Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
As I read through Act 6 today, I am reminded that we were never meant to do ministry, serving others, all on our own might. We have been designed to be ministerial alongside others.
The number of followers of The Way was increasing daily. In fact, the size had reached a critical juncture.
In ecological terms, it’s referred to as “carrying capacity”. A habitat can only support a certain number of any kind of species depending on the natural resources available.
Likewise, we read in Acts, that the number of believers was becoming so great, and including a wonderful mixture of cultural backgrounds, that peoples’ needs, specifically widows, were not being met.
The leadership knew that people had basic physical needs as well as spiritual needs that needed to be provided for. They had to ask themselves, “What’s the best use of our time”? They realized that they could not forsake one for the other.
Once they determined the best course of action, even more people were ministered to, both physically and spiritually.
As we go about the Lord’s business serving others, we need to first ask ourselves, am I attempting to go it alone, or am I willing to work alongside others? The next question to consider is are you serving in a way that not only meets the needs of others, but that will have the greatest impact?
What I am NOT saying is that if a task isn’t one of your spiritual gifts that you can excuse yourself…however, we are informed in multiple passages within the New Testament that we all have a part to play and some individuals are better suited for some areas of ministry over others.
When everyone is working collaboratively, and doing it in such a way that suits how God has uniquely designed us, we can have an exponential impact on the growth of God’s kingdom.
How can you serve others, with others, for the Kingdom?
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Consider who you do ministry with? Thank them for this partnership.
Do you too often try to go it alone? What is the dangers of working alone? What is the blessing in working with a partner or team?
Are there jobs caring for the physical or spiritual needs in your church or community that aren’t getting done? How can you, with a partner or team, help meet those needs?
Today’s reading starts out, “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind…” And to think, some people say reading the Bible is too boring. Sorry, I can’t agree.
Elijah and Elisha did a lot of walking that day. They started at Gilgal, walked to Bethel, then to Jericho, then to the Jordan River. Each time they moved on, Elijah asked Elisha to stay behind, but Elisha would not be separated. When he promised to follow Elijah, in 1 Kings 19:20, he meant to follow him to the end, and he was going to. Elisha was dedicated.
They walked through areas of spiritual significance. It had been at Gilgal that the Israelites first camped when they had entered the promised land, and it was there they were circumcised, and officially became “sons of the covenant” (Joshua 4:2-9). Bethel had been the place Jacob had a dream with a stairway to heaven, with angels going up and down; and where God had promised to be with him wherever he went (Genesis 28:11-19). Jericho had been the site of Joshua’s amazing victory as a result of just obeying God by walking around the city – no matter how ridiculous that seemed (Joshua 5-6). And the Jordan River was where the river parted before Joshua and the Isrealites on their way into the promised land. Elijah and Elisha walked down memory lane together.
In their travels, they visited two schools of the prophets (Bible Colleges), where the students told Elisha that Elijah was going to be taken away from him that day. It seemed like everybody knew what was about to happen, and it broke Elisha’s heart.
When they got to the Jordan River, Elijah hit the water with his cloak, the water divided, and they walked across on dry land. It was then that Elijah asked Elisha if there was a parting gift Elijah could leave to Elisha. Elisha replied, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.” Interesting. The thing Elisha wanted most in this world was to be closer to God than even Elijah had been. Elisha had his priorities right.
Elijah told Elisha that if he saw Elijah being taken away, he would receive his wish.
2 Kings 2:11-12 then says, “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out …”
Now Elisha couldn’t rely on Elijah’s help anymore. He was alone… or was he? God was still on His throne.
Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak. I think this is significant in that he was picking up the mantle of Elijah’s ministry. But now Elisha was stranded on the East side of the Jordan River. How was he going to get across? You guessed it. Elisha struck the river with Elijah’s cloak, the water separated, and he walked across on dry ground. God was with Elisha! And the 50 Bible College students that were watching knew that Elisha was now the new head prophet.
Elijah then went on to Jericho, where he healed the water and land around Jericho (which Joshua had cursed in Joshua 6:26).
The final miracle in this chapter is a little gruesome. Elisha went to Bethel, where a bunch of punks mocked Elisha, saying, “Go on up, you baldhead!” repeatedly. Presumably, they were saying that Elijah had been caught up to heaven and they were rid of him, now they wanted to get rid of Elisha’s godly influence (and condemnation) too. Elisha called a curse down on them, and two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of them. We’re not told that they were killed, so I assume they were scarred and maybe disfigured for the rest of their lives as a living testimony to what may happen when someone rebels against God.
After that, Elisha went to Mount Carmel, where Elijah had initiated the “god contest” that we talked about in yesterday’s devotion. Then, Elisha started his own ministry.
So how can we apply stories from this chapter to our own lives today?
Elisha was committed to spending as much time as possible with Elijah – to learn as much as possible from him – as long as he had the opportunity. I think it is important for less mature Christians to learn as much as they can from more mature Christians, while they have the chance. I also think more mature Christians need to seek out those they can mentor in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2). And while we’re on the topic, I also have to wonder if Elijah intentionally visited those Bible Colleges to encourage those students one last time before he was taken away. What are you doing to learn from those more mature and to share with those less mature?
Elisha was completely dedicated and followed Elijah to the end. Are you as dedicated to following God to the end?
Elisha’s greatest desire was to be even more godly than Elijah had been. And it was granted. (By my count, God performed 8 miracles at Elijah’s request, and 16 at Elisha’s request.) What is your greatest desire?
Elisha picked up the mantle when it was his turn to lead. And he then lived by faith. How about you?
And how often do you grumble against your preacher? Remember those 42 mauled hoodlums.
Elisha revisited places where he had treasured memories of Elijah, then struck out on his own to start his own ministry. We can’t live in the past either (although I personally would prefer to). We need to be looking forward to what God still has for us to do, and we need to take action. How are you doing on that front?
Finally, while we can’t expect to be caught up to heaven in a whirlwind like Elijah was, we do have this promise in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” But this only applies to the righteous. When Christ returns, will you rise to meet the Lord in the air? I hope to. I hope you do, too.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What are you doing to learn from those more mature in the Christian faith and to share with those less mature? Why is each important?
Elisha was completely dedicated and followed Elijah to the end. Are you as dedicated to following God to the end?
What is your greatest desire? What else gets in the way? How can you be more devoted to your greatest desire?
Elisha picked up the mantle when it was his turn to lead. And he then lived by faith. How about you? What do you think God still wants you to do for Him?
Do you grumble against or put-down the leaders God has put in place?
The first thing I think we should recognize when reading Genesis chapter 12 are the six things that God promised Abraham. He told him to go to a land that He would show him. Secondly he told him he would make him a great nation.
I believe the next two promises go hand-in-hand. God said, “I will bless you” and “ I will bless those who bless you.” It was important for God to let Abram know that he was going to bless him. There would also be those that would be an encouragement to him.
At the same time there would be negative people that came along that were a source of discouragement. God promised that he would take care of those people.
And lastly God told Abraham that he would give him the land. He was going to give him the land as an everlasting possession.
Ultimately what I believe this means for us in life is we need to have the same kind of faith Abram had. Our faith as a whole should be based upon that kind of belief in God.
Where I look at this text in a different context is this. I think we can apply these promises to our personal ministries. When God instills something in your heart that we feel He is calling us to do, we need to believe like Abram did that God is showing us what He would have us do.
I believe that just like God made Abram a great nation, we too need to have the kind of faith that believes that God is going to work mightily in our ministry. I’m not saying that we will be great but that God will do great things through us.
I believe following our heart and believing those first two promises are so important, but don’t fool yourselves. There will be both positive and negative people that come along in your ministry. Keep yourself focused on the positive people in ministry and ignore the negative. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you into quitting what you wholeheartedly believe God has called you to do.
In the end when we listen to God rather than men; we will find ourselves hearing the words that we all want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)
As a result of our faithfulness; Abraham and all of the faithful together will see the fulfillment of God’s last promise. We will be given the land as an everlasting possession. Thank you God for that promise and may God richly bless each and everyone in your ministries.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What directions did God give to Abram before the promises? Do you think the promises will only come to Abram if he follows the directions God gave?
What have you already left behind to go where God leads? What were the results (or maybe they are still in progress and hard to see)? Where may God be asking you to go? What may He be asking you to leave? Pray for God’s direction and guidance, as well as your own obedience.
“I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” – God (Genesis 12:2). What blessings has God given to you? How have you used what God has blessed you with to be a blessing to others? What can you do to spread that blessing further this week?
As the book of Numbers draws to a close, Moses begins to make preparation for his death. God tells him he will not enter the Promised Land with the Israelites, but he will be able to see it before the Israelites enter in. Moses is (very understandably) concerned for the Israelite people. He has had to intercede for them and guide them away from idolatrous actions again and again. In Numbers 27, Moses passes on the leadership torch to Joshua so that the Israelites will not be like a “sheep without a shepherd” (Numb. 27:17). Joshua would become the next leader who would guide, command, and take care of the Israelite people as they enter into the land of Canaan.
Luke 4 describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Moses had spent years building up trust and confidence from the Israelite people, and Joshua benefited from that. He was able to build on the legacy of leadership that Moses left behind. Unlike Joshua, Jesus had to start from square one when building confidence and trust with the Jewish people. We see him begin this process in Luke 4. After the temptations in the wilderness, he begins preaching in the synagogues. At one point, he reads a passage from Isaiah that begins with “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed me to…” and then lists out all the actions the God has sent him to do (Luke 4:18). Jesus did not have a Moses that told all the Jewish people to listen and follow after him. But, Jesus had something better to establish his authority. Not only did God speak over him after he was baptized, “This is my beloved Son. I take delight in him!” (Luke 3:22). He also had all of the Old Testament scriptures that spoke about him!
Even so, the Jewish people did not accept him as a leader, because he challenged the way that he led and thought about the world. Just like the leadership example set by Moses, Jesus knew that the Jewish people needed someone to guide them, protect them, and care for them. They needed a shepherd. But, being led by a shepherd sometimes includes being corrected by a shepherd. The Jewish people, especially those in positions of power, were resistant to this. In fact, this section of Luke ends with the Jewish people doing this: “They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill, intending to hurl Him over a cliff” (Luke 4:29).
Jesus is the “good shepherd” (John 10:14). His sheep “follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4). When Jesus is leading us, do we follow? Are we resistant and stubborn to correction, choosing to go our own way? Or do we trust that our good shepherd will guide us on the right paths? How do we view Jesus’ leadership?
My prayer is that we will trust in Jesus as our good shepherd. That his leading, both in guiding and correcting, will be a “comfort” to us as he lets us “lie down in green pastures,” leads us “beside quiet waters,” and “renews our life” (Ps. 23:1-4).
Yesterday, we witnessed the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. At this point, the Israelites had refused to enter into the promised land after focusing on the battles they would face rather than the rewards they would reap with God’s help. After that, the Israelites continued to not trust God when they spoke out against Moses. They didn’t realize that in doing so, they were – in effect – not trusting God. The rebellion that Korah instigated ended for the most part when he died. In Numbers 16, we see God choose Aaron and the tribe of the Levites as his priesthood. The twelve tribes all brought their staff to the temple to represent them. Aaron’s staff – which represented the Levites – sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds (Numb. 16:8). Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that almond branches and almond blossoms make their appearance in relation to the temple and the priesthood. In Ex. 25:31-40, the lampstand that was to be kept continually burning on the altar was supposed to be shaped like almond blossoms. This was the light that the priesthood was in charge of day and night. In the miracle of Aaron’s rod, God showed clearly which group of people he wanted as his priesthood, and he chose the Levites.
Numbers 18 continues on with laws and requirements for the priesthood along with ways that the priesthood could be provided for by the Israelites people. Nestled in these verses is such an important truth for us today. Numbers 18:5-7 says, “You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift.”
Moses was clear in the last chapter that the laws and responsibilities given to him by God were not things that he was doing out of his own will. In this chapter, God is clear about his intentions to give as a gift the work of the priesthood. Yes, the ministry that they had would be challenging. They would face opposition from the people, and they would have to work hard in the temple. Some of their responsibilities included doing animal sacrifices, staying up all night to tend the lamps, dealing with skin diseases, and more. But, this work was a gift. A special provision and reward to be the light to the Israelites as they entered the promised land.
In Christian circles, we talk often of the gift of Salvation. That is the first wonderful gift that we receive in our Christian walk, and we should always be grateful for that amazing grace. But, that is only the first of the many gifts that we receive as a believer in Christ. We are also given the gift of the priesthood, the gift of being a light to others. We will face the same opposition from others at times. And we will have to also take part in the grueling work of ministry. But, that is the work – the priestly responsibilities – that we have been assigned to do.
As we head into another week, ask yourself: What is the ministry that you have been called to? Are you treating this ministry as a gift?
“‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards. Ezekiel 44:15-16 (NIV)
Yesterday we discussed God’s holiness and how it must be separated from the common. Today we will continue along those lines but in terms of ministering in the presence of such holiness. The temple was the place where God’s presence was located on earth and was considered the holiest place on the planet; it was a sacred space. Not just anyone could visit the temple; Israel was ripped by God for allowing uncircumcised (of heart and body) non-Jews to go into the temple (Ez. 44:7). After laying out the dimensions for a new holy temple in the last few chapters, God turns Ezekiel’s attention to who gets to minister there and in what capacity.
Israel had not taken seriously the holiness of God, even in the temple, where the Holy of Holies was found. The Levitical priests, despite being chosen to act as ministers in the temple, couldn’t fulfill their duties without corruption. They allowed the unworthy to come into the temple and served as priests to idols. These priests may not have been, but Yahweh certainly was serious about keeping His temple holy and having the right people ministering there. So, in this new temple, those who hadn’t appreciated the importance of the job would miss out. Those who remained firm, those who did not go with the crowd, those who did appreciate the holiness of the temple, the Zadokites (descendants of Zadok), would be lifted up as an example and given the jobs the less than faithful had forfeited.
Today there isn’t a grand temple complex where we must minister before God. We don’t have to make animal sacrifices, wear special clothes, or worry about remaining ceremonially clean. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t just as serious today about those who represent Him as ministers. The sacrifices of today are spiritual in nature and offered by those who have chosen to follow Christ as their High Priest. We are to act as royal priests who, following the example of our High Priest, surrender ourselves completely to the will of God and do the ministry He calls us to. Just like the Zadokites, who were lauded for their faithfulness despite Israel’s disobedience, we need to make sure we stay true to who we are as disciples of Christ and God’s representatives on earth, regardless of how others act–Christian or not. Our God still cares about holiness and has put His spirit within us, let us guard the new temple with the same (or greater) fervor and faithfulness as (than) the Zadokites did.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Biblegateway here –Ezekiel 44-45
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ezekiel (chapters 46-48) as we continue on our
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” – John 13:36-37
“It’s time to go!” says a voice calling from the driver’s seat indicating you might be left behind if you don’t leave now. A friend or a family member receives your last look, a last hug, a last “see you later”, and maybe a tear or two. It never gets any easier to say goodbye to people we love, yet such is the nature of life. To move in the direction of God, often means to experience seasons of friends and family being at varying distances. I would imagine it was difficult for Jesus to say goodbye to his friends like Lazarus, his mother, Mary, and the eleven remaining apostles whom He spent a great deal of time with on this earth. But He was called to be somewhere else, to mediate between us and God (1 Tim 2:5) and to prepare us for a time when He can be with us all who love Him and keep His will.
In Revelation 19, we are given a picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is an event where the church will be reunited to celebrate with Christ – altogether, simultaneously, fulfilling the promise in Hebrews that no one would be left out but “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” – Hebrews 11:40 – Not only will we be reunited with our loved ones from our present, but also those who departed from us along the way, that fell asleep in Christ (1 Thes 4:14). We have been told this, so we don’t give up. We fight the good fight . We have the endurance to be different.
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4: 7,8
“If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
But for most of us, and potentially all of us reading this blog, today is not our last day of breath, but a day we leave behind someone we love, either through proximity or heaven forbid, through physical death. So how can we make sure we don’t forget about this promise to be reunited with the ones we love?
1. Seek His word in your life. First, this means reading your Bible. It is not an instrument to be used solely on Sundays and Wednesdays and at church camp. We are told that the word of God in the scripture is alive and actively ready to convict and confirm on thoughts, motives, and actions (Hebrews 4:2). You are called to live out every day for Christ, so this means the Word of God must be present. Reading and subscribing to this blog is a great start, but so is a Bible reading plan, or verse of the day bookmarks. Also, spending time in prayer is a way to monitor your spiritual life and receive direction and confirmation from God. As we seek to become more spiritually mature, we begin to thank God for a lot more, recognizing the blessings in our life that change the way we pray for the things we desire. We can pray for God’s will, or in His will, as we wait because we recognize that we are already truly blessed. This is a discipline, an exercise program. If you have been a spiritual couch potato, don’t expect to run a Bible marathon or become a prayer warrior overnight. Even introducing the smallest of these disciplines will begin to make a dramatic difference into your spiritual health.
2. Find a ministry. Do the ministry. When we become idle, when we don’t have anything to do, that is when sin gets a jump on us (Proverbs 16:27-29). We consume junk on screens, we find people to talk about, and we become open to other forms of ungodly entertainment. The devil can be just as busy binge-watching Netflix (that should step on some toes) or scrolling through social media (and the ones I missed the first time) as it is in those who are actively seeking out ways to do evil in this world. This quote by Edmund Burke addressed to another statesman rings true in the Christian life too, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is time to find and actively participate in a ministry. To move from the milk to the meat. To not simply believe but to act. Don’t know where to start? Look at the list provided by Jesus in Matthew 25 as he separates the sheep and the goats. Ministry is truly a win-win. When you are busy fulfilling the Word of God, there is simply less time to get caught up in the stuff that doesn’t matter.
3. Be a part of the church. We are not called to do the above mentioned things solely in isolation. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we become part of a greater entity: the church. It is not simply a building, in fact, it has nothing to do with the structure you meet in at all. The church is full of people who are trying to do the same as you: live better for Christ. There is a small caveat. Like you, they are not perfect yet. However, everyone in the church has their own unique gifting, function, and strengths. You don’t have to do this alone. So what if they don’t have the style of music you want at the church. So what if there isn’t a large group of people your age in the church. So what if your friends and family live far away from your church. Inside your community of believers you still have a function, can be held and hold people accountable, and find ways to strengthen and edify one another for the purpose in which you’re called. It is also important to understand the church is connected beyond the group you meet with on Sundays. Your friends at camp, your bestie from college, a group of people at a break table or lunch table can talk about and worship God together. Find a way to connect with other believers, and you will be further shored up against evil.
4. Let the grace of God do the rest. Often times when we come back from a fulfilling spiritual experience, we are immediately presented with our greatest challenges. The trajectory up of spiritual life will not be a perfect, upward-moving diagonal line. Inevitably, we will always find a spiritual low after a spiritual high. Don’t let the waves of doubt and defeat toss you and capsize the great life, truth, and hope you have. You will mess up. You will know the good you should do and not do it sometimes (Rom 7:15-20). You may go several days without reading your Bible, become stagnant in your ministry, or remove yourself from the church because you feel guilty you have committed an unforgivable sin. Don’t give up. Let God take control and understand that He gives grace to all generously. This is a free gift, so don’t waste your time “feeling bad” or “not worthy.” Take heart. Get back up. Seek God. Renew your commitment to His commandments because each day is a new day. Do everything not to depart from God, and He too, will do everything it takes to ensure you will never have to depart from Him or the ones you love that have fulfilled the same call, together united at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
I was almost two weeks into vacation with my wife, my in-laws, and my friends in a foreign country. We had shared hotel rooms, meals, car rides, tours, every story we knew, and so much more. We collectively saw more of each other in those two weeks than we saw of each other the year before. We had spent a lot of enjoyable time together, but I could sense my idiosyncrasies were wearing on them just as much as theirs began to wear on me. So what did I do? Just a little past lunch I told my family and friends that I would see them later that evening; I had decided it was time for me to literally “take a hike.” The area we were in, Cinque Terre, Italy, is a group of small coastal mountain towns connected by some tame (and some treacherous) walking paths. With no cell phone service or any other way to stay connected, I turned and started walking in the other direction. As much as I loved them all, I needed time apart. At first, it felt a bit selfish, abandoning everyone I loved to do my own thing for a bit, but it was absolutely important to take a breather, to come back refreshed (although terribly sweaty and tired), so I would be ready to enjoy the rest of the vacation and our once-in-a-lifetime experience time together.
Often times, ministry plays out the same way. Imagine you are with the same group for a long period of time, say the same twelve dudes for three years, or you’ve been in the same church for most of your life, or you work alongside the same people at the same event from year to year. You’re going to fight (Matt 16:23; Matt 20:21) People are going to say some stupid stuff (John 14:9; Matt 15:16). But until Jesus comes back to restore this earth, there is nothing better we can do together with our time than to share and live out the Kingdom of God with other people. Yes, we will have to share space, deal with failures, live with the smells, and even call each other out. This is the toll of doing ministry with imperfect people. This means every so often, when our spiritual and emotional bank is depleted, we need to take a hike.
In the scriptures, I see several reasons why God momentarily pulls away men and women from ministry. This isn’t necessarily an all-inclusive list, but these are five places or reasons God has called me to withdraw, take a hike, and spend some alone time with Him:
1. To refresh – God doesn’t suggest that you rest; he demands it “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me by still waters” (Ps 23:2) implies that you don’t get a choice. Additionally Jesus doesn’t say, “I can give you rest”, but he “will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) Ministry is exhausting. Speaking out against injustice, finding provisions for those without them, or caring for someone on his/her deathbed are some taxing circumstances. Momentarily withdraw and let the Comforter come in and refresh you, so God who called you once, can rely upon you to do His will again.
2. To repair – Sometimes we’re just doing it wrong or have the wrong perspective. We’re cynical; we’re cranky; we’re at a loss, and soon enough we’re like the Church of Ephesus (Rev 2) abandoning our “first love.” During these times, God pulls us away to repair our perspective, sometimes harshly. Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh (Jon 1). He didn’t go. The rest is a whale of a tale. Sorry. BUT absence really does make the heart grow fonder. With the right heading and the correct motivation, God uses this time to rekindle what has been lost through disappointment or sin.
3. To protect – Have you ever broken up a fight? I have. The easiest way to get two people to stop fighting is to pull them away from each other. You can’t hit someone who is not in reach. Adrenaline dies down. Breathing becomes slower. We become a bit more level-headed and rational. Jacob and Esau (Gen 25), Peter and Paul (Gal 2), Jew and Gentile Christians (Acts 15) didn’t always get along. Sometimes God puts breathing room between us and our fellow believers. Ultimately, we all want to do what is best for the Lord. Once we go to our corners and seek Him, we may find ourselves more agreeable, and maintain the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
4. To speak – Sometimes we are lost. Sometimes we feel abandoned. Sometimes we are afraid and tuck tail and run into a cave (well, at least Elijah [1 Kings 19]). In these literal, or most likely metaphorical cave moments, God is speaking to us. He is not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, or any other noise. He is in the stillness, speaking His promises. Sometimes the change of scenery gives us the reminder of what He has already done and of the many blessings he has already placed in our lives, removing fear and restoring faith.
5. To prepare – Jesus spends time alone in the desert praying and fasting before His ministry begins (Matt 4). He also prays alone in Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion (Luke 22). These are possibly the two most crucial points in the life of Jesus, and He spends them alone speaking with God. There has to be something to this, right? When God is preparing us to do the big things, we have to eliminate distraction and must turn our attention to fully seeking Him. Our relationships and ministry take a backseat. By doing this, we will not do what we think is best for the ministry to thrive. We will not do what we think is best for us. We will be prepared to do or speak His will in a mighty way.
So this begs the question…is it time for you to take a hike? Does God want some one-on-one time to assure you continue to minister to others? Sometimes it’s okay to be apart from ministry for a while if you are present with God and letting Him minister to you. Let him provide what you need so you can come back to continue in the joy of ministry in this once-in-a-lifetime experience with those you love.
“I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:15
Yesterday, we read about Paul’s instructions to men and women in church during worship services. The common thread throughout the chapter? We all need to pray in humility. As Paul continues his letter, he talks more about what a church should look like, focusing in particular on church leadership. He describes two different leaders: Pastors (or Elder) and Deacons. The job requirements for both of these positions may seem a little bit overwhelming. Instead of being the usual list of requirements that you might find in a job listing (e.g. must be upbeat and engaging, a team player, bachelor’s degree), these requirements shine a light onto the heart of a leader.
If we are a new believer, the first step we should take in our faith is to grow in our relationship with God. We do this through daily prayer and Bible reading and through meeting with our church family. However, after we have committed ourselves to the faith and have started to mature in the faith, we need to begin to work in ministry. We may not become a pastor or a deacon, but we may lead a Sunday School class for kindergartners, be on staff at an annual church youth camp, or be involved in a visiting ministry for shut-ins. If we are working in ministry, we are leading some group of people. Even if you feel like you are leading no one, you can look at your family, whether that’s children, younger siblings, or cousins, and see the effects of your influence.
Though the requirements listed for pastors and deacons were written specifically for them, we can look at this list to judge how well we are filling our leadership role. We are not saved by these characteristics and traits, by having them shows evidence of how God is working in our lives. For instance, we should all strive to not be a bully or quarrelsome and instead be gentle (1 Tim. 3:2-3). Why? Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If God’s spirit is working in our lives, we should be showing evidence of that. So, as you look through the traits listed, think about how you measure up to the job requirements. If you find that you would not be able to fill these requirements, you should take a look at your life and ask God to help you change those areas. Those that are following you are counting on you to lead them down the right path. They are looking at you to see the way they should act. Where are you leading them?
… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11: 27-28
2 Corinthians 11 portrays Paul’s passion towards the church and the sufferings that he went through to build it up. Living life as a Christian is not promised to be easy. Though we may not all face the sufferings that Paul faced in his ministry, we too may endure hardships throughout our lives. However, we can take heart as we know from Romans 5 verses 3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Thankfully, in America we have the freedom to worship God openly. However, as we know, not all Christians are as fortunate and face persecutions daily. No matter what circumstances we face as we proclaim the name of the Lord and our hope in His coming Kingdom, may we remain firm in our faith and press on as we pursue a ministry that glorifies Him.