Issues of Life #31
The Call Part 17
“And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith,”
If you have been reading this article for the past few months you have heard lots of Biblical truth concerning the issue of personal ministry. You have probably decided by now whether or not you’re going to comply with that truth. I highly encourage you to do so, primarily so that you will experience the joy of the Lord in the measure that He wants you to. That joy (Jn. 15:8-11) comes from answering and fulfilling the call of God on your life and functioning in the gifting whereby He has called you. Hopefully, as Biblical truth has been presented, you have at least considered the possibility of cooperating with the Lord and His plan for you. If you have grown up in the American church, chances are that you have not heard much about participating in personal ministry. It is usually left for someone else to do somewhere else. Tradition, whether it is right or wrong, speaks with a loud voice. And tradition, in this case, may have robbed you from the adventure and joy of serving the Lord. The more ‘religionized’ we have become will dictate how much resistance and how many objections we have toward actually serving the Lord in personal ministry. My final question to those who still resist is, “If you’re not going to do it, then who is?”, “If it’s not going to happen now, then when?” “If it’s not going to happen here, then where?”
On the other hand there are those who, in their spirit have said yes, but now have the objection, “I’m not sure that I can do it”, here’s your hope! The fact is that none of us can really do it. It is “Christ in us, the hope of glory”. God doesn’t call us and expect us to do it alone. He’s there, by His Spirit, to help us in things that we could never do by ourselves. So, it’s actually a healthy mindset that we understand that we cannot do it. If we could do it, we wouldn’t need God to complete it. He’s there, He will empower you and the results will be absolutely glorious! He’s the ‘author and the finisher of our faith’.
Issues of Life #32
The Call Part 18
If we are to find significance, true contentment and genuine joy in serving the Lord in personal ministry then where do we start? First we should commit ourselves to be students of the Word of God. If we don’t minister the Word of God then we will just be counselors. We may have plenty of good, sound advice but it is no substitute for God’s Word! Second we need to submit to the character building process. Character doesn’t just happen; it’s produced in those whose heart is faithful to the Father. Character doesn’t happen overnight either. It’s a lifetime process. He’s the potter, we’re the clay. He will use every single circumstance that we encounter in our life to build character in us. We should allow Him to mold us and bend us into His image. Third, we need to learn from those more mature and seasoned than us. We can avoid making common mistakes by learning from others. “You may have ten thousand instructors in Christ but you don’t have many Fathers”, Paul said. What we need is, not more teachers but those who take an interest in our lives, those who will correct us if needed and those who will love us enough to say, “no”, when necessary. Fourth, we should let our pastor or leaders know of our desire to serve. We should submit to their authority and depend on their judgment as to when we are ready to be trusted with personal ministry. God has placed them in our lives as overseers of our souls. We actually have no authority unless we’re submitted to authority. Some would say, “I don’t submit to anyone but God.” It may sound noble, even spiritual, but it’s a dangerous position to take. The best evidence that we’re submitted to God is the fact that we are submitted to those that He has placed in authority over us! It’s God’s prescribed way and there is protection for us built in to His program. Accountability is not only important in the believer’s life, it’s a necessity. Fifth and last, at least for this article is the mandate for a servant’s heart. We should find a place of need in our church and serve. Doing it behind the scenes is probably also important. That’s a great test of our heart. If we’re not willing to serve when nobody’s watching….we’re certainly not ready for ‘prime time’!
Issues of Life #33
The Call Part 19
While there are a myriad of ways that one can grow in personal ministry, many people get hung up at the start. In a continuation from last week here are a number of additional issues to be considered as we get moving in personal ministry.
Being sensitive to, and being led by the Holy Spirit is paramount in the pursuit of excellence in ministry. Being led by the Spirit is a learned response. We come into this ‘new life’ without knowing anything about following the lead of the Holy Spirit. We learn as we go and our Teacher is the Holy Spirit, Himself! Without the Holy Spirit’s help in ministry nothing supernatural will happen. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is life! When we let God have His way, by the Spirit, the results in ministry always exceed what we could ever do on our own. So, we should make it a priority to learn to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We will get better at it if we’ll let Him teach us!
Jesus didn’t just minister to the people that came to Him. As He daily went about His way He was conscious of those He encountered who needed help. He was looking for those who were hurting, wounded or poor. We must be careful in the church today not to limit our ministry just to the ‘comers’. In fact, Jesus’ instructions required that His followers would “go ye into all the world”. We are to ‘give away’ the grace that has been given to us. “Freely you have received, freely give”, Jesus said, indicating that the blessings of God should not stop with us. We should also bless others in the same manner that we, ourselves have been blessed. This is one of the surest ways that we can show Jesus to the world. It would be an interesting thing if we were to be aggressive in looking for needs. The problem is that, to do that, it costs us! It can cost us our time, our money and our resources, and most folks are simply not willing to make the sacrifice. If the church would consider this one principle and maybe, by chance, step out in faith to walk it out….the world would change in a hurry!
Issues of Life #34
The Call Part 20
All opportunities for ministry, personal or otherwise, should be under girded by genuine, heartfelt prayer. Prayer is our most effective means of communication with the Father. Prayer is not just a venue for us to submit our requests to God but also a time to listen to what He is saying to us. As we ask and listen we can discern the plan and will of God in ministry opportunities. Through persevering prayer we pray our ministry opportunities into being. Through prayer we invoke the help of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that, “The works are prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”. Our lives have been planned out down to the most intricate details by the Father. As we apply ourselves in prayer we find ourselves living out that plan. Through prayer we ask for the provision of God. God provides opportunities for ministry. He provides the resources that we need to successfully complete the ministry. He provides other helpers who are also seeking to walk by faith and be obedient in ministry. His Word says that, “He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. Through consistent communication with the Father we’re able to know His will and participate with Him in it.
Prayer gets us ready for the opportunities we encounter for personal ministry. But the ministry itself is also accomplished through prayer. For instance, when a marriage is in danger of separation or divorce the prescribed method of ministry is to pray! Maybe it is someone who has been given a hopeless report from their doctor. Again the proper method of ministry is to pray. James said, “You have not because you ask not”. I believe that God wants us to ask Him to move in, what many times looks to be, impossible situations. Then there’s the issue of follow-up prayer. When victory is achieved or positive results manifest through ministry it is not a time to relax. We are able to maintain the victory through continual prayer. We can express our gratitude to the Father for hoped for, or manifest, results. It’s how we pray by faith.
Watchman Nee, a great leader of the underground church in China a generation ago says that, “If we fail in prayer, we fail in everything”. John Wesley said, “God does nothing except in answer to prayer”. It’s obvious to the serious follower of God that destiny cannot be achieved without a life of prayer. And for us as believers it’s not “if” we pray but “when we pray”!
Issues of Life #35
The Call Part 21
When we in the American church think about the different facets of ministry we’re limited in that thought process because of what we have been taught. There are those who pastor churches, those who lead worship or are on the worship team. There are those who teach Sunday School or do the work of a missionary. Outside that we have generally not recognized many other ministries that are just as legitimate as those listed above. And when we talk about equipping people for ministry those obvious few again come to mind. But there is something else to be considered. We should give some thought to the fact that our vocation is our ministry. Think about it. If plumbers, roughnecks, lawyers, truck drivers, policemen, cowboys, secretaries and teachers would approach their jobs as a ministry the world would change in a hurry. Churches would do well to educate their people in this manner. It would assure that we have the people of God strategically placed in every area of our culture to bring the will of God into the marketplace. Otherwise all we have to offer those that we’re in relationship with is to invite them to church. Nothing wrong with that but when we’re walking in His Truth and available to Him for ministry, we actually have a lot more to offer than just inviting someone to our church. Besides, many people that we’re in relationship with in the workplace are not going to church. They may not want to go to church at this point in their life. But if you are in relationship with this person and you have the right heart for ministry God will open the door for you to minister to them in different areas of their lives.
At any rate when we get faithful in the natural realm God will bless us in the spiritual realm. When we get obedient to the Father right where we’re at, God will use us. Whether or not we move into one of the more accepted roles of ministry is something that only God, Himself can decide. It depends first on His call upon our life and then it depends on our faithfulness to His plan for us. And the important thing is this. If God has called you to be an electrician He will give you plenty of opportunities to minister in His behalf. Ministry is not just about what happens at the church house. It’s also about what happens on the outside!
Issues of Life #36
“And I say also unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt 16:18
What is the church? When you ask people that question you might get a variety of answers. To most, when they hear the word, church, they think of the building with the stained-glass windows and the steeple. Others might think of an organization that is known for propagating Godly teaching and principles. But the true definition of the church is quite a distance away from either of these examples. The Greek word translated into our English word for church is “ekklesia”. The word simply means “those called out” or “a company of professed believers”. So neither the building nor the organization would an adequate definition of the church. It is also interesting to note that not one time in the Bible is the church referred to as a place or an organization. It always refers to a ‘people’! Jesus, the Master Carpenter, declared that “He would build His church”. But He never contemplated building a structure made with human hands. Instead He was talking about a spiritual organism….not an organization. Organizations don’t have a conscience; they don’t have life in them. But an organism, on the other hand, has life. Especially when the organism receives its life from the Creator of the Universe!
So the church then is the assembly of “called out” believers, those who are called out of darkness into His marvelous light. The church is the one organism on the planet that God has designed to give the world hope. The church is that community of believers that the Father has purposed to change the world with. It is a people called out of every tribe, every tongue and every nation.
The church is a diverse organism indeed. It is made up of people from literally every walk of life; rich, poor, black, white, yellow, red, tall, short and the list goes on and on. And the incredible thing is this: God has gifted each one of these innumerable number of believers in various ways so that they would be participants, not spectators in the Father’s grand scheme. The church is called the Body of Christ and it just makes sense that every part of the Body would be working in conjunction with every other part so that the Body is functioning and in proper working order. When the Body is functioning….the world is being changed!
Issues of Life #37
The Fatherhood of God
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called sons of God”. 1 Jn. 3:1
The thought of a mere person trying to relate to God can boggle the mind. I mean, He’s the Creator of the Universe and we’re just plain flesh and bone…..and pretty limited compared to Him. The Bible says that, “God’s ways are higher than our ways.” Incidentally, His ways are not just a little higher than our ways….there’s a huge gap in the way that God thinks compared to how we think! He is, however, narrowing that gap as He conforms us into the image of Jesus. So, it seems like an impossible stretch for us and our flesh to actually relate to God in any kind of understandable way. Well, God has made it so much simpler in how we relate to Him in that He desires to be our ‘Father’. Now that’s a relationship that I can understand. Some would say that God wants us to relate to Him as sons and daughters to make it easier to understand the relationship. Even though it definitely simplifies the relationship I don’t think that is entirely the reason that God wants to be our Father. God wants to be Father because it is actually Who He is! Yes, He’s the One Who created it all, alright but the essence of Who He is, is a Father. His Word declares that He has sent His Spirit into our hearts crying back to Him, Abba Father. The clearest English word that we have for Abba is daddy! The truth is that God really wants us to see Him as Father. It is the simplest of all relationships. It’s simple enough for the least of us to actually relate to Him in an understandable way. Religion does much to complicate the whole process of relating to God but we don’t need to lose the simplicity of just going to Him as Dad. Each of us has an inherent need to be accepted and valued by a father. Our natural fathers hold a valuable place in that respect. But the truth is that even our natural father’s love and acceptance can’t meet the deepest need that resides in us. It is only the love and acceptance of our Heavenly Father that can adequately and completely fulfill that need. Our life takes on a whole new dimension when we begin to relate to Him as Father!
Issues of Life #38
A Living Sacrifice
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom. 12:1
Paul lived a separated life unto the Lord. There are many things in this life that you can only learn as you become ‘separated’ unto Him. We are in the world but we are not of this world. Our citizenship, the Bible states, is not here but in heaven. Because of his abandonment to the Lord Paul found one of the great secrets of life. That is, the great blessings in life come from giving ourselves totally to the Lord. Of course when we’re on the outside looking in it doesn’t make any sense at all. It is only when we engage in relationship with the Father that it begins to get clear and the rewards of true contentment become evident to us.
In the verse above, Paul is encouraging the believers in Rome to present their bodies a living sacrifice to the Lord. Biblically speaking, a sacrifice is something given to God as an act of worship. Many things were brought to the Most High God under the Old Covenant in the act of worship such as sheep, bulls, goats and offerings from the ‘fruit of the ground’. The bringing of these sacrifices was initiated by God under previous covenants but there was approaching a time where believers would come into the presence of God by a ‘new and living way’. You see, the Father had always wanted and up-close and personal relationship with His people. But it couldn’t happen until the Father made a ‘sacrifice’ of His own. And the sacrifice couldn’t be just any sacrifice. It had to be a perfect one! The only thing that could be done to bring us into a right relationship with the Father was that God would have to give a sacrifice that would, once and for all, cleanse His people of their sin. It had already been decided……even before the World was created. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son would give His life so that we might be forgiven of our sins and enter a personal relationship with the Father. Not a relationship from a distance but one in which we could enjoy His fellowship, hear His voice and truly experience His love.
So, as Paul states, we should ‘give’ ourselves back to Him as the ultimate act of worship. It is one thing to worship Him with singing. It is still something else to do things ‘for’ Him. Certainly there is nothing wrong with those things but what He is really after is you and I making the decision by faith to give our lives wholly to Him for His glory and for His use. That’s how we become a living sacrifice. It is then and only then that we find our true significance!
Issues of Life #39
God Is Looking…What Will He Find?
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to prove Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
The Father could have done all of it Himself but He has chosen for us to be involved in a very active way. He created the rapidly expanding universe by simply ‘speaking’ it into being! He is all powerful, all knowing and all doing. He really doesn’t need any help if you look at from His position. But His chosen way of getting things done on the earth is for us to co-labor with Him to establish His kingdom. He desires our help to win the world to Jesus. I don’t claim to have the exact perspective of the Father but it just seems that from a practical standpoint that He wants us to experience His glory in the things that He has chosen for us to do. Granted, He can do it all Himself but He wants us to experience His power, His grace and His love as we serve others in this life. So, He is looking for those who are ‘given’ to Him. He’s looking for those that have an abandoned heart for Him. He’s looking for those who yearn for His presence and for His companionship.
He’s looking for loyal hearts, hearts that are loyal toward Him and His plan. To Him, hearts that are loyal for the things of God are of a premium value. It is easy for our hearts to be perverted. It’s the way of the flesh. Our hearts can be divided in that we may long for the will of God but we also long for our own will to be done. A divided heart can keep us in a place of non-effectiveness. We must each examine our own heart if we’re to progress into the perfect will of the Father. We must purge the sin and iniquity from our hearts. We must humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord so that we may be exalted in due time. We must make the choice to be ‘loyal’ to Him. It’s a heart issue!
Then when we move into that place of having our hearts loyal to Him He will use us to the extent that He has planned. His Word declares that signs and wonders will follow them that believe. It says that we shall lay hands on the sick and they will recover. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works! God is looking! When He looks at your household…..what will He find?
Issues of Life #40
“A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
There are many references in the Bible that give us instruction about the use of our words. The words that we use are very important indeed. It is our words that reveal our thoughts. It is with our words that we communicate with the Father through prayer and petition. Our words can reveal the intentions of our heart. Wholesome and positive words will almost always have a positive effect on the hearers. Negative, condemning or critical words obviously have the opposite effect on those who are listening. But negative words are not only harmful to the listener they are also harmful for the one who speaks them. The above verse is clear about that fact. It says that however we choose to use our words we will be rewarded. We will reap the fruit of our words. If our words are negative we will reap a harvest of such things as defeat, depression, anxiety and discouragement. The writer of Proverbs declares that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” With our words we can speak blessings and with our words we can speak curses. The Bible, symbolically speaking about our words, tells us that good water and bitter water should not come from the same well!
Negative words can reveal the discontent and unhappiness in our hearts. The Bible says that, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” We can’t really hide our inner feelings when we talk…and, in the same token, we cannot hide true happiness and contentment. It is revealed in our words.
As our minds are renewed by the Word of God our words become more and more positive and uplifting. Because of the work of the Lord in our lives and the life that he brings to our spirit, our hearts are changed and it is clearly revealed when we speak. Kind words send a message of acceptance to the hearers. Encouraging words to others help to set the course of their lives. A word of praise to a child or an employee will cause the person to work hard to please the one speaking. Words of praise give others a needed boost to their self esteem. It gives them a feeling of worth. And in turn the one who speaks the encouraging words is also blessed. What kind of seeds are you planting with your words?