Tag Archives: ministry

Part of the Family

Numbers 1-3

One thing I notice as I read these chapters is how God divided up the work between families, as well as individuals. Many, many people worked on many, many assignments so the people would be safe, the tabernacle would be moved and cared for efficiently, and worship would please God.

Did God include these repetitive details in His Word as an example to us in 2023?

I personally don’t believe God wrote anything in Scripture just so we’d have information. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

So yes, I believe these details are carefully included in God’s Word to teach us something that will grow us today.

I think of my own church – and maybe yours. Is the pastor expected to carry the load of ministry by himself? There’s no way Moses could have carried the tabernacle by himself. It took hundreds of people to do that.

I think God would have us see ministry as a joint effort, not just the duty of one man, or a few faithful servants. As the Jews cared for the tabernacle, not everyone had the same responsibility. There was only one Moses. One Aaron. One Shimei. One Elizaphan. Hundreds of people assigned varying duties so the Lord’s work could be done efficiently.

So I ask myself – and you – how much of our churches’ ministry falls on the shoulders of the pastor? Now, as the shepherd I would expect him to tend to the flock, to serve with enthusiasm. It’s not an 8-5 kind of job. And because of that, are there people who do their own parts with enthusiasm, too?

Reading these chapters in Numbers reminds me how all of us, individually, have a vital role in the ministry of our churches. The question is, how are we doing?

Here’s a another point to ponder: God singled out families and gave them duties as well. Families!

Our church secretary and her teenage daughter serve together as greeters on Sunday mornings once a month, as does a young woman and her great-grandparents. Our music minister will occasionally pull his two sons together and use their God-given musical talent to sing a special song during worship.

Parents, I would encourage you to, yes, be an example to your children of what serving God in your local church looks like. But then include them when they are ready.

Years ago we had a pastor with a young son. The son had watched his dad greet people, shake hands with people, introduce himself to visitors every Sunday. Often you would see the shy youngster standing next to his dad, observing.

Then one Sunday before the morning service, I had no sooner sat down when the seven-year-old preacher’s son came over and offered his hand. I shook his hand, he said hello and told me he was glad I was there. Then he moved on to another person, then another person and repeated his sweet greeting.

I watched as he shook hands with dozens of people that morning. After that, you would often see him greeting people Sunday mornings, spreading the joy!

I’m thankful God gave us these details in Numbers, an example of what church ministry should look like. Let’s all ask ourselves what God would have us do to make our churches run smoothly so that the Gospel can go forth with power.

And parents, include your children. After all, they are part of the family!

(Jeremiah 46-49) Doing The Lord’s Business

God’s not a fool. And we are foolish if we think He is. We might go to church, teach a Sunday School class, visit the sick, give generously. But if we have not confessed sin, if we do those things with any other motive than to be obedient to our King, God says this to us:

The one who does the Lord’s business deceitfully is cursed. The one who withholds his sword from bloodshed is cursed. (48:10)

Bloodshed? Surely not!

Actually, Jeremiah was speaking of war, of destroying God’s flesh and blood enemies. But thankfully, after the cross, we are not told to kill anyone! We’re told to love our enemies.

Yet what Jeremiah said can and does apply to us. We need to destroy sin in our lives, cut it out, without mercy. Satan is the enemy that applies here. And we cannot withhold bloodshed against him by ignoring sin in our lives.

We can do all the right things and be first in line to volunteer for a ministry. But if we haven’t dealt with our sin at the foot of the cross, we do God’s business deceitfully. And we are cursed.

Jesus Himself addressed this in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not every who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?” Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!

The lesson for us here in Jeremiah and in Jesus’ own word in Matthew is: Deal with the enemy of your soul first by confessing your sin and accepting God’s grace through Jesus’ blood…

THEN get busy doing the Lord’s business! For His sake and His glory!

Don’t Destroy The Work Of God (Romans 14)

I’ve shared that there is an ongoing conflict in CEF with some people leaving the organization, others being fired from their positions. Even though I do not know the details of the core issue, it is not a theological issue. The Gospel of Jesus is not being compromised. Yet, I can say that I have not seen Romans 14:19 played out from either side.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

I am not their judge. But the Bible tells us we will be held accountable for our actions, especially in regards to the ministry of the Gospel. I ask you to be in prayer for all involved.

Now the split has trickled down to our local chapter. It hurts. Our once cohesive Board is divided and some are choosing to leave, others to stay with CEF and carry on the Good News Clubs in our district.

Yes, it hurts. But my prayer is that all of us on the Board will make every effort to do what leads to peace between us, and that we will encourage each other because we all have a passion for sharing Jesus with children.

Paul warns, in verse 20: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” Now, I know some people believe God’s work can’t be destroyed because He is Sovereign. I read the Bible and hear God’s warning through Paul and through the example of the Old Testament Israelites that God’s will is NOT always done if we get in the way.

Paul is talking about food. “Don’t let an insignificant issue like food harm the ministry,” he tells us. But I also hear him say, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of change, or pride, or power, or your need to be ‘right.'” It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the issue. I’ve had to fight anger myself these days. It’s tempting to view people with differing opinions as the enemy, and fight against flesh and blood.

“I’ll show them!”

“No one treats me that way!”

Don’t destroy the work of God because you think you’re not being heard, or because you want the other side to suffer in some way, to get what you think they deserve.

My church is in the middle of a building project. Churches have split over paint color. Let’s not destroy the work of God for the sake of a building’s aesthetics. Rather, let’s make every effort to bring peace, and to edify each other. (I’m not actually worried about this in my church. I’m so thankful for this congregation of people on this island who, with differing opinions, are still living out verse 19).

You don’t like the preacher in your church? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the music? Don’t destroy the work of God.

You don’t like the amount of money given to missions? Don’t destroy the work of God.

Rather, do everything in your power to bring peace to the situation, and to encourage each other with the love of God.

And don’t think that means offering an olive branch will automatically get you what you want. People may never see things the way you see them in issues of administration, or design, or music, or pot-luck dinners, or wearing masks. Keep the peace anyway.

Don’t destroy the work of God.

Ministry Roadblock (2 Corinthians 9)

What do you do when ministry hits a roadblock? Does God ever cause division among His workers? If so, how do you know which side is right and which is wrong?

On matters of doctrine, the Truth of Scripture, Jesus the Savior, the side of right and wrong should be pretty obvious. In fact, divisions over these non-negotiables might be God’s way of weeding Satan out of our midst. But what about matters of opinion, preferences, administration styles, and the like? Can a division in ministry based on those be of God?

I would say absolutely not! I would say those kinds of divisions are Satan’s effective tools to weaken ministry. We need to know the difference and stand with God to protect the ministry, the furthering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please pray for me. I am part of a national ministry that has hit a roadblock because some people don’t like the leadership. Both sides, that of the established leadership and that of those who have rebelled, have valid complaints. And sadly, both sides are guilty of putting their opinions and, dare I say, pride and need for power ahead of the ministry. Neither side is willing to back down, and it has caused a division that is far-reaching, and threatens to effect ministry on the local level where I am involved.

Satan’s gotta be loving this. My heart is broken.

And I want to walk away.

But as I was reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians this morning, He seemed to put a “Dear Connie,” in front of 9:12-13.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

I will be honest to tell you that I considered resigning in the midst of this. I resent being forced to take sides when both sides are obviously doing things that cannot please God. Yet God is reminding me that my service is to Him, that this ministry is still reaching lost souls for Jesus, that what is happening in leadership has not changed the message, and I have the privilege of carrying on regardless of what is happening on the local, state and national levels.

I want obedience to accompany my confession of the Gospel. I am determined that my work in this particular ministry will overflow with thanks to God. But I need your prayers, as does the entire CEF family. I believe God can change this roadblock into a bump in the road. That’s my prayer. Will you join me?

December 12; Prison Ministry

Acts 28:11-31; Ephesians 1-2

I thought the wheels of justice turned slowly in our twenty-first century. Seems they didn’t move much faster in Paul’s day. He was arrested, sent to Rome for trial, then sat there for two years as a prisoner, waiting for his day in court.

I am reminded that Paul was truly an innocent man. What they did to him was unfair. It was just wrong on every level.┬áBut Paul didn’t let his situation paralyze him.

His prison was actually a house. His roommate was a prison guard. And Paul was able to entertain people in his prison/home. For two years Paul’s house was filled with people, and the preaching of the Truth about Jesus. For two years Paul wrote letters like the one we started reading today to the Ephesian church. Two thousand years later God’s words through Paul are still encouraging and convicting hearts.

Paul had an incredible prison ministry.

Too often I let the unfairness of life, or hardships prevent me from sharing Jesus. Those pity parties replace the joy that is mine from having my sins forgiven, and the Spirit of God living in me. Too often I let what is happening to me effect who I am, what kind of ministry I can have for Jesus’ sake. I end up letting circumstances paralyze me.

Paul didn’t make that same mistake. And I want to follow Paul’s example.

Do you think you are in some kind of prison? Poor health, financial struggles, relationship problems, situations that make life difficult as a result of your own choices, or as the victim of someone else’s?

Then ask yourself what kind of ministry you can have. Let’s not let our struggles, or the unfairness of life prevent us from making a difference for Jesus’ sake. You might be missing a fabulous prison ministry right there in your own home.

October 4; Getting Ahead of Maturity

Matthew 9:1-17, 12:1-8; Mark 2:1-28; Luke 5:17-39, 6:1-5

So John the Baptist’s disciples fasted, but they were aware that Jesus’ disciples did not. They wanted to know why. I’ve always loved Jesus’ response:

“Because I’m here.”

But then He goes on and gives examples of garment patches and wineskins. And to be honest, I’ve sat here today trying to make the connection between the Bridegroom, clothes, and wine. I pulled out my old friend Matthew Henry, and wasn’t disappointed.

Henry reminded me Jesus’ ministry was brand-spankin’ new. (that wasn’t a direct quote of the Puritan theologian if you hadn’t guessed ­čÖé ) ┬áChristianity wasn’t even a thing. Jesus had to grow his disciples before they could be useful.

You don’t put a new patch on old clothes, or new wine in old wine skins, any more than you put new believers into ministry. Jesus is telling us the maturing process is crucial. His disciples needed to spend time with the Bridegroom before the Bridegroom sent them on their way.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing that I’m on the Nominating Committee at church. But as we fill our various committees, these passages of Scripture are timely. There is something for all of us to be doing in ministry, no matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord. But I pray we won’t jump ahead of maturity, by inviting someone to serve where they are not yet spiritually prepared.

Because in Jesus’ example, that results in disaster.

September 28; How Old Is Too Old?

Luke 1

Elizabeth was barren. She and her husband, Zechariah, longed for children. But year after year after year Elizabeth did not conceive. Some who have studied her life believe she could have been as old as 80 when the angel appeared to Zechariah and promised they would have a baby boy. The only thing I know for sure is that she was “well along in years,” (vs 18) and the angel told Mary that Elizabeth was going to have a child “in her old age.” (vs 36)

So, when most women her age were bouncing their great-grandchildren on their knees, Elizabeth very well could have been experiencing morning sickness and swollen ankles. But her pregnancy was a miracle, a long awaited miracle, and I believe Elizabeth probably loved every minute of it.

God asked Elizabeth to give birth to and raise one of the most recognizable, significant men in the Bible. John the Baptist would herald in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus! In fact, John announced Jesus’ arrival even while he was still in Elizabeth’s womb!

Yes, Elizabeth was old. Really old. But God had a job for her to do, and she did it seemingly without whining about it. I think there’s a lesson here.

Let’s not let age determine your faithfulness to serving God in whatever way He asks. When He lays an opportunity at our doorstep, when He nudges our hearts, let’s not sit back and think, “I’m too old.” If God wants us to serve Him, He’ll give us exactly what we need to serve Him.

After all, like the angel told Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” Even using us who have been around the sun a few dozen times. How old is too old? I’m thinking there’s no such thing.

September 24; Keep It Going

Nehemiah 9:38-11:36

The people we read about in the book of Nehemiah weren’t satisfied with building the wall, then putting their feet up and relaxing. What we read in these chapters is their determination to serve the Lord after the job of repairing the wall was complete.

And once again, we see many people chipping in and contributing to the work. They even organized a schedule for people to provide the wood needed for the burnt sacrifices. No detail was too small. They had worked on their individual sections of the wall until it was complete. Now they were going to take on individual responsibilities to keep God’s work going.

Yes, Church. That’s a picture of us, or it should be. Are you doing your part, or are you allowing a faithful few to pull the weight of ministry in your fellowship? You and I are needed to further the Gospel through the body of believers with whom we worship. God has commanded us to go into our communities to tell people about Jesus, and to make disciples. Churches have been doing that work for 2,000 years. Will we keep it going?

September 17; Hold Your Horses

Ezra 8:15-10:44

Ezra had the go-ahead from the king, and from God to gather the Jews and head home. Ezra immediately organized the people, but when he discovered there were no priests or Levites among them, he waited. He sent for the spiritual leaders, and didn’t move until they were present.

But Ezra didn’t move out the minute the priest got there, either. He led the Israelites in a time of fasting and prayer. They humbled themselves and asked God for a safe journey for all of them, men, women, and children.

Have you ever found yourself moving ahead of God, of jumping into service without really praying about it, of beginning a ministry before you humbly give it to God?

Hold your horses!

I think Ezra’s example is a good one for all of us excited about doing God’s will.

He knew upfront that God was in it. But Ezra still prayed. He surrounded himself with Godly people and they prayed. He humbled himself. He gave the journey to God, asked God to protect him, and to bless their efforts.

And God brought them all safely home. Sounds like a recipe for a successful ministry to me.

 

May 16; How Far Will It Go?

I Chronicles 6:31-53, 25:1-26:32

I love that the names of the men assigned tasks in the ministry of the temple (not even built yet) are listed here. Most of these men are unknown, regular guys – except for this one thing. Most of these men aren’t listed with kings, or warriors, or prophets. Yet their names are being read today, thousands of years after they’ve gone.

Why?

They served God.

I also love the fact that so many fathers and sons worked side by side in their ministries. I would think nothing could be sweeter for Christian parents than to have their children serving God alongside them. What a blessing that must be!

There is something else that I noticed here in these lists: Accountability.

All these men were assigned duties, and with that we read about the supervision of their fathers, or the commanders, or those who were “in charge.” All the men were given jobs, but none of them did their “own thing.” Even those with authority still answered to the king.

This is a great picture of the inner workings of the Church, isn’t it? Ordinary people working shoulder-to-shoulder in various ministries, some with the responsibility to oversee, to ensure the works gets done to the glory of God, and ultimately, all are accountable to the King of Kings.

You and I might be just regular people, working behind the scenes in ministry of some kind. We might never be lauded or applauded in this lifetime. The men whose names we read today probably weren’t, either. But here we are so many years later, talking about them. I guess we’ll never know how far-reaching our obedience in ministry will go, either.