Get all you can

I was thinking the other day about what advice I would share with a young preacher who was just starting out. Three things came to mind. Each of which I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out. While I don’t know the extent of the change it would have made for me I know the right advice would have gone a long way.

My first piece of advice would be this. When it comes to what a God called man is to preach, God has already told you what to preach. He has given you 66 books in one volume called the Bible. Stay on your knees in prayer with your nose in the good book. You don’t have to look for the eight-run home run sermon, just give ’em Jesus.

The second piece of advice would be in regards to opportunity. That is, take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t hide behind the line that you are not good enough yet to go out somewhere, that you need more seasoning. If God called you and you have been faithful to study and not just have opinions and traditions then God will be with you. A young preacher may not feel up to the challenge of an invitation, but I would urge them to take it. The opportunity they pass on may be the same one someone like me would be begging to have.

Lastly, and just as importantly as the first two. Please young preacher ask questions. Don’t just assume that the older more experienced preachers will just open up the flood gates of knowledge to you of their own accord. They tend to not remember how it was to be that inexperienced. There is knowledge and wisdom there but you most likely will have to tap into it yourself verses them taking you under their wing.

I am reminded of what Paul wrote over in 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul just listed four generations in this one verse. How much Paul brought out on his own verses how muxh Timothy had to dig out of the apostle on his own I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that there was knowledge there and each preacher has the responsibility to get all that he can and pass on all that he can.

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Getting along

I heard a preacher say one time that we had best learn to get along with our co-workers because if we don’t God will make sure you two get stuck together. With that in mind I must confess that there is a group of men where I work that I don’t see eye to eye with. For the record I am a union member, where I work is a union business, my local is in need of more members, and I was always taught that if you work at a union shop you must be a union member. Long story short this group of guys are not union member, which puts me at odds with them.

However over the past few months I have had to deal directly with them more than normal. Yes they are just as human as I am, which is no surprise, but they are still non-union workers in a union shop but I am getting over that. I can’t change what they are but I can work with them, even dare I say work a little with them. As part of my transition back to my normal job I have had my hours changed to where I come in earlier and help our shippers ship the product to the drivers. Part of this new responsibility includes shipping some of their product. For me that is a little weird, bad enough I am shipping but also shipping to these guys!?! We do have a common goal though. All of us want to make a living to support our families.

This got me to thinking about who in the Bible were some “opposites” who had to learn to work together? David and Jonathan come to mind. Jonathan is the crown prince yet he knew David had been choosen by God Himself to be the nect king, 1 Samuel 23:17. These two agreed to work together even though Jonathan knew he was getting the short end of the stick. The over all goal was more important, they knew they had to follow God’s will for their lives and for their nation. 

Still though they didn’t have that difference of opinion like me and the non-union guys. That lead me to think about to of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew the publican and Simon Zealotes. Simon Zealotes was as pro-Israel as you can get while Matthew the publican had “betrayed” Israel by going to work for the Roman’s as one of their tax collector’s. Early on it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for these two to work together. Not even much of a stretch to think that they did their best to be as far apart as possible but still they hung in there. Personally I kinda picture it taking Jesus at the last supper washing everybody’s feet before it really started to click for them. The idea that they have a common goal and a common employer (God). Their past was in the past and now a day would soon come for them when they would work together, Pentecost, both giving out the good news that Jesus saves. Then one day coming to understand that salvation was not just for the Jews but for all mankind, so long as they would accept the free gift. Yeah even those two could get along, they needed common ground and that was found at the foot of the cross.

Get back to work

We all want to be blessed and to be used by God to be a blessing. When we don’t see those things happening in our lives just what is it that we suspect,at first, to be the reason for why it ain’t happening? If we are honest with ourselves then most of the time we know the answer. God won’t work in our lives when we give Him nothing to work with.

Perhaps we are supplying Him with the building materials but we still aren’t seeing results. I have to admit I have found far to often that yes indeed He has the stuff to work with in my life but sin has pulled the building permits. Now instead of building a godly life, time is being spent on cleaning up the debris left behind from the sin I have allowed to roam freely in my area. All that time spent going to church, singing praises, taking notes on the sermon, and the prayers that were more than just at church are all building materials. Maybe not all that we need to have but at least we have those things. Until that sin happens and stops construction.

Then there is the time factor that can delay a project. Those moments when we are about to work or are working and suddenly the time clock chimes and it is time for a break, time for lunch, time to punch out. We look around and realize nothing much got done. Time was wasted, it was spent on the wrong things and now we find ourselves further behind. How often does that lead to us putting the project on hold or scrapping it altogether? God didn’t want that to happen but our use of time dictated that to us.

Good news!!! God isn’t satisfied with our excuses. In fact He is ready for us to get back to work. He has plans for us, plans about us, and plans for our future (not just Heaven either).

Remember there was this certain big mouth in the group of disciples who followed Jesus around by the name of Peter? Jesus told him that Satan had plans for his life (to sift him as wheat) but Jesus also had plans for him. In fact Jesus told Peter when he was converted and not if he was, Peter was to strengthen the brethren. Peter was also told that he would deny Jesus three times. 

When the time came he sure did deny Jesus those three times. But I like what the Bible records for us over in Mark 16:7. The angels that were there at the now empty tomb of Jesus told the women to go back and “tell his disciples and Peter”. Did you catch that? And Peter. Peter! God still wants you and He is telling you to get back to work! Church however bad off we might be God still loves us and still wants us to get to work. Don’t let Satan tell you it’s too late, because it will only be that way when you leave this life. 

Out of the norm

The other night I decided to attend our church’s teen meeting. Yeah, I know I haven’t been a teenager in over twenty years. On top of that I am something of an introvert so I am not big on socializing by nature. For me, I felt like I really needed to step out of my norm, my shell, that I needed a change if for nothing else to be a little different for a couple of hours.

All in all I had fun at the meeting. We started off by playing a couple of games. One was a guessing game where each of us wrote down three positive facts about ourselves on a card with no name on it and we were then divided up boys against girls. Our object was to guess who on the opposing aide had written about themself. For the second game we all had to choose an animal and a motion and sound that would describe the animal. While in a circle we would have to do our animal and follow it with someone elses animal. We did this until we messed up the animal or picked someone who was already out.

These games served a couple of purposes. The most obvious was to entertain everyone. The leaders didn’t go straight into the Bible and teach the Bible in the typical dry style that has doomed so many young people to think that church is boring and let me get out of here as quick as possible. These kids are teenagers, as such you have to approach them accordingly. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 he was willing to go to the level of his audience in an effort to win as many to Christ as possible. Those leaders for our teens are doing the same thing and have seen some results. 

Now the other thing that those games did which is in my estimation even more important is that those games desensitized the participants. When we first started I felt so out of place. Like I said I am twenty-plus years older then the oldest, this wasn’t my age bracket and I am sure most if not all realized that tidbit. I felt ignored because I wasn’t one of them, so awkward in fact I wanted to leave but at this point it was too late. Yet once we got through the first game, a simple game at that, we were all laughing and talking to those on our side and the second game opened us up to laughing and talking with the whole group. No longer were we divided by age and gender, for one evening that norm had been left behind, we were now all equal to one another.

After a quick meal it was time to get into the Bible. Our youth pastor had warned me if I ever showed up I better come prepared to bring the devotional, so I did just in case. As it turned out right after the meal he did indeed tell me I had two minutes to get ready. I brought the devotional on some of the details about the book of Ruth and tried to tie it in with both our pastor’s current series on the life of King David and the first of those same games where we had had to guess who had wrote what details about their life. Not a normal devotional perhaps but I could see their faces when I told them different things. Their guard was down after the opening of the evening and they were more willing to hear about God’s word. For a few minutes I was their equal and I think they enjoyed it, I know I did.

A quick take away: How?

Philippians 2:12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Not to work it into our lives, Ephesians 2:9, but to work it out by our lives, by our obedience, by our daily behavior, or to show what is on the inside. The Christian life is a working concern. We should have an eagerness to show it off like a child would do with a new toy. In other words displaying fruit, Galatians 5:22,23. Just like one would a gold mine operating, exploiting, and getting top value for what is securely your possession.

How about working out?

You know how people get heavy? They don’t eat right, don’t get enough exercise or both. I am guilty, I admit it.

Did you know that applies spiritually as well? It’s true. Spiritually people don’t eat right, work out, or a combination of both. Again I am guilty.

I am not looking at neglecting a proper spiritual diet here. Nope, I am thinking about how so many Christians attend church on a regular basis and feast on the Word while there. “It sure is good stuff the preacher brought out today” they think to themselves. Some even go up to the altar and pray about it. Once they walk through those doors their spiritual body might as well go into hibernation. That good message is not put into practice, it just sits there and turns into spiritual fat.

Same can be said for when we pray and read the Bible. We take it all in, either “I have told God all about it” or “I did my daily Bible reading”. If that is all there is for us then it is becoming spiritual fat. Fat is stored energy that the body has to do one of three things with. Use it, evacuate it, or store that energy as fat. Some fat is good to have because it is insulation for the body and reserves of energy. Too much fat is hard on the body especially the heart and that goes spiritually as well. An unhealthy heart due to spiritual fat and no exercise is a bad thing. Maybe early grave type bad thing.

How do we keep it all from becoming spiritual fat? Paul said in Philippians 2:12 “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We don’t save ourselves but we are to take what we are bringing in and put it to work instead of just collecting it. James said in James 2:18 “…shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Having faith isn’t enough, both of these apostles said so. If the doctor can tell us to lose weight by exercising how much more should we be doing by spiritually exercising? As Christians we should be, at least spiritually, lean soul winning machines! Get started by walking with the Lord each day and start telling and showing people what God has done for you and what He can do for them.

Are you just content?

I was doing some studying on the book of Ruth and I came across this idea and I would like to share it with you. Ruth chapter 2 opens with a verse that seems so out of place. As we read on in the chapter we find that this verse which speaks about Boaz being of Elimelech’s family is being used to give us some advance information as to why Boaz might be important once he us brought up. 

Still though why have that verse there? Couldn’t the writer have just included it once the character of Boaz is introduced to the reader? It really isn’t needed there for chronological purposes. Here is what Warren W. Wiersbe basically had to say about it,  too many Christians are content to live their lives in the mode of chapter 2 where they are just barely getting by and being dependent on spirituual hand outs. Yet it is in chapter 3 where Ruth humbles herself and requests the full blessings and rights that were waiting for her. Why? Because they want the blessings but not the commitment that is involved with it. They know he’s there but it’s good enough.

Church we need to get rid of that “good enough” mind-set. We can have all that God has got for us but we must humble ourselves to Him.
Reference: Be Committed, by Warren W. Wiersbe