Giving Up To Gain

Mark 8:35
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

A paradox is a statement that seems contradictory or opposed to common sense, but is true. The statement Jesus reveals is one of life’s greatest paradoxes. Man was created to know God. Jesus said that He came to “give us life and that more abundantly” (John 10:10). When our lives are lived in complete obedience to the Lord, we experience the height of living. When we hold back, unwilling to give ourselves, our time, or some sinful activity, we think we are gaining, we think we are better off. However, that very thing we are holding onto, is the very thing keeping us from the abundant life Jesus created for us.

Knowing this, Jesus asks two questions; first, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

If true life is found in surrender to Christ, then what would be the benefit of holding onto all the world offers? Imagine if your phone was to ring this morning, and on the other end of the call were all the world leaders. They had decided the best thing for mankind was to make you king of the world. You get the title, the robe, the crown, the chair, and all the world’s goods are now yours. You possess all the wealth and all the power of the whole world. There is nothing you cannot have. The catch… you must deny Jesus. You can have this life but not eternal life. That my friends is a losing proposition. The right response is to hang up the phone.

Knowing that will not happen; knowing that no man has ever gained the whole world, Jesus asks a second question,

“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

You cannot have everything, so is there anything you are holding onto that is robbing you from the life Jesus has for you?Perhaps a relationship you thought would satisfy you, so you began to compromise your walk with the Lord; only to find that it is robbing you of the life found in Christ. Whatever it may be, anything you are holding onto, lay it all down and follow Christ.

Pastor Jim

Shepherd Or Butcher 

Amos 1:1
“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

When the car breaks we look for a mechanic, when the body breaks we want a doctor, and when pipes leak it is a plumber we are interested in. We realize, to get the job done right we need a well- trained expert. God on the other hand, works by a different set of rules. Since He has no limitations, He is able to choose the foolish things of the world to accomplish his purposes. When he needed to get a message to the nations, he chose a shepherd from the hills of Tekoa. It is not as though Amos had no qualifications, it is just that the qualifications to be used by the Lord are totally different than those necessary to be chosen by men.

Amos met one of the chief requirements for anyone who desires to be used by God. Amos was a shepherd. Not everyone who wants to serve Christ has to train by learning to care for sheep, but all ministry must be done with the heart of a shepherd. The chief role of a shepherd is to care for the sheep, and he does this by focusing upon feeding and protecting them. Basically, a shepherd does what he does, not for his own benefit,  but for that of the sheep he has been given responsibility over.

Prior to entering full-time ministry, I worked as an apprentice butcher at a local market. My responsibility was to cut and display fish, poultry and meat. Every year, as Passover approached, we would receive cases filled with legs of lamb. During that week, I would spend much of my day de-boning dozens of lamb legs for individual customers. I must admit, I did this with my mouth watering as I imagined seasoning them with Italian dressing and placing them on the grill. I learned then, that a butcher looks at sheep differently than a pastor. The butcher looks at how the sheep will benefit him, while the pastor looks out for the interest of the sheep.

If we desire to be called by God, the one requirement, in addition being a follower of Christ, is that we have the heart of a shepherd. We must not look at people for what they can do for us or our vision. We must look at others, seeking how we can serve them, and help them grow into the person God has called them to be.

Pastor Jim

 

Costs 

Nehemiah 11:2
“And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.”

Years before these events, Zerubbabel led a host of people from captivity, to begin rebuilding the temple. His ministry was followed up by Ezra, who led the people to recommit themselves to the Lord. Then Nehemiah came with the intent of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, for the security and safety of the people, and the work of God. Now that the temple stood and the walls were erected, people were needed to maintain the work of the Lord. This chapter gives us a list of those who gave themselves to the work, at great personal cost. For many choosing to be involved in the service of God meant giving up other ambitions, and even relocating into the city.

Ministry always costs. If we desire to be involved in furthering the work of Christ, it will mean we must invest time, energy, talents, and resources. When these investments are made into the kingdom of God, it means they are no longer available for other things.

The question we must answer is, “Are we willing to make personal sacrifices to further the work of God?” While I am sure that many of us revere those who willingly give themselves to the work of God, I wonder how we have let that affect us personally. We may love to hear the stories of missionaries who sacrifice so much for the cause of Christ, but have we allowed that to stir us, to make our own sacrifices?

Paul explained that we are living sacrifices and that it is reasonable for us to offer ourselves to the work of the Lord (Romans12:1). In what way will you give yourself to the furtherance of the kingdom this week?

Pastor Jim

 

Neglect 

Nehemiah 10:39
“For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering… and we will not neglect the house of our God.”

Much of our life is experience oriented. We save, plan, and prepare for a trip; making sure we get lots of photos, so we can remember our experience, and share it with others. We might even put together a photo album and place it on the coffee table, making it easier to look back and remember the times we enjoyed. Sometimes, we treat our relationship with the Lord the same way. We have an encounter with the LORD, we come forward at church to receive Christ, or recommit our lives to Him. Rather than treating this as a day-to-day ongoing relationship, we simply memorialize the moment. I think it is important to remember, while salvation transpires in that moment in time when we trust in Christ, relationship with the Lord is an ongoing event, and should be a part of our daily living. This relationship includes, not only what He has done for us, but committing ourselves to be a part of the further work He desires to do.

We read here, they committed themselves “not to neglect the house of God.” That meant, they were committed to doing their part. The priests committed to their service requirement, the Levites to theirs; while the people committed to giving the first fruit of the produce, to provide for the work. Giving back to the Lord is a very important part of following Him. We give, not because God is needy, but as an expression of our love and gratitude for all He has done for us, and because we want to be a part of the work He is doing in the lives of others.

Only you can determine if you have been neglecting the house of God. Why not take a few moments to examine your commitment to Christ. What part of your time, talents, and treasures have you been giving to the Kingdom of Heaven? If you need to make adjustments now is the time.

Pastor Jim

 

Incoming Call 

Ezra 2:1
“Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city.”

Ezra tells the story of the children of Israel returning to Jerusalem, at the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon. We find that while hundreds of thousands were taken captive, less than fifty thousand returned. I am relatively certain that many should have returned that didn’t, but we are also given insight into the ones that were willing to leave all and take up the challenge of engaging in the work of God.

Ezra 1:5
“Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”

Notice the phrase “all whose spirits God had moved.” There was a work of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men and women, calling them into ministry. We often hear talk of the call of God, and we see it in action right here. The Spirit began to move and people were willing to leave their homes, friends, comforts, and land, to step out and be a part of the work of God in reaching the world. There are a few key truths regarding the call of God that are vividly illustrated in this passage.

First, we realize not everyone was called to the same task. This chapter refers to priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers and the general public, all being called to the work of the Lord. Their varying gifts and callings would work together to accomplish the rebuilding of the temple. Sometimes we feel as though we are not called to ministry because we do not have a certain skill set or gifting. Not all ministry involves standing behind a pulpit or playing an instrument. Many have effectively served Christ without any of those gifts. One of my favorite missionaries was David Livingston who, although he shared Christ with many, also was somewhat of a trailblazer who, through his life, opened the door for many others to make their way to Africa with the Gospel.

Second, we find that while some were stirred to GO, others were called to stay behind and support those who were sent.

Ezra 1:6 “And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.”

Even the king of Persia got involved and gave back all the articles that had been looted from the Temple when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. In the God’s economy, those who support the work are equal participants with those who do the work. As a church, we have been blessed over the years to be able do ministry on six of the seven continents. We have had individuals, teams, and pastors travel to over 20 different countries, to be involved in spreading gospel and making disciples. While a lot of different people have been able to make these trips, many more have been involved by supporting the work. What kind of eternal investments have you been making?

Perhaps God is stirring your heart to get involved in ministry. Maybe you are sensing that it is time to make some greater eternal investments. The first step is to get involved in your local church. Contact them and ask how you can help. It may be that the Lord is calling you into a new season in life. I can attest to the fact that there is nothing better in life than serving Christ.
Pastor Jim

 

Investment 

1 Chronicles 29:3
“Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver.”

David, and others, invested in the temple at great personal cost. They devoted their time, talents, and treasures to ensure that the house of the Lord was built. Their devotion to this project stemmed from realizing that the work of God would outlast them. David would not live to see the temple, but knew that his investment would impact the nation long after his departure. For years to come, this building would be a place where the Word of God was proclaimed, and commitments to the Lord were made, as each of Israel’s revivals centered around the events that took place at this building.

It seems we have lost the concept of thinking generationally. We live in a time that we want immediate return on any sort of investment we make. If a stock does not act the way we want, we sell, if a relationship does not give back what we think it should, we move on, and if the church does not meet our needs, we look for another one. Those who are willing to break this trend and look at their live as it relates, not just to time, but to eternity, are the ones who will make investments that will impact generations to come. I recently stood in a large chapel built in the late 1800’s. Over the past 125 years, thousands of souls have entered eternity by entering its doors. Those who invested in its construction have treasures being stored up in eternity long after they have passed.

Take some time to consider what eternal investments you have been making; they may impact eternity long after you have gone to be with the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Full Price

1 Chronicles 21:24
“Then King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.'”

When it comes to worship, we can learn much from King David. The longest book in the Bible is a book of praise songs, and David was its largest contributor. In addition to being a king and a prophet, he was also called the Sweet Psalmist of Israel. In our text, we find David bringing an offering to the Lord. Because of his position as king, Ornan offered him the field and the animals free of charge. Instead of accepting the gift, David made a statement that should become a foundational principle in our worship, “I will not offer that which cost me nothing.”

Worship is one of the highest expressions of our love for the Lord, and should be a costly exercise. We should not be giving the Lord only our excess or our leftovers. We should be offering our best, no matter what the cost. That does not mean we should go into debt to offer to the Lord, but it does mean, we should rethink our spending if we do not have enough to give to God. Worship is expressed when we deny ourself some earthly pleasure, in order to have something to offer the Lord.

David even took time to store up for future offering. In the next chapter we read,

1 Chronicles 22:14
“Indeed I have taken much trouble to prepare for the house of the Lord one hundred thousand talents of gold and one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond measure, for it is so abundant…”

It would be worthwhile to take some time today to examine your checkbook and see what you have given to the Lord, and what has been spent on frivolous things. We live under grace and are free to enjoy the provision God has given us, but we should keep in mind, that Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven.

Pastor Jim