Ministry

...now browsing by tag

 
 

June 28

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

After I finished Revelation and my analysis of it (It started with the April 18th post), I did what I always do. I started reading the NT again, beginning with Matthew 1. It will be a challenge to finish it on or close to December 31. I am now in Matthew 23. This will be my first of two posts from that chapter.

Matthew 23: 1-12

My first inclination was to comment on the “do as I say not as I do” scenario we find ourselves in as Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their hypocritical double standards. But as I read further with that thought in mind, I came to these words in verses 10-12: “And do not be called leaders, for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Jesus is the Leader. My leader. The logical conclusion to that statement might look like this:

  • Jesus is the Leader.
  • Jesus is Greater than me.
  • Therefore, I am to be His servant.

Being a servant sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires a dose of humility (for some of us more than a small one). It requires the willingness to raise others up and put myself down (not in false humility). My purpose is to make His Name great.

The Pharisees didn’t do that. They couldn’t! They were too busy promoting themselves and their own self-righteousness. That’s the whole gist of verses 4-7. Self-promotion can never promote the great Name of Jesus. Self-promotion can never honor, exalt, magnify, glorify and make great the Name of Jesus.

We are to live for the fame of His Name. I/we cannot do that when we are clamoring for the microphone.

MAKE GREAT HIS NAME!!

June 27

Monday, June 27th, 2022

A recent Our Daily Bread devotion (June 26) told the story of a dog whose owner broke his ankle and was using crutches to walk. Soon the dog began to hobble as well. He took the dog to the vet worrying that something was wrong, but the vet said there was nothing with him. He romped and played like all dogs until he was with his owner. That’s when he walked with a limp. I guess you could say the dog was trying to identify with his owner. 🙂

I heard some sad news yesterday. As this lady told me the news, all I could do was hold her and let her cry. NO words were needed. None were necessary to be said. They would have been a drippy faucet-annoying and serving no good. After she got herself together, we talked.

I’m a fixer. I want to fix people’s problems.

But I can’t.

That’s not my job. That’s not in my “pay grade.”

That job belongs to the only ONE who can fix it. Someone has said, “When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them. (You can’t.) When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain. (You can’t.) Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt. (You can.) Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.”

All those are true. For me. For you. What I did offer was that I-and the church-would walk alongside her through it all. She needs to know that more than anything right now.

Be someone’s “come along” as you come along side someone who is hurting. Don’t try to fix. Just be.

June 21

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

This past Sunday, as part of the Father’s Cay special the church had, one of the men used the father with the demon-possessed son. You can find his story in Mt. 17 and also in Mk. 9. It is the Mark 9 passage which is actually fuller with information and I’d like to use that one.

As Jesus, Peter, James and John made their way down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a swarm of people. Front and center was a father whose son was demon-possessed. He had begged and pleaded with the disciples to heal his son-to cast out the demon-but they were unable to. So the father tells Jesus what has been happening. Putting aside Jesus’ words about the faithlessness of the others, the father brings his son to Jesus and about that time the demon throws him on the ground and into convulsions. The conversation next is my point:

Jesus: “How long has this been happening?”

Father: “From childhood.”

Father: “But if you can do anything…” (emphasis mine)

Jesus: “IF? All things are possible to those who believe.”

Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus heals his son.

Notice the exchange? “If?”  “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

That father is me sometimes. There are occasions when I bring very little faith to the table. I’m barely holding on. But He is willing to take what little faith I have and make it greater. I have often said, “He takes my #2 faith and make is a #8 or a #10 faith.”

Jesus builds faith; He doesn’t tear it down. If there is any tearing down, it is to tear down our self-sufficient “faith” and build a kingdom faith.

May your (and my) faith increase.

 

June 9

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

I actually wrote this on Tuesday morning, June 6th, while at the hotel.  If I had had a way to post this that morning I would have done so, but typing on my phone is not my idea of fun so I figured I would do it this morning.  Here were my thoughts on that Tuesday morning.

After a very restless night not sleeping in a hotel bed, fraught with a lot of tossing and turning and pain and discomfort, I received a text from a man in the church who told me on June 1 that he would be praying for me all month. Here was his text:

“Lord, I pray for Pastor Bill. Lord, if his bodily pain persists, may his bodily pain lead to your Spirit’s deeper working in him. I know that many times continued pain uncovers things in us. I pray that if you are uncovering something, that he in raw honesty, talks to You about it and he lets You do whatever You want to do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I have often said that pain is never wasted. Just Sunday, one of our ladies sat next to another young mother going through the trauma of betrayal and a broken marriage. When I hugged the one mother (Lady #1), she whispered, “Only God could know that she (Lady #2) would be going through what I’ve just gone through.”

And that’s it!! Pain is never wasted. We were never meant to keep the lessons we learn from pain to ourselves. God is in the midst of the pain. Being fully human He knows what it is like. He promises that He will be with me through my pain and carry it with me, and when it gets too heavy,  He will be my heavy lifter.

I know Lady #1 knows that. I also know Lady #2 is experiencing some of that and will, with Lady #1’s help and other’s help, come to see that. She will also come out on the other end praising God for His faithfulness.

“Father, thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Steve’s words. Thank you for Lady #1’s willingness to use her pain to hold Lady #2’s hand and let her cry. May I be that same type of vessel.”

I would love to share with you the name of Lady #1 but privacy will not allow me to do that. I’m sure you understand.  🙂

April 28

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Everyone who knows me knows I like to ride a bike, as in, I provide the power. B-i-c-y-c-l-e. 🙂 It is absolutely essential the bike be in good working condition to enjoy my riding-chain lubed, tires inflated, brakes working properly, appropriate cycling clothing (bib shorts with a chamois), gloves, and helmet (never without it).

I forgot one other essential-water bottles. I have 2 24oz Polar or Camelback water bottles. They are insulated to keep liquid colder, longer. I freeze my drinks ahead of time, usually the night before-one with water and one with an electrolyte mixture. I fill the bottles about 3/4 full then freeze them. Before I head out for my ride, I top them off. This generally guarantees me cold, sometimes very cold, drinks for about 2 hours. There have been times when I took the bottles out of the freezer too soon, or my ride went longer than planned or it was hotter than I thought and my cold drink became…

LUKEWARM. Ugh! Looking forward to that cold, refreshing drink running down my throat and all I get is bland, lukewarm liquid is a downer. Disgusting might be a good word. But I drink it anyway since it is better than dehydrating.

The church at Laodicea had a similar problem. No other meaning can come from Rev. 3:15-16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Just as a lukewarm drink of water while riding on a hot, sticky day is unfulfilling, so Jesus says that about the church.

Furthermore, He says that He wishes that they were either hot or cold and, tragically, they didn’t even know they were in such dire straits!! Read verse 17. Talk about seeing right through a person…or a church!

I could write more, but you can add your own thoughts. I’m arrested in my thinking by verse 19: “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline; therefore, be zealous and repent.” A loving Savior offering a way out of the yukky, lukewarm state.

“Father, may I not become lukewarm in my faith but find myself on fire for You. If I get lukewarm, rebuke and restore me to life.”

Here is a blast from the past for you to listen to. Maybe more relevant today than when we wrote it back in the ’80s.

April 27

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

There is a common saying one might hear: “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window” (or some form of that). As far as I can surmise, there doesn’t seem to be anything theologically wrong with that statement.

But I still struggle with it.

Like I said, I don’t necessarily struggle with it because it is wrong. I struggle with it because I have trouble recognizing open doors. I lack discernment sometimes.

Let me explain.

People say we ought to walk through open doors. But how do we know doors are open, and how can we tell whether it is God opening the door or if it just our own making? I’m guilty of bashing doors down, of not waiting on God to slowly open the door or to make it very clear to me to wait.

The church at Philadelphia (Rev.3:7-13) was faced with an open door. Least that is what verse 8 says. We are not told what that open door is. The Apostle Paul speaks about open doors in I Cor. 16:9 where he says, “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me…” In 2 Cor. 2: 12 he says, “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord…” He also speaks of an open door in Col. 4:3.  So, could the Philly church have an open door to share the gospel? To influence their community? To take a stand which would  bring people to their knees? We aren’t told.

What we are told is that they were to remain faithful. To step through the open door. To stand their ground.

What a challenge for any church! For any individual follower of Jesus! See the open door. Walk through it. Trust God to give you the strength to remain faithful.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open today for any open door there may be. Help me not to break them down, but to follow you and gently turn the knob and walk on through.”

Let me encourage you to check out my other blog. I have a song there I think you will like.

April 26

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

I suppose most, if not all of us, have heard or used the phrase, “Your reputation precedes you.” That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Take the good thing and let’s talk about the church. Your church has a good reputation. Local businesses are appreciative of your efforts. The local school can count on you to help. The community sees you working to help or fix up residences or paying bills if needed. You are known as a church who can be counted on.

It can also be a bad thing. Your church’s reputation is one of selfishness. One that keeps to itself.  One more interested in growing in numbers than helping the community. It is involved in “sheep stealing” (recruiting others from other churches).  It sees itself as the only beacon of truth in a community of lying churches and organizations. “We are right and you are wrong. Us four; no more; shut the door” type of thinking.

What about a church that has a good reputation but inside it is much different? Enter the church at Sardis (Revelation 3: 1-6). They had a name (a good reputation) in the community but were dead inside. This reputation said, “Look at us! We are active and caring” but according to Jesus they were dead inside. It seems to others they were alive, but to the One who knew and cared, not so. I’m not exactly sure what He means by “I have not found your deeds complete,” but it certainly wasn’t a good omen.

What I do know is Jesus was unhappy with the half-baked church. They were to repent or He would come when they least expected it.

Thank God for those few who remained faithful and refused to indulge in the fake pat-on-the-back and the self-aggrandizement of promoting themself “doing” but not “being.”

“Father, help me to be inside who I pretend to be on the outside. May the church I love and serve at be more interested in “being” than “doing.” And when we do, may it match who we are. ”

April 25

Monday, April 25th, 2022

One of the game-changer words in the English language is a 3-letter word- “But.” I think we have all experienced the power of “but.”

“I like you but…”

“You really do good work and you are conscientious but…”

“I love you and I know we have a lot of years together but…”

“We know you have a family and we really appreciate the years you have given us but…”

The power of “but.”

Here you go: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But…”  (Rev. 2: 13-20)  Oh, how that had to hurt! I think it hurt worse because of two things”

  • Their track record was solid and was recently getting better

BUT…

  • They tolerated evil. Sin. Jezebel. I don’t think this is necessarily the name of a real woman in the church (who would name their daughter Jezebel?), but a throwback reference to the Jezebel of the OT. Ahab’s wife. Evil to the core. The same Jezebel Elijah scuffled with.  The same Jezebel who led Israel (via Ahab) into sin. The same Jezebel who had Naboth killed over a vineyard that Ahab wanted. The same Jezebel who died and the dogs left nothing of her.

Pretty strong word: “but.” But a word designed to stop them in their tracks and realize her influence and what they have allowed in the church.

God’s plan: Get rid of her. Get rid of her children and that includes those in the church who have embraced her sin.

BUT…for those who haven’t good things are awaiting. I love that “but” there! (v.24)

“Father, may I not allow the power of sin to overwhelm me. Help me to say No to the influence of Jezebel.”

April 21

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

In Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum (Rev.2: 12-17) several things stand out:

First, is the description of Jesus: “The One who has the two-edged sword.” Several verses flashed through my mind as I read that. One is “the Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword.”  (Heb.4:12).  I also flashed to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6 which talked about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v.17b). Jesus will yield His sword (pictured elsewhere in Revelation).

Second, we live in Satan’s realm. We are told that he is the prince of this world…for now. One day his rule will come to an end…as will he. But I like what it says about some of the saints in Pergamum: they held firmly to their faith. They refused to compromise the Name of Jesus!

Third, even though they had some who held to their faith, they also had some who embraced false teaching.  And it was ugly. Compromise central. They allowed sexual immorality (teaching of Balaam) and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (similar to Balaam and also included sexual orgies).

Fourth, God did not then, nor will He now tolerate compromise.  “Repent” were His words.  False teaching is so insidious, so sneaky, so creeping, and so sinister. Look up and its there (and one often doesn’t even realize it).

That’s a warning…for me…for you…for the church. Be aware. Be on guard. Keep the sword handy. I/you may have to do some hacking away.

“Father, Your truth stands. It cannot be compromised. You won’t stand for it. Help me to be true to Your Word.”

Lord willing, I will be back Monday with the next installment/devotion based around the letters to the 7 churches.

April 19

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Have you ever received an anonymous letter? I’m not talking about the one which included a note of appreciation and maybe even a monetary gift. I like those kind! 🙂  I’m talking about one that was vindictive, accusatory, and just downright mean. I have, but I was too naive, to feisty, and to quick to react to respond correctly. What I should have done was throw it in the trash…immediately…and forgotten about it. But instead, I chose to keep it and try to figure out who sent it. An anonymous letter is a coward’s way of spewing hate.

By contrast, there was no doubt who wrote the letters to the 7 churches…and it wasn’t John.  The author signed them. He also didn’t mince any words. Take Revelation 2: 1-7 for example, the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Commendable:

  • their deeds, labor and perseverance
  • their lack of tolerance for evil
  • their discernment of false teachers
  • their dislike (hatred) for the Nicolaitans

One bad thing:

  • they had left their first love

What does that mean? I’ve actually heard several different possibilities:

  1. Their love for Jesus had cooled.
  2. Their love for truth had waned.
  3. Their desire for truth and love had been skewed. There was an inbalance.

Does it really matter in the long run? Probably not. The words are harsh, condemning, and not easily forgotten. How do I know that? Because of verse 5: Remember from where you have fallen and Repent.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the Ephesian church got one part of the equation right but not the other. They got the love right but forgot the truth. Or perhaps they allowed false teachers to come in unhindered and spread lies and pull their affection from Jesus.

I’m wondering if this is a fulfillment of Paul’s words to the elders in Acts 20: 28-31a. (Click the link for the Scripture )

What are your thoughts?

“Father, may You always be first in my heart and thoughts. Protect me from false teachers who come in like wolves dressed as sheep.”