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Make Time to Serve Jesus Christ

Posted on August 15, 2018 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

Proverbs 31:15-17

Most pastors would agree that it’s difficult to find and keep volunteer workers in the church. That’s why many churches have turned to paid workers as a more reliable work force.

I get it. People are busy and lack the time to commit to thankless jobs like working in the nursery or teaching a Bible class.

I suppose, back in the day, folks didn’t work as hard and they had more free time on their hands. Or did they?

Our focus text from Proverbs 31 gives us an overview of the toil of a woman in Biblical times. She arose before sunrise, prepared food for the family, purchased land, and used the money she earned to plant a vineyard. Sounds pretty busy to me.

Since I’ve been on this earth for a considerable length of time, I recall the hard work of my grandparents. They, too, worked from before sunup to sundown and most of their labor was physically demanding.

Jump ahead a couple of generations. I still work more than 40 hours a week, even though the government has labeled me retired. The old folks used to tell me they worked harder in retirement than they did during their employment years. Now I understand what they meant.

Oh, and that argument about women having it easier before they joined the work force. You know, the cushy life of stay-at-home moms. Ask anyone of them if there was enough work to keep them busy. I can’t recall my grandmother ever working outside the home. But she worked harder than most. When I look back on it, it’s hard to imagine how she did it all.

My point is that people have always been busy. Earning a living, going to school, and caring for a home and family has always been tough.

But despite our busyness, God’s plan for faithful servants hasn’t changed. Those of us who belong to Christ have been entrusted with a task. The Lord doesn’t ask that we do it all, just our part. The Apostle Peter put it like this: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) Be selective based on your gifts. Find something that fits your spiritual skill set and get to work.

In Romans 12, Paul shares a partial list of spiritual gifts and explains how they can be used in Christian service.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8

Where do you see yourself fitting into the work of the Kingdom? What is your job? If you can’t answer those questions then ask the Lord to reveal your service description.

God didn’t call you to be an island and use His grace solely for your benefit.

Many Christians are shy and prefer to stay behind the scenes. Others are incapacitated due to poor health or advanced age. But as long as we have been blessed with a good mind we can still serve the Lord by praying for others. Ask your pastor or someone in your church to supply you with a prayer list.

May God bless you richly as you make time to serve Jesus Christ.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Spiritual Gifts for Dummies

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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When Christian Service Encounters Trouble

Posted on December 30, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

In today’s focus text, Jesus speaks to His disciples about what life, in His service, would be like once He had returned to the Father. “In this world you will have trouble.” He didn’t say “you might have trouble.” Jesus said, “You will have trouble.” It’s inevitable.

When you are serious about obedience to the Lord and committed to doing His work, you will encounter resistance from the enemy. It goes with the territory. Your attempts to grow as a Christian will not go unchallenged. Your willingness to serve will not be trouble-free.

Many years ago, shortly after becoming a Christian, I became involved in an outreach program called Evangelism Explosion. Once a week we were taught how to share our faith and then shared that knowledge in the homes of individuals who had visited our church.

On a night when we couldn’t find anybody at home, we headed back to the church. I was relieved because it was to have been my first time to share the entire plan of salvation by myself. However, my program trainer said there was one more name on our list, and we should try one more time.

When we arrived at the house we were greeted by a young woman who seemed to be glad we had come. She led us into her living room where we began an introductory discussion and segued into talking about “how to become a Christian.” Seated on the sofa were her twin 5-year-old boys.

Suddenly her husband entered the room, pulled a footstool in front of a TV, and plopped down in front of me with his back turned. He turned on Monday Night Football and cranked up the volume. Conversation was now made impossible by the thundering noise of a ballgame.

I looked toward my trainer for guidance. She offered nothing. I was on my own.

Then the man slammed his hand against the power button on the TV, wheeled around on his stool, and looked directly into my face.

“I know more about this than you do,” He shouted. Then he launched into a tirade of insults and accusations at Christians. As he spewed his anger, I prayed for God’s guidance.

I asked him, “Why are you so angry? What has caused you to have such animosity toward Christians?”

For a moment he said nothing, and then he told a story of something that happened to him when he was 5-years-old, the same age as his boys.

As he talked, I became aware of a very frightening presence in the room unlike anything I had ever experienced. My evangelism partner said the evil presence was so overpowering she considered running out of the house.

The man told us about a visit he had received from Satan who wanted him to be the antichrist. When he refused, Satan threw him across the room and hurt him badly. He showed us a scar on his forehead inflicted in the incident. Said he now avoided God because Satan threatened to kill his future offspring if they became Christians. The man’s problem was not anger or hatred of God and Christians…. but fear.

When I responded to his concern, scriptures came to mind I hadn’t memorized. Doctrines of the faith became crystal clear. And he listened intently. Although he was unwilling to receive Christ, he indicated he would consider visiting our church with his wife.

The following Sunday morning there was a severe rainstorm. After the morning service, I grabbed an umbrella and headed outside toward the education building. Standing before me was a man and two little boys in yellow rain coats. “We came,” he said. It was an incredible moment… an awesome demonstration of God’s work.

When you get that “I’m under attack” feeling you should remember that Jesus does not leave you without help. And He doesn’t want you to retreat. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” Prior to those words Jesus instructed, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” When troubles come Jesus promises “peace” in the midst of the storm. He tells us we will find that peace in Him.

Jesus ends His instruction with some powerfully encouraging words. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” When this world is dragging you down remember that you are on the winning team. Jesus has “overcome the world.”

Keep praying, growing, and serving. The help you need is found “in Him.” When you come under attack remember: The battle has already been won.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

For more on this topic, check out this article: When You’re in Trouble

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

Lessons Learned from Christ's Nativity

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Christians are Far from Perfect, We All Stumble in Many Ways

Posted on November 17, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

James 3:2

Christians are imperfect. We have flaws. We all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) As James puts it, “We all stumble in many ways.”

Now, if I made that statement, all who know me would agree. “Yep. He’s a stumbler.” But these words were penned by one of God’s chosen Biblical writers.

His name was James, most likely Jesus’ older brother (Matthew 13:55), and the leader of the early Jerusalem church. (Acts 15)

James includes himself as one who stumbles in many ways. He acknowledges imperfection in his walk with God.

The Apostle Paul was also open about his spiritual shortcomings. He said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) In fact, Paul went so far to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

The point here is that “stumbling” does not render us unusable for God’s work. The sins of the past are just that. Behind us. Forgiven. And God offers a remedy for the sins of the present. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Today. Every day. Whenever you sin, God stands ready to forgive.

If you have children, you recall their first steps. They wobble, defy gravity, stumble, and fall. As they mature, they become stronger and steadier on their feet. But growth involves more than just walking. They graduate from babbling, to baby talk, to able conversationalists. Children mature in social skills and learn to control their emotions (hopefully). One day, if all goes according to plan, your child wears a cap and gown, walks across a stage, and receives a diploma for completing his or her first major phase of growth. Then comes the school of hard knocks where there’s even more to learn.

Our walk with Christ is like that. There’s always something new to learn. And just when we think we’ve mastered the Christian life, something comes along to cause us to stumble.

The context of James’ instruction is the tongue. You know, that wagging device inside the mouth that can cause so much trouble. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man…”

Can anyone claim perfection in all they say? No. Even the godliest person I ever knew let loose with a few unkind words when she was provoked.

The early church fathers stumbled and struggled to live up to the Lord’s expectations. They understood that stumbling is inevitable and necessary for spiritual growth. It reminds us of what we need to work on.

As we’ve already seen, Paul saw himself as the chief among sinners. And how about Peter? Christ told Peter that he would be instrumental in the growth of the church. (Matthew 16:18) But when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied the Lord three times. And the disciple was devastated by his actions, which led to an uncomfortable confrontation with the Lord.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

Peter had been one of Jesus’ closest friends. Despite the disciple’s love and devotion, he stumbled. But his failure didn’t disqualify him from service. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus can still use you — despite your stumbling. He will put you back in the game if you are willing.

Confess your sin. Seek His forgiveness. And offer yourself to be used again.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Learn from the Sins of Your Past

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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Your Labor for the Lord Matters

Posted on September 1, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

When Paul admonishes us to “stand firm,” he wants Christ’s followers to keep on keepin’ on. Don’t allow anyone to sway you from sound doctrine or  hinder you from serving the Lord.

Paul devoted considerable ink to defending the resurrection of the dead. False preachers in the Corinthian church denied that essential doctrinal truth. Some of the local believers were swayed by the false teaching, and Paul took them to task.

The Apostle’s proclamation of the gospel maintained that saving faith included believing in Christ’s resurrection. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Then we who have trusted the Lord for eternal life will also be bodily resurrected. You can’t have one without the other. And if you deny this doctrinal absolute: “… your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

WHAT we believe is as important as believing.

Even today, there are people who call themselves Christians who deny anything supernatural about Christ. No resurrection. No ascension into heaven. They say Jesus’ body was stolen by His disciples. Their sole reason for saying they follow Christ is because they like His teachings. They also deny His miracles. Paul says to those who believe this way, “you have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2) In fact, following Christ solely by intellect is futile and does not result in salvation. “… without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“Stand firm,” holding to your good confession of faith and in the Lord’s work.

The Apostle emphasizes that “… your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  Those words of encouragement aren’t spoken nearly enough. If Satan can’t rattle your faith, he’ll attack your work for the Lord. Your service for Christ matters.

Often we approach Christian service like the old western gunfighters who kept notches in their guns to commemorate their victories. Few or no notches makes us feel like failures. But that’s not the way God looks at Christian service. It’s a group effort in which God gives the increase. Paul referenced this model in 1 Corinthians 3:6. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” That is to say, remain faithful in the Lord’s work and leave the results up to Him.

That was a hard lesson for me to learn coming out of broadcasting. In radio, we lived and died by ratings. It probably didn’t help that early in my ministry other pastors wanted to compare notes on Sunday School attendance and baptisms.

I can’t imagine any servant of Christ who hasn’t occasionally felt they had worked in vain. Adjustments may be necessary. Wise counsel may be in order. A change in the type of service could be in your best interest. Just don’t quit.

We’re not called to be superheroes; just faithful and humble servants motivated by love for the Lord. Whatever you do in His name — matters.

For more on this topic, check out this article: How to Prevent Christian Service Burnout

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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