Monday, August 4, 2008

Words of Encouragement

Serving others is what God requires from us. These individuals decided to serve others by cleaning the beaches and preparing a clean area for them to come. God requires us to serve others so that they too can have a "cleansing" that only comes from him.

"What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. - Matthew 20:21-28

Take My Life. This Life is not for My Glory. I was listening to a song this morning as I was preparing the web site for the week and asking God what should we study. The song is titled, Take My Life. I hadn't heard the song in a while, but just like the first time I heard it, I began to praise God and seek his Holiness.

In this scripture today, we see two of Jesus' disciples seeking to have a place of honor when Jesus comes into his kingdom. This mother may have thought what she was seeking was a good thing. She wanted her sons to be powerful, influential and mighty. What parent does not want their children to have success in life?

We also see Jesus' other disciples become angry at this request. Now do not think they were angry because of the request being wrong, they were probably angry because each had their own idea of being great in the kingdom of God. Sometimes we become angry at what others ask for, not because we think it's wrong, but we feel we somehow will be left out.

Jesus however being the concerned leader, takes them aside and explains something important to them. He lets them know that whomever wishes to be first can only do so by giving up their lives. Jesus did not come to be served as they thought on a thrown directing subjects to do his bidding. Instead he came to give himself, to pour out his life for the glory of God.

This is the mandate for all believers today. This life is not about your glory. This life is not about what you will accomplish to glorify your name or position. It is not about what power you will have. It is not about what influence you will have nor is about your success. This life is for you and I to give it over into the hands of God so that he can pour us out for his use.

We have become comfortable being served but that is not what this life is about. It is not about us being served and having "subjects" to order around. It is about us allowing God to create in us his perfect will. This search for Holiness is what we need.

Today, I pray for us as seek to do the will of the Father that has sent us, and not our own.

The Week In Review

A healthy church is one that has heard the call to open up the door to Jesus. If he stands at the "outside" of the door and we never let him in, whose the head of the church, Jesus or us?

Research Study By Jewel D. Williams
Titled: The Life of a Healthy Church
Written: 2006

The first characteristic is gift-based ministry. What does gift-based ministry mean? Schwarz explains it this way, “The gift-based approach reflects the conviction that Gods sovereignty determines which Christians should best assume which ministries. The role of the church leadership is to help its members identify their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate ministries. When Christians serve in their area of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary!” (26).

To begin implementing the gift-based ministry characteristic, one must first start with the leaders and teachers being taught the importance of all believers understanding their giftedness. The general church population will not have a great understanding of the importance of gifts, if the leadership does not teach that it is important first. This cannot be achieved until the leadership understands that this is not simply a fad, but a vital part of the building of the body of Christ. Schwarz states, “Unfortunately, in recent years some have misunderstood the gift-based approach as just another passing church growth fad. But the discovery and use of spiritual gifts is the only way to live out the Reformation watchword of the ‘priesthood of all believers’” (26).

Therefore the teaching starts at the top with those responsible for teaching others the importance of gifts and their usage (something I call "train the trainer"). The teaching starts with what does God desire for the believers? Donald A. McGavran, author of the book, Understanding Church Growth, states, “The finding God wants them found – that is, brought into a redemptive relationship to Jesus Christ where, baptized in his name, they become part of his household…The chief and irreplaceable purpose of mission is church growth. Social service pleases God, but it must never be substituted for finding the lost. Our Lord did not rest content with feeding the hungry and healing the sick. He pressed on to give his life a ransom for many and to send out his followers to disciple all nations. Service must not be so disproportionately emphasized at the expense of evangelism that findable persons are continually lost” (21-22).

The teaching then must first teach that importance of the mission, which is to find the lost. The mission is not our programs and services, while they may be wonderful, they are only vehicles to which we try to reach out to the world around us. This is important so that individuals will not be confused and believe our programs running smoothly is what is most important, for they are not. What is most important is, are you in the place God has chosen for you to be in? He requires you to do within the church, but your gifts are also to be used in outreach to the lost. The importance of the mission must be taught before one can even speak about gifts. Scripture says, “for we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:3-9).

The classes or training can be broken up for teens, adults and children for example so that each group is able to understand from there level of learning. This is imperative based on scripture that states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-6).

Along with a test (available for purchase from many sources) on what is your spiritual gift, the ground work must first be set so that individuals understand this is of great responsibility to functioning within there area of giftedness (Note: this in no ways suggest that we do not depend on the Holy Spirit to direct individuals into learning their gifts, this is only suggested as a helping tool).

The teaching should cover what the gifts are for, which goes back to the understanding of the mission, to help build up the body as well as to reach the lost. The teaching should also cover why use the gifts. Romans states why we willingly become laborers with God “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service…For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” (Romans 12:1, 4-6).

The current lesson can be found on the website, Williams Innovative Network (W.I.N),

Cited work / source documents

Boa, Kenneth, Th.M.; Ph.D. Leadership Development. 2005. 4 April 2006.

Church Growth and Health: Church Growth Principles. 2007. 25 January 2007.

Gildea, Spike, Ph.D., et al. The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Keathley III, J. Hampton. Marks of Maturity: Biblical Characteristics of a Christian Leader. 2005. 28 March 2006.

Longman, Jr., Robert. Spiritual Disciplines and practices. 2005. 28 March 2006.

MacArthur, John, et. al. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2005.

MacArthur, John F., Dr. The Call to Church Leadership. 1986. 4 April 2006.

McGavran, Donald A. Understanding Church Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.

Piper, John. The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. 2006. 28 March 2006.
Rainer, Thom S. Surprising Insights From The Unchurched. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Regele, Mike. Death of The Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.

Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Schwarz, Christian A. Natural Church Development. St. Charles, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1996.

Simpson, Sandy. The Duties of Christian Leadership. January 11, 2005. 28 March 2006.
Stowell, Joseph M. Shepherding the Church. Chicago, IL: Moody Press. 1997.

Toler, Stan And Nelson, Alan. The Five Star Church. Ventura, CA: Regal Books. 1999.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.

The Week In Review

II Chronicles 20
Taught at Langley Avenue Church of God
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

II Chronicles 20

Verse 1-4 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

We see no mention of war and then suddenly battle is upon Jehoshaphat. We do not know why the enemy forces are ganging up on him, but they are. The interesting part is this, in order for the enemy armies to have access to Judah; Israel had to grant them passage through their land so they could get to Judah to attack.

What does that mean? Image what this is telling us. Jehosphaphat had just been willing to give his life for his brother, his people, his blood; Israel (read chapter 18). He even went into battle for them. He had even risked disobeying God for this alliance. He had disobeyed God to go into battle with Ahab. And now the very people that Jehoshaphat thought would stand with him were against him. This very people whom he thought would be his alliance, were in fact the avenue the enemy was using to attack him and this brought stress, and fear to him. In our time, we can say the same things, the hardest battles we face are not the ones against us from an unknown force, but when it is from the ones we love, the ones we have faith in, the ones we have an expectation of support from. Those that we have placed faith in and given our allegiances to, are sometimes the ones the enemy uses as the source to try and defeat us.

Due to this fact, Jehoshaphat said there is a multitude coming against us and he was afraid. He might have been afraid because he had no one he could seek to come and go to battle with him. Israel, whom he thought would be as he was to them, is in fact a source for the enemy. And so he sees all that is coming against him and he is afraid.

What does that mean? We expect the enemy to attack, and we also expect that we will have some difficulties from time to time. However we are sometimes caught unaware when battles come upon us quickly without warning and especially when the enemy advances from areas we least expect. This can cause us to become doubtful and begin to look at the attack and become overwhelmed by the size of the situation. But, Jehoshaphat didn’t stay in that state long, for he set himself to seeking the face of God.

He declared a fast for all of Judah. This reminds us that even though we are caught off guard by our situations and circumstances, we must regroup quickly and not become immobilized by fear, but quickly seek the face of the Lord. Jehoshaphat was a man who sought the Lord. We see the difference in these two kings, Ahab sought the Lord, but he didn’t heed the words, for Jehoshaphat in fact told Ahab to seek God’s directives.

Verse 5 through 12 – Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard and said: "O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 'If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.' "But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."

Jehoshaphat seeks God and prays for God’s intervention. His prayer was not one of doom and gloom. In verse 6 he gives the attributes of God. He talks about God’s power, his ability to withstand whatever comes. Verse 7 & 8 he prays about the past victories and talks about their trust in him. Verse 9, he reaffirms that when anything comes against us, we stand before this house, in other words, when we are faced with difficulties, we will come to you, and we will put our faith in you. He doesn’t even mention his problem until verse 10 of this prayer. So he didn’t jump in and begin to talk about the problem, but he begins this prayer praising God.

In verse 12 he acknowledges his weakness and also his strength. We need to stop jumping into prayer giving God our laundry list of what’s wrong and ask him to fix it, without first giving him the honor and praise he deserves from our lips. Verse 13 – All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.

All come to worship, even the children. What a way to show our children how to battle spiritually. The children were allowed to become part of the prayer, praising and seeking God for the answer to this battle that faces them. For the battles that we face are not only against us, but also against all that are in our household. As parents we do not have to share everything with the children, but there are times when the battles we face will become evident before our children and we can do a great service to them by showing them how to seek God. What a testimony these children had. They were able to see that when God says he will do something miraculous, he will. They prayed and God gave them victory over their enemies. So we can do the same, we can put in “action” what we preach about before our children.

Verse 14 – Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

Because they sought God, God sent the answer. The prophet gave the message from God. This answer given was an unusual answer. There are times when we face unusual battles and the answers we get will be unusual answers. Yet we must trust what the answer tells us to do. It is also important to understand that we cannot rush God to answer. He has to bring us to the place were our trust in 100% in him and not in others, or ourselves. And at that moment, he will send the answer.

The current posting of this lesson can be found on the Williams Innovative Network (W.I.N) site,