Peter had t learn to “Think Again” in Acts 10 as God moved him to understand the fullness of the mission of the church. We must ask ourselves, “Who is God calling me to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with today.” Who is the Whosoever in your story
Serventhood 101. If we want to learn how to be more like Christ it begins with learning how to have the heart of a servent. Here is your first lesson…
I want you at the beginning of each day praying the words of Kelly Willard chorus, “Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord, help me lift up those who are weak; and may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.” Then see who you encounter during the day. The person on the elevator, the co-workers, the guy across the street you waved at, friends, people in class, each one is there for a reason.
Then before you go to bed, think about everybody you met. Think about everybody who makes up your little world each day. Pray for them. The hardest part of being a servant is opening your eyes. We’re all so self-centered. We’re all so locked in our own problems and needs that we don’t see the people around us. If you pray for those you’ve met every night before you go to bed this week, it will revolutionize your life. You will discover that there are more opportunities to be a servant in one week than you have ever dreamed. Our problem is that those people are just passing us by, and we are so preoccupied, we are not even seeing them.
God will open doors for you each day of every week if you are ready and looking. “Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord, help me lift up those who are weak; and may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.”
The kingdom of God is bigger than a local church or the circle of churches that we move in. It’s bigger than the churches and people who happen to sign off on our articles of faith. In fact, the kingdom of God includes a lot of people we might not even choose to associate with on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter. They are still in the kingdom of God. Whether we understand it or not. Whether we want to admit it or not. Just because they’re not like us or don’t act like us, doesn’t mean that we’re in and they are out.
Do you remember that story in Numbers 11? It’s the story of Eldad and Medad. (If you do not know those names you are not alone.) They were elders in the congregation of ancient Israel. All the other elders went up to the tent with Moses, but they stayed out with the people. The elders up at the tent were prophesying as God’s Spirit was with them, but then they suddenly stopped. Then Eldad and Medad, who were out among the people, started prophesying. God’s spirit stayed with them and they continued to proclaim his words to all the people. Some little kid came running up to Moses, “Guess what! Eldad and Medad are prophesying out there in the middle of the people!” Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, said, “Moses, better stop that right now. It’s getting out of hand out there.” And Moses said, “Why are you jealous for me? If only all of God’s people would prophesy in the name of the Lord.”
Moses had the heart of a servant and the vision of a leader. He understood that God’s work is bigger than any one person or one groups plans. He understood that no one person or one groups ideas are at center of the kingdom of God on earth. We are all a part of God’s greater agenda.
Frank Warren said it this way, “If you want to be a leader, you’re going to end up frustrated in life, because very few people want to be led. But if you aim to be a servant, you’ll never be disappointed.”
Humility and a willingness to see the bigger picture of God’s agenda is where leadership and service begins. Be a leader in God’s kingdom today by serving someone else.
How many times do you prepare for your day by asking God to be revealed in your co-workers, in the traffic on the way, in your housework, in your children, in the clients you deal with? How many times do you prepare for church by asking God to speak to you in the music, in the sermon, in the others in the congregation? How many of us honestly, truly expect a real, life-changing encounter with God when we enter the doors of the sanctuary? I can tell you that those few who do expect such things find them.
If you’re not expecting company, they might well show up when you are out, or asleep, or too busy in the back to hear the knocking on the door. If we don’t expect God to appear or to speak or touch our hearts; if we’re not looking for God at every turn and listening for God in every voice, chances are we’ll be as clueless as the majority of the people in Bethlehem where when God finally appears.
If we’re looking, however, the signs of God’s presence are all around us, as much outside the church as inside. God is there in the trees and the Mountains and sky…in the deer and the birds and all nature. God is in the delivery room and the funeral home. God is in the face of the homeless man sleeping on a bench and in the face of the child who puts a dollar in his can. God may just be sitting beside you in the pew or might call on the phone this afternoon.
We all meet God in different ways and at different times and places in our lives.
The message of Epiphany is is the same message we hear at Easter…God is not dead! God is alive and kicking and epiphing here there and everywhere in the hopes that somebody will tune in and notice.
The God who was made manifested in Jesus of Nazareth lives and was made manifested somewhere, somehow in your home this very morning. The God that was calling to you in your favorite hymn last Sunday is the God that will be waiting in the parkinglot of the grocery store. The message of Epiphany is, “Keep watch!” For none of us know the day or the hour when God will appear.
As we begin this new year let God epiph in your life. Make space in your life to have a real encounter with God. Make time in your day to hear from him. Get up in the morning wondering where God will show up. Go to sleep listening for God’s voice. Read your Bible expecting to hear from God and come to Church ready to receive his grace. God will epiph. I promise.
In the book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of a night when German and English planes were dogfighting above them in the skies over Holland. After hearing her sister Betsie stirring in the kitchen, Corrie raced down. For an hour, they sipped tea together until the sky was silent. Corrie returned to her bed in a darkened room. She ran her hand over the pillow and felt a piece of metal. There was a ten inch piece of metal that had fallen through the roof and onto her bed. She rushed to tell Betsie, “Betsie, if I hadn’t heard you in the kitchen” But Betsie put a finger on my mouth. “Don’t say it, Corrie! There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety”
Do you know that kind of peace in your life? Or have you found yourself asking “What if..?” Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers when we ask Him to. How many of you have ever prayed for something and your prayer went unanswered, or wasn’t answered the way you wanted it to be answered? We begin to wonder about God’s timing in our lives. We start to ask questions like, “Why didn’t God answer my prayers? Do I not have enough faith? Doesn’t God care about my problems and how I’m feeling?” We all ask those questions during the dark moments of our lives. So what are the answers? I wish I could answer all those questions for you today. But the answer I can give you is what the Bible says: God’s timing is sovereign. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Not most things. Not convenient things. Not happy things, only. Not positive things, alone. There is time in God’s timetable for everything. And The God who created the heavens and the Earth stands with us and carries us through all these times and seasons of our lives. He is there in the good and bad time. He is there In the Spring and the Winter of our lives. God is always there! When we understand and hold fast to that truth it will help make those dark places in your life a little less dark.
In Haggai 2:5 the prophet shares God’s proclamation, “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” Think of the implications of that statement: Abraham was gone. Moses was gone. David was gone. Solomon was gone. The great temple was gone. But God was still there! His Spirit had never left them. God was the same God who had been with them in the past, was with them now, and was leading them into an amazing future.
Through Haggai the Lord was telling the discouraged workers, “Fear not, be strong, pick your hammer and your chisel, keep on working. Don’t look back to the past, don’t worry about who isn’t here. Focus on who is here.”
He abides with his people forever. He remains with us. Therefore, be encouraged. Keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to tackle an “impossible” project. Don’t be intimidated by daunting circumstances. God has promised to stay with us forever. His Spirit is the fulfillment of that unbreakable promise. We must keep on keeping on. For there is work to be done.
Memories of the past can bring great joy into our lives or deep sorrow. But weather the memories that are stirred in our mind are happy or sad we cannot live in those memories. We must live in the now with our hope in the future. When we live in the past, you look down on the present, you forget about God’s promises for the future. In the case of the Jews of Haggai’s day it meant missing God’s promise to bring even greater glory to the rebuilt temple than it ever had during Solomon’s time. Spiritual disappointment drains all our energy because we focus toward the past instead of moving confidently into the future.
Do not live in the past of fear the future for God is with You!
Here is an important insight that many Christians never discover, “God is often found on the hard road.” He’s not sitting is the shade watching other work. He is right there with us. The hard road looks difficult and daunting. All of us would rather be on the easy road. But God is calling you to stop making excuses and get in the ball game. His promise is to be with those who dare to take him seriously.
The story is told that in the days after the Civil War, when the people of the South began to rebuild their homeland many people were quite bitter in the wake of military defeat. One day General Robert E. Lee, who happened to be a fervent Christian, was visiting with a woman in Kentucky who showed him a giant tree in her front yard that had shattered by Union artillery fire. She spoke with great anger, expecting the general to sympathize with her. “What should she does about the tree?” she asked. After a moment’s pause, General Lee replied, “Why cut it down, madam, and forget about it.” The general understood the vital truth that if you’re going to move forward, you can’t live in the past any more.
Remember the saying: “I can’t go back. I can’t stay here. I must go forward.”
You can’t go back to the past. We cannot relive the good times or to seek revenge for the bad times. But you can’t stay where you are either. Life is like a river that flows endlessly onward. It matters not whether you are happy in your present situation or whether you seek to be delivered from it. You can’t stay where you are forever. The only way to go is forward.
That’s what General Lee was trying to say to the embittered woman. Sometimes you have to cut the tree down and simply forget about the past. The war is over, it’s time to move on.
The road forward may be a hard road. But that hard road is where God is, and where God is leading His people.
In John 1:29 says, “The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Jesus, the Son of God, was baptized in the river Jordan as an example to us and as a sign of his commitment to follow the road God had laid before him. He called 12 disciples to go with him, to be his apprentices. They were to learn so they could teach, to watch so they could tell, to experience so they could proclaim. To each he said, “Come and follow Me.” And they did. They left everything to follow the one they would call Lord.
As they traveled with Christ they experienced him teaching with power and authority, and healing as no one had ever done before. He preformed signs and wonders; he sought out the needy, the lonely, and the outcasts. He preached and demonstrated the grace of God to all who would listen. He transformed the lives of a Samaritan woman, a Roman official son, a paralyzed man, an adulterous woman, a man born blind, a group of lepers, tax collectors, and well known sinners. These were the people Christ looked for. These were the people Jesus spent time with. “A doctor does not come the help the healthy, but the sick.” At each encounter he repeated the same personal message to the people he touched, “Your faith has made you well, go and sin no more.” His loving touch brought healing to the body, spirit, and soul. It was a healing that set a person free.
Later in John’s gospel we read, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a child belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-36
Freedom is a result of Christ touching our lives. No one finds freedom from the chains of sin without Jesus. Forgiveness and salvation are what we receive from him. His touch makes us whole. We cannot do it on our own. We must come to the place in our own lives that we as Peter can confess, “Lord, to who shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” It is only after we proclaim our faith in Jesus that restoration, healing, and forgiveness comes. It is only after he touches us that we are made whole.