Begin With Prayer

This particular verse has been coming up over and over again for me, in different books, prayers and sermons.  So I decided that God really wanted me to H.E.A.R. it.

Highlight

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”  Matthew 9:37-38

Explain

As Jesus went about teaching and healing, He had compassion for the many people following Him, because they were lost and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He told his disciples to begin by praying that God would send workers out to them.  He doesn’t tell them to get organized, make a plan or start immediately.  Prayer comes first.  In the next chapter, He gives the disciples the authority to heal and sends them out.  They were to be the workers!

Apply

I am both to pray for workers and be a worker.  Like Jesus, I must have compassion for those around me and a desire to tell them about the true leader, Jesus Christ–the only one who is able to save them.

Respond

Dear Heavenly Father, Remove all fears of rejection from my heart.  Send me to your helpless sheep.  Fill me with love and a holy yearning to bring others into your kingdom.  Amen.

 

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Get Ready to Get Dirty

“But Jesus called to them and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you;  but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;  even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.”  Matthew 20:25-28

The sermon at the Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s was entitled, “Jesus Got Dirty.”  The Son of God was born, not in a sterile hospital room, but a stable, filled with animal smells and rotting straw.  He was welcomed by sweaty, travel-worn, unwashed people.  Think about it …. if a feeding trough was the cleanest place to lay a newborn, what were the rest of the surroundings like?  Jesus, the purest person ever, was willing to get dirty to serve us.  Why?  Well, there was no other choice.  Justice had to be satisfied, and it had to be satisfied by a human being.  So Jesus came down into our mess in order to redeem our lives.

This should tell us something important about service.  If we’re to be servants, there are plenty of times when we’ll get dirty.  Sometimes the dirt will just be the everyday grime of life — cleaning up the garage, washing the feet of the elderly, changing babies and cooking meals.  Other times, we’ll find ourselves dealing with the mud created by sinful behavior, selfish decisions and untidy circumstances. Often we won’t know what we’re getting into until we’re mired in that mud as well.

Serving isn’t easy and it isn’t neat.  We’ll deal with death and divorce, disease and distasteful duties. The people we’ll serve won’t always be “nice” or even appreciative. We’ll get dirty… but Jesus was willing to get dirty for us … are we willing to continue His work and get dirty for others?

Pray To Be A Servant

“and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 10:27-28

This verse tells us that those who desire to be honored in the kingdom of God must imitate His Son and become servants.  That means that as Christians, we should  all be praying daily for opportunities to serve  I found this resource online you might like to use as you ask God to make you His servant in the world.  Maybe you could print it out and try it as a spiritual discipline for one month.  What a great New Year’s Resolution it would be!

http://northgaumc.s3.amazonaws.com/Files/Prayer_Calendar/Servantprayercal.pdf

Who Do You Serve? #2

“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward;  you are serving the Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24

I talked in a previous post about how we sometimes dislike serving because of what we are expected to do;  we also often fail to serve because of “who” is doing the asking.  Maybe it’s the parent who mistreated you as a child — now they’re elderly and need your help.  Maybe it’s the unappreciative and critical boss — quick to call on you to fix a problem, but slow with words of praise.  Maybe it’s the needy friend who never seems to have time for you, but expects you to instantly jump to her aid when she calls.  Maybe you don’t even like serving the needy–I mean, why weren’t they more responsible in the first place?

It’s a fact.  Serving others often means serving those we don’t particularly like or admire.  Serving means helping those who are undeserving and even critical.  Are we really called to do this?

Well, the short answer is yes.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”  Matthew 5:46

The reasoning is this: first of all, we’re not really serving those unlovable people in our lives, we’re serving God.  We shouldn’t expect a “reward” for our service in the here and now.  That comes later, and it will be amazingly indescribable:  eternity with the One who created us.   Secondly, those undeserving wretches you don’t want to serve — well the Bible tells us,  ” such were some of you.”  1 Corinthians 7:11.  The only difference is:

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  1 Corinthians 11

Jesus didn’t save us because we were worthy.  He served us and saved us out of love, compassion and mercy.  He wants us to follow His example.  So, go in peace and serve the Lord!

 

 

Persecuted Saints

While on vacation I read a book entitled, Hearts of Fire, the story of eight different women who were persecuted for their Christian faith.  It was published by Voice of the Martyrs, an organization started by Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina in 1967.  Sabina’s story is one of the eight recounted.  Both of the Wurmbrands were arrested and imprisoned in Romania after World War II.  In spite of this, they continued to speak and spread the gospel. After being ransomed by the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance in 1965 they came to the United States determined to speak for persecuted Christians throughout the world.

Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith

The organization has many books, videos, brochures and other products to help you and your church learn more about the persecuted church.  They offer many ways to help, including prayer, donations and letters of encouragement.

This book is not easy reading for those of us who live in a country where we are free to practice and proclaim our faith.  You’ll be pulled into the testimonies of these faithful women from different cultures and times who truly put Christ first — before their jobs, their families, their freedom, even their lives.  It is humbling and inspiring;  it teaches much about faith and forgiveness.  I certainly recommend this book to our readers, and hope you will visit the Voice of the Martyrs website for further information.  You can also call 800-747-0085 to order materials or receive a free monthly newsletter.

https://www.persecution.com/

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:10

 

Fanning the Flame #18 Things Are Changing

We had a congregational meeting last Sunday, and there was a difficult discussion.  Over the course of many years, people have designated part of their contribution to benevolence;  instead of giving this money away, it has been used as a cushion to help pay the daily expenses of running the church.  Worse than that, it became a crutch to allow ourselves deny the ugly truth that we’re not giving enough to sustain God’s church.  We need to repent and rectify this situation.

Fortunately we do now recognize this sin, and the council has a plan to wipe out our debt and give us a clean slate( a positive step).  This leaves us with the problem — how do we go forward without falling back into the same pattern?  We’d all like to pin the blame and the responsibility to fix the issue on somebody else.  If only EVERYONE would give more.  If only SOMEBODY would plan more fundraisers– etc., etc..

Then Beth Ann made a very good point.  FIRST we need to PRAY.  I have been at St. Paul’s for over thirteen years now, and I have never heard anyone say this in the midst of a meeting before.  This is a change.  I only wish we had taken it further and PRAYED right then and there.  It might have changed the whole tone of the meeting.  This morning God has put another conviction about this on my heart — we each need to pray, not for God to provide a miracle, or to make everyone else do the right thing;  we need to pray that God would show each one of us what we can do to nourish and sustain God’s church right here where we are.  I need to search my heart to see what God would have me do. I need to become a better steward, not just of my money, but of my spiritual gifts and my time.  I need to be like the little boy who trusted Christ with his few loaves and fishes.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  1 Timothy 2:15

I can’t change anyone else, but I can change myself.  I don’t want to stand before God, ashamed because I gave Him only the leftovers of my life.  I want to hear the words,

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! Matthew 25:23

I’m convinced we’re changing and moving in the right direction.  This is a sign that God is at work.  My prayer is that He will continue to change us by first changing me.  Pray with me, friends and readers … I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

Christians Know

There is a long list of things I’m not. I’m not patient, kind, loving, wonderful, special, talented . . . well you get the idea. You might say, ‘Oh, your being too hard on yourself.’ or, ‘That isn’t true, I’ve met you are a indeed kind and patient.’ Yes, that may be true-sometimes. Still, I know that I am not those things one hundred percent of the time. I will occasionally slip and say something less than kind. Maybe justifying it as a joke. Even if I manage not to say it out loud, my thoughts betray me. Even if I bite my tongue when someone puts me down or they act obnoxiously, my outward appearance might not match my spirit. If I curse my enemy inwardly is it not the same as an outward lashing?

Matthew 5:28

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Therefore, it is as it is with laws. Either I follow the letter of the law or the spirit of the law. And most of the time I fail miserably at following both. If you aren’t a christian, I honestly have no idea how one deals with the crushing knowledge the we fail as human beings at some level constantly. I can only come to the conclusion that some really don’t know. That they go about life believing that they are as close to perfection as possible. Maybe, but for my part I have not yet met such a person. In fact if you watch the news at all the world seems to be full of the opposite.

All that said, here is my not so secret-secret for dealing with the knowledge that I am so completely and utterly flawed. I’ve read a book. And it say this:

 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.