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Why Do Church Members Think the Pastor is the Only Minister?

Shepherd

Why do church members think the Pastor is the only minister? I asked that question last night during our Community Group meeting.

The Answer

Talking with my wife afterwards and thinking through the responses this morning, it seems congregants don’t believe they are on par with their pastor when it comes to their ability to minister. Pastors are put in a different category, thought to play in a different league, or are seen as higher on the hierarchal scale of spirituality. They are the professional. As the professional, they are the ones who do the “real” ministering.

The Reality

I, however, don’t believe that’s true. While my full-time vocation is ministry, I don’t see myself as higher up the spiritual scale as others. Nor do I believe I am playing in a different league than my congregants. There are those in my congregation who can minister just as effectively, if not better, than I can.

While, at times, my knowledge of the Bible, Theology, Hermeneutics, and Ecclesiology might be greater, my life experiences are still limited, my relationships don’t run as deep, and my ability to comfort is, at times, not as great.

Knowledge doesn’t always equal better ministry.

Additionally, if a Pastor’s main job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4), that necessitates others in the congregation are not only given the responsibility to minister, but also have the ability to minister. A little coaching or training might be needed, but ministry is possible.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

So don’t sell yourself short. You have the ability to minister. You might not be able to answer every theological question thrown at you, but ministry is much more than sharing knowledge. It is also about sharing wisdom. Wisdom that is gained from years of walking with the Lord and applying His Word to your life.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you minister alongside your Pastor?

Resource

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Are You Ready For Your Wedding?

Wedding

If you know anything about weddings, you know they are all about the bride and groom. Think about it. They are the ones who select the theme, the location, and the date and time. They don’t phone you to ask what theme you would like or what date works for you. No, what happens? You walk out to the mailbox one day and there is an invitation waiting on you telling you what the wedding be like and the date and time it will be on. You are then expected to clear your calendar and show up on that date and time.

On the day of the wedding, it doesn’t matter what is happening in your life. It doesn’t matter that you woke up late, misplaced your keys, or that your children have been running around crazy. You are still expected to be at the church on time ready for the wedding to start.

In the same way, Jesus expects us to be ready for His wedding, but instead of sending us an invitation with the date and time, He tells us that we are to always be ready.

How Can We Be Ready?

In order of us to be ready, our heart has to be changed. We have to have turned to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Without a heart change, there is no hope for us because only a changed heart will allow us to be fully committed to Jesus.

There is no room for quasi-Christians

There is no room for those who are straddling the fence. Those who are half committed.

It is sad, but I believe that is where most of the church is at today. They are half committed fence straddlers. They turn to God only when it is convenient, when it works for them, when He’s helping them with life.

Jesus, however, is not looking for fence straddlers, those who want God on their own terms. Instead, He wants us to deal with  Him on His terms. His terms is full and continued obedience and commitment to Him. If that’s not us. If we are only half committed, then we are no better than the church at Laodicea. We are lukewarm. Jesus will say and do to us exactly what He says to them.

…because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16).

So if you have been playing church, quit. If you aren’t fully committed, quit straddling the fence and jump all in. A half commitment is no commitment at all. We must be all in or nothing. If we aren’t, then we aren’t prepared. We aren’t ready for Jesus to come. We aren’t ready for our wedding day.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you fully committed to Jesus?

Resource

Post adapted from my sermon: The Wise are Always Prepared for Jesus’ Return

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How Do You Know If You are Ready for Jesus to Return?

Jesus' Return

How do you know if you are ready for Jesus to return? Different people give different answers. Some say I am an American; while others believe they are ready because they walked an aisle, raised a hand, and said a prayer; still others believe they are ready because they have lived a good life, helping lots of people.

What, however, does the Bible? To be sure, it does not answer in the way most would.

What does the Bible Say?

The Bible tells us that we can know we are ready for Jesus’ return by continually living according to Jesus’ will. The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant exemplify this idea (Matthew 24:45-51).

In the parable, the faithful servant remained true to his master’s wishes the entire time he was gone, while the unfaithful servant didn’t. Instead of following his master’s will, he followed his own.

So we can know that we are ready for Jesus’ return if we are continually living according to His will.

Why is that so?

Because that is what Jesus’ judgment is based on. You see, Jesus’ judgment isn’t based on some decision we made in the past. Rather it is based on how we are currently living. It is based on our faithfulness.

If we prove ourselves to be faithful to Him at His return by continually living according to His will, then we will experience a joyous reward. If, however, we prove ourselves to be unfaithful to Him at His return by living according to our own will, we will experience eternal torment.

So we show that we are ready for Jesus’ return by continually living according to His will, by continually living as a faithful servant.

Clarification – Not a Works Based Salvation

Now, when I say we are judged according to our faithfulness, I am not advocating a works based salvation. Instead what I am saying is that our works reveal our true nature. The way we live reveals our heart as it really is, which means we can’t just rest in a decision we have made in the past. Instead, we must rest in how we are living for Jesus now.

And so, if you are not living as a faithful servant, if you are not living according to God’s will, if you are not continually growing in your Christian walk and becoming more like Christ, if these things are not taking place in your life, then you are not a faithful servant no matter what decision you made in the past.

It is not about what we “have done” rather it is about what we “are doing.”

I bring this up because a lot of people think they are going to heaven based of some decision they made years ago. While there is a time when our heart is given to Christ, we can’t base our eternal destiny on a decision alone, especially if that decision hasn’t affected the way we live.

Those whose hearts are given to Christ, those who “decide for Christ”, change. They change to become a faithful servant – someone continually living according to Jesus’ will. If that has not happened in your life, then you haven’t given your heart to Jesus. You are not going to experience eternal life because you aren’t a follower of Jesus.

Jesus is looking for followers not just deciders

Sure, you might have changed for a short time, but if you are not living as a Christian now, if you aren’t living as a faithful servant now, then when Jesus returns, you are not going to be rewarded, rather you are going to be punished.

Faithful servants of God are prepared for Jesus’ return, and they show they are prepared by continually living according to Jesus’ will.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see a continual change in your life, or are you just resting in a decision you made in the past?

Resources

Adapted from my sermon: What does it look like to be a faithful servant of God?

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How Do We Redeem Our Work?

Work

What do you think of when you think of heaven? Popular perception is something like floating around on a cloud somewhere singing and playing harp. Those who are musically inclined might be thrilled, but that is not what is going to happen. We aren’t going to just float around for all eternity. No, we are going to be apart of a renewed city.

A Renewed City

In Revelation 21, we are told that a New Heavens and a New Earth will be formed. A New Jerusalem will be made ready for us to live in. Which means we are going to be citizens of a city in the future. A city where we will have responsibilities. A city in which we will live and work. If that doesn’t sound like heaven to you, keep in mind work is one reason we were created.

Work is one reason we were created.

Created to Work

In Genesis 2:5 God says,

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,…” (Ge 2:5)

He continues in verse 7 by saying,

…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Ge 2:7–8)

We are told in verse 15 the reason God placed Adam in the garden was to

work it and keep it.” (Ge 2:15c)

So we were created to work. If that is true, you may ask yourself then: Why do I hate working so much?

Why We Don’t Like Work

Well, the reason we don’t like work is because of The Fall. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, part of the punishment was increased labor in their work. In other words, work was made more difficult.

Work is for Our Joy

From the beginning, work wasn’t supposed to be something we hated. It wasn’t supposed to be difficult and dreadful. That wasn’t how God designed it. He designed work to be something we enjoy.

We see glimpses of the joy of work even today. Think about your hobbies. I am sure none of you just sit in a dark room as a hobby. No, what do you do? You do some form of work. Think about it. Remodeling a car, making a quilt, hunting, training dogs and whatever else you do. All of that is work — It takes effort, skill, and time; it’s work.

The difference though between our hobbies and our job is that we enjoy our hobbies. Since we enjoy them, they don’t feel like work, even though it is work.

How Do We Redeem Work?

We redeem work by seeing it as something good God created. Work is good for us and others. It is good for God’s creation. God told Adam to work it and keep it, to cultivate the land he was given stewardship over. When we work to cultivate God’s creation and put our creative abilities in play, we create things that are good for everyone. Of course, I know some of you will say we create things that are not good. While that is true, the process of creation and cultivation in and of itself is a good thing.

Another way to redeem work is to see it as a way to glorify and honor God. When we view work as a way to honor and glorify God, our work becomes worship. While it may be hard, difficult, taxing, something at times we don’t enjoy, it is a way for us to worship God. Knowing work is worship should help us get through the day a little easier.

Along with seeing work as worship, we can also redeem work by viewing it as an opportunity to witness to others. Before I was a minister, I slaved away in the corporate world chained to a desk and phone all day. While I didn’t enjoy what I did, I had the opportunity to build deep relationships with my co-workers. Relationships that ultimately allowed me to speak the truth of the gospel into their lives. In that way, I redeemed the work I hated doing.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you redeem work?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon What Does It Look Like To Be A Faithful Servant of God?

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Our Response to God’s Kingship

King Lake

Since God is our Creator and King, we should worship and obey Him. Worship and obedience, however, is a foreign idea to most people today. God isn’t naturally viewed as a King we should worship, but John paints a different picture for us in Revelation.

In 4:11 John writes,

““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”” (Re 4:11)

So God is someone we should worship. We should worship Him because He is our Creator. Everything we see, the Lord created, including you and me. His Creative power, His sovereignty, and ownership should lead us to worship Him.

What Does It Mean To Worship God and How Do We Worship Him?

Worshipping God means we show a deep respect and love for Him. We worship Him by praising Him, as well as by exalting or holding Him in high regard. When you come to church on Sunday, we do all these things. We praise God by singing of His attributes, abilities, and actions. As well as we hold Him in high regard by reading, studying and learning from His Word.

Not only should we worship, by praising and exalting Him, but we should also worship Him by obeying Him. Obeying God means we think, do, and act as He wants. In other words, we live according to His will.

How do we know God’s will?

God reveals His will in His Word — the Bible. The Bible then isn’t just a book of stories, nor is it just a book of rules. The Bible is a book about God and man. It reveals who God is, who we are, what He has done, and what we are to do. So if we want to know about God, we go to His word. If we want to know about ourselves, we go to His Word. If we want to know what God has done, we go to His Word. And if we want to know how we are to live, we go to God’s Word.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why is it important we read and study God’s Word?
  2. If we worship God through living obedient lives, what does that imply about where we can worship God?

Resources

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Why Do We Rebel?

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But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards,” (Mt 24:48–49)

In Matthew 24:48-49 Jesus pictures one of two servants. The second servant, the one we see here, is much different than the first. Instead of remaining faithful the entire time his master is gone and taking care of his fellow servants. He does the opposite.

Jesus tells us with the master delayed in returning, the servant forgets his master and the task he has been given. As a result, he begins to indulge his flesh.

Notice he does two things:

(1) He acts unjustly – He abuses his position and those under him. Instead of taking care of and feeding his fellow servants, he beats them. He lashes out against them in violence.

(2) He befriends drunkards – Eating and drinking with them, and inevitable taking up their lifestyle – their actions and way of living.

Change Didn’t Occur Overnight

Now, I want you to understand the change in this man didn’t occur overnight. A switch didn’t just flipped in his heart so that he became corrupt. No, these things were always in his heart. They just didn’t have an opportunity to come out. You see, his master was the one who was restraining him. With his master gone, with the restraint lifted, he could act as he pleased.

So his current actions — beating his fellow servants and hanging with drunkards — was the actual state of his heart. He just needed an opportunity for that to show.

Applying It To Us

I think we see something similar in our own lives and our own churches.

Think of that kid who grew up in the church. All their life they were taught to act a certain way — Don’t be a drunkard, don’t use drugs, don’t have sex before you get married, and always go to church. While they lived at home, for the most part, they lived by those rules.

However, as soon as they moved out of their parent’s house or went off to college in another town, they started doing all the things they were told they weren’t supposed to do. They started using drugs, getting drunk, having sex with their girlfriend or boyfriend and stopped showing up to church.

As parents, we wonder why? I mean, “They were so good at home. Why are they acting this way now?”

Well, the reason they do is the same reason the second servant — the unfaithful servant — acts the way he acts.

The restraining power of the master is no longer present. When that is taken way, the heart will show it’s true nature.

That’s exactly what happened with this servant, and that is exactly what happens with kids who grow up in the church but then go off to live as if they didn’t grow up in the church.

Or you might think of another scenario. How about the church going business man who goes on a business trip and looks at porn in his hotel room, or even worse, cheats on his wife. That happens for the same reason. The restraining power of the master has been taken away and their true heart is able to come out.

The same thing with people who go off to Las Vegas for vacation. There is nothing there to restrain them. Vegas knows this so they play it up and you see that with their motto: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

So all this tells us is that:

Our true nature shows through when external restraints are taken away.

When the outside influence that keeps our true desires at bay is no longer there, they (our suppressed desires) will come out, showing our true heart. That is what happens to the servant here in our passage, the young adult who leaves home, the businessman who goes on a trip, or the person who goes to Vegas for vacation. When the restraint is lifted, their true heart is shown.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe our environment can have that kind of restraint on us?
  2. How do you explain the teenager who was a saint at home, but a hellion on his/her own?

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Get in the Game

Football Huddle

All too often Christians are found retreating into a holy huddle, to their own corner of the world that doesn’t include non-believers. But instead of gathering together in a holy huddle, I believe we are supposed to interact with and engage non-believers. If we don’t, then we can’t accomplish the Great Commission — to make disciples because we don’t know any non-believers.

If we want to win non-believers to Christ, we have to know non-believers.

It’s Easy to Do

The reason I bring this up is because I know it is easy for us as Christians to gather together in our holy huddle. For a time, that is fine, but at some point we have to break the huddle and engage those around us with the gospel, especially knowing that Jesus could return at any point.

A Silly Example that Rings True

Imagine throwing down a couple of hundred dollars for a ticket to a Cowboys game, fighting traffic all the way down to Arlington, and spending even more time finding a parking spot and even more money at the concession stand, only to see the Cowboys never break the huddle after fielding the first kickoff. No amazing play for a touchdown. No last minute “hail mary” to win the game. No, none of that happens, instead they turn the ball over to the other team because of delay of game penalties. Imagine seeing that.

We are no different than the Cowboys, if we remain in our holy huddle. Sure it is safe in there, but if we never engage anyone with the gospel, all we are doing is turning things over to the other team. That’s not good because the other team isn’t just going to score a touchdown. No, instead they are going to score someone’s soul.

Who Do You Know?

So instead of remaining in a holy huddle we need to engage those around us with the gospel. In order to engage non-believers with the gospel, we have to know non-believers.

A good question to ask yourself to see if you are stuck in a holy huddle or if you have broke and you are playing the game is simple: How many people do you know that is a non-believer?

When I say know, I don’t mean know of. Instead I mean how many do you know? How many people do you personally engage with on a weekly basis that is a non-believer?

We have to know non-believers in order to accomplish the Great Commission.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you stuck in a holy huddle or are you playing the game?
  2. Would you share some ways you get to know non-believers?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: Are you ready for the return of Jesus?

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