Growing The Church By Loving God and Enjoying Yourself

By on August 15, 2018

You want to be used by God. You want your life to count. You want to change, grow and make a difference. You want to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives.

You need to know that what you say and do really counts. And, you know that, until you know these things, you’ll never be truly happy or fulfilled. There is nothing more miserable than an unhappy, unfulfilled Believer.

So, what can you do to get more happiness, more OOMPH, more juice in your life? What can you do to help your friends find the only One who can fill their inner emptiness? How can you make a difference in the lives of your friends?

First, keep excited about life. One of the first things that helps you to help others is for you to demonstrate that YOU have been helped; they want to see that it works in YOUR life, before they want to get what YOU’VE got.

Jesus had a lot to say about this, about keeping full of wonder. It’s part of what comes from walking close with God every day. When you walk close with Him, life isn’t drab, boring or “same old same old.” Jesus said in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.”

In Matthew 18:3, when he said, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” See, most people aren’t thrilled about their lives anymore. They’re tired, bored, scared and disappointed. They need to have the seeds of Heaven planted in them so they can become child-like again.

Part of the childlikeness that Jesus was talking about included the friendliness that comes naturally to most small children. It’s only as we get older that we become self-conscious, anti-social and withdrawn.

Many Christians and most churches have lost this quality of childlike happiness and exuberance. In fact, in my experience, ALL Christians and churches THINK they’re friendly. Actually, they’re just marginally friendly, and even THAT’S just to each other! Jesus said that even the publicans, tax gatherers do that.

The moment we become “same old same old,” we’re drifting away from God. It’s a sign that we’re not being renewed, not being transformed, but that we’re conforming to the world (Romans 12:1-2).

If ONE person is left without God, then Jesus says we still have work to do. It’s only NATURAL to share good news and new discoveries. We all like to tell others when we get a new car, or discover a new restaurant. If you’re not telling people how great Jesus is, you must not know.

When you meet Jesus as Lord and have Him in your life, amazing things begin to happen. You always have SOMETHING going on that He’s doing! And, you’ll naturally find yourself telling other people!

The only way to keep a church full of people like this from growing is to get them to be unfriendly and cold. That’s the ONLY way!

God wants our church to keep growing. There are six things to do. None of them are very hard.

First, YOU begin to REALLY believe the Gospel and apply it in your own life. You’ll be trans-formed! Then, you’ll be energized, enthusiastic and caring.

You’ll find that participating in the services, the Men’s Ministry, the Women’s Ministry, Sunday school and other gatherings, are so life-changing, that you won’t WANT to miss them.

You’ll discover that, through your participation, you’re having a hands on opportunity to change someone’s life. That’ll get you feeling alive again.

Remember Andrew, one of Jesus’ first disciples? He got so excited after hearing John the Baptist that he went and got his brother, Peter. Peter ended important disciples.

What generates this kind of enthusiasm? It’s when what’s happening is so life-changing (not just fun), so meaningful, that you want to come back. Your needs are met. Or, you see a real change in someone else. Even if nothing happens to YOU, just knowing it’s happening for someone else makes you want to come back. If you know that you can contribute to someone else’s life, you’ll get excited.

According to 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12, EVERYBODY has some sort of ministry. Giving of your time, energy, effort and money to benefit someone other than yourself will actually cause you to grow closer to God and help you to be happy and fulfilled in life.

We have a name for those who just want to get fed, fed and fed. We call them gluttons! That’s not what the Kingdom of God is about. There are no free loaders in the Kingdom!

Second, PRAY for God to send growth. Matthew 9:28, “Pray ye therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest. (Also, part of that prayer is being willing to BE one of those laborers!)

Ask God to show YOU opportunities to make it grow. It’s not praying, “God, send twenty visitors this week. It’s more like, “God, guide my mouth.”

Pray for the Pastor, the teachers, the programs, the worship – for them ALL to meet the needs of people.

Third, PREPARE yourself to receive new people. Ask God to remove pride, selfishness and even territorial feelings…”Hey, that’s MY pew!” These pews, and these different jobs in the church aren’t OURS, they’re GOD’S.

Fourth, LOOK around you. Are there any little things you CAN DO, or that the church can do to neaten things up? To make it more inviting? To make it the kind of place a person could feel at home in?

You probably already have some of the answers, and just haven’t realized it. You might be like the little boy doing his homework. He’d been adding on his fingers and getting the right answers, until he came to 10+2. He asked his dad how to do it. His dad said, “Use your fingers.” The little boy says, “I can’t.” Dad, “why not?” Little boy: “Because then I’d have to have 12 fingers!”

Fifth, SUPPORT the church with your faithful attendance and participation. Support the church financially. The only way to get the excitement of serving God is to serve!

You’ll NEVER know the songs and newer hymns if you’re not here enough to get to KNOW them! You’ll never know the thrill of how God is working in people’s lives, unless you’re here and getting to have relationships with finances of the work, until YOU have a heavy investment in it. “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”

People in the community really don’t care about our theology (WE do, they don’t.) They care about this: “What do I feel when I come into this congregation?” A recent nationwide survey shows: 1 come because they like the Pastor. 15 come because the Bible is preached. 75 come because they like the ATMOSPHERE in the church. What makes up the atmosphere? YOU do! See what an impact you can make, just by being one of those who are faithful?

Six, ENJOY watching your church grow, and knowing people’s lives are being changed.

Here’s a true story I heard, I think it was reported in a Colorado paper. Chippy, the parakeet, had an accident. His owner was vacuuming the cage, and got a phone call. While on the phone, she heard a “slurp,” and looked at the cage. No Chippy! She got off the phone, opened the vacuum bag, and there was Chippy.

He was alive, but dusty, and looking stunned. So, she ran him over to the sink to get him rinsed off. Of course, the water out of the tap was cold, and Chippy started shaking and shivering. To warm Chippy up, the owner got her hair dryer to blast him dry.

The reporter who covered the story called Chippy’s owner a few days later to check on how Chippy was doing. She said, well, he sits there in his cage, but Chippy doesn’t SING much anymore!” Do you ever feel like Chippy?

Jesus wants to renew you and fill you with His joy and love. Love for God, love for yourself and love for other people in your life. Then, you can be one of those who makes a difference, a real difference in the lives of others…and in the life of the church!

You’re An Ambassador for Christ. What’s That Mean?

By on August 7, 2018

An interesting statement about Believers is in 2 Corinthians 5:20. It says, “…We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God is speaking (or presenting Himself) by us…” You probably never thought about yourself as being an ambassador before. It’s a pretty important job, with good pay, excellent benefits.

What’s an ambassador? An ambassador is one who is sent to represent one country or government to another. While in the other country, the ambassador presents and demonstrates all the best that his or her home country or government has to offer.

When you give your life to God, you become a member of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible says that we are at that moment “translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.”

So, the rest of your time here on earth, you’re not just here for your own plans or interests, but you’re representing Heaven to those around you. Matter of fact, you’re the only real sample of Heaven most people will ever see. What they’ll know about God’s working in peoples’ lives, they’ll get from watching YOUR life.

Pretty scary? Maybe. On the other hand, it means you’re not limited to YOUR resources, because you’re not out there representing yourself. Since you’re representing God’s government, and HIS abilities, you have access to all the best that He has to offer. Remember, your whole mission is to give people a sample of what it is to have God at work in a person’s life. That’s what will make them want to get to know Him for themselves.

They HAVE to be able to tell that something different is going on in your life. Something that just isn’t the way it happens for the average person. How do they know? For one, you TELL them! You let them know what’s going on inside you and in your life!

That’s right, you let people into your life! You bring your family, friends and co-workers into your inner circle, and let them share your experiences, your hopes, dreams, successes and failures. You tell them about answers to prayer, and God’s goodness to you. That’s part of being an ambassador for Christ.

Being an ambassador for Christ means there’s learning and growing – getting to know the One you’re representing, and learning His ways. You’re called on to do something unique, and something incredibly hard; to represent someone to people in a way that they want to get to know Him for themselves. That’s why they keep looking at your life, and checking you out to see if you’re really what you say you are.

But, guess what? That’s good for you! It challenges you to keep prayed up and full of the Spirit. When you’re prayed up and full of the Spirit, you become a person who’s not afraid to feel, and not afraid to express what’s going on inside.

Most people try so hard to keep from hurting, and to harden their hearts so that nothing hurts. They do it so well, that not only does nothing hurt, but nothing helps anymore! By avoiding being hurt, they also can’t feel hope, joy or love. They become stiff and zombie-like, emotionally.

That’s where you come in. you’ve been healed of that. You’re not deadened to your friends, co-workers and family. You’re no longer caught up on the fast track that you take people for granted. No, you’re incredibly alive, aware, caring and full of joy. Jesus gave us His words, as He said, “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

People need to know that Jesus heals broken hearts, softens hardened hearts and changes evil hearts. You are a living demonstration of that. You’ve discovered that you don’t have to be afraid to love, care or be close to people.

When you were living for yourself and living just for the moment, you really didn’t care about learning how the world works, or how to get along with other people. Why SHOULD you? you were too preoccupied with figuring out yourself! But, as an ambassador for Christ, you know how important it is to get to learn how things work; what makes people tick.

As an ambassador for Christ, you find yourself doing the right things instead of the wrong things. You find yourself doing things right, instead of slipshod and haphazardly. You believe right, speak right and act right. And then, things turn out right! That’s just how it works.

RIGHT THINKING, SPEAKING AND DOING BRING ABOUT RIGHT RESULTS.

Doing the right things and doing them the right way is one of the ways God has designed to feed the joy in your life. It’s a part of the process of caring. Doing things right is what you DO when you care about other people. And, it brings happiness. You really do feel better when you know you’ve done your best.

As an ambassador for Christ, you’re in the habit of doing your best. You’re not trying to earn God’s love. That’s already taken care of. You do your best, because you’re allowing Him to work in you and through you, to represent Himself to people in a foreign land.

Like Him, you find yourself becoming a “giver” instead of a “taker”. You’re letting Him give through you, to people who are so used to being taken, that at first, they can’t believe you’re for real. But, that’s part of the job we have here. We’re not giving out of OUR resources, but out of God’s resources in Heaven. Philippians 4:19 says, “My God (I like that, MY God) shall supply ALL your needs according to HIS RICHES in Glory…” He doesn’t supply our need according to our need, but according to His riches! According to Heaven’s standard!

There’s a peace and confidence that comes when you know that you don’t represent yourself, but that you represent Christ in your situation. Romans 14:17 says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

You know that you can’t control a lot of the things that happen, you know you can’t control other people’s behavior, but you don’t let it upset you anymore.

What happens and what other people do, these aren’t what direct your path. You’re not guided by circumstances or by other people’s opinions.

You’re guided by the course set by the Spirit of God and the Word. So, you get pleasure out of being able to rise above your circumstances, and responding in the Spirit when someone is “actin ugly”, as my cousin in North Carolina says. God gives you the resiliency to bounce back when you’re tripped or knocked down.

Last, there’s a sense of satisfaction as an ambassador for you’re making a difference. You’re a person that’s unique. God has given you a specific set of people to reach, help and guide. There’s a contribution that only YOU can make. People that only YOU can reach. If you don’t say it, it won’t get said. It’s that simple.

We have a ministry of reconciliation. Of getting people to come back to God, through Jesus. Jesus said in John 20:21, “As my Father has sent me, even so, I send you.”

What we let people know is that God can be known, can be experienced and He will bring GOOD into their lives, if they’ll BELIEVE what He says in the Bible. Job 22:21 puts it like this: “Acquaint NOW thyself with Him and BE AT PEACE. Thereby, GOOD shall come unto thee!”

You’re leaving the world a better place than you found it. 2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us able ministers of the New Testament. Not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter killeth, but the Spirit gives life.” People are better off for knowing you. Proverbs 13:17 says, “A faithful ambassador is health!” You’re leaving behind a legacy of changed lives, of people who have been touched by the Spirit of God on the inside of you.

If You Were A Fish, Would You Get Thrown Out?

By on July 31, 2018

I was about 10 years old, and camping with my parents at Lee Hall Farm in Virginia. The owner of the farm was standing at the edge of the fishing pond, catching one fish after another. They were all small, about 4 or 5 inches long. He’d take them off the hook and toss them over his shoulder in a plastic bag. Then, he’d throw his line back out.

I’d never seen anybody do what he was doing, so I asked him about it. He said, “Son, when I get that bag full of bluegill, I’m gonna go up and throw them in the incinerator.”

He was going to BURN them! I asked how come. He said, “Those little fish won’t get any bigger than they are now, because there’s too many of them in the pond.”

He told me how he used to have a great fishing pond, stocked with bass, huge, fat lazy ones. But, someone had thrown in a couple of bluegill a few years back. Now they had reproduced and taken over the pond.

“They’re too small to clean and eat, but they’re big enough that they keep reproducing. Worse than that, there’s bass in that pond, but the bluegill keep eating all the bass eggs, so I never get any more bass. Today, I’m pulling in all the bluegill I can, and burning them in the incinerator.”

He really left an impression on my young mind. Especially years later, when I read that the Kingdom of God was like a fisherman doing the same thing that the farmer did.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered every kind. When it was full, they drew it to shore and sat down. They gathered the good fish into containers, but threw the bad ones away. So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall come forth, and separate the wicked from among the just.

Jesus wasn’t talking about using a fishing line and hook, but using a net. The net is set out in the water almost like a fence, staying upright. Then, both ends are drawn together and it’s dragged up to the sand and sorted.

The fisherman put the good fish into boxes, and throw the bad ones into a heap to be burned. Some of the fish that are thrown out are the kinds that you just don’t eat, like the eels, or jellyfish. Other fish that are dead or dying are also thrown into the reject pile.

It really isn’t a hard job for the fisherman to separate the good fish from bad. They know what’s good for food, and what’s not fit to eat. At the end of the day, there’s not one bad fish in the boxes headed for the market. And, on the refuse pile, there’s not one good healthy fish.

What’s the most meaning of this parable? First of all, the net is cast out for both good and bad fish. Fisherman cast their net into the sea, and then drag to shore whatever’s in the net.

In the same way, God sends the gospel and uses His goodness to each person, whether good or bad. He keeps casting out His net in order to bring in segment after segment of society, generation after generation of people, to draw them slowly to the edge of this life, and into the next world.

At first, the fish in the net aren’t even aware they’re in it. They swim around freely, not even noticing they’re being invisibly drawn towards the shore. They’re like people, not aware that they’re being drawn towards eternity. They eat, play and move around, thinking their lives will last forever.

As the net closes in on them, they yield to it and learn to swim a little bit slower, enjoying what limited freedom they have left. They don’t even realize they’re in danger until they’re brought up onto sand, into an unknown world. Then they panic and struggle, throwing themselves fully into trying to survive, but within a few moments, they give up.

It’s the same way with life. Both the good and the bad are drawn to the edge of life in this world and then into the unknown world on the other side.

We don’t struggle against being drawn towards eternity at first. Like the fish, we don’t really notice. On the other hand, when the net begins to close in, we all struggle! Good and bad, rich and poor, black and white – we all struggle feeling alarmed at the discovery that we’re not as free or as in control as we thought.

That’s why there’s such an emphasis, no, an obsession with trying to look young and to defy aging. That’s why the whole field of plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery is flourishing like never before. All the “fish” are in sheer terror at the drawing in of the net!

You can’t escape the net! The earth is full of all kinds of people, who move about freely in the deep and wide sea of this life. But, there is a net that’s been let down in the water and it’s slowly being drawn towards us.

At first the net has a wide diameter, so the fish has as much room as he needs. Even when the net is pulled a little tighter, the fish doesn’t panic. He just moves out of the way, and keeps on like he’s done all his life.

He isn’t aware that it’s a net. It seems more like things he’s seen and handled before. More like loose seaweed, string, and debris. He’s gone around them before and he’ll do it again. But now, he notices that they keep closing him in. And, that there’s a barrier between him and the open sea.

When he gets a little closer, he notices that it’s not seaweed at all, it’s different and far more threatening. It’s closing in on him and he can get around it, over it or go under it. He darts head on into it, and gets caught in its folds. He struggles violently and then tires and gives up, until he’s dragged to shore.

Why did Jesus tell us these things…because He doesn’t love us? NO! Because He DOES love us! Jesus loves and pities even the worst of people…that’s why He spoke these words.