Weekly Devotions

Equipped to Do the Work of Ministry.

While it’s true that the pastors, elders, and apostles in the New Testament made disciples, we can’t overlook the fact that discipleship was everyone’s job.  The members of the early church took their responsibility to make disciples very seriously. To them, the church wasn’t a corporation run by a CEO.  Rather, they compared the church to a body that functions properly only when every member is doing its part. Paul saw the church as a community of redeemed people in which each person is actively involved in doing the work of ministry.  The pastor is not the minister—at least not in the way we typically think of a minister.  The pastor is the equipper, and every member of the church is a minister. The implications are huge.  Don’t think of this as merely a theological issue.  See yourself in this passage.  Paul said that your job is to do the work of ministry!  Jesus commanded you to make disciples! Most Christians can give a number of reasons why they cannot or should not disciple other people: “I don’t feel called to minister.”  “I just have too much on my plate right now; I don’t have time to invest in other people.”  “I don’t know enough.”  “I’ll start once I get my life in order.” As convincing as these excuses may seem to us, Jesus’s commands don’t come with exception clauses.  He doesn’t tell us to follow unless we’re busy.  He doesn’t call us to love our neighbors unless we don’t feel prepared.  In fact, in Luke 9:57-62, you’ll see several individuals who gave excuses for why they couldn’t follow Jesus at the time. Note Jesus’ response to them.  It may surprise you. God made you the way you are; He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task.  Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples.  Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers.  We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves. * What excuses tend to keep you from following Jesus’s command to make disciples? What do you need to do in order to move past these excuses?                                                                                   Pastor Greg

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Connecting With the Disconnected

Someone once asked me to think about how to connect with the unchurched and unbelievers.  I’ve read articles on these topics in the past (see, e.g., “Steps toward Evangelism” and “Ways to Get Outside the Christian Bubble”).  Today I thought I would write on some more basic steps to accomplish this task:   

See your home as a missions base.  You do not live where you live, and you do not work where you work by accident.  Even if you aren’t entirely content where you are, you are there to be a witness for Christ.  You may, in fact, be the only light for the gospel in the immediate area of your home.  

Pray this prayer daily: “Lord, help me to see the crowds as You saw them—as sheep without a shepherd.  Help me not to wander past the fields that are ripe for harvest today.”  Memorize these words connected to Matthew 9:36-37, and keep your eyes open for seeking and hurting people around you.  

Focus one night a week on relationship-building.  Hang out with neighbors.  Invite somebody to dinner.  Write a letter to a friend.  Join a community group.  Walk around your neighborhood or the local mall.  Make an appointment to talk with political and school leaders.  Determine to build and strengthen relationships, and hold yourself accountable to someone for this commitment.  Love people enough with God’s love that you want to get to know them.  

Be consistent and patient.  Particularly if you’re trying to reach Generation Z, you’ll likely need to commit for the long haul.  They’ll be inclined to research and review anything you tell them.  They’re looking for a genuine experience, but you’ll need to convince them of the truthfulness and the relevance of Christianity.  Consistency and patience will be non-negotiable.  

Ask questions.  A lot of them.  Just as you might spend time learning about people groups on the mission field in order to reach them, do the same with unchurched and unbelieving folks.  Ask about their family, their work, their worldview, their religious background, their hobbies, and their goals.  Listen to them.  Get to know them. Lovingly and genuinely earn the opportunity to tell them how much Jesus means to you.  

These ideas probably won’t immediately make you an evangelist, but they’re starting points.

                                                                                ~Pastor Greg

 

 

 

 


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Watch Your Mouth

“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3, NIV)

The words that flow from your mouth contain the power to bless or curse. Regardless of your circumstance be cognizant of the words you speak. In Scripture the Shunammite woman serves as an excellent example for individuals to follow in guarding one’s mouth in the midst of difficulty.

In Shunem there lived a woman who was prominent and influential. When Elisha would pass through the town, the Shunammite woman showed great hospitality by providing a fully furnished dwelling place for him. Mindful of the Shunammite woman’s genuine kindness, Elisha sought to thank and bless her in return. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, stated that she had no son and her husband was old. Elisha spoke a blessing over her that changed the course of her life. She conceived and gave birth to a son the following year.

Over a period of time the Shunammite woman’s son told his father about a possible headache he was experiencing and was carried to his mother. The Shunammite woman held her son and then he died. For a parent to witness and experience the death of their child is an indescribable feeling that only God’s grace and comforting power can alleviate them from, but in the midst of pain, fear, depression, anxiety, and alarm she was very careful to WATCH HER MOUTH as she sought after the Man of God who declared this promise to her.

The Shumammite woman guarded her mouth as she carried her son and laid him on the bed and shut the door. She guarded her mouth when she requested transportation from her husband to pursue the Man of God. When her husband asked her the purpose of her visit to Elisha, she replied, “It will be all right.” The Shunammite woman was speaking life into her situation.

She guarded her mouth when Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, approached her and questioned her regarding the well-being of herself, her husband, and the child, but she answered, “It is well.”

Even when she approached Elisha and took hold of his feet, she guarded her mouth and didn’t speak death. Elisha prayed to the LORD and the Power of God through the willingness of Elisha resulted in the healing of her son.

What a powerful example to follow! Even in the midst of trials and tribulations guard your lips, speak God’s word, and watch your mouth!

                                                                            ~Pastor Morris

 


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Why You Pray Is More Important Than What You Pray For

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3 NIV).

If you expect God to bless your life, you must be willing to bless other people’s lives with the same benefits God has given to you.  One of the conditions for answered prayer is a willingness to help those less fortunate with the blessings that we are given.

Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (NIV).  God says if we ignore those who are in obvious difficulty around us, what right do we have to expect Him to bail us out?

God wants us to be like Him, and God is love.  One of the ways we prove we have love is that we’re willing to be generous toward other people.  The principle of stewardship is repeated throughout Scripture: God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to other people.

For instance, we might ask God for good health, but what are we going to do with that healthy body after we’ve got it?  Are we praying just to help ourselves, or are we praying so we can help other people, too?  When we ask God to bless our businesses or careers, are we willing to give back a portion of what God has blessed us with?

Again, in James 4:3 (PV), it says, “And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re  asking   with  corrupt   motives,  seeking  only  to  fulfil   your  own  selfish desires.” Motive is important in prayer.  Why you pray is more important than what you pray for.

Is it possible to pray for the right thing with the wrong motive?  Sure.  I’m not saying you should never pray for your own personal needs.  Jesus says to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  In Mark 11, he says you can even pray for your desires.  But you have to check your motive.  Are you willing to share your blessing with other people, or are you going to hoard it all to yourself?

God is not interested in simply satisfying our selfishness.  The conditions of prayer are an honest relationship with God, a forgiving attitude toward other people, and a willingness to share God’s blessings with other people.  God loves us and so He’s teaching us how to pray in an effective way.

                                                                          ~Pastor Greg

 


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Transformative Prayer vs. Transactional Prayer

We often see prayer as a transaction with God.  We make a request of Him and hope for an answer.  We talk with God and wait for his reply.  We give money and hope for a financial windfall.  We exercise faith and believe for a breakthrough.  We ask humbly for forgiveness and anticipate mercy.  We request bread and look for it on the table.  This is prayer’s privilege, possible due to the goodness of God.  But God is interested in more than a transactional relationship with us.  He wants a transformational arrangement.  He is willing to give us daily bread, but such grace should move us to share bread with others.  He doesn’t coach us to pray, give me my daily bread, but rather, give us.  He assumes that we will pray – not from the end, but from the middle. That we will pray, not for ourselves alone, but with others in mind.

 

He, the giving God, wants to make of us, a giving people.  He is willing to forgive us, but such shocking grace should so change us that we are then willing to forgive others. We want a single-dimensional legal transaction in which he commutes our sentence. He is not so much interested in having us “on the end” of grace, as he is in having us “in the middle” of grace.  Forgiveness is to flow, not only to us, but through us.

 

We have developed a recipient mentality.  God is the one to whom we go to receive – grace and blessings, forgiveness and mercy, direction and breakthrough, healing and deliverance, money for the rent and a pay raise for the future.  With calculating faith, we reason that if we approach Him believing, with pure hearts and clean hands, on the basis of Scripture, then He will hear us and answer our prayer.

 

We make prayer about us.  We make the priesthood of believers a personal and private thing.  We have split ourselves off from others and sought private blessings.  There is a time for using the privilege of personal petition.  But, as with most things, God’s ways are not our ways.  Like the disciples, tired and worn out, he will often meet our needs not with us on the end of our own blessing, but in the middle of someone else’s.

 

Famished and weary, the disciples asked him to “send away” the hungry crowds (Mark 6:36).  They wanted him alone to themselves.  Instead, he took a young lad’s lunch, and had them break and bless the meager meal, and divide it to thousands.  When the disciple’s stressful experience in the middle was over, there were twelve baskets full of fish and bread.  Often, God’s way of filling up our basket, is to put us in the middle of someone else’s hunger.

 

We have fractured the theology of prayer.  Focusing almost exclusively on the right of personal petition, while ignoring the responsibility of intercession (prayer for others) has left us with a narrow and less than holistic view of prayer, one that makes prayer about us. We have made Christianity transactional, when God intended for it to be transformational.  He gives us bread, so that we become ourselves the givers of bread to others.  He forgives us, as we act in forgiving ways, changed by the forgiveness of our own sins.  He extends mercy, to make us merciful. He loves, but with the intention of making us loving agents of his own agape.

 

Transformation is His goal. Making us agents of His kingdom, from the strategic middle, that is His objective.

 

Pastor Greg

 


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Faithful When Suffering

There are people out there who say God wants everybody to be a millionaire.  God never wants anybody to have cancer.  God never wants any problems in your life.  But the Bible says sometimes suffering is God’s will for your life.  Why?  Because, it makes you more like Jesus.  It deepens your faith. It brings you rewards in Heaven.  It builds your character.  It teaches you to worship instead of worry.

There are three kinds of suffering in the world.  Common suffering is suffering that’s common to everybody.  It doesn’t matter if you’re Pentecostal or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist or whatever.  Everybody suffers certain things. “It rains on the just and the unjust.” (Jesus, Matthew 5:45).  When a hurricane comes into town it doesn’t just pick on Christians.  There is suffering in the world that we all share in common.

The second kind of suffering is carnal suffering.  That’s suffering you bring on yourself from your own sin.  If I go out and live a very loose immoral life and get a sexually transmitted disease, that’s my fault.  It’s not God’s fault.  It’s not anybody else’s fault. It’s my fault.  If I spend more money than I make and now I’m in debt and going bankrupt, that’s not anyone’s fault but mine.  That’s suffering because of my sin and bad decisions.

Not all suffering is from sin.  The Bible says sometimes suffering is according to the will of God, because God is more interested in your character than your comfort.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:19, “Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (NIV).

No matter what arrows are thrown at you, no matter what you suffer in this life because of your faith, God wants you to remain faithful to him and keep on doing good to others.  Is that easy to do?  Not always.  Does it take faith?  Definitely.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” `~ 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  ~ Galatians 6:9

“Blessed is the one who preseveres under trial because, having stood the test that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” ~ James 1:12

                                                                               ~Pastor Greg

 

 


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