Discipleship, Master, Servant, Ministry

This is a first for me.

I am uploading a “Podcast”.

I wish I could say it were mine, but it’s not.

I wish I could even tell you whose it is, but I’ll not.

He would not wish it so. Rather, he would have you focus on the words alone, without any distractions of himself, his career, accomplishments, or credentials. Therefore, simply judge the “words”, not the biography of the speaker.

There is a great deal of really healthy lively discussion around two topics these days among committed brethren in Christ, that I’ve been “pondering heavy”. This sermon just resonated deeply in my heart when I heard this, that I simply had to share this here in this way… without trying to edit, synthesize, or re-speak what was said.

The two topics in my mind/heart were/are:

“Discipleship: What is that and how do we promote it?”

and

“How do we rightly deal with differences of view, among committed servants and brethren in the Lord?”

When ministers start to think, “I am ‘more right’ than that other minister, and it is important for me to ‘fix’ him/her…” are we not re-stating, in 21st Century theology, “Lord, please set me…” [and those who believe just like *I* do]… “at Your left and right hands when You sit on Your throne!”?

Let these words from an old friend, resonate for you… [33 minutes, I think. Great investment of heartbeats.]

Grace to you! — The Little Monk

What is God’s will for your life?

Amos 2:3, “I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and all the princes I will slay with him, says the Lord.”

IMG_7709
Thank you my friend, see it had its purpose

Are you listening to too many motivational speakers? Faith seminars? Are you busy running around listening to everyone else but God? For weeks God gave me this verse in Amos. I sat with it, hurriedly prayed over it, but alas I left it behind; I had moved onto the next thing.

To hear God we must have a total hollowness, a place that only He can fill, a place where He can reside and live. For so long I would pray, “God, let my will be your will.” I always struggled with that prayer because it never seemed to sit just right in my spirit. I could never be on the same page as God.

So I sat with this verse again and again looking at it from a purely fleshly, worldly point of view.  I didn’t want to hear what God had to say because I thought I knew anyway. So I pushed it aside again and again until I became consumed and miserable. God, why won’t you move me? You placed this gift within me, why are you making me suffer?

We all have a gift that God has given us, and I believe to some degree we are all using it, whether we are aware of it or not. But when God resurrected my gift it almost became a curse to me. Well God, you reignited this desire, why then why is it not going anywhere? I would hear these messages that I dreamed too small or my faith was just not big enough and I’d torture myself with them. Over and over again I would say, “God, why? God move me! I just can’t take it anymore.” It became borderline obsessive to the point I concentrated only on that thing He had placed so deeply in my heart.

“I will cut off the ruler from its midst” (NAB Revised)

“I will destroy her ruler” (NIV)

And finally, finally, the word broke free. I had let the gift rule me! I had focused and concentrated all of my attention on it, hoping praying that my pleas to God would be heard. But by shifting my attention, I made it my ruler. Our gifts should never rule us, only He is allotted that special place.

So I sat with that as I listened to Him. I thought of all the mornings where I would blindly just open the readings for the day, the devotion for the day and they were just words. I didn’t ask Him first what I should be reading, which reading was for me. I focused on what I wanted to hear and couldn’t and wouldn’t accept His will. I don’t for one minute think I did it on purpose. For most of us, it is through this refinement process where we find truth.

I don’t believe now that my will will ever be his will completely. I am after all still made of flesh and bone. And if He really felt that way, He would have included that verbiage in the Lord’s prayer; but that’s not what it says. It simply says, “Your will be done.”

And I have to believe He knows better than me. And I have to believe that He wouldn’t have given me a gift just to sit stagnant. And I have to know time is eternal and that the Holy Spirit is real, and that if I really wanted to I could completely immerse myself in Him and accept His will. But not in the way that I was thinking about it before. 

I know now that His will is greater than mine will ever be, that He must be the ruler. There is something so sacred and sweet about knowing I can completely surrender to that, wake up tomorrow and say, Lord, what do you want me to read, what do you want me to do? We all can have that freedom, if we empty our prayer closets in that way, there is so much more room to fill them.

Father,

I crave your will and want none of my own. Empty me of my own desires so that yours may shine through. Let me surrender gently, knowing that you will catch me. This is the jump, this is the risk, which I know is really not a risk at all.

In Jesus name,

Amen

I’m Not Very Good at Saying “I Love You”

I received a wonderful comment on The Life Project today from our own paulfg; why was it so wonderful? Because it made me think, always the element that makes a post or a comment great, at least for me. The part that served as the catalyst for me was this:

“Maybe it is why I have an “issue” with the heavy sacrifice, burden and “work” of being a “good Christian”. It is too closely linked (in our hearts and minds and culture and very being) to earning and worth and personal effort. Maybe that is why Love appeals so much as the answer.”

In my reply, I offered this (in part): “Love is the question; now what is the answer?”

I’m not very good at saying “I love you”, if you don’t believe me, ask my wife!

In my Neanderthal male brain, just saying the words is kind of cheap, almost a way out of actually doing something about love; anybody can say it, but how many put it into practice?

This morning, I got up at O-dark-thirty; boy was it ever cold: Brrr…

I went downstairs as I normally do to make breakfast for my wife before she went off to her office for work. When she was ready and came downstairs, her coffee was hot and ready, and her breakfast was awaiting her arrival. I don’t have to this, nobody forces me to do it, and some have even asked why I do it; I do it because I love my wife. It isn’t difficult, it isn’t a hardship, it isn’t a sacrifice of any kind; it is a joy. My wife would probably be just as happy if I just said those magic three words, but serving is so much more of a joy.

I’ve had people express surprise that I do this, saying that it must be a chore; difficult or some kind of a burden, but expressing love is never any of those things, is it?

As for serving our Lord as His followers or servants, I hear a lot of people say that this is a duty, an obligation or a requirement of some kind. I hear this described as difficult, burdensome, work, and most of all, “too hard”. Honestly, I find that difficult to comprehend. That is, of course, unless the person who thinks in these terms is serving God for all of the wrong reasons. Do they serve Him because someone told them that they must do it? Are they trying to earn “points” of some kind? Could it be that they are trying to earn God’s favor?

I think it is so very important that we understand a few things about serving God. First and foremost is that there is nothing we can possibly do to “make” God love us, and even if there were something, we don’t need to make Him love us anyway, since God loved us long before we ever knew about Him; He loved us before we were even born, because that is His nature; He loves His creation, and He created us to love. Second, there are no brownie points to be earned, because God doesn’t play favorites. Third, an argument can be made that we have some kind of duty to serve, but we don’t serve simply because it’s our duty, and finally, nobody can make you do what you don’t want to do; just say no, if that’s what you want to do.

Do you really think that Almighty God takes time out of His busy day to keep time cards?

Frankly, I doubt it, and I’m afraid that none of us are so important that His Kingdom will crumble without our “work”. No, His Kingdom will do just fine if you and I sit on our hands.

So then, why should we even bother?

The answer to that is simple, and it is the same reason that I get up long before dawn to make breakfast for my wife: It’s because I love her. Why bother to serve God?

Because we love Him. Service is a natural response to love, and it is one of the greatest joys associated with love. Thus, I am willing to serve God because doing so is the greatest joy I have ever known. It isn’t a burden, work, too hard or any of that, unless I am doing it to get something in return, in which case I must assess the benefit to be gained against the cost of doing the job, and God simply doesn’t operate like that, for He’s already done it all for me.

There’s one more thing we might consider: Serving God always seems to involve serving other people, and why would that be the case? Because God loves them just as much as He loves me. The result of serving God by serving other people is actually a double joy, for it is the joy of doing something for another person, and the joy of serving God and His Kingdom, and the truth is that God is really the one doing the work, I am only His vessel for doing it. There’s nothing more rewarding in this life.

I’ve done quite a few things over the past half century. I’ve also been to some very interesting places and met some very interesting people; I’ve even made a little bit of history, yet the times in life that provide the most happiness, joy, peace and satisfaction are the times I spend serving God by serving others in a way that advances His purpose.

Work, duty, burden, obligation, difficult, sacrifice?

Hardly! At this point in life, the one thing I can think of that could be described by those words would be for me to be forced to stop serving Him. I agree with paulfg: I’ll go with the love (even if I’m not very good at putting it into mere words.)

Measuring ministry

End of January 6th 2016: stats and facts – Church Set Free …

274 views, 98 new visitors, 14 sermons, 54 conversations recorded (and that excludes “social media” and the oddly massive numbers counted there).

Struck me today how we measure ministry. How many this and how many that? Are the numbers going up or not? How do we reach more? How do we share the good news? How and how and how and how again!

In six days a lot has happened. One week. One thin slice of this new year.  Should the numbers be higher? Are these numbers puny? How are we counting the hits? Can you verify these numbers? How do we measure this ministry?

In the two years I have been writing “sermons” there are a handful of people who have told me they have been changed by those words.  Just as I have been changed by your words.

And each small change I absorb changes something a lot bigger. Each small turn of one small cog turns a cog so much bigger. And these cogs change something massive. They change me.  And that could be you.

So I think that measuring ministry forgets something massive. It misses the conversation between me and my God.

274 views, 98 new visitors, 14 sermons, 54 conversations recorded. 

Is just the “blog count”.

That is not “my count” of my conversations with my God and others and our connecting God, nor the count of “sermons” shared with others and our God, and none of that can ever capture my daily living and loving – and the infinitesimal changes in me – day after day after day –

I believe one person changes.  And that changes everything.  Relationship changes.  And I change.

I want to keep changing and be changed by our God in you and my God in me and leave the measuring to Him.

(and I wonder – does He call even call this stuff “a ministry”?)

Have a wonderful 7th of January!

Confession with a Chuckle

So sad, but true. Here, in a 3 minute video, is a pretty accurate recap of the first 3/4 of my ministry life. I was a “fixer”, a “designer”, a “planner”, and “program author”. Could write all the manuals, teaching points, charts and illustrations, and bullet lists for any conceivable ministry effort. I was often lost in paperwork for days at a time.

Jesus laughed at me a lot. Nothing wrong with my heart, just sort of had my priorities a bit confused. I used to believe in “interruptions”. I don’t anymore. There’s just “opportunities”.

How about you and those you serve with? Which do you believe in?

“Interruptions to the Work of Ministry”

or

“Opportunities to Minister” ?

How do we look at an unexpected expression of need? I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! Grace to thee!

Defining Ministry

In today’s world, we think of ministry as a sort of professional occupation; so and so has a “ministry” or so and so is a “minister”. A “ministry” must be some kind of an organization with offices, budgets and employees or volunteers. It must be headed up by a professional minister; the boss, the big cheese…

Jesus had an earthly ministry for 3 ½ years; we read all about it in the Gospels. Do you recall His office address? Was He some kind of professional “bigwig”?

No.

Since Jesus is our model, maybe we should ask ourselves if there is a difference between His “ministry” and the modern concept we are all familiar with. Jesus told us more than once that He was here to do His Father’s will; we know that He had a great purpose which was to glorify his Father by accomplishing His Father’s purpose on the cross. Just looking at these few words, familiar to all of us, we can see that the ministry of Jesus was to serve His Father’s will and purpose; how did He do this?  In all that He said and did, Jesus served His Father by serving people in a way that achieved the Father’s will: Jesus was God’s servant in addition to being God’s Son.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, since our words “minister” and “ministry” come from a Greek word meaning “servant”. Thus, a minister is a servant and a ministry is a service. What purpose does this service fulfill? It fulfills God’s purpose, which is to raise up ministers (servants) of God. Jesus put it this way:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Simply stated, a disciple is one who knows what the Master knows and who does what the Master does. Our Master is Jesus Christ, and we know what He taught His disciples from the Gospel accounts, and from the truths revealed to us in Scripture. What did Jesus do? He served God by serving others in a way that accomplished God’s purpose, which was to establish His Kingdom on the earth. What do we do? We serve God by serving others in a way that achieves God’s purpose which is the building up of His Kingdom by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

This may take many forms as He leads us forward, but it always comes back to serving God by serving others, and what greater service is there to God than building His Kingdom by making disciples? What greater service is there to another human being than to lead them from darkness into light and building them up into the Kingdom of our Lord? In fact, this is the greatest act of love that there is, and it is what Biblical ministry is all about.