Tag Archives: serving God

December 27; Don’t Forget

Revelation 2-5

God has some amazing things to tell us through John’s letter to the seven churches. In them He addresses each of us, and challenges us in our walk with Him.

To Ephesus God addresses those of us who are busy serving God, doing good work, keeping on keeping on. But something is missing. The busyness has overshadowed our first love, that love we knew when we were first cleansed from sin. God warns that without that fervent love for Him, our service to Him will lose its effectiveness.

DON’T FORGET WHY WE SERVE.

To Smyrna God speaks to those of us going through difficult circumstances. There are some people in our world today who suffer imprisonment and even death because they serve God. Others of us face unfair treatment, slander, rejection. Don’t be afraid, God tells us. He is the One who died and came back to life. That second death can’t hurt us.

DON’T FORGET WHO WE SERVE.

To Pergamum God has a word for us who live in a fallen world where sin runs rampant and evil surrounds us. Stay true to His Name. Don’t let the teachings of Satan creep into our hearts, no matter how popular the lies become. Know the Truth according to Scripture. Repent if you’ve deviated from that Truth. It’s serious business to accept the lies.

DON’T FORGET WHAT IS TRUE.

To Thyatira, God addresses those of us trying to live in two worlds, that of Christianity, and that of immorality. As Christians we help our neighbors, express love, and are people of faith. But we also tolerate immorality, even to the point of believing immorality is not sin. Some of us actually participate in immoral conduct, even if it is only in the privacy of our homes in front of a screen. God tells us there are serious consequences for that. Hold on, God tells us. Don’t give in!

DON’T FORGET HOW WE ARE TO LIVE.

To Sardis we hear a warning to those of us simply going through the motions. Oh, we do Christian sounding things, say Christian sounding words, but our hearts are dead. God tells us our deeds are only half done if that’s the case. “Walk with me,” God pleads. “Obey. Repent.” There is life in Christ.

DON’T FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED.

To Philadelphia God speaks to those of us who are feeling weak. Maybe it seems our efforts are in vain, that we have no place in ministry But God also commends us for being true to His Name, for serving patiently, perhaps quietly. If God opens a door of opportunity, He will bless our obedience. Again He encourages us to hold on!

DON’T FORGET WHO LOVES US.

To Laodicea God addresses we who are lukewarm Christians. We are pretty self-assured, happy to be saved from hell, but not wanting God meddling in our lives. God says we make Him sick. He tells us to earnestly repent. “Knock,” He says. “I’ll come in and fellowship with you and you with Me!”

DON’T FORGET WHO IS AT THE DOOR.

There is so much in the book of Revelation for us in 2019 concerning our relationship with God. I’m looking forward to ending the year listening to what He will say to me, getting to know Him better, and to growing my walk with Him into something useful for His kingdom. I hope you’ll join me.

December 16; Women Teachers

Philippians 3-4; I Timothy 1-2

I am a teacher. And I am a woman. And years ago I taught a Sunday School class of women… and men. But knowing that, my take on the subject might surprise you.

I recently was part of a conversation with some friends about whether or not women should be allowed to teach men in the church. I honestly can say I see both sides of the argument.

On one hand, Paul said he didn’t permit women to teach. On the other hand he didn’t say God gave him that order. On one hand there were women like Miriam, Deborah, and Anna described as prophets. On the other hand I don’t believe there is an instance when these women, or any other women, took part in the actual teaching of their prophecies during Temple worship. On one hand we see Priscilla teaching Apollos the truth about Jesus. On the other hand, she went with her husband to meet with Apollos privately, her teaching was not public.

On one hand we hear Paul say women should be silent in church. On the other hand, we understand the climate of the day and, in context, could interpret that as saying women shouldn’t interrupt the service by asking questions, rather than forbidding them to be the teacher. But, like one of my friends said, who determines which Scriptures we should blow off because of context, and which Scriptures should be applied today?

Besides, in the same paragraph Paul says he wants women to dress modestly without braided hair or jewelry, and he wants men to pray with their hands raised. Yet I don’t hear those things being talked about nearly as much as the phrase, “women should be silent.”  And it’s all part of what Paul is talking about in I Timothy.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the issue is a matter of heaven or hell. Even though I spent a year as a teacher of a co-ed Sunday School class, I still prefer a man behind the pulpit. I see in Scripture that God places a hierarchy in the church, and He put men in positions of authority over women. It doesn’t mean women are less than men, or not as important in ministry. Jesus had a lot of women disciples who enhanced His early ministry by their support. I don’t think He’d describe them as less-than or unimportant.

I love teaching. And having the privilege of teaching women is such a blessing to me. If  I never teach another co-ed Sunday School class, I’d be ok with that, but I am not apologetic for teaching a co-ed class in the past. I guess I would say according to God’s hierarchy, men should teach men. But I really don’t think a man will be punished for sitting in a classroom taught by a woman.

Let me say something to men. Some of you need to step up. Sometimes, as was the case that year I taught Sunday School, the number of men willing to take on that responsibility is lacking. If God has given you the gift of teaching, you need to be teaching. Period.

And women, there are so many ways we can use our own gifts of teaching. Are you being obedient?

I pray for teachers of God’s Truth. It is a heavy responsibility. But it is also a glorious privilege. May we all, men and women, be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading not just in who we teach, but what and how we teach it. That’s the issue. I said earlier the “who” of who we teach is not a matter of heaven or hell. But the WHAT we teach is.

May God find us faithful.

 

 

October 26; Second Fiddle

John 11:17-57; Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 20:17-28

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, “Wow. This is totally opposite of the wisdom of the day?” That’s what happened to me today.

We in the 21st Century are told to look out for number one, to tell ourselves we are strong and powerful and capable and perfect just the way we are. And we are teaching our children to believe they are those things, too.

On the surface that might sound like wisdom. But in God’s economy, it’s foolishness. In the passages we read today, God explains His economy and you might not like what He says:

“The last will be first.”

“Whoever wants to become great, must be a slave to all.”

(I don’t see those slogans on many t-shirts these days)

I went to my cousin’s funeral yesterday, and heard the account of a servant, a woman who was a selfless friend, whose house was always open and throw-together meals were commonplace (and she often used her gold-trimmed china for impromptu entertaining). She could sit for hours with a hurting neighbor without thought for her own comfort.

She’d taught music for nearly 60 years, and especially loved teaching young children how to play the violin. We heard of incidents when Beth Joy would go out of her way to take a student home after lessons, or drive them to performances, or how she would provide violins for children who couldn’t afford one.

But what impressed me most about my cousin was something I hadn’t realized. I knew she played in two large symphony orchestras, one in Ohio then one in Charlotte, NC when she and her husband moved there. But what I didn’t realize is that for over 40 years, Beth Joy played second violin.

As a musician myself, that speaks to me. And I was reminded of it today as I read what Jesus said to His disciples about “number one.”

The great orchestral conductor, Leonard Bernstein when asked what the most difficult instrument was to play said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem, and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Beth Joy played second fiddle with enthusiasm. She was the harmony in the life of her family, friends, and students. Why? Because she was a tireless servant of her Lord, Jesus Christ. At 80 years of age, she was still teaching children how to play the violin up to six weeks before she died.

I am challenged today to enthusiastically play the position of second fiddle for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. One thing people kept saying yesterday was that Beth always pointed people to her Savior. It was never about her. It was always about Jesus.

What a privilege it is to play second fiddle in God’s economy, His orchestra called the Church. It’s not about me. It is always about Jesus.

October 21; Use It All

Luke 14:25-17:19

The guy was losing his job. He knew he was in big trouble. He was too weak to do manual labor, and too proud to beg. So he came up with a plan to make himself look good to people who were in positions to help him.

Whenever I read this parable in Luke 14, I am struck by the boss’ reaction to what the man did. It cost the boss money. But he commended the man for his ingenuity. I guess it’s true that evil really does see good in evil.

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (verse 9)

I think I’ve shared that I have recently realized 99% of my relationships here on this island are with people from my church. I am blessed by them and treasure their friendships. It’s a blessing to serve God with them.

But God has been dealing with me about stepping out of my comfort zone and beginning to rub shoulders with people who don’t go to my church, may not go to any church.

Jesus said that if He can’t trust us with what we have, how can He trust us with more? Today I am wondering what kind of steward I am with the treasure that is mine through my Savior’s blood. Am I as creative in the way I serve my Master as the man in the parable was in serving his?

But I am also wondering what kind of impact I have on people who need Jesus, using the material blessing which are mine. Is my house open to my neighbors? I don’t even know most of their names. Is my car transportation for an unchurched friend? I can’t think of any unchurched person I consider my friend.

Jesus said we should use it all “so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I’m certainly not going to take any of my possessions with me. Why am I hoarding them?

If the world is so good at networking, at community, at charity, why aren’t I even better? What they offer is perishing. What I have is eternal. Jesus told us that where are hearts are, our treasures are.

I pray that I will be the kind of steward of God’s blessings who gives all I have. I want to step outside the walls of my church and make friends of people who need what I have. I want to use the material things that are mine to bless others for Jesus’ sake.

I want you to want that, too. I think God wants it of all of us.

 

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 🙂 )  Christianity 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 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.