spirit who enables us to tell the good news of Jesus. By His strength, we can experience the courage to share our Savior with others.

Passing on the Legacy

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. My daughter wanted my grandmother’s recipe for Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. As I thumbed through the yellowed cards in my aged recipe box, my eyes spotted the unique handwriting of my grandmother—and several jotted notes in the small cursive of my mother. It occurred to me that with my daughter’s request, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie would make its entrance into a fourth generation within my family.

I wondered, what other family heirlooms might be handed down generation to generation? What about choices regarding faith? Besides the pie, would the faith of my grandmother—and my own—play out in the lives of my daughter and her offspring?

In Psalm 79, the psalmist bemoans a wayward Israel, which has lost its faith moorings. He begs God to rescue His people from the ungodly and to restore Jerusalem to safety. This done, he promises a restored—and ongoing—commitment to God’s ways. “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation, we will proclaim your praise” (v. 13).

I eagerly shared the recipe, knowing my grandmother’s dessert legacy would enjoy a new layer in our family. And I prayed sincerely for the most lasting hand-me-down of all: the influence of our family’s faith on one generation to the next.

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