What’s In Your Hand? 

Exodus 4:2
“So the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’  He said, ‘A rod.’”

This passage has always encouraged me. We find Moses wanting some evidence that God had truly called him, and God chooses to take what was in Moses’ hand and use it in a miraculous way. He did the same thing with the twelve when all they had was five loaves and two fish. He did it with David, when he entered the valley with a sling and a rock. He will do it with us, when we will offer who we are and what we have, for His service.

There are some stories in Scripture that I relate to more than others. However, when Joshua runs toward the Angel of the Lord, or when Abraham rises early to offer his son, I am not sure I picture myself responding in quite the same way. I think I would fit right in with Moses in this account,though. Even after God promises to use what is in his hand, and goes so far as to demonstrate how He would use him, Moses still doubts. I think it is a matter of perspective. Moses looked at how weak he was, while God looked at how strong He is.

If we want God to take what is in our hands and use it for His glory, we must be willing to trust that His strength is always revealed in our weakness. Instead of focussing upon what we cannot do, it is time to focus on what He can do.

Take some time to pray about how God may want to use you, especially in your local church.

Pastor Jim

 

The Honeymoon Experience 

Song of Songs 3:11
“Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
And see King Solomon with the crown
With which his mother crowned him
On the day of his wedding,
The day of the gladness of his heart.”

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Honeymoon experience.” It carries the idea that the bliss we experience at the moment will soon pass and the reality of life will begin to set in. This phrase is applied to an array of new experiences, including getting a new job, car, house or beginning a new relationship. The sentiment is derived from people’s view of marriage. It will begin with bliss, but will soon settle into monotony or something worse. This view of marriage is both common and tragic. Common, because we see it happening all around us. Tragic, because this was never God’s intent for marriage.

In many cases, the model of marriage we see today looks something like this. A man and woman fall deeply in love with one another. They are willing to do anything for each other, and look for ways to express that love. As time goes on kids, work, trouble and familiarity slowly create distance between the two, and soon they are less of a married couple and more like business partners, raising their children together. Once the children are grown, their relationship becomes like roommates who are sharing the same domicile. Is this pattern avoidable? Is this what God intended when He created marriage?

One of the reasons relationships digress like this is, we fail to make the investments we made in the early years. We read of Solomon surrounded by princes, dressed to he hilt, and seeking to win the heart of the Shulamite woman. We read of her lying on her bed thinking of ways to express love to her beloved. That probably describes the early years of most relationships. Husbands and wives taking the time to express love to one another. The problem is we stop making those investment. Life becomes so busy we forget flowers, date nights, and getaways. Car payments, new appliances, and emergency funds steal away what used to be spent on investing in one another. I am not suggesting we are careless, but that we take proper care to make investments in the most important earthly relationship we have.

Look for a way to show your spouse the love you had in the early years. An investment like that will pay off for years to come.

Pastor Jim

 

Rewards

2 Corinthians 5:10
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

A few years ago, I watched a very interesting story on the news. An armored vehicle, after leaving a local bank, had neglected to properly close the rear truck door. Upon making a turn, bags of money fell out of the truck and broke open on the street. People, seeing what had happened, went nuts, rushing into the street, picking up cash and shoving it into their pockets. In the midst of the chaos, a young boy grabbed a handful of coins and ran off. That night, he felt so guilty he could not sleep. The next day at school, the little boy dropped eighty-five cents on his teacher’s desk and told her about the event. She, wanting to encourage him for doing the right thing, contacted the bank to arrange for the return of the money. Since more than $200,000 was lost that day, and only eighty-five cents returned, the bank wanted to honor this young man and asked him to come to the bank to receive an award. When the mayor of the city heard of his deed, he also wanted to honor the child with a public gathering. Later, word reached the executives at Disney, who decided to honor the young man. They invited him, and his whole class, to Disney World; all expenses paid. What a remarkable picture of grace. One young man took what did not belong to him and gave it back to the rightful owners, and in return, was richly honored and showered with blessings.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Paul writes every believer will one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ. At this throne, we will not be judged for our sins; those were judged at the cross and forgiveness was appropriated to each of us when we received Christ. No, at this throne, sin is not the issue, nor is judgment the reward. Instead, our Christian life will be examined. We will be rewarded with treasures in heaven for what we did on earth. When we choose to offer our God-given gifts, talents, time and treasures back to Him, He will not only accomplish great things through us, but reward us for it later.

Earlier Paul had written to these same believers and asked, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Everything we have really belongs to God. Our natural talents are as much a representation of His grace, as our spiritual gifts. We need to take what does not belong to us and return it to its rightful owner.

Now would be a great time to examine your life. All of your time, talents and treasures are a gift from God. How are you using them for the Kingdom of Heaven? What are some ways you can get involved in serving Christ? Keep in mind, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we don’t want to appear empty-handed.

Pastor Jim

 

Spiritual Gifts 

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

Natural gifts, while given by God, are quite different from Spiritual gifts. If you have been given athletic, scholastic, or artistic gifts, you should use those for the glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom. However, spiritual gifts are an entirely different subject. Paul writes concerning the supernatural enabling God gives to the believer, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the growth of the church. There is a great variety of these gifts, but they all serve the purpose of equipping the church to more effectively reach the world for the Christ. Before listing these gifts, Paul gives a few principles for how they work.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

The word ‘diversity’ speaks of variety and reminds us that many different gifts are required for the church to function properly. Like setting up the Tabernacle in Old Testament times, the church functions properly when many gifts are in operation at the same time. Those with the gift of helps serve quietly behind the scenes, preparing the church for the people to arrive. They often stand in the back providing sound, video, worship screens, live streaming, etc. At the same time, those with the gift of hospitality greet people as they arrive, helping visitors find their place, and providing an element where fellowship is most conducive. The times of fellowship provide a way for Christians to exercise spiritual gifts and minister to each other. In those brief encounters over coffee and a snack, God often gives a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge that will help a Christian outgrow a particular sin, or be encouraged through a trying time. From the stage, spiritual gifts are essential. The worship team needs the gift of prophecy, so the heart of God is revealed to the people as they bring high praises to God and prepare themselves for the teaching of the Word. The pastor is perhaps the most dependent upon the gifts. If he is to effectively communicate God’s Word, he will need both the gift of teaching and evangelism. Fortunately, Paul reminds us, while there is much ministry, there are also many gifts.

“There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.”

Just as there are many gifts, so there are a variety of places to exercise those gifts. At our church, while the worship band is playing in the sanctuary, the youth band is leading worship, and the children’s ministers are leading in song. Three different ministries all in need of similar spiritual gifts. In the same way, as the pastor presents the Gospel on Sunday morning, the people are sharing it throughout the week. Just as he needs the gift of evangelism to preach on Sunday, the people need the gift in the break room, at the park, or on the phone with a friend or relative. The same gift is provided in a variety of ministry opportunities, all of which are of equal importance. Rather than complaining that we don’t get to do something we want at the church, let’s look for ways to be used by God throughout the week. Reading through the book of Acts, you will notice most of the Spiritual gifts were in operation out in the world, not behind the closed doors of the church building.

And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The term ‘activities’ comes from a word that means energy. Paul explains, the same gift may be given to two different people at two different levels. Certainly, every pastor must have the gift of teaching, but not all have the same teaching gift. The same is true of all the gifts. None would question that Billy Graham has the gift of evangelism, nor would any who know Ron Keenan (one of the two men who led me to the Lord), question he has the same gift. But it is also clear, they have the gift at different levels. Ron, gifted for the ministry he has been called to, living within his community and within his circle of influence, and Billy Graham for his ministry of bringing the Gospel message to millions.

I think the right response to Paul’s instruction is to pray. We should pray for more gifts, more ministry, and a greater energy of those gifts, in order to more effectively minister to others, and further the Kingdom of God. As a pastor, I would certainly appreciate others joining me in praying that prayer for myself, and for all those who attend our fellowship.

Pastor Jim

 

For Nothing 

Job 1:9-10
“So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’”

Job is described as the greatest man in all the East. His greatness was measured by his success and his character. He is described as a man who feared God and shunned evil; one who accumulated great wealth. When the scene shifted from earth to heaven, we find Satan called into question the motive for Job’s faithfulness to God. He asks, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Then he gives a list of reasons why Job trusted in, and followed after the Lord. I am thankful the answer to Satan’s question is no.

None of us “fear God for nothing”. If we carefully consider our lives, we will see the good hand of our God upon us. The success we have is directly attributed to the grace of God. Some people consider themselves “self made”, yet fail to consider the gifts and opportunities afforded to them are given by God. An athlete, while he must work hard to hone his skills, has been given the athletic ability by grace, apart from his own work. There is an old saying among basketball coaches that ” you can’t teach tall”. They recognize height to be a gift, not something to be earned.

The same is true of a business man, a family man, a successful teacher, doctor or other professional. What we have must be attributed to the grace and goodness of God. The only question that remains is, how will we react to all we have been given? Will we stand upon the walls of the city, like king Nebuchadnezzar of old, and claim our accomplishments are our own; or will we, like Job, choose to fear God and shun evil?

Without question, we do not “fear Him for nothing”. His goodness, grace and mercy, while immeasurable, can, in some ways, be measured by looking at the blessings He has poured into our lives.

Take some time to thank Him for all He has done for you.

Pastor Jim

 

Heavy Lifting 

2 Chronicles 2:5-6
“And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?”

Solomon faced a great predicament, he desired to build a temple where God and man could meet, but he realized that all the heavens were too small to contain Him. He knew the dwelling place for God must be grand, but he also knew that no earthly building could ever truly reflect the glory of God. The temple he would build would be a mere shadow of the real glory of God, and was designed to point Israel to the Lord. For generations to come, this building would serve as a place where man worshipped God, and was the focal point of many revivals within the nation. It interests me that this glorious building was the byproduct of a multitude of people investing their many different gifts. In fact, we find thousands of men were hired for the work of quarrying stones alone. Seemingly, innumerable man hours were spent doing nothing more than working with rocks.

Sometimes, it is difficult to see the value in what we are doing for the Lord. We might have a role in the ministry much like a wood cutter or stone mason. We swing a hammer or lift heavy objects, and do not see the intrinsic spiritual value in what we are doing. I think it is important to step back and see the big picture. Without the massive foundation stone, there would have been no altar, tabernacle or mercy seat. The stones were truly the foundation upon which the ministry was built.

The temple serves as a illustration of the church. There are ministries like worship, prayer, and Bible teaching that are clearly spiritual. However,  for these ministries to be effective, there are a host of things that must take place. Cars need to be parked, people need to be welcomed, children need to be cared for, the rooms need to be properly prepared, the lights have to work, and the list goes on and on. In many ways, those who are laboring in the things that may seem mundane, make it possible for people to encounter the Lord. Don’t reduce any service for the Lord as though it didn’t matter. If you are a stone mason, then cut away with all you heart.

Pastor Jim

 

It Takes All Kinds

1 Chronicles 9:3
“Now in Jerusalem the children of Judah dwelt, and some of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim and Manasseh”

1Chronicles 9 is a record of those who lived and served in the city of Jerusalem. Because the Temple resided in this city, it became the religious capital of the nation, and the place where much of the service of God took place. Here, we read about a vast array of people with diverse gifts and callings coming together to accomplish the work of God. Among those listed are leaders, priests, Levites, gatekeepers and singers. Each person had a different calling which required unique skills and gifts. It was when each one served faithfully within his own calling, that the ministry was accomplished in a way that glorified God.

This passage is an apt picture of how the church works today. We see in Scripture, and will find in our local churches, that if each person faithfully follows the Lord, and serves within the capacity they have been called to, the church will become a vibrant witness to the world around them. Every church needs godly leaders who will first listen to Jesus, then set a pattern for the people. Every church needs people who understand they are priests, both in the congregation and in the home. We need to understand we are called to spend time with Jesus, and bring our needs, and the needs of others, before the throne of grace. Every church needs Levites, who will do behind the scenes ministry that receives little attention or accolades. The New Testament uses the word “Deacon” for those who work hard, so the word can be preached, and the people can encounter God. Every church needs gatekeepers, who will open the way for others to get to he Lord. Jesus said we have been given the keys to the kingdom, and we can open the way for people to come to Christ. This is done in a variety of ways. We need to establish friendships with those within our circle of life who don’t know Christ. Keep in mind, you are the Christian someone’s family member is praying their unsaved loved one will encounter. We need to keep our eyes open for divine opportunities, when we bump into a stranger at the market, beach, or perhaps on a plane. These encounters provide opportunity to share Christ, or even to invite someone to church. Every church needs worshippers. Not everyone will stand on the stage to play an instrument, or use their vocal gifts, but a church that is filled with people who have come for the purpose of worshipping the High King of Heaven, is a church that will grow to have a tremendous impact upon their community for the kingdom above.

It truly takes all kinds for the church to become the city set on a hill that Jesus designed it to be. I wonder what would happen in the church you attend, if more people stopped complaining about what the church wasn’t, and to stepped into God calling. Don’t wait for someone else to serve the Lord for you, it is time to step out of our comfort zone and make investments in the kingdom of God. Time is short and the whole world needs Jesus.

Pastor Jim