Companions 

I Thessalonians 1:1
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy . . .”

Serving Jesus is a team sport. If we are going to be effective, we must establish godly relationships with others who want to follow and serve Christ. Their lives, and commitment to Christ, will serve to propel us forward, just as ours does the same for them. In my earliest years of following Christ, a particular song was sung for almost every altar call, or response time, after a message. One line went, “I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me still I will follow, no turning back.” I remember clearly, grappling with the idea that if everyone of my friends walked away from the Lord, I would remain following Him. I believe we all must come to the point where we decide we will live for Christ, regardless of what others do. At the same time, I also realized, I needed help if I would succeed in this venture. I began to look for others who were committed to Christ, others whose example I could follow, and whose life would propel me to serve Christ more. Even the Apostle Paul understood this. We find when he ventured out to serve the Lord, he did not do it alone.

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy . . .”

We know a lot about Paul and Timothy. Much of the Book of Acts tells Paul’s story, and many of the New Testament books were written by him. Timothy was an early traveling companion of Paul, who later became a pastor, and was the recipient of two of Paul’s letters. Silvanus (also called Silas) is a little more obscure character in Scripture; although with a little digging, we can learn much from his life. We are first introduced to him in Acts 15, where he accompanies Paul and others, delivering a letter written by the Apostles to the gentile believers, outside the borders of Israel. He is called a prophet, and described as a man who, “risked his life for the name of Christ” (Acts 15:26). After delivering the letter, Silas joined Paul and Barnabas in the ministry at the church in Antioch. It was there Silas saw a remarkable difference in the atmosphere of the church. While Jerusalem was constantly doing battle with legalist who wanted to add regulations to relationship with Christ, Antioch was marked by the grace of God. The atmosphere of the ministry was one that allowed Jesus to get a hold of people’s lives and transform them, by the Spirit, and through the Word. Having seen this, Silvanus decided not to return to Jerusalem, but to join Paul in his ministry endeavors.

“But Paul chose Silas . . .” Acts 15:40

Not long after joining the ministry team in Antioch, Silas was asked to join Paul, as he ventured out on his second missionary journey. They would visit the churches he had started on his first trip, and take the Gospel to further unreached areas. From this point, Silas became a vital part of the mission work of the early church. While their travel was filled with wild experiences and great adventure, Silas is perhaps most well know for what happened in Philippi. It was there, he and Paul were arrested and imprisoned. Rather than complaining about the trial and how unfair it was for a child of God to suffer, they took the solitude as an opportunity to worship. Acts 16 records how, in the middle of the night, bearing the wounds of being beaten, and wearing the chains of incarceration, Paul and Silas began to worship. Of all the musicians who have ever been recorded, I wish we had a CD of those songs. Two men, facing great suffering, and perhaps even execution, lifting up their voices and celebrating the Lord.

It is exciting to read the stories of men who risked their lives for Christ. Their time has passed, and the mantle must be passed on to another generation. Will you pick it up? Will you be willing to commit yourself to Christ, and surround yourself with others who will propel you forward, as you follow and serve Jesus?

Pastor Jim

 

Your Account 

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

As this letter comes to a close, Paul is careful to thank the Philippian church for their generosity. On numerous occasions they had sent aid to Paul, enabling him to continue in the ministry. Although he was not their pastor, they placed a high value on the activities he was undertaking for the kingdom, and sent financial support, as he took the Gospel around the world. Because of the sensitivity of the subject of giving, Paul is careful to sandwich it between two very important ministry principles.

 Philippians 4:11
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content . . .”

Paul was not looking at ministry as a way to make a living, or live a comfortable life. He saw the ministry for what it actually was, the call of God to bring the message of salvation to a dying world. As a result, he learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself. At times, Paul saw large numbers come to Christ and was able to focus his time and energies exclusively on ministry, since the church provided for his physical needs. Other times, whether by need or principle, Paul chose to work with his hands to provide for his needs, so as not to be a burden to others. In doing this, he learned he could be content with the call of God when things were comfortable, or when they were difficult.

Philippians 4:19
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Often, when we hear preachers talk about giving, they make it sound as though the driving force behind ministry is money. They seem to imply, if you don’t give, the work of God will not continue. In a subtle way, they are saying God needs your cash because He cannot finance His own endeavors. Paul did not see it that way. He believed God would always supply what was needed for what He calls us to do.

Philippians 4:17
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”

Paul’s reason for discussing giving was not to manipulate the people into giving more, or to help finance a vision that he was developing. Instead, he was actually concerned for their personal growth. Knowing God would always provide for His own needs, Paul saw giving for what it truly is, an opportunity to trust the Lord, and grow in Christ. The same is true whether we are giving of our time, talents, or treasure. When we come to the place where we are willing to say “I am going to take however little or much I have, and give it to the Lord” It is then, that we are investing in things that are eternal. As a result, we begin to experience growth that we have never had before. Whether it is money, or serving in one capacity or another, do not look at giving to your local church as a burden, but as an opportunity to grow. As you step forward in faith, trusting yourself and all you have into the hands of Jesus, you will find that you begin to bear fruit in your life like never before. Serving Jesus with all you are, and all you have, is the fast track to growing in Christ and storing treasures in the life to come.

Pastor Jim

 

Others 

Philippians 2:17-18
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”

Prior to the death and resurrection of Christ, the prescribed manner of worship of God included an elaborate system of sacrifices. Every morning, every evening, and on prescribed dates throughout the year, animals were offered as burnt offerings to provide atonement for the sins of the people. Each of the sacrifices pointed in one way or another to Christ. As the Son of God, His death provided more than all the offerings could ever do. Peter wrote,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, . . . ” 1 Peter 3:18

It is not difficult to see a portrait of Christ in the Passover lamb, the scapegoat, or the sin offerings, but what of this drink offering? Did you notice, Paul does not refer to Christ, but to himself as this offering? The drink offering, described in Numbers 15, was designed to accompany the various offerings. If a person brought a free will offering to the Lord, to express thanks to God for who He is, and all He has done, they were to include a jug of wine as a drink offering. This offering did not provide atonement, but accompanied the offering, making the aroma that much sweeter, as it was laid upon the altar. Paul saw his role in the life of others like that. He realized, each individual must present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord, but he would spend his life helping to make the sacrifice of others sweeter.

As we follow his story throughout the New Testament, we see he exemplifies what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. His whole life was about living for Christ, as an example to others. He spent his time, effort, and energies ensuring the Gospel was declared, and the Christian was well equipped to live for Christ. He risked his comforts and even his life, to bring the message of salvation to those who had never heard.

How do you suppose our impact upon the world would change if we saw ourselves as a drink offering, being poured out on the sacrifice of others? What kind of influence could we have for the kingdom of God, if we looked at ourselves as being in the lives of others, to help them come to Christ, and grow in Him? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15

Let’s determine to live like that, impacting all around us for heaven’s sake.

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

 

Service Of Song

1 Chronicles 6:31
“Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark came to rest.”

What an interesting phrase, “the service of song.” The word service is a translation of the Hebrew word “Yad”, meaning hand. The idea implies they were putting their hands to the task of serving the Lord with music. When I think of service, I usually think of some sort of labor. Lifting, carrying, working, and sweating are all words that come to mind when I consider service. However, here we are reminded, service can be as simple and as sweet as offering a song.

Acts 13 is one of the pivotal moments in human history. As a small group of leaders gathered at the church in Antioch of Syria, two of them heard the call of God to take the Gospel to the unreached people of the Roman empire. It was this meeting that opened the door for the Gospel to reach Europe for the first time, and to change the face of Western culture. It was when these leaders were ministering to the Lord in song, that they heard His call.

Instead of treating worship as a concert or the preview to the sermon, we should consider it a way to serve the Lord. As we fix our eyes upon the Lord in worship, we will find He often responds by giving us direction in our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

Got Talent

Exodus 38:22
“Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.”

IMG_1465Six times in Exodus we read of a man named Bezalel, and five times of Aholiab. These men are recipients of the highest of all honors; their names and accomplishments are recorded in the eternal Word of God. When heaven and earth have passed away, and all of this life is but a distant memory, the accomplishments of these two men will remain forever chronicled alongside Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel and Paul. They are honored even though there is no reference to them ever wielding a sword like Joshua, having a face to face encounter with God, like Moses, writing worship songs like David, or winning others to Christ, like Paul. These men are honored because they took the talents they had received from the Lord and used them for His kingdom, and His glory. In order for the Tabernacle to be built, talented men must give of their time, effort and energy. Bezalel and Aholiab rose to the call. We read,

Exodus 36:2
“Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work.”

Notice that “gifted men” were called. One of the ways we can recognize the call of God on our lives, is to look at the need and the gifts we have. If a need arises for plumbing and you are a plumber, you have an opportunity to respond to the call of God. Notice also, their hearts were stirred. Sometimes, even before an opportunity arises, a desire is birthed within us; that can be the call of God. The important thing is, they responded and offered their talents to be used for the kingdom..

Exodus 31:2-3
“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship”

Once these men responded to the call of God, they received the enabling of God. Their natural gifts, while important, must be met with the power of the Spirit. Often we neglect to make ourselves available to God because we feel powerless. It was in response to the call of God that they received the Spirit of God. Just as Moses’ staff parted the Red Sea after it went into the water, so these men were equipped, once they responded to the call.

Exodus 35:34
“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.”

Finally, their service was an opportunity to make disciples. They were called to serve and to teach others. The building of the Tabernacle was not a one man job. If it was to be accomplished, others must be taught and given opportunity to serve. Bezalel and Aholiab were given the task of training others to be part of the work of God.

Don’t think because you are not an evangelist, pastor, missionary or worship leader, that there is no place for you in the church. There are a multitude of ministry opportunities for people who are gifted artisans. Much of what happens in the ministry today is because faithful men and woman take their talents and give them back to the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Are You Ready?

Matthew 25:13
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

2015/01/img_1375.jpgChapter 25 seems to be about being ready. Jesus warns about a final day of reckoning, when the sheep will be separated from goats. To ensure that we are ready for what is coming, Jesus gives two parables. The first explains the need to be born again, the second the need to be busy about the Lord’s business.

In the first, five of the ten virgins were not prepared when the groom arrived. They may have been dressed, even excited, but they did not have oil in their lamps. Oil is used throughout Scripture as an illustration of the Holy Spirit. It seems, the main message is that these woman were not born again. It is also worth noting, that while saved, the other five were certainly neglecting their responsibilities. They slept while their friends remained ill prepared.

In the second story, we are introduced to three men, each of whom had been given varying sums of money to invest. The first two made investments, and were handsomely rewarded by the king. The third failed because of fear. It should be the desire of every Christian to use what we have been given to make investments in eternity.

Every promise given in Scripture will come to pass. One day, Jesus will fulfill His promise and return for His church. The question should not be ‘Is He coming?’ but rather ‘Are you ready?’ If you have not received Christ as Savior, do so right now. If Christ is your Savior, seek to use all He has given you to make investments in eternity.

Pastor Jim

 

Watching you

Proverbs 15:3
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

I have always been fascinated by the comment Jesus made to Nathaniel when they first met; the Gospel of John records:

John 1:47-48
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’
Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’
Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’”

The possibilities are endless as to what Nathaniel may have been doing under that tree, but we know for sure, whether it was good or bad, God was watching and loved him, regardless.

I wonder, “How are you spending your time when it seems that no one is watching?” How might those times change if we kept in mind,  the eyes of the Lord are always upon us?

Pastor Jim

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