Serving

BEING USED BY GOD ON SUNDAY MORNING

If you attend church regularly, you probably would like to see God use you in fruitful ways that bless your church.

In an article entitled, “How Members Can Serve the Church on Sunday Morning”,  the 9Marks website shares these ways that ordinary church members can serve their church on Sunday. Prayerfully give one or more of these a try and see what God does.

Before the Service

Read the passage in advance

Pray for the gathering

Greet newcomers (act like you are the host)

Think strategically about who you should sit with

Arrive early

 During the Service

Sing with gusto (even if you can’t sing)

Help with logistics (if there’s a problem, help fix it)

Don’t be distracted

Listen carefully

After the Service

Connect newcomers with others

Get newcomers information

Start a conversation about the sermon

Ask someone how they became a Christian

Stay late

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.15.17

Love for the Gospel Shapes How We Live

 

1 Corinthians 9

Last week, we saw principles that guide how we exercise our rights and freedoms. The Apostle Paul continues this theme at length!  But now he uses his own example to show that serving the Gospel shapes his priorities and lifestyle

Paul Starts By Reminding Them of His Position v1

He was an Apostle: the highest office in the church

A requirement of being an Apostle is to be a witness of the risen Christ. Paul says, “I saw him!”

He was not just an Apostle he was their Apostle vs1-2

In Acts 18, Paul founded the church in Corinth; and he spent 1½ years teaching them

He Understood His Rights in Christ v1 “Am I not free?”

Many in the church struggled to understand their freedoms; but not Paul, he knew them well

 

Yet, He Wants Them to Know the Rights He Gave Up

There are three areas in which Paul gave up his rights

1.  The right to eat food sacrificed to idols as mentioned in chapter 8 and possibly here in v4

2.  The right to have a wife v5 – Paul embraced singleness as he describes in chapter 7

3.  The right to be paid for laboring to serve churches v6

Paul keeps his focus on this last right

He gives four proofs that he has the right to be paid for serving the church

1.  Being paid for your service is a principle that is obvious to the world v7

2.  The Old Testament law affirmed this principle v8

3.  This was the practice for those who work in all temples v13; whether Jewish or pagan

4.  It was commanded by Jesus v14 (Luke 10:7 ‘a laborer deserves his wages’)

He goes into detail about his rights in order to dramatize his refusal of them

 

Why Would the Apostle Paul Give Up Obvious ‘Rights’?

The gospel is a greater purpose than clinging to our rights

He repeats this idea three times: v12, v15 and v18

In vs 12-18 he refers to ‘the gospel’ seven times

Each time, he exalts the value of the gospel to dictate how he lives

Can you say the gospel motivates your priorities?

What is the gospel and why is it worth sacrificing rights and privileges?

Gospel means good news: it involves incomparable events, and it provides unequalled hope

The gospel so thrilled Paul, he made himself a servant to it v19

He was not just willing to live this way, he was eager to do so

The gospel had captured Paul’s heart and he wanted it for everyone else!

This made Paul flexible in how he dealt with people vs 20-22

What point is Paul making?  ‘Servants’ adapt to those they serve

He is not telling us to compromise beliefs, but to compromise our preferences

Love leads us to become comfortable with the people around us

Serving Christ and his gospel shaped how Paul lived vs 24-27

All that Paul claimed to believe about God actually led how he lived

He lived with self-control v25

This is not a negative concept, being out of control is

Just as exercise shapes our physical body, godly discipline shapes our soul  Bible reading, prayer, community

He had direction v26

He was not “aimlessly” reacting to every new situation

We are Christians, we follow a Person; and he is consistent, faithful, and wise

His heart was filled with the joy of serving Christ!

Look at his language: v18 reward, v23 share blessing, v24 the prize

Paul lived to please God and that brought joy to his heart

Have you lost perspective about where goodness is found?

How will you respond to Christ and his gospel?

Do you need this gospel?  Christ is here to save – don’t push him away

For those who have the gospel – is your heart dry? Is your life aimless?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.13.16

“Towel and Basin Christianity”

 

John 13:1-17

We begin a sermon series on Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John chapters 13-16). This is Jesus’ last time with disciples before his crucifixion and the content reflects it

The context of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse is what he knew (vs 1-3)

v1 He knew the events of his crucifixion were at hand

v3 Jesus knew this was to fulfill the eternal plan of the Father

v1 Adds Jesus “loved” his own “to the end” (this was also what Jesus knew)

 

Jesus’ begins his farewell by washing the disciple’s feet

Notice the pacing of John’s description (vs 4-5)

He deliberately draws out his description so we can imagine it

Extraordinary humility dominates this scene

Culturally this was a demeaning job

Jesus’ entire life and ministry were drenched in the theme of humility

Jesus wants his humility to be an unforgettable lesson to those who follow him

Extraordinary love is abounding in this scene

Jesus’ motivation in what he does is his “love to the end”

We abuse Jesus, if we don’t see love in his commands to us

We abuse Jesus, if we don’t see love in his sovereignty over our circumstances

 

The disciple’s discomfort is finally voiced by Peter (vs 6-11)

Peter is sure in his perspective, yet he was not only wrong, he was opposing Jesus

Jesus tells Peter in v7 that he will “understand later”; yet Peter persists in his opinion

Jesus’ correction deepens our understanding of what is taking place

v8  If I don’t wash you – you have “no share” (i.e. no inheritance, or salvation)

The foot washing points to the cross; it is a lesson about Jesus as much as one from him

v10  Jesus tells Peter, once his feet are bathed, that’s enough, he doesn’t need to be “washed”

Once cleansed by Christ, we don’t need a full washing again, we are justified forever

 

Our takeaway is Jesus’ example (vs 12-17)

Jesus asked if they understood (we need to follow thoughtfully) 

He points out in v13 they know he is their teacher and Lord

They believed he was the Christ – the Son of God

The thought of the Almighty Lord from heaven washing feet is staggering

Then Jesus reminds us v16 ‘a servant not greater than his master’

Jesus is clear and our obligation is unnegotiable

To be followers of Christ, we must live as Towel and Basin Christians

This is not an action for certain circumstances; it is how we are to live

Washing the disciple’s feet was a display of how Jesus conducted his earthly ministry

His example is meant to be our life perspective

 

How do we live with a Towel and Basin perspective?

1.  We start by laying aside our rights and our offenses

Jesus laid aside his privilege as he “laid aside” his outer garment

We will not serve like Jesus if we are on the lookout for our rights

We need to stay watchful that how we serve doesn’t fill up with our expectations

Jesus was even willing to wash the feet of Judas who was about to betray him

When we take offense, we may keep the actions of serving, but we  have lost the heart of it

2.  Willingness to serve comes from what we “know”  (vs 1-3)

(1) We know about the cross:  gospel-centered people are servant-hearted people

(2) We know all things come from God and return to him

Towel and Basin Living doesn’t mean we no long desire good things for ourselves, it means we know that we already have them!  

(3) We know that we are loved perfectly to the end

So we don’t need to assert or prove ourselves, and we can be content with what the world thinks are “lesser” roles

3.  Towel and Basin Living is an expression of Great Commandment Living

We abandon our “me first” perspective, because we are overwhelmed and in awe of God

We then see people with fresh eyes:  they are who Jesus came for – and died for

Slow down for people, listen, and show care instead of trying to “fix them” so we can move on

4.  To live consistent Towel and Basin Christianity, we have to take it home

Husbands have a role, and parents have a role; but it is not to be lords in our home

A Christian home has the atmosphere and expectation that we serve one another

 

Towel and Basin Living may not be natural, but it is good and Christ-like

As in all that we seek to do and be for Christ – it grows prayerfully

THE SERVANT’S TOWEL

wash20feet

Jesus rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:4-5, 12-17)

This is a simple, clear and powerful picture that Jesus has given us.

Washing a guest’s feet was the mark of a gracious host. It was meant to serve the guest who had been walking dusty roads wearing a sandals.

The job of washing feet was left to whichever servant had the lowest rank in the house.

Jesus example for us is not to go out and find someone’s feet to wash. It is to place ourselves in the role of a servant who is willing to humble ourselves to care for the needs of someone else.

How can you serve the people you will interact with today?

What unimpressive, yet helpful task of care can you bow your heart to perform?

Are you willing to go through today wearing a servant’s towel?

Next time you are tempted to resist the Holy Spirit’s encouragement to serve someone, picture our Lord Jesus on his knees, before a basin of dirty water as he carefully washes a long row of feet.

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them”

 

THANK YOU FOR BEING FAITHFUL!

 

On Sunday, we are celebrating Children’s Ministry Sunday.

As a pastor, church member, dad and grandparent, I am deeply grateful for every person who serves our church through Children’s Ministry.

I am thankful for the way you love these children, even on days when they are not as lovable.

I am thankful that you demonstrate your devotion to God, even on days when your body is weary and your heart is burdened.

I am thankful for how you share your commitment to God’s Word, even though at times you struggle under it.

I am thankful that you have taken on this role, even though you may feel intimidated and unworthy.

Above all, I am thankful that you bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to children who will be changed forever by it!

If you serve in Children’s Ministry may your heart be filled with Joy and Grace as you show up to love these children and young people again this week.

If your children or grandchildren participate in children’s ministry – would you make an effort to thank the teachers who are impacting those you love!

Whether or not you have children in a church classroom, would you ask God to strength these faithful workers and make them fruitful?

 

 

RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT EASY

Why is it essential to think of ministry in terms of relationships?

God and theology are relational

God by nature is relational: one God who exists in three persons

The word of God is relational

God’s means of saving us is relational:  God eternally took on our nature and gave himself for us

Worship is meant to be relational

We cannot follow God unless we have a relational focus

The Great Commandments are relational

The Great Commission is relational

The fruit of the spirit are revealed relationally

The nature of the church is relational; we are the family of God and the body of Christ

How can we love or how can we show grace if we do not live out “God in us” relationally?

However relationships always bring problems

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” Proverbs 14:4

Everyone you have a relationship with is a sinner

It’s impossible to have problem free relationships, but it is possible to have correct perspectives and responses

We don’t have marriage problems or relational problems, we have sin problems

Remember our people and problems don’t make us sin, they can only squeeze out what was already inside us

Even with all the mess God keeps pushing us together

He instituted the Family and the church

His word keeps pushing us into closer involvements, by telling us to love our neighbor and live in fellowship with each other

It is indefensible for a believer to isolate themselves from relationships

Ministry requires large doses of grace – patience – love – forgiveness – persistence etc

If we are to carry out a biblical perspective in relationships

Burying relational problems and ignoring them is not a biblical option

Walking away from relational problems is not a biblical option

However, God does not ask you to be run over by people; we need to establish boundaries or we are enabling their sin

In many ways life is simpler when we have a self-focus. We only have to worry about me!

But life is much fuller and fruitful when it is relational

When these relationships are God-centered, we are carrying out the most meaningful labors on earth

Ministry involves bringing more oxen into our barn

Make relationship building a way of life

Be helpful and friendly, this draws people to us

Be interested in people’s lives; people like those who listen to them over those who talk at them

Be a servant, so people realize your agenda is not just about yourself

Each morning pray about the interactions you know are ahead of you that day

Look for those who are hurting and on the outside

Our world is filled with ministry potential

If you do not see them, ask God (who does) to open your eyes

When conflicts happen, respond with God’s agenda rather than your own

We typically see conflicts in relationships as an obstacle or as a sign to leave!

God’s wants us to see these moments as opportunities for growth and ministry

Rather than focus on establishing our position, ask God how we can serve his purpose

We are not all people persons, but what we do can be about people

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.23.15

        ‘We are Servants of Christ’       Jude 1       

The Apostles introduced themselves as “servants of Christ”

Jude presents his identity in his servant role over his blood role

This Jude was one of Jesus’ brothers by birth (Mark 6:3)

What did being a servant mean in that cultural context?

The Apostles actually didn’t use the word “servant”; they used the word “slave”

Servants had some choice and freedom, but slaves were owned

So why did Bible translators use the word servant instead of slave?

The answer is found in the change in what slavery looked like when English translations began

In the New Testament world, a large percentage of the population were slaves

Most of these were conquered nations and their descendants

Slaves could hold virtually any position in society (teachers, doctors, artisans etc)

When you saw a slave, they typically dressed and looked like everyone else

The New Testament context of slave, was someone owned, but also usually valued and respected

By the time English translations began, slavery looked quite different

It was the slavery we think of in the British world and United States

This slavery was based on race, prejudice, brutality and chains

Translators felt these changes in slavery would distort the readers perceptions of what the New Testament intended

When we read that we are “servants” of Christ, it is a mix of what we now think of concerning a slave and a servant

Being a servant (slave) is our identity, but it’s not the whole story

We are also adopted as children of God and we are the bride of Christ

We should hold to the worth of those images, and at the same time, recognize in this world we labor as servant of our Master

What are the characteristics of being a servant/slave of Christ?

1.  As servants, we live in submission to Christ our Lord

Servants hold a subservient role; that is the most fundamental reality about them

We live to serve God; He doesn’t exist to please us (Luke 17:7-10)

2.  As servants, we practice obedience to Christ’s will

Servants don’t stop to consider which commands to obey, or how fully they will obey

If you are knowingly withholding obedience to God, you are being unfaithful!

3.  As servants, we have an exclusive devotion to Christ our Lord

The life of a servant is focused on service to their Master

Christ is not to be one of many features in life – He is to be the center of all our life

4.  As servants, we are accountable to Christ our Lord (Matt 24:45-51)

We cannot be serious about discipleship, church life or about Christ without it

5.  As servants, we are fully dependent upon Christ our Master

A difference between servants and slaves, is that slaves must totally depend on their Master

Are you trying to be self-sufficient about making life work?

Servant is a subservient title, but it is also an honorable one

1.  Servant is the title God used for his mighty leaders

Abraham, Moses and David are all called “My servant” by God

God uses this title in the context of being pleased with them

2.  Being a servant is the mindset of great understanding (Matt 8:8-10)

This centurion applied his understanding of the roles of master and servant to how he approached Jesus

Jesus’ response was that this demonstrated great faith!

The Marines should not expect more of their recruits than God does of his people

3.  Being a servant is the path to accomplishing great things (Matt 20:25-28)

Having a servant attitude is not a minor teaching of Christianity

This is what it means to live as Christian; it is what God looks for and uses

4.  Being a servant was Jesus identity (Matt 12:18) 

Like us, this is far from the whole picture of Jesus identity

Yet, Jesus joyfully embraced being a servant

We cannot follow Jesus unless we embrace our role as his servant

Do you embrace your role as a slave of Christ – or do you resent it? 

How we respond to this aspect of our identity reveals much about our heart and love for Christ

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.12.14

 “What is Necessary?”      Luke 10:38-42

This story involves two sisters who loved Jesus

Mary had a rough past, but she deeply loved Jesus (Luke 7:36-46)

Martha had a mature understanding of Christ (John 11:20-27)

Any church would be thrilled to have these women, but even godly people sometimes lose focus

The story starts well; Martha opens her home to Jesus

Jesus had no home of his own, and was constantly traveling. How welcome this must have been

The gospels show Martha to be a woman of action, which is good and biblical

However, Martha’s hospitality turned to anger and accusation 

While doing good things Martha had lost sight of the best thing

Jesus tells Martha, that Mary was the one with her priorities in order

The “good portion” that Mary chose, was time with Jesus

If we are honest, sometimes this can feel like lost time to us:

“I have important things to get done; I can’t stop to read my Bible”

“I have serious requests to pray for; I can’t spend time just worshiping Him”

Time with Jesus is the “necessary thing”, because we desperately need Him (Jn 15:4-5)

Our focus on Jesus is the “good portion”, because he is so wonderful

We must be on guard against losing the greatest priority in life

Don’t let busyness keep us from time in prayer and God’s Word

Don’t let our children’s activities keep them from God’s Church

Martha was not wrong by serving; she was “distracted” in serving

Distraction is a bigger struggle for us than an outward rejection of God

At some point, Martha’s agenda in serving got mixed up

She was no longer hosting, she was finding her identity in it

She was no longer serving Jesus, she working in her kingdom

We see several evidences that Martha was out of focus:

She felt Jesus needed to get with her plans

She became judgmental of Mary’s choice

Getting her self-assigned job done, pushed away being with Jesus

Her heart exuded anxiety and self-pity

Luke’s placement of this story helps us get the point!

Immediately before this story is the parable of the Good Samaritan, which shows that love takes action

Immediately after this story, Jesus is praying and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray

Luke places this story about serving and devotion between Jesus instructing people about love taking action, and Jesus leading his disciples into closer devotion to God

We must not interpret this story as minimizing the value of being people of action

We cannot follow Jesus without having a servant’s heart (Luke 22:24-27)

And if we are not “doers of the Word”, we are deceiving ourselves (James 1:22)

Luke is creating a balanced and healthy picture for us

To love God we must be active as his servants

To live as servants of God must stay connected to the Vine

What can we take home from this story of Mary and Martha?

1.  If you want to stay on track for Christ, then your priority must be time with him

2.  If you are not sure what to do, pursuing God is always the best place

3.  What people need most from you, is a heart that is close to God

4.  The greatest heritage you can pass on, is who you are in Christ

SERMON LEFTOVERS 1.13.14

“Be Faithful” 2 Timothy 2:1-13

Chapter 1 ends with examples of those who either drifted from mission or kept it

Chapter 2 begins with encouraging us to stay faithfully on mission for the gospel

Our faithfulness rests upon God’s “grace” (vs 1-2)

“Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v1)

Do you want to serve Christ and be faithful? You can!

1.  Grace is a gift

It is not conjured up, or figured out

Sufficient strength is held out to us with an ever flowing abundance

2.  Grace is undeserved not saved for worthy and capable workers

Don’t exalt our failure above God’s commitment of grace

3.  Grace is ‘in Christ’ (v1)

The grace that saves us is equally committed to strengthen and use us

This grace comes to us by the means God has given

1.  God’s Word, the Bible, which is all and perfectly true

Keep reading, pondering and applying God’s word and it will produce fruitfulness

But if we neglect God’s Word or dismiss it, our life will be marred by instability and waste

2.  Biblical community, the church, which is God’s care and support for us

None of us see life clearly enough to ignore biblical community

When we reject these means, we reject the Holy Spirit

He inspired, and speaks through the Bible

He regenerated, and gifted other believers

Resting in God is to be strengthened, rather than to be strong

We don’t have to feel strong, to have all the strength we need

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Our faithfulness applies God’s grace (vs 3-7)

Faithfulness is responsible for using grace, not for obtaining it

To help make his point, Paul gives three word pictures

1.  Be faithful like “a soldier” – and live focused on who we serve

An army’s provision frees soldiers from civilian pursuits

So God’s eternal care, frees us to focus on serving Him

We can be faithful in Jesus’ mission, because God is sovereign and good

2.  Be faithful like “an athlete” – and conform to the rules over us

Imagine a ball game in which players all used their own rules. That is the chaos in which our world increasingly operates!

If we are not serious in living by the Bible, we are not serious about God

We can be faithful in Jesus’ mission, because God’s ways will work

3.  Be faithful like “a farmer” – and work hard to obtain a good harvest

If we know our efforts will produce good things, we will keep at it

Grace brings the strength we need, and produces what we don’t deserve

We can be faithful in Jesus’ mission, because God is the future

Paul introduces these examples in v3 by saying “share in their sufferings”

He is being honest that it is not always easy to fulfill these word pictures

Most of us are committed to sacrifice and hard work in some area of our life. If not Christ, why?

Faithfulness thrives as we keep the focus on Jesus (vs 8-10)

“Remember Jesus Christ” (v8)

When Christ appears in his present glory, every creature will bow in worship (Philippians 2:9-11)

We will fully submit to Jesus one day, if we don’t now, can we say we have a heart for him?

How do we keep Christ in focus?

Exalt him in worship each day   

Keep making the little choices that put him first

Paul concludes this section with a song about faithfulness to Christ and the faithfulness of Christ (vs 11-13)

Faithfulness is what God looks for most; it is how He measures our lives

We cannot make results happen as we serve Christ, but we can be faithful!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.19.13

“Care for each other”                 

1 Timothy 5:1-16

Chapter 5 speaks to the church about how we care for each other  

Guiding principles

Each member of our church is part of our forever family (vs1-2)

This is the perspective we should have toward every church member

There will be tensions among us, but we always remain family

The local church has special responsibilities toward the members who are vulnerable (v3)

Widows had little recourse for survival. Who would help them?

The church is to be family for those without family; no one is meant to be on their own

Family responsibility is important to God: this is repeated three times (vs 4, 8, 16)

We cannot fix family members, but ignoring them is unbiblical

When we live to chase after more, we can begin to resent these responsibilities as unwanted intrusions

The church is not a welfare institution; it’s where the kingdom of Christ reigns (v5)

This means our responsibilities to others must represent that kingdom

If we settle on temporal needs rather than eternal needs, we become just another organization

Responsibilities in the church are reciprocal (vs 11-12)

It appears from the passage that these widows had a ministry role in the church; which is why leaving their role as a widow was a serious issue

Not only did these widows who were “enrolled” serve the church, they had to have served beforehand

The principle we should see is that commitment in the church flows both ways

If we are just a receiver from our church, we are in an unbiblical position

How can we put God’s heart into our lives?

1.  Take a step yourself

If we are thinking “the church” should do something, then recognize you are part of the church

The church includes everyone who is a member of it

Many at Greentree are taking these steps, imagine the impact if we all did!

Our emphasis on small groups is not just a call to attend them, but to embrace the purpose of them

Which attitude is ours: to be pleased or to serve?

If our perspective at church is how it should please us, or how something bothers us, we need a new perspective

We cannot follow Christ, if we don’t bow to serve (John 13:1-14)

2.  Be someone God is using

This is where quality of life is truly found!  

God is ready to use you (it may not be in dramatic ways, but it will be powerful)

People around you need God’s touch through you 

Some of these people are obvious to us, some are a bit hidden, but they are near

So let’s watch out for common obstacles

Too busy to stop and serve people

Too oblivious to notice people in need    

Too self-centered to be motivated

3.  Keep connected

We cannot fulfill God’s heart for each other without being connected

The New Testament is loaded with “one another” statements for the church such as:

“Love one another”, “comfort one another”, “bear with one another”, “encourage one another”, “build one another” and “pray for one another”

These things will not happen if we are not connected

It requires friendship that goes beyond just being friendly

4.  Keep reaching a little further 

If we are to reach people around us:

We need clarity with the gospel

We need the care of the gospel

Just as with care within the church, outreach by the church is something for each of us personally

To be a more evangelistic church, we need to be more evangelistic people

God wants to accomplish all these things through us: are we willing?

Look for marginalized people and pay attention to hurting people

Be a friend, be a listener, be biblical

May we all pray that God will increase our heart for it, and give us eyes to see