Monday, June 22, 2015

Bullwhips, Knives, BB Guns, Bow & Arrows

The innocent days of childhood, carefree sun filled summer time and cool-aide ran through my mind the other day and I remembered these cute quips. “Sugar and spice and everything nice: That’s what little girls are made of.” Contrary to that we are taught, “Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails: That’s what little boys are made of.”

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (KJV)

When I was 10 years old my parents moved our family to the desert. I was so excited because we were moving to the wild-west. Along the way I spent what little money I had on what I considered necessities. Somewhere in Texas I picked up a Bullwhip. As we drove through New Mexico I added a bow and arrows to the collection of weapons my youthful mind considered “must haves.” I already owned an assortment of knives and BB guns. I was prepared for any uprising. I would not be caught by the unexpected.

There was no end to the depth of my despair when reality hit. There were no feathered Indians with war paint and scalping knives. The gun toting outlaws didn’t ware neckerchiefs and ride horseback. Life in Arizona was just as modern and boring as life in Tennessee, although the people did talk funny!

Ephesians 4:10-16 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (KJV)

It’s time to stop playing with the ideas that divide us and start teaching the TRUTH that unifies us! Let go of the old stereotypes. See in others the glory of our King. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Not Another Bite

 Coming home from a breakfast meeting this morning, I was struck with the thought of spiritual starvation. We live in abundance but wither and faint for lack of substance. We are starving in the midst of a feast. Christians are experiencing a self-imposed hunger strike daily – Not of bread, meat and drink – On those we grow fat – But we deny ourselves the rich nourishment of God’s Holy Word.

As I drove home I listened to the Christian radio station. I noticed that there was a vast variety of tiny bites of Bible each packaged in sweetly dressed and quite appealing devotional messages – like going to a Tapas (small flavorful over-priced bites)  Restaurant for the soul. Medical professionals tell us to cut down on saturated fats and increase our intake of fiber to promote a heart healthy diet – Translating that to our spiritual condition we need more than beautifully arranged appetizers. We need a meal!  

(Ezekiel 3:1-4)

“Did y’ eat yet?”

The Master has set the table – Come and dine!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recognizing Responsibility Mastering YOUR Ministry

It is always an honor, a blessing and a privilege to address God’s people with His truth. I hope this message will be challenging, uplifting and motivating to each of us. Looking at the title of the message, and knowing my own limitations, I fully understand that accomplishing any of these goals is impossible without God’s intervention.

You may have arrived here with some pretty clear perceptions and beliefs about what ministry is and who is responsible for it. I know that two months ago I had some pretty strong ideas on the subject. I’m going to ask three questions to measure where we are as a group. First do you believe in the concept of “the Priesthood of all believers”?  Second, do you believe God does “Extraordinary things using Extremely Ordinary People”? Third, ARE YOU ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN MINISTRY?

Statistics tell us that 80-90% of ministry is done by 10-20% of the congregation. If we believe “the Priesthood of all believers” exists, why haven’t more than 20% in our congregations answered the call to ministry? Our communities are filled with needs.

A few years ago, General Superintendent Reverend Doctor George Wood challenged every ministry in the Assemblies of God to evaluate their activity in ministry based on five core values and ten core behaviors in essence he was asking us to examine what we promote and how we practice Christian living. Relax! I’m not going to take you through my two month journey, responding to that challenge, but I have prepared a handout; if you’re interested in taking the journey yourself. Today I’m just going to share some of the highlights to see if we are all on the Same Page.

Being on the same page is not and does not mean always doing the same thing as everyone else. What are some of the vital life giving ministries we, “the Priesthood of ALL Believers”, get involved with?

Teaching Ministries
Evangelistic Outreach
Administering Mercy & Care
Missions Trips
Serving Faithfully in a variety of areas

Can you see there is no end to the possibilities in ministry?  Ministry happens in an unending variety of ways as God uses individuals He has created and inspired. There is a ministry opportunity for every believer and if it doesn’t already exist as a ministry we’ll make room for it. Every ministry must be founded upon the Word of God and nothing in this life is without responsibility. Ministry works best in teams. “Some plant some water, but God gives the increase.” Let’s examine a few questions as well as the Scriptures that I believe answer them, and see if we actually Recognizing Responsibility in Ministry.

Who called you?

1 Peter 2:9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (NLT)

Who equipped you?

2 Corinthians 3:5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. (NLT)

Who is with you?

Joshua 1:5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (NIV)

What do you see?

1 Samuel 10:6-7 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. (NIV)

What do you have?

Ephesians 5:17-21 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (KJV)

What do you need?

Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (KJV)

Answering these questions in light of Scripture:

Who called you? And everyone said God

Who equipped you? And everyone said God

Who is with you? And everyone said God

What do you see? This is the only question that is the least little bit tough to answer. It’s not tough to answer because it is difficult to understand. It is difficult because it goes against our natural tendencies. Normally, according to my experience as a Pastor, when people see things that need to be done; they start looking for the Pastor to let him know there is a ministry opportunity that must be addressed. If they can’t find the Pastor, the next best thing is to find his wife. I don’t really know if ministry happens the same way in big churches, but in my eight years at Cocopah Assembly of God that was the normal practice. So, if you already know what I’m going to say next, and you already practice ministry this way when I’m finished with the next statement I want you to jump to your feet and shout, “Halleluiah!” Are you ready?

The best way to approach ministry opportunities is: “When you see something that needs to be done and God is speaking to you – JUST DO IT.” God called you. God will equip you. God goes with you.

It is wise to ask for council, but don’t pass the buck.

What do you have? Access to the presence, power, and anointing of God…all you need.

What do you need? Absolutely nothing that cannot be supplied by God.

There are four powerfully dynamic Keys to Mastering Your Ministry. They will ensure success. Has anyone guessed what the keys are yet?

Know your gifts…God has equipped you!

Exercise your abilities…Action belongs to you!

Submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit…God supplies your needs!

Give the glory to Jesus…God is in charge of the outcome!

Talking about recognizing responsibility & giving you the four key to mastering YOUR ministry doesn’t really explain anything about ministry. The way I see it, ministry, all ministry requires three aspects. There is an Action, there is the Provision, and there is an Outcome…Action = what the ministry does…Provision = who pays for the ministry…Outcome = the results produced by the ministry. Who is Responsible for Which Aspect of Ministry?

By now, everyone should know I was a teacher for 19 years and once in a while I miss the classroom. The way I solved that problem is making this a mini-assignment. Here is the assignment: Who is responsible for which aspect of ministry?

Choose the answer that best completes the sentence. Three short sentences and a choice between one of two words to complete each sentence – easy! Right? As I read the statement you select an answer. We will make sure everyone has the correct answers at the end.

What we are talking about today is being “in ministry” so keep that in mind as you choose your answer. Notice Pastor, Board Member, or Sunday School Teacher are not options. It is between God and us (individually).

The action in ministry belongs to __________ (God or Us).
The provision in ministry belongs to _______ (God or Us).
The outcome in ministry belongs to _________ (God or Us).

Really give this some thought…action in ministry…provision in ministry…outcome in ministry…to whom do these things belong?

And The Answers Are

The action in ministry belongs to us. All other aspects of ministry belong to God. God is the one Who has promised to provide and He is the one responsible for the outcome or success of our ministry.

If you are here tonight and you get excited about The Great Commission can you just shout, “Go and make disciples”? We should all get excited about sharing our faith and making disciples. Part of that commission is going out and bringing people to Jesus.

Luke 14:16-20 & 23

Luke 14:16-17 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’

Continuing on

Luke 14:18-20 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

And Finally

Luke 14:23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.

This passage teaches us that God has prepared a place for everyone and we are being sent to bring them to the Lord. Just a few minutes ago I just heard a bunch of people shout “Go Make Disciples”. Now we are going to re-examine Being on the Same Page and we will move from there to the closing phase of this message. What are we talking about again? Recognizing Responsibility Mastering YOUR Ministry.

As the body of Christ and as the Church, being on the same page does not mean that we all have to be doing the same things, or that we have to always do things the same way. We serve a wonderfully creative God and the ministries created can be as unique as the individuals God calls into His family. The only hard and fast rules are – Don’t change the revelation and don’t violate Scripture. The Apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:19 & 23.

1 Corinthians 9:19 & 23 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. ... I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (NASB)

The only thing that remains in this message is some personal Reflection, Evaluation, & Motivation.

Ask yourself these two questions. Understand I’m not asking you to share your discovery at this point. I’m challenging all of us to line our lives up with God’s Word. There is a ministry for you. God called you. He equips you, and provides for you. He is waiting for you to Master YOUR Ministry. Are you asleep and making excuses as the people in the passage from Luke were? Are you awake and actively making disciples be every means available as Paul was?

We always have a choice. We can be part of REM – Rapid Eye Movement – Our dream state, or we can choose to be part of REM – Revolutionary Evangelistic Ministries – Ministries created by you as you answer God’s many calls to discipleship.

So what were those Keys to Mastering Your Ministry?

Quickly and finally help me reread these Keys to Mastering YOUR Ministry out loud and together.

         Know your gifts…God has equipped YOU!
         Exercise your abilities…Action belongs to YOU!
         Submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit…God supplies YOUR needs.
         Give the glory to JESUS…God is in charge of the outcome!

Have you been challenged? Have you been uplifted? Has this message been motivating? Then “Go and make disciples”. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Character Really Matters

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. (KJV)

Character Really Matters

            Nature vs. Nurture is an age old debate. Which has more influence on our behavior can exhaust even the greatest philosophers, sociologists, or psychologists. Anyone who stop to consider the choices we make can quickly sink into the quicksand of this debate, but is it our inherited nature or our learned behaviors that chart our course through life?

            Don’t worry I’m not writing a doctoral thesis! I’m not wise enough to definitively settle the issue. I’ve just been questioning why people, all people, get stuck in patterns of “negative” or more accurately SINFUL choices.

Jesus compared us to trees. Good trees and bad trees, both are judged by the fruit they produce.  The fruit is the product of our lives. On the surface, it sounds as if we are created either good or bad and have no choice in the direction toward righteousness or evil we travel. We speak and take actions based upon the abundance of our heart. Examine your heart today. Can we, who are accustomed to doing evil, choose to do justice, love mercy, and humble ourselves before God? (Matthew 7:17 & Micah 6:8)

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. God has an expectation for us, and we disappoint Him. Jesus, in His temporal life, called that generation an evil generation. Humanity has not improved. The church in years past believed in the transforming POWER of God. We held to the conviction God was at work in us changing our sinful nature into the image of His Son. Today we spend more time offering our opinions and evaluating the individual “fit” potential converts bring to the congregation. (Matthew 12:30-35)

Character really matters. God is far more interested in our spiritual condition than our outward appearance. We cannot superimpose our expectations as to how God is building His Kingdom. We should allow Him to place the “living stones” into His house as He has planned. None of us came into the family of God by our own design. We will not be perfected this side of glory. Simply accept God at His Word. We will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)

            Stop measuring people by what we think they can do for us, or how well liked they are and begin to see everyone as God sees them. Anyone, who has accepted Christ and is living in new life in Him is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

            If we return to Jeremiah’s question: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then can you, who are accustomed to doing evil, learn to do good. The answer is: We cannot accomplish a transformation without God. Character really matters. God is daily changing us into the image of His Son. (Mark 10:26-28)