In Genesis 21, Abraham had been living in the Promised Land as a foreigner for a while. After he made a treaty with Abimelech, verse 33 says, “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the LORD, the Eternal God” (NLT). I don’t know if Abimelech was there for the planting or if it was just a sign to God, but it was no coincidence that he planted a tamarisk tree given the promise God had made to him about that land.
According to nps.gov, the tamarisk tree is an invasive tree that spreads rapidly. It has the ability to survive in harsh conditions. It is very adaptable to whatever conditions it faces. I can’t think of a better tree that depicts the Israelites and God’s plan for them. God had given them that land, and Abraham had been given the promise that he would have as many descendants as there were stars. His family would flourish and spread throughout that region one day.
The tree is also representative of how we as Christians are to be. God did not plant us where we are in order to be quiet about our faith. He expects us to advance the Gospel rapidly, even in the harsh conditions we live in today. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told us, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” He wanted us to be invasive with His message. It has never been about waiting for someone to come to you with questions about your faith. It has always been about us being proactive.
The tamarisk tree is also a survivor. It adapts to be able to thrive in the harshest conditions. Throughout history, it’s been in the harshest conditions that the Gospel has spread the most. With the social pressures and unfriendly conditions towards Christianity that we face today, you can expect that the Gospel is about to spread rapidly once again. We must be adaptable in the face of such pressure instead of allowing it to shut us down. As history begins to repeat itself, we need to be prepared for another Great Awakening.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
When I was a young kid, I remember learning to witness to someone using ABC. You were to tell someone, “All you need to do is Ask Jesus into your heart, Believe God raised Him from the dead and Confess your sins.” When I was in junior high, I learned the Romans Road. You’ll use verses in the book of Romans to walk someone through believing in Jesus (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:13 and 10:9-10). In high school, we were given tracts and we’re taken to the local movie theater on Friday nights to hand them out. As an adult, we had an Evangelism Explosion class that taught us a method, and then we went door to door in the neighborhood around the church. While I love all these methods, the simplest form of witnessing was overlooked.
On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit came down with power on a group of 120 people who had been praying for 10 days. There was a rushing, mighty wind that filled the room, fire appeared above their heads and people began praying in different languages. The ruckus created a crowd around their prayer meeting. People outside must have gotten loud because Peter stepped out and began to explain what was going on in them what happened to Jesus and then how to be saved from their sins. It was short and sweet and delivered with conviction. The Bible says that about 3,000 people heard his message and became Christians that day. I’ve never won 3,000 for Jesus, but I’ve found that the most effective at winning the lost is being able to explain who Jesus is and how He changed your life.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “And if anyone asks about the hope living within you, always be ready to explain your faith” (TPT). The thing that I had never really been taught was how to simply explain my faith. Those other methods taught me how to walk someone through accepting Jesus, but what we need is to learn how to give an answer for our faith and the reason for our hope in a chaotic world. There’s no formula for that. It’s simply explains your story of what Jesus did in your life and why you believe in Him. I want to encourage you today to spend some time thinking about that. Why do you believe in Jesus? What has He done in your life? How would you explain that to someone who asked you about it? Being able to explain those three answers will be your most effective witnessing tool.
Throughout the last couple of millennia, Christianity has thrived in times of pandemics and plagues. While the world is full of fear from an unseen enemy, Christians have peace in knowing death is not the end. They know the words Jesus spoke, “Do not let your heart be troubled…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…Love your neighbor as yourself.” They have then put those words into practice. There are stories of places where the plagues were killing everyone, but it was the Christians who tended to the sick without fear. They used times of global fear to show the love of Christ and to explain the hope of salvation while hearts were open to understanding and learning about God.
I believe today is no different. We should be on the frontlines of bringing hope and peace. We should be encouraging people rather than living in fear. These windows of opportunity only open so often and close as quickly as they open. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “If anyone asks about the hope living in you, always be ready to explain your faith” (TPT). It’s times like these that we should be helping, encouraging and sharing our faith. When we put others first, especially in crisis, they want to know why we are doing what we are doing. That’s when we share the hope we have. That’s when we tell them our lives are not our own.
Hebrews 10:24 says, “Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love.” What creative things have you seen people doing for others lately? I’ve seen churches make masks to donate, care for widows, buy groceries for people out of work, offer drive through pantries and more. What can you do to bring hope and show compassion as an expression of God’s love? What has God put in your heart to do? Share it with others and encourage them to help you do it. This is our time to make a difference. This is our time to show others the peace they can have even in a crisis. Look for creative ways to encourage people being affected by this pandemic, and then go do it. You don’t need permission, you just need passion.
“Always remember” became a rally cry after the initial 9/11 attacks. Today, my Facebook feed is full of people remembering where they were that morning. They recall what they were doing and how they felt. Each of us who were alive that day have a story of when and how we found out. For one day out of the year, we share that story and post it for all to see. I can’t help but think what would happen if the world’s Christian population did the same thing with when and how they came to know Jesus. What would our Facebook feed look like then?
Imagine the testimonies that would be read on such a day. Think of those who you’ve never told about your faith, but wish you had the guts to. Something like that could change lives forever. I go to church with lots of people, but I don’t know most of their testimonies of how they were called out of the life they were living. It would be so encouraging to read the ways that God reached into someone’s life and brought them from despair to hope. It would be incredible to see how many were raised in church and stayed true to the faith they were handed down.
I know it’s kind of a pipe dream to think that we would all do this one day, but I also think dreams are how things get started. When is the last time any of us shared our testimony publicly? When is the last time we let anyone know what God did for us? Why do we keep silent about it? When it first happened, we couldn’t shut up about this amazing feeling if redemption and forgiveness. Now we scared to open our mouths even among fellow believers to share what God is doing. How did that happen?
For me, I was raised in church. I first gave my heart to The Lord at 7 during a children’s crusade given by a former biker who used the loss of limbs from an accident to become Captain Hook. He shared of God’s hidden treasure and how we needed to seek Him like that hidden treasure. I knew then that I wanted to spend a lifetime seeking that treasure. When life got complicated, I quit searching for that treasure. I got lost in the cares of this world. Things in my life went from bad to worse. My wife left me and I lost my business.
After that, I went to a bar every night 7 days a week to help me forget the pain and to help me sleep. One night, a guy I knew from high school sat down beside me at that bar and asked why I was in a bar. I told him everything that happened. When I looked for sympathy, he gave me none. He stood up and said, “I’m not going to sit here and drink with you. You’ve given up and that’s not the Chris I knew. I don’t want to see you like this.” He got up and walked out. All of a sudden everything became clear. I was in a rut and hiding from the God who was seeking me.
I left and never went back. I began seeking that treasure once again. I owned up to the mistakes I made, dealt with my past and started to move forward. I rebuilt on the foundation that had been laid as a child. I will always remember that night when God used that man to call me out of darkness and back into His light. I’m thankful that I wasn’t left wallowing in self pity. I could have wasted more years of my life not seeking Him, but God wouldn’t let me.
That’s mine in a nutshell. What’s yours? If we can’t fill up Facebook with our testimonies, maybe we can share them here. I love hearing how God called each person individually. Always remember what He did for you and never be scared to share it.