Posts Tagged witness

Mustard Seeds in Israel

LIFE Group leader Julie Gilbreath shares a reflection from her trip to Israel to encourage and challenge us during this series, “Gospel Conversations: You will Be My Witnesses.”

Julie Gilbreath with Mustard Plant, Israel

During a lesson in Israel, our leader was talking about how the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31-32). Then he pointed out that I was sitting right next to a mustard plant! I had no idea, but as soon as I was told (and after multiple selfies) I began to see it everywhere. In the South, we have kudzu. In Israel, they have mustard plants.
When Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, he wasn’t just referring to its size. Once a seed hits the ground, it’s unstoppable. It’s invasive and unwelcome, and it outgrows everything around it. One seed can overrun a garden, then a yard, then a neighborhood, then a country.
God works in unexpected ways. A baby born in a stable. A carpenter. An itinerant rabbi and prophet. Crawling out of a tomb after being executed. It all sounds crazy. But God is mysterious and supernatural. His kingdom is sneaky and subversive. Inverted. The opposite of what we’re looking for. It’s near us, among us, but until someone points it out and tells us what it is, we never see it even though we’re sitting right beside it.
Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus talked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus but they didn’t recognize him. Mary thought he was the gardener until he said her name. Thomas needed proof. We’re all the same, and that’s why God came down. It was Jacob’s dream come to life — “Surely the LORD was in this place and I was not aware of it.” (Gen. 28:16)
This is the good news of gospel: the king came to us — a heavenly kingdom within reach. And now it’s everywhere. Relentless and unstoppable. But we didn’t recognize it until someone told us it was there all along. So go and share the good news, friends. Go plant a seed.


by Roger Severino

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I have a confession to make. Though I work in vocational ministry as a minister in a church, I am not drawn to canned approaches to evangelism, or programmatic ways of sharing my faith. I’m not saying God cannot use these approaches, and I do believe there are Christians who are gifted in using these methods. For me, I often feel like a salesman or someone peddling his wares. Having said that, there are things that motivate me to engage in sharing my faith. Here are a few:

  1. God is both Holy and Merciful. The holiness of God is a reminder that He is perfect and perfectly just. The apostle John put it this way: “God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” God’s perfect justice is good news because we know that righteousness will ultimately prevail in this world, but it is bad news in that my sin and evil thoughts, intents, and actions must be addressed. There is a Judgment Day in which everyone will stand before a holy God. Fortunately, there is more good news. “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”[1] God was in Christ providing the way of forgiveness and reconciliation, and now gives me the privilege of joining with Him in this ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
  2. God Values Lost Things. I think I heard pastor Bill Hybels first share this phrase in unpacking Luke 15. In this passage, we learn about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (or sons, if you factor in the older brother). When the lost sheep and lost coin are found, there is celebration. Jesus teaches that “in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”[2] When the prodigal son comes home, the father (or Father, if we remember that this figure represents God) celebrates because his son was lost and is now found. These stories Jesus told remind me that God cares about my unbelieving friends, neighbors, and family members even more than I do. He loves them and longs for them to be found.
  3. Jesus’ Example of Loving Sinners. Whether it was joining a party with Levi (Matthew) and his friends known as sinners (Luke 5:29-32) or allowing the “sinful woman” to wash his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), there is ample evidence that Jesus loved sinners. This truth is a reminder that unbelievers are not the enemy, but rather victims of the Enemy. Christians can distort this truth when we develop an “us vs. them” mentality and treat unbelievers as opponents to be fought against. There is one Adversary. Question: Do we love those who have different beliefs, morals, and values than we do? Do we love those who vote differently or advocate for causes contrary to what we believe? Do we show them the love of Christ and pray for their salvation?
  4. I am Commanded and Privileged to Work with God in Reaching the Lost. Jesus commissions all believers to share the good news with the entire world (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8). Why would I withhold this from anyone I love? My only responsibility is to be a witness; not a prosecutor. I can leave the results to God. He promises to be with me and to empower me by His Holy Spirit. It is a privilege in that I have the opportunity to participate with God in His work in the lives of others. I must, however, be willing and obedient to join Him in this work.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 5:8.
[2] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Lk 15:10.