A Wealth of Resources

What is your dream team? For a basketball coach it might be a star guard who is good at feeding a wide-bodied seven footer. Maybe like Kobe and Shaq? For a bank robber it might be made up of someone who is the brains, someone who is the brawn, and a wheelman? For a Navy Seal unit it might contain a comms guy, a sniper, an ordinance expert, and a squad leader? What makes all of the team makeups similar?

A good team draws from a wealth of resources from people with different gifts and specialties.

Are any of these specialties, gifts, or resources more important than the other? Well no… they work in tandem to accomplish a goal. Community allows us to put together our team and function towards a goal together. It widens our abilities and opens us up to new resources.

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says,

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

We have been talking for the past several weeks about the importance of having a faith community. We have determined that a Spiritual community is key for us to grow and persevere in the Christian faith, and we have also established that we are safer when we are operating together… meaning that we have the confidence and support to defeat sin and live a God-honoring life. This week we are going to talk about the wealth of resources available to us when we choose to life in Christian community.


Gifts

I like tools. For some reason there is nothing more satisfying than having the right tool for the job and being able to solve a problem yourself. When I first moved out on my own I started to put together a tool box. I’ve got a hammer, a variety of screw-drivers, assorted wrenches, needle-nose pliers, channel-locks, socket sets, files and rasps, wire strippers, a drill, nails, screws, etc…

Most of these tools came from necessary purchases. What I mean is there came a point in a task where I realized I was not equipped for the job. I had to go get the right equipment. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are God’s tool kit. To keep us spiritually healthy, God gives various members of the body specific tools, specific gifts. There are times we just can’t fix ourselves. We need someone whom God has specially equipped.

When we’ve hit bottom, we need a listening ear, a word of loving counsel, a friend who will affirm God’s forgiveness. These are the spiritual gifts of mercy, exhortation, a word of wisdom. When our faith is ebbing, we need someone who possesses a gift of faith to pray for us. When we are confused, we need the gifts of a teacher or a Pastor.

These gifts seldom operate in isolation. The fellowship of believers is the context where the gifts flourish. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11,

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

In a Christian fellowship we equip ourselves with the tools necessary to build our Christian lives.


Role Models

Who has impacted your life the most? Your parent(s), a friend, a mentor? How did they do it? When thinking about these questions we will most likely all have something in common… the people who have and are impacting our lives the most do so on a personal level. We all have celebrity role models, whether they are movie stars, rock stars, or celebrity pastors/ authors is irrelevant, because these people can only do so much… they can instruct from a distance on an impersonal level but that is their limitation. What about the average blue collar guy who lives life beside us and speaks wisdom into our heads and hearts everyday.

What makes him special?

The thing that sets the important people around us apart from others is the personal interactions we share with them. They live life beside us… they are in the trenches beside us everyday. We know that when the going gets tough that they are the ones who will stand strong beside us through it all. They truly care.

I remember the first time I met my friend Zach. His big smile, loud laugh, and the way he bounces around and lights up a room can’t be missed. His genuine interest and care for people is apparent and I have seen him go way out of his way to help myself and others out. Ever since, I’ve wanted to care and serve others like he does.

When we’re around people who clearly portray Christ’s character we are stimulated to grow. When we see the fruit of the Spirit fleshed out before us we are eager to try it out ourselves. Hebrews 13:7 urges us,

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Being around Zach inspires me to emulate his strengths. Being part of a whole body of Believers keeps me balanced. In a Christian community you will discover a well-balanced menu of role models who will protect you from developing flat spots in your character.

Emulation changes lives and congregations. Look at the chain reaction at Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 says,

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Fellowship gives us exemplars in the faith to spur us to growth.


Sidekicks

Did any of you ever grow up watching wrestling? I always liked the tag team matches. It’s where a 2-man team squares off with another 2-man team… but only one person can be in the ring from each team at a time. In order to get your break… your backup… you had to slap your partner’s hand and “tag” them into the ring. So as the match went on inevitably one partner would get his tail whipped. He would start to crawl towards the ropes and his partner’s outstretched hand, and the other fighter would do everything in his power to drag him as far away from his teammate as possible. You see… his help was dangerous and just needed a simple slap of the hand to turn loose!

There are plenty of famous 2 man teams that we can all think about. Batman and Robin. Abbott and Costello. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. A good team has to include more than one person! Who is walking beside you? Who is gonna reach out and allow you to tag them in when you’ve just about had enough.

It’s easier to face down your problems when you know you have an army behind you. The fellowship of a church at its best is people watching out for people, not in criticism but with love. We help one another through the unpredictable turns of life. When we are down and out and getting our tail whipped we all need a community of partners reaching out their hands waiting to be “tagged” in.

In Galatians 6:1 Paul writes,

Brethren, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

When you get sick, your community rallies behind you. When you fall into depression, your brothers don’t let you lose touch. We are all needy at times. You’ve been lonely, discouraged, or depressed. There are times you’ve longed for somebody to show he or she cared. In Luke 6:31 Jesus said,

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

The help we give to members of His body is, after all, given to Jesus Himself.

Matthew 25:40 says,

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

In the fellowship of Christians we work out Jesus’ command to love one another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The Christian fellowship is a mutual aid society of believers pledged to build each other up, to watch out for each other’s good. The fellowship is even designed to help the hapless and the careless.

Paul urges in Romans 15:1,

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.


Yes, Christian fellowship is indispensable. The community reinforces our faith. Its spiritual gifts heal and build us. The body’s godly members serve as role models. And our Christian family supports us in time of need.

Believers can curl up and die without fellowship. At best they become stunted, never growing to full, healthy adulthood. But it’s amazing what can happen when we reach out and touch someone.

Get in fellowship. Join a community. One cannot stand alone.

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The Importance of a Faith Community

This week we are beginning a look at Christian community and why it is vital to our lives as Believers. We will continue on with several installments in the weeks to come.


We once were a society that centered around family. Multiple generations often lived together under one roof, and when families did live separately they never moved very far. Small town living was real and kids moved in just down the street from the homes they grew up in. In my head I visualize the fictional community of Mayberry, North Carolina, where the 60’s TV show Andy Griffith was set.

Unfortunately, the day and age of Mayberry are gone. These days, we are more of an individualistic culture. We rely on ourselves. We live far away from where we were raised. Our connections with other people take place most often in the workplace, and deep sincere lasting friendships are pushed aside by fickle, and short-lived online connections and social media followers.

In the church, we see this sense of individualism and disconnectedness as well. Many people “date” churches, never staying in one place very long. Whether it’s a commitment issue or something else… who’s to say? Some may claim a “home church” but are rarely seen outside of an occasional Sunday morning worship service when they don’t have something “better” going on. And then there are those who may indeed have a committed relationship with a particular church but they are not “sold out” or all in. They are involved but withholding. They don’t rely on the Body when they are struggling or in need. Instead, they wear masks that cover the pain of their lives, pretending that everything’s okay, even though it’s not. They like the idea of community but maybe not the application so much.

Yet individualism and doing life on our own is not part of God’s design. After all, God is a community in himself. Existing for all of eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have enjoyed the love and fellowship of their perfect triune community. In creating mankind, God desired for us to participate in that community.

In the book “Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy” Paul Tripp says,

We weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us.

But God didn’t create man to be in community with him alone. After he created the world and Adam, God created human community or personal human relationships. In Genesis 2:18 God said,

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.

God created man and woman to be in community together, to create families and live together, bearing the image of and reflecting the three-in-one God. Scripture is all about community. God chose the Israelites to be his people. We see that in Leviticus 26:12,

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.

They lived and worshipped him together in community. Following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God then instituted the church, the Body of Christ as a community of believers.

1 Corinthians 12:27 says,

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The biblical ideal of community challenges us to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God. Christian community is the place of our continuing conversion. Its goal is that, individually and together, we should become mature, able to stand tall and straight, embodying the very “fullness of Christ” talked about in Ephesians 4:11-16,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We know all too well that maturity takes time. We know less well that it also takes our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a process that is revealed throughout the language of the New Testament. We see this process described in the “each other” language… Love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves, teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear each other’s burdens, be friends with one another, be kind to each other, compassionate, and generous in hospitality, serve one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Get the idea? This list just scratches the surface, but it is enough to remind us that we need a faith community in our lives.

To disconnect oneself from faith community is like a leaf believing it would thrive better off the branch that is rooted to the earth were it ultimately draws sustenance from.


What does your faith community look like? Next week we will continue our series on “community” by looking at some specific aspects and advantages to living in a healthy faith community.

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.


  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?


Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.

 

Do You want the Position or the Towel?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

This past Sunday I had to make the dreaded and sad announcement that we have ministries within the church that are in desperate need of volunteers in order to remain operational. Due to that… I am dedicating the next 3 weeks of blogging to tackle the subject of service within the local congregation.

There is a saying that says in every church 10% of the people do 90% of the work. I believe that is the case most of the time.

I haven’t fooled myself for a second in thinking that we are the only church around with this issue. In fact, I believe that the church as a whole is in this boat together. We have many routes for Christian servanthood, but very few people willing to take those routes. The idea of serving others has been put off in our minds as something that other people are called to do.

Think about it… we have all heard an announcement asking for volunteers at some point in our lives. If you are like me you immediately put it off thinking that the announcement was meant for someone else, or that it was someone else’s responsibility to meet that need. What I have now come to realize is that those announcements are for ME. In fact, those announcements are for my benefit!

John 12:26 establishes that through my service I am in fact drawing near to Christ and I will be honored. That scripture says,

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Now obviously we aren’t serving to be honored… but rather to be obedient and to follow Jesus!

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It is sad that in our church today we have many “celebrities” or spotlight hogs wanting a position or attention, but very few servants. We have many aspiring leaders and many who want to “exercise authority” over others, but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Jesus came not to be served… but to serve!

In Philippians 2:3-8 Paul reminds us what is to be like Christ. That passage says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Personal responsibility is at the heart of the problem with service. If every individual within the church would determine to stop pointing to someone else and simply embrace the call to serve, then the church would more easily be all that God intended. Personal responsibility is quickly becoming a negative concept within our culture. We want to evaluate someone else… we want to pass the blame or change the topic.

I personally believe that the reason that servanthood is so difficult for a believer is that it begins with dying to self. Scripture emphasizes that “dying to self” is a believer’s responsibility.

Luke 9:23-24 says,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

In John 13 we see Jesus exemplify the heart and action of a true servant. He provides for us a flesh and bone example of what we are called to do! Hours before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus humbles Himself in service to His disciples.

John 13:1-4 says,

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

To put this action in context we must understand that in those days they did not have paved roads or cars… instead they had dirt roads and mules. They also didn’t have fuel emissions to do with… instead they had other “vehicle” issues and emissions to worry about. The disciples would have wondered in with sweaty feet that had been in open sandals all day as they walked about. Dirty roads and open sandals make for nasty feet! Typically in a household a servant would have the responsibility of washing off a visitors feet as they entered the house… Jesus became that servant.

I find it funny that in a room full of followers of Christ nobody offered to wash the feet of the Son of God! But… we shun our responsibility just the same.

We file in and out of the Lord’s house expecting to be fed… but we bring nothing to the table.

Now don’t get me wrong! We have nothing of value to offer Christ; we do nothing to save ourselves. But, we are called to serve.

Mark 9:33-35 takes us to the real root issue. It says,

Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

At the Last Supper, no disciple volunteered to wash feet. The room was filled with men of God that were more willing to fight for a throne or position and not willing to fight for a towel.

Luke 22:27 says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

So… what do you want? A position or a towel?

If we, as believers in Christ, are serious about placing Christ at the head as the Lord of our lives, our commitment to Him will be readily demonstrated by an eagerness to obey His word. In His word we are told to serve.

Romans 12:11 says,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Galatians 5:13 says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

We must stop basing our decisions to serve others on what we think, how we “feel,” or how convenient it is for us, and, instead start basing our decisions for serving on obedience to Scripture and following the example of Christ.

In fact, Our service is a demonstration of our devotion, love, and faith.

John 14:15 says,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

James 2:26 says,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.


So… I’ll leave you with this thought.

Don’t sit the bench and allow others to “play the game” and be involved in service to the Lord. Lace up your shoes and get out there… it may be more rewarding than you think.

A wise man by the name of C.G. Jung once said,

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

Get out there and do it. Show the world what you believe.

Colossians 3:17,

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What are we Seeking?

How many of us would admit to viewing God as a distant Santa Claus that we can submit our wish list to through prayer and rest assured knowing that it is taken care of? Probably not many of us would say that… but sometimes our actions outshine our words and thoughts.

Many times I personally fail to realize that relationship is everything. Ultimately it isn’t about how much Biblical or theological knowledge I acquire, how sharp I hone my skills for His glory, or about what type of image I can project. A personal relationship is the one thing God wants more than any of that.

In Luke 9 we find a very short but interesting encounter between Jesus and His disciples. Luke 9:18-20 says,

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Sometimes I read right over this… but these few scriptures are very telling of the personal nature of our relationship with the Father. In this passage Jesus rerouted the disciple’s answers and got to the personal side of the question. Jesus basically said, “I don’t care who they say I am… I care about who you say I am.”

I’m afraid that often we are like the disciples. We know about God… His attributes, works, and promises, but we miss His heart. We seek His hands instead of His face.

1 Chronicles 22:19 says,

Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.

Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.

Colossians 3:1-2 says,

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

The great promise to those who seek the Lord in faith is that He will be found. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says,

If you seek him, He will be found by you.

And when he is found, there is great reward. Hebrews 11:6 says,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. So… what does it mean to seek God’s face?


  • Our whole heart must be involved.

There are many things to seek after in our society and world. There are so many things that can catch our eyes. The hardest part about this is that not everything that can attract our attention is a bad thing. For myself personally I draw too much of my identity from what I do. I can get so caught up in “ministry” that I ignore the purpose behind the “ministry” itself.

Matthew 6:24 says,

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

The Word seek tells us that this is about what we are after – what we pursue – what we want. What we seek, we want, and what we want is what has captivated our heart. What we seek has tremendous power over the direction of our lives.

Lets think about it this way… have you ever driven a car on a very straight road? What happens as you begin to let your eyes drift onto the scenery on either side of the road? The car drifts in whatever direction we are looking. Our seeking of God is just like that car. Whatever we are seeking with our eyes and mind is where we drift. If our pointed direction is in any direction other than on the Father then we are in danger of missing the mark… or crashing.

You could really boil your life down to this: what is it you seek? What are you looking towards and steering the car that is your life?

One person may seek money, and because of that seeking their family and friends end up being sacrificed on the altar of making money. For another person they might be seeking comfort and ease more than anything else, and because of that they are hesitant about taking risks for the Lord.

Another way to get to the root of what you seek is to take a look at what you are passionate about… what you desire.

What we want and love and desire most – that’s what we seek. When God says we are to seek His face, He’s talking about a wholehearted, passionate pursuit of Himself.

Deuteronomy 4:29 says,

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

In Jeremiah 29 we find a promise that many people memorize and hold onto. Jeremiah 29:11 says,

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

But… too many of us stop there and miss the full promise that is found in 12-14. Jeremiah 29:12-14 continues to say,

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes…

The future and hope is bound up with God’s people calling upon God and seeking Him with all our hearts. Those who seek God with ALL their hearts find God – every time. But it is important to mention that the word ALL means exactly that… ALL of our hearts. God never promises to bless the halfhearted seeker.

Revelation 3:16 says,

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

  • We seek the face… not the hands.

Do we seek the “stuff” of God? The works of God?

Do you serve a vending machine Jesus? The Jesus that dispenses blessings when you pop the coin in and push the right button.

That may sound ridiculous… but often faith becomes the very coin that releases the blessings from God. Give ten bucks, you get a hundred. Have enough faith and you get healed.

The health and wealth prosperity churches might come to mind immediately when we mention seeking or receiving the blessings of God. But… I’m afraid all of us are guilty of this on a different level.

God is sovereign over all. He is glorious beyond anything we can imagine. God is all we need… and He is better than His promises. We trust His promises and cherish them, but to seek God’s face is to seek the true great treasure and gift.

John Piper writes,

That power has awakened in us, not just a desire for God to give us a happy future, but for God Himself to be the essence of our happy future. It has produced in us, not just a delight in the promises of God, but in the God of the promises. Faith embraces God in all His promises.

Seeking God’s face means seeking God, not just what God gives.

Do we seek God wholeheartedly? Do we want God more than anything else in the world, more than life itself? Lets get personal: are you seeking God wholeheartedly –with everything inside of you? Do you want God and not just what God can give you. Are we seeking the blessings of God or God Himself?

I pray that we are like Paul in Philippians 3:7-8,

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Jesus said we are to “seek first” the kingdom of God – that is to be our first priority in life. That’s not radical, extremist Christianity. That’s what it is to be a Christian.


So… what do you seek?