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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

A friend of ours owns a nursing home. Her main job is finding workers to fill the schedule that is necessary to meet the needs of the facility. To begin with, there is an overall shortage of qualified workers. So from the beginning, her work is cut out for her. From a limited number of workers, she must fill the shifts.

It would be one thing if the arranged schedule could be reliable; but it really isn’t even expected to be. For an endless number of reasons workers will call in to say they can’t make it. With an already short list of available workers, you can imagine the logistical strain this creates.

You would think that with the economy being the way it is that there would be more workers than necessary for the available work. But for some reason, it is just the opposite. There is much work but few who want to do it.

Sometime in the night last night – during one of my awake times – I made the connection. Isn’t that exactly the strain that Jesus must be under? There is much work and many are actually on an arranged schedule. But for an endless number of reasons, many who are scheduled call in to say they can’t make it.

In relation to these thoughts, I thought of a verse that many are familiar with. “The harvest is indeed plentiful but the workers are few”. There was a time when I questioned that. “Everybody has heard”, I thought. “There is no need of me telling them again”. So that became my excuse for not working – the reason I gave for not being able to make it.

But the truth is there is a need of telling them again. We all will get distracted from what we know to be true if we are not reminded of what is true. A patient in a nursing home doesn’t receive care once; they receive it on a regular basis. They must receive it on a regular basis. And so it is with people and their believing. They must be reminded on a regular basis of what they are supposed to be believing; otherwise they will get sidetracked in their believing.

I like the other part of that verse; “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest”. I think it is good for us to ask God to show us what we can do. Not just once or twice, but to ask until He shows us. We’re already on the schedule. He wants to show us where we fit in. But at the same time He wants us to be dependable.

I know the owner is thankful for a few who are very dependable. They have settled the issue. They know there is work that needs to be done. They understand their role. And I think that is part of it. We need to understand our role. We need to know the work He has called us to. And then we simply need to become faithful in doing it.

So ask and don’t quit asking. If you ask and don’t quit asking, you prove your determination to work; and why, when ‘the harvest is indeed plentiful’, would He not be all over you to show you where He has you scheduled.

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This was the first line in a note a guy handed me one night. “Pray for me to keep my oath with God.” It was exactly what I had been working on in my writing. What is it that will help us keep the oath we make to God? What is it that will keep us from easing up on the commitments we make? What is that will keep us from eventually forgetting God altogether?

It’s not so much that one day we are passionate for God and the next day we are passionate for the pleasures of the world, it is more that one day we are passionate and the next we’re a little less so; until we wake up one day and realize that we have forgot God.

So, how do we go about not forgetting? How do we insure that we will keep the oaths we make?

When God delivered the nation of Israel from Egypt, even though they saw Him do some pretty cool stuff . . . they forgot. And what did God do . . . He sentenced them to years of wandering. There are some things with some of us that can only be worked out of and in to us over time. And at the end of that period of time – at the end of the wandering – we finally come to a place where we are ready to not forget.

At the end of Israel’s wandering, they were ready. They were camped on the edge of what God had planned for them all along. Caleb and Joshua saw it 40 years ago. But the rest . . . it took a little time. And in Joshua chapter 1, once again, just outside what God had for them; they declare this oath; “Whatever you have commanded us we will do and wherever you send us we will go.”

I don’t know why it takes some of us years of wandering to reach this point of resolve when others reach it so much sooner, but I’m glad that God does not wash His hands of us. He knew how to get Israel to this place to where they could make and keep such an oath; He knows too how to get us there. Listen to part of a poem I wrote awhile back.

He alone knows where I’m bound
and how to get me there;
to follow close and listen well,
this my only care.

He knows how to get us to the place where we are willing to follow close and listen well. While we are carrying out our sentence of wandering, we follow sort of and listen a little. There’s a lot of ‘us’ that has to be worked out of us – the confidence we have in our own ability and the doubt we have in God’s; all that has to be worked out. So, to get us to this place . . . that is His goal.

I always had passion for God; but I allowed that passion to cool. I justified the cooling . . . all the way to it being just plain cold. But at the end of my wandering, I quit justifying it. I learned how important it was to guard it. When I sense that it is cooling, I take steps to rekindle it. If you can guard against it cooling for a day, you can be assured that it won’t eventually get cold.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, His answer puts it all about as simply as it can be put. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” If you are Loving God with all your heart you will have passion for Him; and if you have that passion, be careful to not let it slip.

Maintaining passion for God will guard against distractions from God. Passion will help us keep the oaths we make. Passion will keep us from easing up on our commitments. Passion will keep us from eventually forgetting altogether. When we have passion, we can, as Peter puts it, “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.

It’s not about concentrating on the elimination of our evil desires; you can’t do it. There is a nature that rolls and crushes everything in its path. God has set us up that way. He has, as Paul puts it, “bound all men over to disobedience”. Until the end of our wandering, try as we may, still we are bound.

But at the end of it all, when we’ve proven to ourselves without a doubt that we can’t do it, when we simply just come to God; He does for us what we could never do for ourselves – He changes our nature. As we come and continue to come, He changes us. Little by little, the tentacles of hell are cut. As He takes up more and more space in our heart, He rids it of all that is set against Him.

Our part is just to come. To come and not quit coming – to not let up on our coming – to let Him do for us what we could never do for ourselves. That is without a doubt, the difference.

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Are there any wordpress bloggers out there that attended this years Summit; either from Willow Creek or from one of the many satelite locations around the world. This was my first year. My son and I went.

There’s a lot to process, but the Lord has me thinking about the man, the message, the faith of Stephen Furtick, and a comment that was made about him by one of the other speakers. If you heard Furtick’s message, you know about digging trenches.

The other speaker who commented had been digging trenches for 35 years to alleviate hunger around the world. His comment about Furtick was the assurance that his (Furtick’s) generation, because of their great faith in God to do the impossible, would eradicate it.

When I started my latest series, A Journey of Faith, I didn’t have it all laid out. It is litterally a journey. As I learn, I write. As the Lord shows me things I wrestle them out and then I write.

Is it possible that while we want to see miracles, God is wanting to see the hungry fed? Has God just brought me to a major intersection in my journey, giving me the opportunity to get on the same road He is on? I would expect that I’ll be wrestling this out over the next little while.

Anyway, GLS attendees, if your out there I would especially like to hear from you. But also to any, if this strikes a chord with you, I would like to know your thoughts.

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In Acts 19 Paul decides to go to Jerusalem and in passing he adds, “I must visit Rome also”. I have learned one thing about Paul; he does what he says he will do. It takes him 5 months, but he eventually ends up in Jerusalem. And little did he know when he mentioned visiting Rome that he would arrive there in chains, but again, in another 2 ½ years, he finally arrives in Rome.

Paul had just finished a meeting with the leaders of the church at Ephesus. The ship he caught had a layover in Tyre. I like what Luke says; “Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them for seven days”. It made me realize . . . who we look up when we go out of town, says a lot about us. In another town, they “stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven”. What a cool reunion that must have been.

So, Paul is now on a ship heading for Rome. While in a severe storm, he hears these words, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar”. How often do the words we hear from God go so contrary to the situation we are in.

The next line is a little hard to write. “Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” It is so like life to have to run aground a while before seeing what God said we would see; and the test of faith while we are run aground to still believe what He said.

Paul does reach Rome, and “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ”.

How cool that God gave him a period of time ‘without hindrance’. Everywhere he went, he tried to convince people to believe that Jesus was the One they were looking for. Some believed and some didn’t. Those that didn’t caused him a lot of trouble. God finally gave him a break from that trouble, and for a while he enjoyed a time ‘without hindrance’.

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You would think there would be more to the beginning of what we now know as one of Paul’s missionary journeys, but it really seems like Paul and Barnabas were sitting around one day and Paul said: “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing”. And with that, a missionary journey was born.

I guess I’ve always thought of these journeys as something bigger than life. But really it is just the record of what Paul did. He went about encouraging and strengthening the churches. He was an evangelist. It’s what he did. It’s what he was good at.

But right after Paul’s ‘good’ idea, comes a ‘bad’ one. He didn’t want to take Mark but Barnabas did; and from there things got really ‘ugly’ fast. In Acts, Luke tells us that “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.”

How often do our good ideas get sidetracked before they ever get off the ground? This exchange could have resulted in one less missionary journey; but in spite of how ugly it got, neither Paul nor Barnabas let it keep them from the good they had thought to do.

There will forever be an enemy to any good idea that God gives us. As much as God tries to initiate them for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening other believers, Satan does his best to stifle them.

Lord help me to see the ‘good’ ideas You give me, through to their end; to not let the ‘bad’ or even the ‘ugly’ keep me from what I think to do; to more and more use what I am good at for this purpose.

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Because God was with Him, Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil”. Those were Peter’s words to Cornelius as recorded by Luke. I like that phrase – ‘because God was with Him’.

There were many who believed otherwise. In fact, they believed the opposite so strongly that they had Him crucified. In spite of all they saw Him do while He was alive, they still did not believe that God was with Him.

And that became the first part of the message of the early church. They kept the fact that God was with Him before the people. ‘You killed Him’ they would say, ‘but God has raised Him from the dead’; just a little more proof – a little more confirmation – that God was in deed with Him.

Is there anything better that could be said of anyone? At the end of our lives, will it matter what we have accomplished if it cannot be said that God was with us? And if that can be said, will anything else really matter? If that can be said, there will be a trail, not of all we have acquired, but of all we have helped.

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I had a piece I had written that I was looking forward to posting this morning. But that was before last night happened. Last night was jail ministry night; it went pretty well. I thought it would be better to describe the evening.

In my study of the writings of Luke I had written a couple of pieces, When Jesus Passes By, and Stopping to Even the Odds. In my preparation for the evening, I felt I was supposed to talk about those two stories. As I was reviewing them, something stood out about the pair – a distinction I had not previously noticed.

In When Jesus Passes By a blind beggar is sitting by the roadside when Jesus and the crowd that followed was passing by. When the blind beggar found out that it was Jesus, he called out. Because he called out and would not stop calling out, Jesus stopped. I emphasized the point that we all know Jesus is what we need . . . if He would just pass by – if He would just stop when He does.

But in the other story, Stopping to Even the Odds, Jesus stops to heal a man who was mute – a man who couldn’t call out. It says that Jesus drove out a demon that was mute. Though we may not be mute, our enemy can use things in life to keep us from calling out. Maybe we’ve called out before and He didn’t help.

In the same setting, Jesus talks about a man who was once strong who guarded and protected his house until one that was stronger attacked and overpowered him. I believe the man who was mute was once a strong man that was attacked and overpowered. Jesus stopped to even the odds.

I asked the guys how far back they had to go to remember a time when they were strong – before they were overpowered. I told them that Jesus wanted to stop and even the odds – that He wanted to open their eyes so they could see – that He wanted to drive out a few demons so they could call out to Him.

Several stood. One in particular told how the stories fit his situation perfectly. He said he felt like we had come just for him. Last night he was able to see. Last night he called out. He had never done that before. Another rededicated himself to God. I sensed many were encouraged.

Isn’t God just too cool?

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In Luke 16 there is the familiar story of the rich man who lived in luxury and Lazarus the beggar who laid at the rich man’s gate. It stirs me to read that it is the beggar who ends up in heaven. Is that not a picture into where God’s heart is? Do we not all have beggars that have been laid at our gate? Are we not all beggars ourselves at the gate of God? The rich man did not see himself as one nor did he feel compelled to help one. He did not end up with God.

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I was not naïve enough to think that my first book, would sell millions but I have to at least admit that I had hoped it would. Realistically I felt it would more than likely end up as gifts to family and friends. Actually, after giving a copy to family and some of our closest friends, a few other copies were actually sold. My mom of course bought the most to give as gifts. My brothers and their wives bought a few for the same reason.

It wasn’t long though before I changed my thoughts about selling and promoting my book. I for sure did not want to promote it and I much preferred to give the rest of them away. I had the feeling that of the few that were out there, that if God wanted to use them, He could promote them. I was good with putting into His hands.

In case you’re wondering if this is going to end up a success story of big sales, I’ll let you know now it doesn’t. But what has taken place has been plenty to be thankful for.

As I said, my sister in law bought a few copies. She gave one to each of her Bible study group. Little did I know they would end up using it as a study guide. There was at least one pretty cool story that came out of the study. It was enough for me to say ‘thank You Lord’.

One of the ladies in the study had a jail ministry. She took my book into a women’s prison in Alabama. There was another cool story that came from that and another opportunity for me to say, ‘thank You Lord’.

My mom gave a copy to her, still living, uncle in Texas. He sent it to his nephew (my mom’s cousin). He and his wife are in prison in Texas. They gave it to another who was in with them. All have corresponded with my mom. All have been opportunities to say, ‘thank You Lord’.

The Lord knows who needs it. He knew who needed it when I was writing it. And He knows how to get it to them. He knows much better than I. Resting in that fact I can say, ‘thank You Lord’.

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