Archives For serving

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I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower,  we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.

Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)

The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.

Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)

In Ephesians 5,  we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by  letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.

Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to  stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.

Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.

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Nobodies seem to always want to be somebodies. It’s ingrained into us from the time we are small to make something out of our life that makes us stand out. The world even points us in the direction of being somebodies.

What if instead of over worrying and over seeking to become somebodies, we thrived in the honored call of God to serve as nobodies? God’s words have plenty of nobodies through out scripture that contributed much and even though they didn’t acquire prominence in the here, and now, they will earn notoriety in the then and there.

Often when we think of the Bible, our minds race to the giants of scripture. We think of the Apostle Paul, the disciples, John the Baptist, Moses…the list goes on and on, but I think you get the point.

Giants of scripture are everywhere. However, woven throughout the Bible and its redemptive story are names that are not as familiar to us; however, they are still people of faith and immense worth. These men and women stand in the background and have “cameo” roles, but without them the story would have no movement, substance or depth.

The key players get all the attention, but from God’s viewpoint the supporting characters are not forgotten  but rather an essential part to the story. They get no attention now, but one day they will get the attention God has always intended. In the then and there, we will hear the rest of the story.

Every person, irrespective of how insignificant humanity may think they are God considers a prominent player on the field of faith. If you are feeling like a nobody today, I ask you to smile and play your role faithfully because one day the first will be last and the last shall be first.

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Be it my Heavy Metal Band of the 80’s, (click here to enjoy or laugh) or being a pastor for more than 24 years, I’ve always been on stage under the lights. It’s my role in life. I’m always in front of people. I’m usually the one that gets the recognition and applauds of the crowd. I’ve never felt like I’m the one that picked myself to be upfront.  I feel like being upfront  selected me. I know for sure God called me to preach, and that by default, has put in front of people for many years.

At times,  I don’t mind being up front. I know it’s my call and responsibility. At other times,  it feels like a curse. I’m always being evaluated, sometimes in a good way and then at other times in a bad way. At any given time,  it’s a mixed bag of opinions sitting right in front of me. To top it all off God watches it all go down.

There are some among us, (maybe you) which have a desire to be in the spotlight. Don’t misunderstand me; it’s not wrong to have that desire, just don’t miss the beauty of serving in the shadows. You are among truly esteemed company when you do. Many down through the history of following Christ have served in the shadows. Timothy served in the shadows. Gaius served in the shadows. Tertius served in the shadows.

Something tells me that one-day, those in the shadows will be brought into the light, and the last shall be first. It seems to me that serving in the shadows is underrated in the here and now, but will one day be elevated beyond anything you can imagine. If you are serving in the shadows, don’t get discouraged with your call. God is watching even when no one see’s what you are doing. Hagar gave God a name, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13a)

Keep serving in the shadows. God will reward you soon enough, and I will be watching from the back of the line with a smile as you get your rewards to lay at His feet.

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Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

Make It Right Today!

January 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Philippians 2:19-23 (NKJV)

19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

When God looks around His table of children, could He find a ready and willing servant heart in you? Don’t be too fast to answer yes! We all would like to think we would be the one that God would send, but are you sure?

In verse 20, Paul said, “I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for you state.” He said this right before he announced he was picking and sending Timothy. Paul’s difficulty in finding others was grounded in the problem that, “all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”

Timothy sat at the table of the Lord under Paul’s watchful eye, and he was found Faithful, Available, and Teachable! He had a heart that cared more for others than himself.  Timothy didn’t seem to mind being asked to move beyond his comfortable circle of friends to help others.

We are called to reach beyond our comfortable circle. We are called to have the same proven character that Timothy had. We are called to notice and encourage the unnoticed. In fact, in verse 13 of Philippians 2 Paul tells us, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The will of God is to go and do.

God’s good pleasure is to live a life that serves. After all, it was Jesus who set the example to follow. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If Jesus came to serve, then we must serve also. Any other attitude of the heart is lacking God’s best in and through our lives.

When God looks around His table, could He choose you? Read the opening verse again and drop your own name in it. Does it feel true? If not, make it right today.

Others First?

January 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Roman 1:9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you

I can always tell when I’m slipping away from God with my whole heart because the tale-tale sign is I start to think of others less.

Thinking of others is a fruit of serving God with your whole heart. It’s the nature of God to think of others. Jesus showed this kind of life witness consistently.

At the Last Supper,  He washed the feet of the disciples after they had stepped over the water basin of service. God served His creation.

You can hear the cry of His whole heart when Jesus, in the garden, cried out, “”My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He saw there would be no future without His sacrifice for others.

On the cross,  His whole heart for others is once again shown. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. His whole heart cast a shadow over the selfish act of soldiers wanting His clothes.

We are called to think of others. We are called to remember others. We are called to serve others. It’s a God thing. It’s a whole heart thing.

Don’t forget others. God didn’t forget you when you were THE OTHER.

Who Will You Affirm Today?

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Everyone needs affirmation. Whom will you affirm today? I’m not talking about just giving someone a passing acknowledgement. I’m speaking of giving a compliment, an affirmation that is life giving.

As Christ followers,  we have been placed in the harvest field of life surrounded by humanity and their felt needs. We are called to build others up, where the world and possibly their own idea of themselves have torn them down.

Take time today to notice someone whom you know has not been noticed in awhile. Make a comment that places value in their life. For example, if you work with them share how effective they are to the workplace. Deposit confidence into their life. When you do that, you uplift their worth.

You just never know who might be close to giving up. Your words of hope could be the precise thing that keeps them going. As Christ followers,  we should be looking for ways to take away the feelings of insignificance that others might be secretly carrying deep inside.

As you face the world around you daily, walk in the power and passion of Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  We are called to do more for the world than it does for us. We can accomplish that by thinking of others before ourselves.

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Are you living years or life?

It’s amazing how 6 words can stop you in your tracks and make you think. It has been said, “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” What are you becoming? Are you living years or life?

There is an extreme difference between living years and living life. You can live years without following God, but you can’t live life without following God.

It doesn’t take extreme obedience to live years. You can just get up and go with the flow of the world and self-interest. However, to live life, -radical obedience is called for. You will be called to go against the flow of the world. You will be called to where it’s not comfortable. You will be called to risk much for Christ, but in the end, treasures of heaven awaits you.

As Christ followers, we are called to do more than wait for the future of- no more sin, no more tears, no more injustices, no more pain, or heartaches. We are called to live that future now. Living that kind of life is living life. Anything less than living God’s future in the now is just living years.

You will not grow closer to God’s heart by just living years. To grow closer to God, you must pursue His heart with deliberate steps of obedience. You must remain attentive to His voice in such a way that you walk with the awareness of His presence. The Bible is clear when it teaches in Proverbs 3:6, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”

God doesn’t leave you alone to stumble ahead along the path of life. He is not impersonal or distant. A.W. Tozer once said, “We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” I love the fact that God is that close and wants to walk with me through life instead of just years.

As a pastor, I’ve stood beside many beds as people were drawing their last breath and I’ve never met one that regretted living life by following God. However, those I’ve stood beside that lived years have a different story. It is a story of regrets and remorse.

I challenge you today; make sure you are living life, and not just living years.

Becoming Fully Human

December 4, 2012

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Philippians 1:6. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

God has started a work in your life, and He will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus. You are becoming fully human as He intended. What is “at the day of Jesus”? It means when heaven and earth come together, when there are no more injustices, there is no more pain, there are no more tears, there is no more heartache, there is no more racism, and all sin is gone.

What God is trying to do is accomplish a little bit of that future work in the now. The only way He can do it in the now is through you because He has chosen to work through you. If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will. In spite of all the flaws in your life, God still wants to work through you. That’s how valuable you are. Even On your worst day, He loves you. Even on your worst day, He wants to use you.

God is not an impersonal force. God is not detached from your life. God is not like Bette Midler sang a long time ago. “God is watching us from a distance.” No, God lives on the inside of you, shaping you from the inside out. He is creating in you something that will bring him glory and honor. He is the Father. He is the potter. You are His child and servant.

Let me give you an image. The most fully human Adam ever was, was the moment God breathed the spirit of life into him, and he became a living soul, a living person. At that exact moment, he was fully human as God intended him to be. God looked around, and in chapter 2 of Genesis, he said, “It’s not good that man be alone.” Then comes the woman. At that moment, they were fully human as God intended.

Then we know the story. Satan comes, and he tempts them, and they fall to temptation. The clay stops yielding for a moment to the potter, to the Father. At that moment, a little bit of their humanity was diminished. Now, I said all of that as background because I want you to understand what I will say next.

You were created in Christ Jesus! The moment you bowed your heart, soul, mind, and strength to Him- you started to recover your full humanity that will one day be fully recovered at the second coming of Christ.

You were created for good works. What good works? The good works of the future. Injustice is no longer there in the future. There is no more hunger, no more pain, no more heartache, no more sin. God is showing us that because of the resurrection the world has changed and we can be part of that change through following Him.

He seeking to get you to fully understand that He lives in you; and you live in Him. It is like He is saying, “You were created in me, you are fully human, and becoming fully human again as My future leaks into your life, let me work My future out through you in the now.”

You may have given up on God in your life, but he has never given up on you. Rise up again and follow Him with all of your heart. Follow Him into the future of being fully human again for His glory.

 

legacyEvery person wants to be remembered. We want to be remembered, not only in this present time, but we also want to be remembered after we are gone. Today, I encourage you to take an inventory of your life in light of leaving a legacy behind.

You will be remembered. You will leave some kind of Legacy. Legacies are not born; legacies are cultivated one day at a time. The legacy you leave behind is both a choice on your part, and a voice to those that follow behind you. What you do in the here and now will be remembered by someone forever and what you do in the here and now will follow you into eternity.

Here are a few ways to leave a legacy print on the world around you.

 

1. Acknowledge Christ

Your walk with Christ is the most valuable part of your life. Words are powerful, but your walk speaks much louder. In order to have a strong walk, you must have an intimate relationship with Christ daily, and moment-by-moment. Proverbs 3:6 tells us, “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” In other words, allow God into every part of your walk.

2. Encourage at all times

Think ahead of the next person you run into by asking yourself, “After I encounter this person, what will they say about me 20 years from now?” You can make a choice about how you want people to talk about you in the future, by making the right choice in the now. You have the power to lift people up or to tear people down. Don’t choose the latter. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

3. Live beyond yourself

Yes, you must take care of yourself. Yes, you are valuable, but the greatest life you can live is a life that is lived beyond yourself, for the sake of others and for the glory of God. You need to make your life about something much grander than yourself.  John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

4. Don’t be inconsistent

The voice of action deep inside of you is the Holy Spirit speaking to act. Listen to that voice and obey. God will get the glory, and you will create a lasting legacy. When you hear God speak to do an act of kindness…obey, obey, obey! God is trying to use you, and that is a great way to develop a lasting legacy. I’ve often said to the church I pastor, “Demons obey God; nature obeys God, but people struggle with it.” Make the choice to obey God without struggling, and you will be amazed at how grand and full your life will become. Divine moments are all around you if you will only see them.

To go deeper with leaving a legacy and living a life of compassion, get a copy of my book, The Descent to Compassion.