Small Things

Numbers 16:9
“Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them?”

Korah and his disgruntled ministry team were upset with the leadership of Moses, and discontent with the opportunities they were given to serve the Lord. They soon formed a club and brought their complaints to Moses. They were hoping he would allow them to wear the priestly garments and enter the Tabernacle. Because ministry is based upon the call of God, Moses could not grant their request, but instead pointed out the folly behind their discontentment. They were guilty of considering what they did for the Lord as a small thing; as if some areas of ministry are big and others are small and unimportant.

This is a pretty common view. Almost all of us, if pressed would say that preaching the Gospel or leading the worship is a more important role than setting up the chairs or getting the children to church on time. We think this because in man’s economy certain tasks are regarded more highly than others. If a person runs a factory, he is given greater compensation than those who work in the factory. The economy of God is different. God rewards based upon faithfulness. It is not that everyone gets the same reward, but the rewards are given based upon how faithful we are to what God has called us to. A young mother who faithfully ministers to her husband and children will receive the same reward as a person who faithfully serves on the worship team, or the pastor who faithfully studies to communicate the Word of God to the people of God. The one who has the opportunity to minister to five people will be rewarded equally with the one who ministers to five thousand. The reward system of God is based, not upon accomplishment, but faithfulness. Instead of looking at what others are called to do and becoming discontent with the opportunities God has placed in you hands, why not be as faithful as possible with what God has given you.

Pastor Jim

 

Faithful In Little

Numbers 3:17
“These were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.”

After erecting the Tabernacle in he center of the camp, the Levites were divided into three groups each with important roles as it related to the ministry. Gershon was posted in the south, Kohath in the west, Merari in the north, and Moses and the priests were in the east at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Each family had different, yet equally as important roles. Gershon’s role was to carry the exterior coverings of the tabernacle. Kohath’s was to carry the utensils and Merari was responsible for all the heavy stuff.
If you couldn’t be a priest, for sure, the coolest role would be to carry the utensils.  However, as time goes on we find that Kohathites complain about their role in the ministry. They were unhappy with the role they were called upon to play and began to covet the ministry of the priests.

Sadly, this happens often in the church. A person called by God to a particular area of ministry becomes envious of someone else’s position. This attitude leads to neglect and division. There could be no Tabernacle ministry without the carrying of the blocks, or the care of the articles of worship. If you are discouraged in your service, allow me to encourage you not to look for a new ministry, but to look at how you might be more faithful in  your role. If you are a greeter, exercise the gift of hospitality and love each person that comes in the door of the church. Did you know that the word “hospitality” means “to love strangers?“ Make them feel welcomed and comfortable that when the Bible is taught they might receive what God has for them. If you serve as a children’s church leader, be a diligent student of the Word, and come prepared to teach the kids in a way that will turn them on to the Lord and His Word. There is no better training ground for the pulpit than the children’s classes.

Jesus taught us a very important principle of ministry. He said, those who were faithful in little will be faithful in much. This is one of the most important principles to learn if you are seeking to be used by God. Our church grew very slowly. When I arrived there were approximately 15 people, almost five years later there were 30 of us. It wasn’t because we were doing the wrong things, but because God had to do a work in me before He could work through me. I had to learn to love, care for and minister to 15 sheep before the Lord would give me the care of more. That is the same for all of us. We need to learn to be faithful in the little things and remember that promotion comes from the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Idols

Leviticus 26:1
“You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.”

Every generation likes to think of themselves as advanced beyond the previous generations. We look back on ancient civilizations and think of them as backward, and of ourselves as having progressed far beyond them in every way. This is particularly true of idolatry. We, in the western world, do not think of ourselves as idol worshippers, particularly, because we do not have carved images which we carry in our pockets or bow down to in prayer. The absence of an image is not, however, the only evidence of the lack of idolatry. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives. For many, even dedicated believers, it is common to put someone or something above the Lord and to pursue it more than God.

One area in particular where Christians seem to be prone to setting up idols is in ministry. Over the years, I have observed many Christians who sense that God is calling them to serve in one way or another, but instead of sitting back and waiting on the Lord to open the right doors and to sanctify them for the tasks, they run on ahead of the Lord. They attempt to accomplish, in the arm of the flesh, what God wants to do through His Spirit. One of the great advantages of waiting on the Lord is, when He works things out, it is clear He was in fact “in it.” If we put the ministry above the Lord and strive to make things happen, we will forever wonder if it was truly God calling us or just us desiring something for ourselves.

I remember when my wife and I were preparing to move across the country for ministry, a good friend suggested that we ask our pastor if he would be willing to support us for a period of time. While I knew there might not be anything wrong with asking, I also knew  we wanted to have every opportunity to see if this venture was actually of the Lord. We felt  to ask for outside support did not give God the opportunity to prove if He was really calling us. I treasure that decision, because while there were many events over the next few years that caused us to question our calling, we can now see how God had been faithfully and miraculously providing for us, as a testimony of His calling.

If you are sensing the call of God on your life, be careful not to place the call above the Lord. Remember, ministry is designed not just to get things done, but to draw the minister closer to the Lord and accomplish a deeper work of sanctification in his life.

Pastor Jim

 

Source Of Strength 

Zechariah 4:6
“So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the Lord of hosts.'”

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, was responsible for a task far too great for himself. He had led a small group of untrained refugees from Persia back to Jerusalem. There, in the midst of continual opposition, and with limited resources, they began the project of restoring the Temple of God. It did not take long for the people to become discouraged and the work to cease. It was then, that a message came to Zechariah from the Lord. The message was in the form of a vision, and showed the Temple menorah connected to an olive tree by seven golden pipes. These pipes provided oil to the lamp, without the need of human intervention. Puzzled by the meaning of the vision, Zechariah was told this was a message for the governor. Just as the lamp would be fueled supernaturally, so would Zerubbabel be strengthen by the hand of God. He was told that it was ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.

This is one of the simplest yet most profound truths for anyone engaged in ministry. When we step out to serve, we want to offer our absolute best to God, and we often wear the weight of the ministry on our shoulders. We become discouraged and even overwhelmed when we do not see things being accomplished at a rate we are happy with, or when they do not meet our standard. We can even begin to think the growth of the church depends on our achievements. It is during those times it is particularly important for us to remember that, “it is not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of God” that ministry is accomplished. Instead of racking our brains for better methods or more talented people, we should be seeking God for a fresh filling of His Spirit, so we can venture forth and accomplish the work of God.

How encouraging this message must have been for Zerubbabel. Not only was the weight of ministry taken off his shoulders, but he was given the promise that the God who started the work, would finish it. In a matter of months, this promise was fulfilled as the Temple was erected and the worship services reinstated.

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

 

Rebel Without A Cause 

Ezekiel 2:8
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Ezekiel played a pivotal role in the history of Israel. His ministry took place during the seventy years of captivity. It was, no doubt, largely responsible for motivating the generation that would renounce idolatry and repatriate the land. Although he was used in a mighty way, the early chapters reveal that his ministry was difficult. He faced the most difficult opposition that a missionary will ever face, hardened hearts. He was told in advance that the people were rebellious, impudent, stubborn; their hearts were as hard as flint stone. Ezekiel was also given the secret to a successful ministry among the hardhearted. He was told,

But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious…”

The rebellion of the people was not used as an excuse for Ezekiel to disobey God. Instead, their hardheartedness made his obedience all the more critical. Often, the reason we are less than faithful in ministry is because of the difficulty of the task. We start out with a sense of calling, which is soon overshadowed by the opposition we face. In many cases, the difficulty causes us to give up, surrender, retreat, or at least hit the pause button, hoping things will get easier.

Ezekiel sets an important example for all of us. He was a man who knew the difficulty he faced required a deeper commitment to faithfulness. He did not let the rebellion of the people justify his rebellion against the call of God. If you are facing hard hearts in your attempts to share Christ with others, the solution is not to give up. Resolve to seek strength from the Lord, pray more specifically for the lost, and continue your efforts to win souls for the kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Jim

 

Unstoppable 

Jeremiah 25:3
“From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened.”

Jeremiah goes down in history as one of the greatest men who has ever lived. The writer of Hebrews included him in a class of people who he described as, “Men of whom the world is not worthy.” Jeremiah had a ministry that outlasted kings and kingdoms. Even after the nation of Judah fell, Jeremiah’s voice still resounded throughout the land, calling the people back to the Lord.

If we were to use a traditional scale to measure the value or effectiveness of Jeremiah’s ministry, he would not rank among the greats. Day after day, year in and year out, Jeremiah called on the people to turn to God. Although he saw great reforms under Josiah’s reign, those changes had little lasting effect upon the people. The high places and idols that Josiah removed still remained in the homes of the people, and worked their way back into the public forum. As Jeremiah cried out to his nation, the people continued down the pathway of idolatry and immorality, until it was too late and the nation collapsed.

Fortunately, the God who does not see as man sees, also does not measure as man measures. Jeremiah’s greatness was not determined by how people responded to his message, but rather by how faithfully he delivered it. In the midst of complacency, confusion, and full frontal attack, Jeremiah refused to be silent or dilute his message in any way. Like the rising of the sun, Jeremiah’s voice could be heard daily, calling the people to turn to the Lord.

Faithfulness remains the key to effective service. When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we will not be responsible for how others responded to the Gospel message, but rather, how faithful we were to God. If you have been called to be a homemaker, then faithfully minister to your husband, and raise your children to love and follow Christ. If you have been called to work in the secular world, then do your work heartily as unto the Lord, looking for every opportunity to share the love of Christ with your co-workers. If you are in the silver years of life, look for ways to invest in the spiritual growth of young people; perhaps serving in children’s ministry, discipleship, or prayer.

When the day comes for us to stand before the Lord, all that will matter is whether we have received Jesus Christ and been faithful to Him. Let’s follow the example of Jeremiah and not allow the rising tide of worldliness to sidetrack us from faithfully serving the Lord.

Pastor Jim