Category: Biblical Teaching on Service

Here Am I! Send Me!

Dave Kahle is a business author, sales trainer and motivational speaker who also happens to be a believer. I’ve enjoyed reading Kahle for many years and even got to spend the day with Dave once when I was able to arrange for him to come speak to a group of managers at the company I work for. While most of Kahle’s work is directed at a secular business audience, he doesn’t keep his faith a secret and over the past few years he’s written frequently on the subject of being a Christian in the secular workplace.

Recently Kahle wrote in his blog about how he hates the way we modern Christians use the word “ministry.” Here’s some of what he had to say:

One of my clients has a salesperson – actually a very good one – who left his job to ‘join the ministry.’ In other words, go to work for a church someplace. Now, he certainly has the right to seek employment wherever he wants. My issue is with the process of elevating some work as ministry and some as not – which was at the heart of his decision. The Bible knows little of this idea and, in fact, proclaims the opposite.

Instead of joining the ‘ministry’ he could have seen his job as a God-given place to exercise his gifts and talents to the betterment of his customers and his employer – his opportunity to be salt and light to the world he occupied. Instead, he became another powerful Christian influence lost to the concept of ministry.

Since the word ministry seeks to separate some of our efforts as special, and proclaim all the others as ‘non-special’ it damages our spiritual discernment and limits our ability to grow closer to God. If the sales person in question had no concept of ‘ministry’ he more likely would have taken a more Biblical view of his work.

So, for Kahle, applying the term “ministry” to only certain activities greatly limits its scope and confers a specialness and formality to those activities as if ministry can only be done by professionals; whatever’s not labeled as “ministry” is mundane and unimportant and not “of God.” However, ministry is not only done by professionals, it doesn’t have to appear as a line item on a church budget in order to be ministry. Ministry happens wherever God’s people serve for God’s glory. If we’re faithful and attentive, it can happen everywhere, all day long and anyone – even you and me – can do it.

I’ve heard Jeff Pierce make this point only about a million times when talking about missions. “Missions,” Jeff will tell us (I’m paraphrasing), “doesn’t require making a trip to Guatemala or Uganda or Mexico or Ethiopia. It doesn’t require going to school to be trained as a missionary or being sent out by a church. All that’s required to do mission work is to be willing to share the story of God’s grace and redemption with an unbelieving world – at work, at school, on the golf course, at a barbeque in your backyard… anywhere.”

Treating your literal and figurative backyard as a mission field is liberating but it’s also a little daunting isn’t it? If I don’t have to fly to Addis Ababa to start talking to people about Christ that means I could start today at the coffee machine or when I’m at Target.

Can I do that? I think I can. Besides, talking openly and non-judgmentally about our faith in Jesus Christ with non-believers is what we’re called to do. 1 Peter 3: 13-16 reads:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Being able to talk about Christ openly and correctly and faithfully is a sign of Christian maturity. What holds us back? Fear of looking silly? Fear of doing it badly? Fear of being ignored or made fun of? Or is it simply that we’ve adopted a limited view of ministry that says ministry is formal and exclusive, something to be done by someone better trained than me?

Here’s the simple fact, however: for the people in your life – your coworkers, your friends, your family – there is no one better equipped or better positioned to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people than you.

Besides, the plane fare to your backyard is lot cheaper than to Addis Ababa, Kampala or Guatemala City.

– Paul Burkholder

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Gospel Flow

Do you remember BA Baracus from the TV show the A-Team? He was played by the very large black man with the odd name – Mr. T.  His signature phrase was – “I love it when a plan comes together”.  Well, I love it when the Gospel fits together.  I love seeing the flow of the Gospel move seamlessly from one ministry to the next, and one circumstance consistently to the next.

It has taken me many years (and I’m still not there) to be able to rightly connect many of the “dots of the Gospel”.  How does the work of Christ alter my identity? How does God’s love change relationships? Where does the story of the Bible direct my story? How does the Gospel shape a philosophy of missions, preaching, marriage, family … social media, entertainment, hobbies, sex and money? If the Gospel can’t (and doesn’t) flow into every area of life with something to say then it is a faulty foundation to base a worldview upon.  But it can … and it does … and if we think carefully enough and walk humbly we can synthesize all of life under the banner of the Gospel.

Think about one with me for a moment – Evangelism and Missions.  If God is the Creator of the Universe and Maker of all mankind then He doesn’t need to “peddle merchandise” or “make a sale” does He?  It’s inconsistent with His character.  If His story is about Him and His glory in redeeming fallen sinners, then He is not dependent on man but man dependent on God.  These truths shape how we think about evangelism.  We are rescued from our sin and the judgment we deserve.  We are shown mercy, given grace, and made children.  Our lives are now a delightful trophy of the incarnation and Jesus becoming man to save man.  We don’t perform to earn standing or work to gain acceptance, it’s done and nothing can change what God has accomplished.  So it flows … we share what’s precious to us, not what we’re obliged to sell.

This Missions Month at LCC we tackle the subject – “Approved to Speak”.  You are approved to speak not because you speak well, but because God approves the message of rescue as it’s delivered by rescued men and women.  Share out of the overflow … with the delight on knowing what He has done for you.  May our speaking gospel flow from our love for the Gospel and the transforming work the Gospel has made (and is making) in our own lives!

– Mark Spansel

Learning Christ’s Pattern of Humility

At LCC, we launched our Lenten Season by considering Why Humility Matters. Since that evening I have thought much about the topic of humility; my musings have taken me to John 13:1-15.

The hours before His passion, Jesus gathered His disciples for their Passover meal. The synoptic writers share the dinner’s specifics; however, John’s Gospel adds flavor to the proceedings. Instead of the investiture of the bread and wine, we see Jesus rising from the table, draping a towel and washing His disciple’s feet. Foot washing at a special dinner was not unusual but for the master of the feast to be washing His underling’s feet was culturally dumbfounding. What would cause Jesus to do such a thing? Luke 22:24-30 may provide insight.

Apparently, a dispute arose among them as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. Jesus had been preparing the disciples hearts for His great coming humiliation. Yet, in the waning hours before the betrayal, not one of the twelve shows remorse of Jesus’ coming suffering. Instead, they debate their personal greatness.

In candor, the disciples probably would have washed Jesus feet, but not the other 22 stinking feet in the room. Therein is the rub. The disciples like most of us competed for preeminence. Even though they studied under Him for three years, they did not understand His mission. In time, they would get it, but for now, it was still about who would sit at the right hand or on the left hand of Christ in His Kingdom.

In grand gesture, designed to quell the banter and open their eyes, Jesus steps away from the table and by washing their feet teaches two things. First, He sets an example of servant leadership; and, secondly teaches of sanctification’s cleansing. Although much can be said about both aspects; my interest is in the care of one another. To this end, I like J.C. Ryle’s comment on servant leadership best, “He [Jesus] wished to teach His disciples that they ought to be willing to wait on one another….. even in the least and lowest of things.” Bishop Ryle adds, “If Jesus, the King of kings, condescended to leave heaven to save souls, and to dwell thirty-three years in this sin-defiled world, there is nothing that we should think too lowly to undertake.”

– Selby Brannon

A Victorious Perspective

For the last several weeks I’ve been going through the book of Philippians, a study that began the first Sunday of January and will end right before Easter.

Paul’s perspective on life and death if often quoted. “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The apostle’s confidence is unshakeable. His firm belief is that the life of a Christian is an indisputable win-win. If I live, my life is profitable, and serves to edify the church. If I die, well, that’s much, much better. The word in Spanish is muchísimo better!

Paul is not minimizing the reality of trials and sufferings. He finishes chapter 1 saying that, in fact, sufferings and persecutions will come. Paul of all people knew this, as he frequently lived on the ragged edge of difficulty, extreme need and even violence. But even persecution for Christ’s sake is a gift granted by God (Phil.1:29). I am reminded of a song from the 80s. “We are destined to win, we’re surrounded by his love, and guarded by his power.”

How could Paul maintain such a victorious perspective? I am personally in no hurry to die, and when I think about death, in my mind it is not muchísimo better. Could it be Paul had a glimpse of heaven during his years in the Arabian desert where he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2)? Or was he simply a man of exceptional faith?

Two verses caught my attention when studying this, both written by Paul. One is more well-known, Romans 8:18. The other passage was a new discovery for me. I Corinthians 3:22-23 says: “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

So. Everything is ours, the whole world, or the whole universe, as some versions translate. Life. Even death. Everything is ours, because we are Christ’s, and Christ is of God.

May God grant us the faith to believe in God’s promises, to leverage His great love, to live a truly victorious life no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in, knowing that everything, indeed, is already ours in Christ.

– Rod Fry

Holy Hospitality

But when Christ appeared … he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

Being able to serve others well in hospitality doesn’t come natural for me. My mom was and is quite the hostess. There were always missionaries and friends and families in our home for some kind of gathering. So it should come as no surprise that Angi and I do much of the same. And we like it! But it hasn’t always been like that. Honestly, it helped that we were exposed to that kind of a home, but it really is different when it’s your home that’s being offered. I needed more than just “that’s how mom did it” to change my heart toward hospitality.

Jesus changes everything! I really don’t mean to be superficial. It’s true! Knowing Christ has challenged my perspective on serving others in my home. The way Christ has served me matters. Jesus went beyond the offering of goats and calves and he offered himself to ransom my selfish heart. The great eternal redemption I have received is infinitely different that what I deserve. Oh, how he has served me! And that should change how I think about service!

Yes, His service is infinitely more superior than ours will ever be. But it is with hearts filled with the truth of His mercies that we are called to give in much the same way. Even our hospitality is a holy sacrifice.

Please hear the clarion call afresh: Jesus offered himself. And because that is true, you are free to offer yourself …and your home to others. Not superficially, but all of who you are can be used to serve. I pray this Christmas you will be most thoughtful of the One who served you well!

– Jeff Pierce

Loving Your Neighbor

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). We are all ‘under construction’ regarding loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength while we still remain here on earth. But have you ever considered the second part of that verse, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’?

How do you define love? As I have studied scriptures for the past 30 years, I have discovered the English term love covers a lot of ground (somewhat inefficiently). The Greek renders the term love down to different categories such as agape, family, physical, sensual. That helps me understand that my love for God is different than the love for my wife, my daughter, or chocolate. Christ said if you love me, you will obey me. That’s not always easy or convenient and many times not comfortable.

Who is my neighbor? I used to believe my neighbor is the family living next door. Scripture shows us differently. Jesus proceeds to define ‘neighbor’ in Luke 10:30. A man traveling is robbed, beaten and left in the road. A priest and then a Levite (religious men) wanted nothing to do with this poor soul. Along comes a Samaritan (looked down upon by the Jews) and helps the poor man to the very best of his ability. Christ asks, “Which of these three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

My neighbor is someone who is in need. When I see someone in need, I need to put myself in that person’s situation and then consider what resources I have been blessed with to help that person (physically, monetarily, emotionally, spiritually, etc.). From the family who lives next door, to the cashier at the checkout counter, to the server at the restaurant, to the lady with the flat tire alongside the road. All these people are my neighbors, and many times they are not in the best of moods and have had a long hard day. But when I come into contact with them, hopefully the love of Christ shines through me and I reach out to help in any way I can. I can give an encouraging word, a pat on the back, a hug, or help changing a flat tire.

If I can do nothing else, I can pray for them. Come to think of it, that’s the best I can do for them!

– Lynn Stephens

All The Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

Where do we begin?
Because of the grace we have received, as an act of worship we want our lives to count. To be used for building the Kingdom. To bring God glory and be useful to the ones we love. I’m sure the category of “what I don’t know that I don’t know” is vast. How can I avoid being like one of those blind guides leading the blind that Christ warned against in Mt 23? Will what I plant grow up to be strong and healthy or will it be another weed uprooted and thrown aside?
It is not how smart, well resourced, or competent we are that will make us useful in the Kingdom. Our assurance is found in placing our confidence in Christ. So where do I start? Where we begin or where we build the foundation for ministry makes all the difference. If you’re like me, constant reminders are needed. I need to re-boot the system every day starting fresh with a renewed reliance on what He has said. Paul put it this way in Phil 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” It is He who began the work and it will be Him who completes it. Pick up and end right there. What He has done and said is the foundation. “set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts”. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”. Nothing, nothing at all is put before Him and His Word. “…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, (Col 2:2-3). Our ultimate commitment is to Christ alone. Not in our wits, programs, and strategy, but in Him. We are equipped and given everything we need when we put a proper confidence in what He has said. We must presuppose the truth of God’s word from start to finish. Pro 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” On my own I suffer from a crushing lack of confidence to minister to anyone but thanks to our loving, wise, and self-revealing God, He has not left us alone to figure this out. He has given us his Word, Himself.

– David Ortiz