Service 

Ezekiel 44:21
“No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.”

Ezekiel is given instructions concerning those who will serve the Lord in His Holy Temple. Three of the rules seemed to jump off the page as I read through them this morning.

First, the priests were required to wear linen as they served the Lord. The more common material for garments in Ezekiel’s day was wool, which was much heavier and would cause a person to perspire when working hard. The ministry is something that should never become burdensome. Jesus explained, His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30). When serving the Lord seems like a heavy task, we may be doing something wrong.

Second, they were not to drink wine in the service of God. Paul later wrote, we should not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). To effectively serve Christ, we need to be empowered by the Spirit and given gifts beyond what we naturally possess. Alcohol makes a person think they are more brave, intelligent, outgoing or creative; while the Spirit of God will actually gift us and equip us to do what God for calling.

Finally, those serving the Lord were to treat marriage differently. Even as far back as Ezekiel’s day, marriages were being tossed aside as disposable. Divorce was common, even among believers. Those who wanted to serve the Lord were being called to a higher standard. Paul explained, if a person cannot keep his own home in order, how can he expect to keep order in the house of the Lord (1 Timothy 3:5). We must first take time to invest in our families, if we want to have an impact for the kingdom.

Pastor Jim

 

Praise God 

Hebrews 13:15-16
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share; for with such sacrifices, God is well pleased.”

Worship is a very important part in the growth of every Christian. Many times, we measure God in light of the difficulties we are facing. We think there is little, or no hope for us, because our problem seems massive. It is in worship that we are able to see our life in light of the nature of God. We need to magnify God (which does not mean to make Him bigger, but to bring Him into focus) so we see life in light of His great love, mercy and power. As we magnify Him, we will see how little our problem is, compared to His ability. That becomes the source of great peace during trying times.

Here, in Hebrews 13, we see a couple of key elements that should be part of the worship life of the believer. First, we are told to offer the sacrifice of praise. Music is an amazing medium. Things that are often difficult to remember, seem to become fixed in our minds when put to song. How many times have you had a song “stuck in your head”, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot seem to get it out? I do not consider myself to be poetic in the least. In fact, I find it difficult to express to God the way I truly feel, but there are so many worship tunes that seem to say what I am feeling. When we gather for corporate worship, and I am able to follow the musicians as they play, I feel like my heart is finally able to express the things I wanted to say to God, but could not find the words.

Second, we are told worship must include thanksgiving. Just prior to these verses, we are warned against covetousness. To “covet” is to want what we do not have. It is often driven by failing to be content with what the Lord is currently doing in our lives. The children of Israel were known for grumbling and complaining during their wilderness travels. Instead of looking at what God was doing: providing water from rocks, miraculous food from heaven, a cloud covering from the sun, and a heavenly night-light to lead them, they chose to focus on the things they felt He was neglecting to do. They constantly complained about His provision, and threatened to turn from the Lord every time things got tough. Instead of focusing on the things that do not seem to be going your way, get your eyes on the Lord, and begin to thank Him for all He has done and is doing.

Finally, a life of worship, is a life that not only looks up, but also looks out. When we see God as He truly is, we cannot help but develop His heart for others. We are exhorted to include doing good to others, and sharing the things God has given us to benefit them. Worship is not something that is exclusively singing. While song is a great way to express how we feel about Him, it cannot be the only way we express praise. We must express it in actions toward one another. The Levitical Priesthood was composed of singers and musicians, but also included people who set up the tent, made the incense, baked the show bread, and a long list of other requirements, to make corporate worship possible. In God’s economy, those things are as much worship as playing guitar or leading in song. At our church, there are many who worship in the kitchen making coffee, or bring refreshments to make fellowship better. Others worship in the parking lot, assisting people to find a spot, and still others worship by inviting friends and neighbors to hear about Christ.

Don’t forget, doing good and sharing is as important to your worship life as singing, playing musical instruments, or expressing thanks

Pastor Jim

 

When God Speaks 

2 Chronicles 11:4
“Thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not go up or fight against your brethren! Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me.’  Therefore they obeyed the words of the Lord, and turned back from attacking Jeroboam.”

“Thus says The Lord” is a very common phrase in scripture. All in all, it is used over four hundred times. We find God speaking to priests,  prophets, kings and commoners. It becomes very clear that the problem is rarely with God being silent, and is more often with man refusing to listen and obey.

I am particularly encouraged by the use of “Thus says the lord” in this passage, because of who it was that God spoke to, and how he responded. The portrait the bible paints of Rehoboam makes it clear he was anything but a godly man. His self-will created division within the nation, and his idolatrous ways continued to weaken things from within. He was a defiant, proud, and self willed man, yet we read of a time when he responded favorably to the words of God.

The bible teaches that believers ought to be praying for our political leaders. Often, we become discouraged, and fail to pray,  when it seems they show little or no regard for the things of God. It is important to keep in mind, the God who got through to Reheboam, is the same God who wrote on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace, and the same God who stirred Caesar to take a census of the people, and is the same God who is able to direct our leaders, even if they show little evidence of wanting his direction. Rather than losing heart at  the condition of our nation, it should drive us to our knees, where we seek God to bring about His purposes, and perhaps bring yet another revival before Christ returns.

Pastor Jim

Small Things 

1 Chronicles 26:13
“And they cast lots for each gate, the small as well as the great, according to their father’s house.”

As David recounts those who would serve in the various capacities within the house of the Lord, he reminds us that all service, small or great, is determined by the Lord. Those who would attend to the gates of the city were chosen by lot. A person given charge over a lesser gate, needed to serve with the same faithfulness as one who served at a larger gate. This is a key principle in ministry. Jesus put it like this,

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” Luke 16:10-12

The principle is simple. If we are faithful in little, we will be given more, if we are unfaithful with little, we will not be entrusted with more. It is interesting how we often want to do great things for God, yet we are not involved in doing little things for the Lord. It is also interesting what Jesus considers to be the “little things.”

He says we must first be faithful with money before we will be trusted with true riches. One of the key ways to prepare for Christian service is to be faithful with your giving. Paul wrote, each man should give as he purposes in his own heart (2Corinthians 9:7). Each of us bears the responsibility of sitting before the Lord, determining what portion of our income we will give back to Him. That money should then be given weekly at your local church. As we prove responsible with finance we will be entrusted with greater riches.

He also says we must be faithful with what belongs to another. The picture here is that of placing ourselves under another in service. Before we will be trusted with a ministry of our own, we must faithfully serve alongside others, learning how to be under authority. One of the most important character traits of an elder is that he not be self-willed. We learn how to set our will aside when we serve under others.

In what capacity are you currently serving the Lord? Are you being faithful with the opportunities that are in front of you, or are you waiting for your big break to come? Let’s follow the example of those who served alongside David; be faithful in the little things.

Pastor Jim

 

When Things Go Wrong

1 Chronicles 19:4
“Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.”


David sent a handful of his men, as goodwill ambassadors, to Ammon. They went with a gift, as a way to offer condolences to the king for the death of his father. When they arrived, instead of being welcomed, they were brutally mistreated and embarrassed; their beards were shaved and their clothing cut to reveal their nakedness. These poor men were forced to turn around and make the long journey back to Jerusalem in shame. What should have been a time of celebrating the great opportunity they were given to further the kingdom, became a time of shame and embarrassment.

While we have probably never been sent to a palace with gifts from our president, we have had an experience where we attempted to serve King Jesus and found it did not go as we had planned. Perhaps you tried to share Christ with a family member or friend, thinking they would be receptive, only to find they became hostile and even attacked your character. Perhaps you signed up to work in the children’s ministry at church and found, even when you had prayed, planned and prepared, things went badly, and you experienced one of the more difficult hours of your life.

What should we do when ministry doesn’t go the way we expected? Is that a “sign” that we should not be serving the Lord, or taking risks to share the Gospel? I don’t think so. I think the difficulties are designed to cause us to go back to the King for further orders. These men, after their difficult experience, went back to David and were instructed to wait until their beards grew back, then get back to the business of the kingdom.

Perhaps you have had some difficulty in serving the Lord. The proper response is not to stop serving, but to go before the King and let Him comfort, restore, and instruct you for further service.

Until He comes,
Pastor Jim

Service

Numbers 4:4
“This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things:”

FullSizeRender.jpg
The Levites are divided into 3 groups, with each group having a role in serving around the Tabernacle. Gershon’s role was to carry the exterior coverings of the Tabernacle. Kohath‘s role was to carry the utensils, the Ark, the table of showbread, the lamp stand, etc. Merari’s responsibility was to carry all the heavy stuff; the silver blocks, the gold plated walls…those were all carried by Merari.

If you could be a priest, and you could choose from among the roles of the Levites, I think the highest honor would certainly be carrying the Ark. Yet, we will see later in Numbers, it was Kohath that complained about their role in the ministry. God had a role for them, but they weren’t happy with it. They complained about it, they wanted to serve as priests, and were not satisfied carrying the holy furnishings.

Sadly, this happens so often in the church. A person is called by God to a particular area of ministry and given an opportunity to serve, but instead of seeing it as a way to assist in furthering the kingdom of God, they become envious of someone else’s position. They begin to neglect the area they have been called to. There could be no Tabernacle ministry without someone to carry the blocks, or care for the articles of worship. Let me encourage you not to look for a new area of ministry, but perhaps, look for ways to be more faithful in what you have been called to. If you are a greeter, exercise the gift of hospitality, and love on each person that comes in the door of the church. Did you know the word “hospitality” means “to love strangers?“ Make them feel welcomed and comfortable, then when the word is presented, they might be able to receive what God has for them.

Jesus taught us a very important principle of ministry, “he who is faithful in little will be faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). This is one of the most important principles to learn if you are seeking to be used by God. Calvary Chapel Vero Beach did not grow in numbers for the first 4 1/2 years that I was the pastor. It wasn’t because we were doing the wrong things, but because God had to do a work in me before he would do a work through me. I had to first learn to love, care for, and minister to 20 sheep before the Lord would give me the care of 250. And the same will be true for all of us. Be faithful in what God has called you to do and remember promotion comes from the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

The Lord’s Cow

Malachi 1:8
“And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?
Says the Lord of hosts.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/b9a/30989304/files/2014/12/img_1266.jpgYears ago, I heard a story of a farmer whose cow, after a long and arduous labor, gave birth to twins. He ran into the farmhouse to give the news to his wife, who reminded him of the goodness of God and encouraged him to give one of the calves to the Lord. He agreed immediately, but took some time to make the decision as to which calf would be his and which one would belong to the Lord. After a few weeks, one of the young cows fell ill and the faithful farmer spent the night caring for it. Early the next morning the farmer entered the house and was met by his wife who asked what happened. With a voice filled with sorrow he responded, “The Lord’s calf died.”

When it comes to giving, we often follow the example of the farmer. We pass on to the Lord what we no longer need. The church I first attended had a ministry to Mexico and would collect items to be taken down and given to the needy. Before the items were delivered, it was always necessary to go through the boxes and bags and filter out the “dead cows.” It was astonishing how often boxes would be filled with torn clothing or single shoes. It is almost as though, it was easier for some people to drop stuff at the church, than to take it to the dump, where it belonged. We have all heard the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Perhaps we should learn a similar phrase, “one man’s junk is sometimes junk.”

When it comes to giving to the Lord, we should’nt just give what we do not want or need. We should give our best. I have been blessed over the years, to see so many people at our church give of their time, talents and treasures, to further the Kingdom of God. Remember you cannot take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. One of the greatest ways to store up treasures in heaven, is to invest in the work of the Lord.

Pastor Jim