Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just Doing My Job

Jesus tells an interesting parable in Luke 17: 7-10 as he sets his face towards Jerusalem. It is a principle of servanthood that applies to the person who would seek to serve in God's kingdom.

To paraphrase it: "Does the boss see his hardworking crew sweating at their labor, take pity on them, and have them sit down to rest their weary bodies while he cooks and serves them? No. Instead, the servants must continue to serve their boss, even when they're tired. The boss doesn't thank them for doing their job because, well, it's their job. Instead, they merely say to themselves, 'Hey, we're laborers and we're just doing what we were hired to do. No biggie!"

Don't get me wrong. I believe in saying "Thank you" to someone who has done a good job in ministry. Encouragement is, after all, one of the gifts (see Rom. 12: 8).

But for the serious Christian, there is something obligatory about ministry. This is part of what Jesus is getting at here. When I am tired and worn out, and people seem to take my service for granted--so what? I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do.

It is why Paul seemed to love to refer to himself as a "slave of Christ." Normally, a person in Paul's day would not boast about being a slave. He saw himself as not just any slave, but a slave "of Christ!"

Thank you, sons of Korah, for some great lyrics: "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked" (Ps. 84: 10).

Perhaps we can begin to adopt the same kind of attitude. When ministry seems difficult and people ungrateful, instead of getting upset, we could just say to ourselves, "Oh well. No biggie. I'm just doing my job."

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Prophetic People

I grew up in a very liberal and non-charismatic environment. But when I visited a charismatic group during my time at college, it was the gift of prophecy that impacted me the most.

God spoke to me through various words of prophecy spoken after worship. And it started me on a life of listening for God's voice as a spiritual discipline and a consistent expectation.

But I'm afraid that even those who claim to be pentecostal or charismatic have become jaded to the operation of this gift.

Paul said to the Thessalonians, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt" (1 Thes. 5: 19-20). I think Paul had to say this--because there is a tendency to treat prophecies with contempt!

My understanding of the theology of the Church (ecclesiology) is that we are called, not just to prophesy, but to be a "prophetic" people. Peter says we are called to "declare the praises" of God. And in the book of Acts, when the Spirit was poured out on the church on the day of Pentecost, Peter points to Joel's prophecy, in essence saying that a sign of the arrival of the kingdom of God is that ALL of the people of God will prophesy.

So what are we supposed to do about it? I think we must actively seek God's voice--individually and in our churches. As you sit in God's presence in your own prayer times and as you worship corporately, ask for God to speak to you. Then listen, patiently. Finally, speak what you hear Him saying to you. Let us become the prophetic people we were called to be.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Journey of Faith

In 1989, while I was on a ministry trip to Australia, God gave me a scripture address to look up. This was rather unusual for me. The address was Heb. 11: 8:

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I had always wanted to have all my ducks in a row before I ventured out. Call it hyper-vigilance.

Life can be scary. Like stepping out on a frozen river and wondering if the ice is thick enough to hold my weight. Hearing the cracking of ice under my feet and afraid that it will let go at any moment and I will be plunged into the icy depths.

But when God gave me this scripture, I began to realize that I will never be able to take the risk out of living. In fact, it is the uncertainty of the faith journey that makes it exciting and drives me into a radical dependency on Him.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 says it best: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

My job is to trust, lean on and acknowledge the Lord. His job is the path.

None of us knows what the next 5 minutes will bring. But He does. Why not grab hold of His hand and just walk with Him at His pace? Let Him worry about the path, You worry about sticking as close to Him as possible.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pass It On

Paul was someone who described himself as an "expert builder" (1 Cor. 3: 10).

How true that is. He entered pagan towns like Corinth and Ephesus throughout the Roman empire and laid a foundation for the church that continues to this day.

Imagine how brief a time Paul had to train the leaders that he raised up and left in charge of the flock. And imagine how difficult it was to communicate in those days. He didn't leave elaborate DVD sets with study guides. He couldn't Skype the Philippians for a coaching session. Yet he was able to impart the faith in such a way that the church began to grow and to thrive.

Paul's instruction to Timothy is key: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable [people] who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Tim. 2: 2).

Paul's model was simple. Impart the faith to faithful leaders, who will impart it to others, who will impart it to others, who will impart it to others, and on and on.

And part of the way Paul imparted the faith was to be a model himself. Of course, Paul got this directly from Jesus Himself. Notice the pattern.

• Jesus: "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13: 15).
• Paul: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11: 1).
• Timothy: "Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity" (1 Tim. 4: 12).
• Titus: "Set them an example by doing what is good" (Tit. 2: 7).

Someone has said that the church is always one generation away from extinction. Are you modeling the faith for others who will be passing it on as well? In this way, the church will continue to grow and thrive...til Jesus returns for His bride.