Ministry That Matters

29 10 2013

I recently realized that none of Jesus’ disciples were “saved” when He called them to follow Him. Not one of them was a “Christian” – a believer.

This thought returns often as I ponder the significance of this truth.

Somehow, many have the idea that “ministry” in the church (i.e. to teach, preach, lead worship, or usher, etc.) is the “do-all” “end-all” of our existence. I’m having to re-think this belief. Corporate gatherings are for the purpose of worshiping our Lord and equipping the body.

Equipped for what? By today’s standards, the purpose would seem to be so we could have a happier week between services.

However, Jesus said,

“Love one another

as I loved you.”

(John 13:34)

The word have makes me ask, “when”? Is He referring to these men at the end of their lives, when they finally “arrived” at spiritual maturity?

Or does He mean in the same way as He loved them…when they were first invited to join Him? You know, when they were a bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, a thief, etc.

Further, Scripture tells us that not many wise, not many mighty, and not many noble are called. Instead, He calls the foolish, the weak, and the base (insignificant) 1 Corinthians 1:26,27.

Why then, I have to ask, do I devote my time and attention to those who are wise, mighty, and noble in their own eyes – and not to the weak, broken, cast off, and dismissed as worthless by society?

My preference is the company of people who are “cleaned up,” and would rather “preach to the choir” than get my hands dirty with the “scum of the earth.”

In this, I have never been less Christ-like.

This confession grieves me.

When I meet a person who’s “train wreck” of a life seems hopeless, I am often quick to dismiss them as useless. Mentally, I’ve run through what it would take to wade into their mess and make a disciple of them. It would require prayer, time, courage, and perseverance. This will take more effort than it’s worth, I think, and move on to those with a “tidier” life…usually this means other Christians.

When faced with people who were blind, though, Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

I believe this is His question to us today.

Do we believe that He is able to:

heal the brokenhearted

preach deliverance to the captives

give sight to the blind, and

set at liberty those who are oppressed?

(Luke 4:18-19)

Or has His ministry been reduced to making His body of believers more comfortable by improving their lifestyles?

How we spend our days reveals what we truly believe concerning this matter.

Jesus’ call is to go make disciples. This means that they aren’t disciples yet! 

…and are probably not sitting in the pew next to us.

We will have to go to them. They will be found in the highways and the hedges (Luke 14:23).

This sounds like the hitchhikers and homeless to me.

They may be a mess.

So were we.

This may take courage, time, and perseverance.

I’m glad Jesus stuck it out with me!

They might seem hopeless.

Nothing is impossible with God.

When we reach out to those who believe themselves to be healthy, we are brushed off as having useless information. Why do they need God? Life is good.

However, Jesus said to the “healthy” religious Pharisees,

“Those who are whole have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’

For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

(Matthew 9:12-13)

As His body, let us

Go therefore and do likewise!

(Luke 10:37)

This is a tall order…our Great Commission, given to us by the Lord. Tomorrow we’ll discuss how we can be equipped to fulfill this call.





I Never Said That!

27 09 2013

“In Jesus” name, Amen.”

Here’s a phrase that we throw around. We tack it on the end of our prayers…and feel like God doesn’t listen if someone fails to end their directions to God with it.

Have you ever wondered what we mean when we say these words?

Well, you and I have been given “power of attorney” to act on Christ’s behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are charged to keep His best interest in mind since He is not present in the physical sense of the word.

However, we first need to know His will before we can carry it out. Right?

Let me use a present-day illustration to make my point:

On March 4, 2005, my father, brother, and I arrived at the hospital – only to discover that my mother had suffered a major stroke and slipped into a coma late in the afternoon. Despite her Medical Directives, on file at the hospital, they put hooked her up to a ventilator.

As if on cue, the three of us looked at the machine, then looked at one another. There was one thing we knew for sure:

She did not want this.

Over the course of many years, Mom told us that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means. She threatened to come back and “haunt” us if we ever did so!

She didn’t mention it once or twice in passing, but she told us when we walked, when we sat, when we stood together, and when we laid down!

In other words, we were well aware of her wishes.

Mom had a medical Power of Attorney issued beforehand, which assigned us the responsibility of carrying out her will should she become incapacitated.

In addition, her Advanced Directives were on file at the hospital…in fact, she had an extra set taped to the kitchen cabinet “just in case” they were ever needed. She also filled out DNR orders (Do Not Resuscitate) when she returned to the hospital due to complications from the open heart surgery.

Because we were well-versed in her will, she was able to give us this responsibility with assurance that we would act in accordance with her desires.

That day there was no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what my mother wanted.

There was no hesitation in any of us when we told the doctor to remove life support. We acted on her behalf –

“in Gayle’s name.”

We were free of uncertainty and guilt when we did so. It was her will.

(Thanks for this, your final gift to us, Mom! )

The reason I chose to use this example is because it’s the one the Lord used to teach me about the words, “In Jesus’ name.” We are supposed to teach our children His Word when we walk, when we stand, when we sit, when we lie down, and when we walk in the way so that they know God’s will. (From Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

If we do obey this command, our children will know Jesus’ will in a given situation, and be able to pray in full assurance that what they are asking for is what He would request if He were physically present.

And if our parents taught us, then we also can confidently ask “In Jesus’ name.”

Oh how we need His frequent instruction. With His Word in our hearts, we can truly act in His name.

There’s a wonderful side-note to this teaching:

Months later, when the Lord showed me this truth, He went on to commend me for making the most unselfish decision of my life. He knew that deep in my heart, I’d rather have Mom’s shell here on earth where I could see and touch her. To let her go was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. With just a sentence, Jesus soothed the pain and gave me reason to celebrate spiritual growth.

Isn’t He so good to us?

As I review my prayer history, I realize that there have been many times when I’ve prayed for my will, and my desires to be fulfilled…and then tacked Jesus’ name on it – as if these were magical words that would secure my request.

“Dear God. Would You give me a T-Bird…metallic blue with Tuck and Roll interior? Oh, and I’d like to live in a really nice house. You said You would supply all my needs. I really need these things so I can show everyone how generous You are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

(I imagine Jesus turn and look at the Father. “I never said that! If Tami knew me better, she would know that what she is asking is NOT my will. Disregard that prayer, please,” was His comment!)

Until the Lord showed me what it really meant to pray in His name, I had no idea. It was what “church” people were supposed to do…the “proper” way to sign off when talking to God. Today I understand what He is asking me to do, and His instruction has radically changed the things I pray for.

This is just another step in the transformation process as He renews my mind (out with the lies, in with the truth).

God is certainly very patient with me. 🙂

Father,

Forgive me for the numerous times I’ve taken Jesus’ name in vain – slapped it on prayers that were my will…

…and not His. Help me to know His will so that I can be His ambassador.

I want to speak and act on His behalf…a worthy executor of His Power of Attorney.

This prayer is indeed…

…In Jesus’ name.

Amen!