What’s Your Story: The Stories Are Just As Powerful as the Sermons

Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first thirty-eight verses of the first chapter of this New Testament book. “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:1-4). “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Asia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angels said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is Gerard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and may shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts o the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zecharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men” (Luke 1:5-25). “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of DEavid; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at this saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the LORD God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, Ho shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26-48). When you come to the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke you will find a gospel that was written not by one who had personally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus but rather one who had conducted a series of interviews with those who were eyewitnesses of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that this would be the third of four gospel narratives found at the beginning of the New Testament which would describe the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but this would be the second of two gospel narratives that were written by men who had not personally walked with the Lord Jesus Christ but rather who had walked with those who had followed the Lord Jesus and even the apostle Paul himself. If there is something that is truly unique and interesting when you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that not only did John Mark spend time together with the apostle Paul and Barnabas as they set out on that first missionary journey but so also would Luke spend time with the apostle Paul on one of his later missionary journeys. Perhaps one of the things that makes this gospel narrative so incredibly unique and interesting when you take the time to consider it is how it was written by one who had not walked with and followed the Lord Jesus personally but by one who had walked with an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—the apostle Paul. This gospel was written by one who had walked with and accompanied the apostle Paul on certain of his missionary journeyed as he would teach and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this but this gospel would indeed be written by one who had spent time personally interviewing and speaking with those who had walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that this gospel would be written based on eyewitness accounts of the events which took place during the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to admit that the more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the incredible truth that this gospel was written by one who had spent a considerable amount of time interviewing and speaking with those who had personally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus. One of the questions I can’t help but think about when reading the words found in the opening chapter of this gospel is how many differently individuals Luke had spoken to as he was preparing to write and set forth this gospel. We know that in the beginning and opening verse of this passage Luke writes how many had undertaken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which were most surely believed among them. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for what we find in the opening verses of this passage of Scripture is that Luke not only wrote concerning those things which were most surely believed among them but he also wrote concerning those things which were delivered unto them which came from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. This gospel narrative would have been written—not based on having personally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus while He was in the flesh but rather by hearing and listening to the words which were shared by those who delivered them unto them and which were from the beginning eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. The beloved physician Luke would take everything that he had heard from those who were eyewitnesses and who were ministers of the word and would seek to set forth in order a treatise which would set forth and lay out the events surrounding the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. As you read the words presented in the opening verses of this first chapter you will find that this gospel was not written by one who had personally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus but was written by one who had heard and received from eyewitnesses of the events surrounding the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. This gospel was written by Luke who had heard taught and preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by those who had personally walked with and followed Him whithersoever He went. Scripture is unclear how many different people Luke had heard teach and speak of this man called Jesus of Nazareth who was both Christ and Lord, however, we can be absolutely certain that he would have heard a considerable amount of language and words concerning this one who was known as Jesus of Nazareth. The opening chapter of this gospel narrative written by Luke was indeed one which we must needs recognize and understand for within it we find Luke describing how there were many who had taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of the things which were believed among them. What Luke acknowledges in the opening verses of this first chapter is that there were many who sought and desired to present an account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as He walked among us in the form of physical flesh. Luke acknowledges how there were many who sought to set forth a declaration of the events surrounding the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ that others might indeed know and understand who this Jesus was. The beloved physician Luke would set forth to write this particular gospel that he might paint a powerful and beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ based on that which was taught and delivered unto them from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. The more you read the words which are found in the opening verses of the first chapter of this particular gospel the more you will encounter and come face to face with the fact that this beloved physician—although he had not personally walked with the Lord Jesus he would indeed hear countless witnesses and testimonies concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. The beloved physician Luke would indeed spend a considerable amount of time hearing and listening to those who would deliver and teach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The beloved physician Luke would indeed spend a considerable amount of time hearing and listening to those who had personally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus and who could indeed speak authoritatively on the subject matter of the one who was called Jesus of Nazareth. In the opening verses of this passage of Scripture we find Luke describing how there were those things which were surely believed among them and how it was his desire to set forth a document and treaties describing those things which were surely believed concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about it is when you consider that not only does this suggest that they taught and spoke of the suffering, the death, the burial, the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ but they also took time speaking of His actual life and that which He had wrought and spoke during those three and a half years He walked among us as the Word made flesh who was present among us. Oh there is a great need to pay close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible and powerful truth surrounding that which is found within this gospel for it is based entirely on that which was taught and that which was delivered unto and among the disciples and believers during those days. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding this gospel and how it was written based on that which was taught and shared among the believers and those who followed the Lord Jesus. Although the Lord Jesus had indeed been raised from death to life and had ascended unto the right hand of the Father there would be continued talk and dialogue concerning His life as men and women would share accounts and stories of that which He had wrought in the midst of the earth. Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how many of these “fireside” conversations were had as men and women shared their personal experiences and encounters with the Lord Jesus. I find myself thinking about and wondering how many different conversations were had between the believers as those who were personal eyewitnesses to His life and ministry would share of what they had heard and what they had experienced. I would dare say that Luke was indeed part of countless fireside conversations as men and women would share stories and accounts of how they were personally touched and impacted by the Lord Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly Luke would have been a part of countless conversations which were present during those days after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ as men and women would indeed share that which they had personally experienced while Jesus walked among them in the form of human flesh. Oh there is a great need for us to pay close attention to the words which are found within the opening verses of this first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative for within it we are brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the various conversations which would have been had as men and women would share their own testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to admit there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how many of these “sharing sessions” Luke was a part of as he would continue to listen to the various accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ who walked among them as the Word made flesh. There seems to be every indication within the opening verses of this first chapter that Luke was himself part of countless conversations which took place as men and women would share of their personal encounters and experiences with the Lord Jesus. What I can’t help but wonder is whether or not Luke simply heard from those apostles who had walked with the Lord Jesus or whether or not he actually had conversations with some of the very people he had written about. Is it possible that Luke might very well have talked and spoken with those who had personally been impacted by the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus? Is it possible that Luke might have spoken with the leper whom the Lord Jesus would heal and cleanse simply by touching him and commanding him to be healed? Is it possible Luke spoke with the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years before being healed, cleansed and made whole in the presence of the Lord Jesus? Could it be that Luke had spoken with Mary who had entered into the house of Simon the Pharisee and had not only anointed the feet of the Lord Jesus with her tears and dried them with the hairs of her hair but also anointed Him with the fragrant ointment which was contained within the alabaster box? I have to admit the more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the incredibly unique and powerful truth surrounding the narrative which Luke would set forth to write and present unto those concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture is unclear whether or not the “many” whom Luke referred to in the opening verses of this first chapter referred to the apostles Matthew and John as well as perhaps even John Mark, however, we know that Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to set forth an account of the events which were found within the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke desired to set forth a powerful and wonderful account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as he would hear countless testimonies concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh what a truly wonderful and powerful truth it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider how Luke would have indeed been personally touched and impacted by the testimonies of those who had personally experienced the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something truly astonishing and powerful within this passage of Scripture as we find Luke being inspired by the Holy Spirit to set forth a document and gospel account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus based on the stories and testimonies he had heard. What’s more is that imagine having heard so much concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus that your heart was so stirred within you as you came under the anointing of the Holy Spirit that you sought to set forth a treatise and document concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. Imagine being in this particular place having heard countless testimonies, accounts and stories of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and being compelled to write concerning those things which you had heard. What we find in this passage of Scripture is the beloved physician Luke taking everything he had heard from those who were eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus and those who were ministered of the word and presenting it in an account describing the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. MINISTERS AND EYEWITNESSES! Oh there is something absolutely unique when you read the words found in this passage of Scripture for what we find is not only the presence of eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ but also those who were ministers of the word. If there is one thing we must needs pay close attention to when reading the words presented here it’s how not only did Luke encounter those who were eyewitnesses of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ but he had also heard the word which was delivered unto them by those who would preach and teach the gospel of the Lord Jesus. If there is one thing we need to recognize when reading the opening verses of this passage it’s that not only was there the presence of those who would preach and teach the word but there was also the presence of eyewitness accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The beloved physician Luke would indeed set forth to write this gospel treatise concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ based on the word which he heard preached and taught concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as that which he had heard from eyewitnesses—those who had personally experienced the power of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh this is something we have a great need to acknowledge and recognize within our hearts and our minds when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with the presence of both the preaching of the word as well as testimonies from those who had personally been impacted by the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. TESTIMONIES AND PREACHING! How absolutely powerful the words and language within this passage of Scripture truly are for it calls and brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth concerning the presence of preaching as well as the presence of testimonies. I have to admit the more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the need for the preaching of the word but also the need for personal testimonies. Having been one who has grown up in the church my entire life I have been around an incredible amount of preaching and teaching. From my own father who was a pastor and preached virtually every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evenings to guest speakers I have most certainly seen and heard my share of sermons and teachings. With this being said, however, I find it absolutely incumbent to explain that while preaching the word is indeed necessary and valuable for the edification of believers there is also a great need for personal testimonies. If you read and study the four gospel narratives you will find that there was another witness in the land—one that was not centered upon the ministry of the Lord Jesus Himself nor even the ministry of the seventy whom Jesus sent out before His face nor even the ministry of the twelve disciples. We would like to think that there was only the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the land and how the works which He did were the only thing that was necessary. What we must recognize, however, is that directly associated with the works Jesus did was the testimonies which would ensue as a direct result. In fact there were certain times when men and women would speak of and declare that which the Lord Jesus had done in their lives. From the woman with the issue of blood, to the one leper who dared return back to Jesus giving him praise for what he had done, to man whom Jesus delivered from the torment and oppression of the legion in the Gadarenes there were those who would spread the fame and name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize for while teaching and preaching are in fact necessary there is also the wonderful truth that “these signs shall follow them that believe” and “greater works than these shall ye do because I go to my Father.” I am sitting there today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the beautiful truth that directly associated with the words which the Lord Jesus spoke was indeed the works which He wrought in the midst of the earth. The Lord Jesus would indeed teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom and yet during those three and a half years He would also engage Himself in a number of works which would be performed in the land. It would be as a direct result of those works that we find and encounter the Lord Jesus growing in fame throughout the land—in Judaea, in Galilee, and in the surrounding regions. We must needs make absolutely no mistake about this for there is something truly powerful about the witness of the works which was present in the land during those times as the works which the Lord Jesus would not only confirm the words which He spoke but would also produce testimonies in the midst of the land. It was the apostle Paul who emphatically declared unto the Corinthian saints that he did not come unto them with wise and eloquent and persuasive words but with the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. It was John Mark who concluded his gospel narrative teaching how the Lord worked together with His disciples and followers upon His ascension confirming the word that was preached with signs, wonders and works. What we must needs understand concerning this is that those signs, wonders and miracles would indeed produce testimonies and a powerful witness in the midst of the land. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about the power of witness and testimony in the land. There is something we must needs acknowledge when it comes to this incredible witness and testimony in the midst of the land for while preaching is indeed necessary there must also be the personal testimonies which men and women have as a direct result of lives that have been changed, touched, transformed and even delivered by the power of the Lord Jesus and the person of the Holy Spirit. The words which we find in the opening verses of this chapter are such that must be considered for within it we not only see and encounter the presence of eyewitnesses and testimonies but we also have the presence of the preaching of the word. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words I must needs describe unto you that there is as much a need for personal testimonies and witness as there is in the preaching of the word of God. Preaching in and of itself is good but if there is no change, if there is no transformation, if there is no deliverance, if there is no freedom, if there is no healing or cleansing as a direct result of it then tell me what good the preaching actually is. Tell me—when was the last time you took part in a service where the underlying foundation of the service was simply testimonies from those whose lives have been personally impacted and effected by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you personally shared your own testimony with someone else and described what the person and presence of the Holy Spirit has done for you? When was the last time you were indeed in a place where you spread your witness and testimony in the midst of the land as you would share with others the wonderful things the living God had done for you? Has there been a time in your life when you have had a personal and powerful witness of that which the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Ghost has done within your life and for you? This question is such which we must needs answer and acknowledge for I am convinced that more often than not preaching and teaching is not enough. I firmly believe there are times within our lives and even within our services when preaching can only go so far and where the stories of how God worked within the lives of other people and how God used other people are needed as means of strengthening the faith of those who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. This reality is indeed found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews for within the chapter from beginning to end we not only find a declaration of what faith is but we also find powerful examples, accounts, testimonies and witnesses of those who walked by faith rather than sight and those whose lives are powerful elements of testimony and witness within the earth. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the. Hebrews beginning with the final verses of the chapter: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barack, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds of imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, torment; (Of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40). Consider also if you will the words which are found earlier on in the chapter after the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews finished speaking concerning Abraham and the demonstration and manifestation of faith working within his life. The author of this epistle wonderfully and beautifully captures the incredible truth surrounding that which faith apprehends and lays hold of—and not only that which faith apprehends and lays hold of but also the testimony and witness that is associated with faith. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to consider these words—particularly and especially when we read the words in the opening verses of the first chapter of the gospel written by Luke. Within this passage of Scripture we are brought face to face with the tremendous witness and testimony of faith and that which was laid hold of and apprehended by those who lived according to and with the expectation of the promise and yet died in faith without actually seeing or being able to lay a hold of the promise. Here beginning with the thirteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of this epistle you will find the following words which were written by the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly is they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16). The words and language we find here in this portion of the text further illustrates and describes the beautiful truth surrounding the witness and testimony of faith within the earth. These words call and draw our attention to the incredible reality of the witness of faith in the earth and how those mentioned in this chapter were indeed such whose testimony was presented to us in this passage of Scripture as a testimony and witness that—if we allow it to—can help ground and strengthen our faith. What’s more is that more often than not the testimonies and personal witness of those whose lives have been dramatically touched, changed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit do indeed and do in fact have a testimony they can share with others. The more we read the four gospel narratives the more we can and will be brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the two-fold impact of the preaching of the Word—and not only the preaching of the word but also personal testimonies which accompany the preaching of the word. In all reality I would dare say that what we must needs have present among us is not only the preaching of the Word, and not only the signs, wonders and miracles which follow the preaching of the word but also the witness and testimony that follows that which has been effected and accomplished in the midst of the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about and consider these three elements within the world—the preaching of the word following by signs, wonders and miracles and the testimonies that ensue as a direct result of them—there is a great and underlying need for witness and testimony in the midst of the earth. There would be a number of men and women who would like to declare that preaching is the single greatest witness and instrument that can be used in the midst of the earth, however, I am absolutely convinced that preaching without demonstration can in fact be utterly useless. I would dare say that preaching without signs of transformation, healing and deliverance can quite possibly be nothing more than meaningless rhetoric—especially if nothing ever comes as a result of it. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it draws and calls our attention to the tremendous and incredible need for testimonies and witnesses in the midst of the earth. There are a number of preachers in the land—those who would preach the Word of God from behind pulpits—and yet I would dare say there are very few witnesses in the earth. It’s interesting to consider the words which the Lord Jesus spoke when He commissioned—or should I say re-commissioned—His disciples for He did not say they would be His apostles unto all the earth. The Lord Jesus did not say that they would be His disciples unto all the earth nor even his preachers unto the ends of the earth. When the Lord spoke unto His disciples and followers prior to His ascension He would declare unto them how they would be His “witnesses” unto the uttermost parts of the earth. In all reality I must needs say that there are a number of “preachers” in the midst of the land during these days and in this generation, however, there are very few “witnesses.” Nowadays anyone with a little charisma, personality, an analytical mind and good resources can craft a sermon and preach from the Word of God. Where it truly becomes something worth thinking about and considering is when you consider how many “witnesses” there truly are in the midst of the earth. There is a great need for us as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to recognize and understand that we have indeed and have in fact been called to be witnesses unto the nations in our own generation. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. I would also like to call your attention to the words which are found in the final verses of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark and the final verses written in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Luke. Moreover I feel compelled to call your attention to the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and even that which is found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the two witnesses who will prophesy during the tribulation for the first three and a half years as well as the one hundred and forty four thousand Jews who will be sealed as witnesses during the tribulation. With this in mind I Invite you to consider the following words found in these passages concerning the tremendous power of witness and witnesses in the midst of the earth within one’s generation: “Then the eleven disciples went away to Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20). “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with t heir unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; IN my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:14-20). “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a. Piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead thee third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:36-49). “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:50-53). “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he thought the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together they asked him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witness unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, and Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alapheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:1-14). “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the eat, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand” (Revelation 7:1-8). “And there ways given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeded out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. And they they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit shall maker war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life form God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And they same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly” (Revelation 11:1-14). The words which we find in these passages of Scripture call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the need for witnesses in the earth. During the great tribulation there will be one-hundred and forty four thousand Jews from every tribe who will be sealed by the living God and who will be witnesses for the kingdom. What’s more is that during the days of the tribulation there will be two prophetic witnesses who will exercise authority within the earth as well as in the heavens to not strike the earth with plagues but also to shut up the heavens from bringing forth rain. With this being said we must also recognize the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples prior to His ascension when they asked Him if He was going to restore the kingdom unto Israel. Jesus would declare unto those on the mount called Olivet that it was not for them to know the times and seasons ordained and appointed by the Heavenly Father. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus would also emphatically declare unto His disciples that to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from on High. It would be after and as a direct result of their receiving power from on High they would be His witnesses—first in Jerusalem, and then Judaea, and then Samaria and ultimately unto the ends of the earth. It’s important to note that the ultimate objective is to produce a kingdom of witnesses in the midst of the earth—those who would have the seal of the living God and who not only confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus but would also believe with their hearts that the living God raised Him from death to life on the third day. I continue to think about the words and language that is found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke in the first chapter and I am brought face to face with the two-fold impact of witnesses (eyewitnesses) and those who declare(d) the Word of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there are those who place a great deal of emphasis on the preaching of the Word and yet they fail to recognize the incredible power that surrounds witness and testimony. There is a great need within this generation for there to be men and women who are indeed witnesses unto and for the Lord Jesus Christ. Such individuals may never stand behind a pulpit and may never preach a single word, however, the testimony they carry can produce such an impact that shakes cities, towns, villages, nations and even the whole earth. It is with this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the truth that you don’t need to stand behind a pulpit nor do you have to preach a sermon week in and week out in order to make an impact for the kingdom of heaven. There is absolutely need to be “ordained” a minister of the gospel in a specific denomination nor even “voted” upon to be the senior pastor of a congregation to have an impact within and upon the earth. The prophetic book of the Revelation seems to indicate there would be two prophetic witnesses who would have the ability to shut the heavens that it might not rain, who would have the ability to call down fire from heaven, who would have the ability to strike the earth with as many plagues as they want and yet even in the midst of this there would be one-hundred and forty-four thousand who would bear the seal of the living God. Oh it would be very easy to spend time focusing on the two witnesses whom the apostle John saw in this revelation while completely and utterly missing the one-hundred and forty-four thousand who would be evangelists for the kingdom during the tribulation. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the opening verses of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the physician Luke the more I am brought face to face with the incredible presence of those who were eyewitnesses and bore testimony of their encounters and experiences with the Lord Jesus and those who would preach the word. It’s important to note that not every one who experienced and encountered the person and presence of the Lord Jesus would preach like the apostle Peter and the other apostles. It is indeed true the apostle Peter and the others would be those who would walk with and follow Jesus for three and a half years and would themselves be eyewitnesses unto Him and would preach the word of the kingdom, however, we must needs understand that there were others whose lives were completely and utterly changed and transformed by the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were those during the three and a half years the Lord Jesus walked upon the face of the earth who would never preach a single sermon or message like the apostles did and yet they would be mightily used as witnesses for and unto the kingdom of heaven within the earth. There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the reality that there were men and women who would indeed make just as much of an impact simply by sharing their story. Oh would it shock and surprise you that you can much just as much of an impact—if not more of an impact—simply by sharing your story? Would it surprise you if I told you that you can impact more for the kingdom of heaven within the earth than anyone who stands behind the pulpit and preaches the word of God behind a pulpit in the midst of our churches? If there is one thing I can’t help but encounter when I think about the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that in the kingdom of heaven the story is just as important as the sermon. THE STORY IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE SERMON! THE STORIES ARE JUST AS POWERFUL AS THE SERMONS! THE STORIES ARE JUST AS POWERFUL AS THE SERIES! Throughout the years there has been this false perception that the stories which men and women have within their lives do not carry as much weight and substance as the sermons preached by preachers and ministers alike. The truth of the matter, however, is that I firmly believe the stories carry just as much weight as the sermons which are preached from behind the pulpit. There is something incredibly captivating and beautiful about the stories men and women have within their lives—and not only the stories they have but also their willingness and courage to share it. I can’t help but be reminded of the woman who had the issue of blood who dared touch the hem of the garment of the Lord Jesus who after she had been healed and cleansed of the plague within her body was initially hesitant and fearful to come forward and share what the Lord had done for her. What’s more is I can’t help but be reminded of the single leper among ten who experienced cleansing as a result of the word which the Lord Jesus spoke and would be the only one who would return to give glory to God. Not only this but I am reminded of the demoniac who was possessed with the Legion in the region of the Gadarenes who asked the Lord Jesus if he could go with Him only to find the Lord Jesus command him to go and share the good news of what the living God had done within his life. This man would indeed return unto the place where he had come and would publish the goodness of the living God and that which the Lord Jesus Christ had done for him. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the four gospel narratives concerning these three individuals whose stories and testimonies would be incredible tools within the hands of the eternal and living God during those days: “And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For ofttimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil in the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they brought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about brought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus went him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him” (Luke 8:26-39). “And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. And, behold there came a man named Jairus’ and he was a ruler of the syngoawguge: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into himsel house: for he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I Perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (Luke 8:40-48). “And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, heaven mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:11-19). It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words and language found in these passages of Scripture for here are but three examples from the many more within the timeframe of Jesus’ public ministry in the midst of Judaea, Galilee and Jerusalem. Within these three passages of Scripture we find the absolutely incredible and beautiful reality of three different individuals who experienced a mighty and powerful transformation in the midst of that generation as they would experience deliverance in their own respect. In these passages we find a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years and who had suffered many things at the hands of many physicians and had spent all she had seeking to be rid of her plague and yet instead of growing better shew grew worse. It wouldn’t be until she heard of Jesus and knew that Jesus would be passing by that place she would purpose to press her way through the crowd that she might touch just the hem of His garment. Oh this is something we must needs acknowledge for she would indeed touch the hem of garment and as a direct result of this power and virtue would flow out of Jesus into her physical body thus cleansing and healing her of the plague she had suffered from for twelve years. What’s more is that Jesus would indeed be aware of the power and virtue that left His physical person and turned Himself in the crowd to see who it was that touched Him. Eventually this woman would come forth trembling and would fall down before the Lord Jesus and publicly exclaim that which had happened to her. This is something truly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the power of her witness and testimony in the midst of the land as she would testify of the goodness and grace of the living God within her life as she would be made whole of the plague which was present in her body and had been for twelve years. The more you read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture the more you will find these individuals who each received a different touch from the Lord Jesus Christ. There would be the demoniac who would have the legion within him whom Jesus would completely deliver as He would cast out the legion which was present within him. Eventually Luke would write that those who were present in the region of the Gadarenes would come unto Jesus after witnessing what had taken place to the herd of pigs and would see the man who previously had the legion sitting in the presence of Jesus being clothed and in his right mind. What’s more is that as you read the words found in this passage oof Scripture you will find that as Jesus prepared to depart from that region being asked to by the locals this man would come unto Him entreating and begging Him that he might come with Him. Jesus would not suffer nor would He permit this man from coming with Him and would instead instruct and command him to go into the cities, towns and villages and proclaim the goodness and grace of the living God within his physical body. Each of the gospel authors who presented the account of this demoniac whom Jesus had delivered would write how after Jesus instructed and commanded him to go and speak of what good thing the LORD had done in him he would publish throughout the region of the deliverance and freedom the Lord Jesus would exercise within his physical body. This man might not have preached the gospel of the kingdom, however, what he would do would have just as much value and worth as preaching the gospel of the kingdom unto the poor. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in these passages and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the power of testimony, the power of witness and the power of one’s story. There would be countless men and women who would like to think and believe that preaching is the sole means and method of bringing men and women into the kingdom of God and yet the truth of the matter is that there is an incredible need for the stories of men and women to be shared among the masses and crowds. With this being said we must recognize and understand that your story is just as valuable and carries just as much worth as any sermon ever would. Not only this but you and I might be the only Bible people will ever read as we seek to be known and understood of all men. Oh there is something truly astonishing and powerful about the stories you and I have to share—a reality which is found in the opening chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke. It is in the opening chapter of this gospel we find two prophetic declarations being spoken in two different places unto two different individuals. The angel Gabriel who stood in the presence of the living God and all His holy angels would appear unto Zacharias while he was ministering in the Temple and declared unto him that his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bear a son. What’s more is that also contained within this chapter is the angel Gabriel appearing unto Mary who was espoused to be married unto Joseph the carpenter from Nazareth. Within this passage of Scripture we find two different individuals who would each receive a mighty and powerful prophetic word and declaration concerning that which would be conceived and brought forth into the earth. On the one hand there would be the prophetic messenger and forerunner of the Messiah who would be born into the earth while on the other hand there would be the Messiah Himself who would be born into the earth among men. As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it incredibly intriguing to read the words found in the opening verses of the first chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke and the power of witness and testimony Mary and Zacharias would each have. Mary and Zacharias would each hear directly from the angel Gabriel during those days and it would be the angel Gabriel who would proclaim unto them that there would be a child born unto them who would serve the purpose(s) of God within that generation. It’s truly interesting to consider the narrative of Zacharias and how as he departed from the Temple he would indeed have a story to tell—this despite the fact that he was unable to speak. It would be as Zacharias came forth out of the Temple and was unable to speak that men and women who were present realized and recognized that he had seen a vision there in the midst of the Temple. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like when Zacharias came home being unable to speak and even as he would share with Elisabeth that which the angel Gabriel had spoken unto her. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider this for Zacharias would have a story and testimony to share after hearing directly from the angel Gabriel concerning the coming of a son who would be born unto he and Elisabeth. Not only this but the same angel Gabriel would indeed appear unto Mary proclaiming unto her how she would conceive and bear a child of the Holy Ghost who would save the people from their sins and would have the name JESUS. Imagine the testimony and witness Mary and Elisabeth would have to share with each other as Scripture reveals Mary would depart from her home and would make the journey unto the place where Elisabeth was. What a truly awesome and powerful witness and testimony Elisabeth would have as Mary came unto and approached her as by that time she would be showing in her physical body the goodness and grace of the living God. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something truly unique and powerful about the words and language of witness and testimony found within the lives of Mary and Elisabeth. Each of these women would have the testimony of the goodness and grace of the living God who would allow them to conceive—one in her old age after having been barren and the other in her young age having not known a man. Oh there is something we must needs pay attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the power of witness and testimony which these women would indeed have as they would not only share of the goodness and grace of the living God within their lives but they would also have the physical evidence of what God had done in their lives. Eventually their witness and testimony would be more than just words as their would be a physical evidence of that which the living and eternal God had done in their lives. How absolutely wonderful this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the witness and testimony these women would indeed have during their generation as the living God would bless them with His goodness and grace allowing them to conceive a child—one through natural means and the other as a direct result of the Holy Ghost. Oh how truly amazing this is when you take the time to consider it for it reveals unto us the power of witness and testimony in the midst of our hearts and lives and how absolutely critical and important it truly is for the sake of those whom we interact with on a daily basis. Oh that we would be men and women who would not only recognize the power that is contained within our testimony but would also be those who give ourselves to be vessels of testimony and witness in the midst of the earth that others might encounter the goodness and grace of the living God.

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