Every Person Is A Minister

“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” – Romans 15:14 (NIV).

People love their church. No apologies. No qualifiers. They should because the church is us. If I don’t like something about the church, I have a responsibility to change it because it is us and us includes me. The church in Rome serves as an example.

In Romans 15, Paul gives us a little further insight into this church and tells us about this church and the qualities they possessed. First, he says, “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness.” That is, their motives were right. They had come to the place where they were motivated by a sense of goodness. Certainly, this church in Rome was a responsive church, a compassionate church. It reached out to people who were in need. It responded to those who had hurts and burdens and concerns. The second thing that the apostle says is that they were “filled with knowledge. This is a remarkable statement. Here was a church to which Paul did not need to give any new theology. He acknowledges that they had it already. 

The third thing the apostle had to say about this church was that they were “competent to instruct one another.” Another remarkable statement. When Paul commends the church in Rome for their ability to instruct one another, he’s really commending them for their ability to minister God’s Word to one another. They loved God, they knew God, they honored God, and so they were able to minister the Word to one another in effective ways. And as they did that, they brought unity to the church and they grew up into maturity together. No wonder, then, that Paul could tell this church, “… I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world.” (Romans 1:8).

There is too much pressure on pastors to minister to everyone when every Christian is a minister. That word “minister” isn’t a job title. It’s an action. A minister is simply someone who tends to another person.

If the idea of ministry seems intimidating or overwhelming, pray and look for places to use your spiritual gifts, skills, and resources. Invite people over, serve them a meal, pray for each other and for the church. Get to know them and where they could use the ministry of God’s word. In doing so, you will be ministering. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe every person should be a minister? Why or why not? 
  2. What can you do this week in the area of ministry?  

Ordinary People Can Make Disciples And Plant Churches

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 (NIV).

When we really begin to look honestly at some of the people in the Bible and take them down off the stained-glass pedestals we sometimes place them on, it becomes obvious that God did extraordinary things through ordinary, regular people. We seem to think that God will only use superstars. Nothing is further from the truth.

The scriptures are full of common, ordinary people called by God to do something special for Him. Moses was living on the backside of the desert, a total failure as the prince of Egypt, and God called him to deliver a nation. When Goliath was taunting the Israelites, everyone discounted David, a teenage shepherd boy. But God didn’t! And David defeated the giant and became the king of a nation. The Acts 4 Bible passage (above) was written right after Peter and John healed the crippled man outside the temple. The Bible tells us that Peter and John were looked at as unschooled, ordinary men.  

Do you see the pattern here? God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He uses improbable men and women who have nothing of their own to offer, but their faithfulness and willingness to say “yes.”   
 
How could God use you? Look at your situation and your surroundings. Perhaps God has placed you in your school, your job, your family, or your neighborhood to do something special for Him. Before Jesus ascended, He explained the mission that awaited His followers after He returned to His heavenly Father; making disciples. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) The heart of our mission individually and corporately as a church is making disciples who make disciples.

“Making disciples” does not mean just bringing others to a one-time “moment of decision.” It involves continued learning together, growing together, and increasingly understanding what God has done in sending Jesus to die for our sin and calling us to serve Him.  We should regularly ask ourselves whom God has in mind for us to meet as we go along. We seek to make disciples of our children, our neighbors, our co-workers, our whole world. The same goes for church planting. That’s because we are discipling others—and being discipled by others—as we plant a church.

Church planting is not merely the end of the line for the disciple-making process. Rather, church planting is an aspect of, and catalyst for, the church’s disciple-making mission.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the idea that God uses ordinary people different from what you had learned or assumed was the plan?
  2. Do you believe it is hard to make disciples? Yes or no and why? 

Pulling An All Nighter

“One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” – Luke 6:12

None of us are strangers to the infamous experience of an all-nighter. The realization hits you that your deadline is tomorrow, and you’ve barely started your assignment. That’s when it really sinks in. You have to stay up all night to meet that deadline. After the initial wave of emotion, you fortify yourself with a strong brew from the local Starbucks in preparation for staying up all night to study for an exam or write a term paper. You keep your nose to the grindstone taking only a few minutes to look at your Instagram. Then watching the sunrise as you put the final touches on your project you make a firm commitment to never be in this position again.  

In Luke 6:12, Jesus pulled an all-nighter. Luke tells us that Jesus “went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” Jesus filled His all-nighter with what we might call a “prayer marathon.”

The first thing that grabs you is the extraordinary length of Jesus’ prayer session. It is too bad we don’t know what Jesus prayed for. It would be amazing to have heard what He said and what He heard from His Father in heaven? Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t give us the specifics of Jesus’s prayer, just the location (mountain) and the time (all night).

Luke 6 does suggest a couple of things Jesus probably mentioned as He prayed. In verse 11, we’re told that the Jewish leaders were furious with Jesus for healing on the sabbath and discussed what they might do to Him. Perhaps Jesus needed to talk with his Father about the growing opposition He was experiencing.

Immediately following His prayer vigil, Jesus called together His disciples and chose twelve of them to have a special role in His work. Luke says He named them “apostles” (6:13). It seems likely that Jesus had prayed about this act of identifying those who would be His intimate band of followers.

The example of Jesus challenges us to consider how devoted we are to prayer when we have to make a major decision. When I’m hiring someone to work for me, do I spent the night in prayer? Or even one focused hour? Do I get away from the busyness of ordinary life, going out to “the mountain” in order to be quiet enough to hear what God has to say to me?  If Jesus sensed the need to pull an “all-nighter” in prayer, what does that suggest for me . . . and you?

I don’t think we all need to start pulling all-nighters in order to hear God speak to us. But, if we follow the example of Jesus, we will devote substantial time to prayer, talking with our Heavenly Father about the challenges and major decisions we face. If prayer was so important to Jesus, it should be important to us no matter how much time it takes.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you ever take an extended time away for prayer? If so, what have you experienced? If not, why not? Might this be something you’d like to do?

God Still Speaks to People And Sometimes in Unusual Ways.

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” – John 9:6-7. 

God has always been speaking. He has spoken to people of different ages, genders, and different situations. God spoke to Adam. He communicated with Noah. He instructed Abraham. He spoke with prophets and also to common people in the Bible. But God is anything but predictable. God speaks to us in different ways. He is God so He will never run out of ways to communicate with His people.  

Every day, when God wants to make known His will to you, there is an unlimited number of ways He could choose to communicate His message. God speaks to us through the Bible. He speaks through circumstances. Or other people to name a few. But He is not limited to the practical, or logical, and even the expected. There are many examples in the Bible where God chose to work in unusual and unpredictable ways. 

For example, God spoke through a burning bush (Exodus 3). God spoke through a donkey (Numbers 22). God takes the prophet, Elijah, into heaven on the best first-class flight of all time – a flying chariot of fire. And then there is the story of the blind man found in John 9. 

Jesus could have instantly healed the guy and went on His way. But He didn’t. Instead, He undertook a five-step process that is certainly unusual. First He spits a glob of saliva on the ground. Next, He takes the glob of saliva, mixes it with some dirt until it is mud. Third, he rubs the saliva mud in the eyes of the blind man. He then asks the blind man to walk to a pool of water where he can wash the saliva mud out of his eye. And fifth, the blind man will be healed and see for the first time in his life. This process proves that the Lord often does what seems unusual and unpredictable, and inefficient to us.  

It is pure speculation, but maybe Jesus was testing the faith of the blind man. Maybe in order to be healed, this man had to trust in Jesus’ commands enough to find his way, though still blind, to the pool and wash his face. Only after trusting in God did he experience healing from God. The same is true for you and me. God is often at work in our lives, but in unpredictable ways, that calls us to fully trust even when we don’t fully understand. We don’t have to understand the “why” of God’s ways. But we do have to keep choosing to follow them. He is working things out. He is present. His plan is still good, and He can still be trusted. These are certainties even when life feels so very uncertain. The bottom line is we have nothing to lose by expecting God to do the unexpected in our lives. We may discover that the unexpected exceeds our expectations.

God speaks to us for a purpose. We have not been called to control life, to endure life, or to barely make it in this life. Jesus came that we may know life and life more abundant.

Discussion Questions:

  1. God speaking equals receiving communication from God. We receive this through whatever vehicle God uses unusual or not: given this is it possible God may have been speaking to you and you may have never realized it?

Close Encounters Of The Best Kind

“Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory. This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. I fell face down on the ground.” – Ezekiel 43:2-3 NASB

Encounters with GodWe read about an encounter with God in Ezekial 43. In response to the encounter, Ezekiel fell on his face before God. He realized that God was greater than anything He could imagine. 

Encountering God is a really important part of life for Christians. Encounters with God are not about special feelings. Encounters with God are encounters with the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to build a two-way relationship with us. When He encounters us, it’s because He wants to build that relationship and to help us become more like Jesus. Once we have a real encounter with God, it has the power to transform the rest of our lives.  

God was working in your life long before you began working with Him. The Lord knew you before time began, and He knew what He wanted to do with your life. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”  Before the apostle Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Jesus already knew Paul and had a specific assignment for him. But Jesus only revealed this assignment after Paul’s conversion. “But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) God encounters us in order to reveal what He is doing and to invite us to become involved in His work. An encounter with God requires us to adjust ourselves to the activity of God that has been revealed.

Don’t allow the things of this world to keep you from experiencing encounters with God. Start by spending quality time with Him. Seek Him through times of intimacy. Talk with Him. Listen. Read and study His Word.

But it is your choice if you want to encounter God. It’s your choice to welcome the Holy Spirit to meet you and to be open to what He wants to do. It’s also always your choice for what to do after you’ve encountered God. If you’re looking for your life to be transformed by the presence of God, you must allow Him to work in your life on an ongoing basis.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of an encounter with God? 
  2. What encounters have you had with God? 

Waiting For God To Speak To Us

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” – 1 Kings 19:11-13.

Most people don’t like to wait. Part of our dislike for waiting is the culture we live in. Everyone everywhere is constantly looking for a more efficient way to do whatever they are doing. We want shorter lines when we are shopping. We want to spend less time in traffic. We need people to answer our email or text messages quickly so that we can move onto the next task. But while culture is seeking to minimize any need to wait, Christians sometimes need to wait.   

In the 1 Kings 19 passage, the prophet Elijah had made an enemy of Queen Jezebel. Under threat of his life, he fled out to the wilderness. God told Elijah to go stand before Him on the mountain where God passed by. We don’t know how long the mighty windstorm lasted. Nor do we know how long it took for the earthquake to come and go. Ditto for the fire. We don’t know if it lasted for seconds, minutes, or days. But after all those powerful forces, something different happened: “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  

Is hearing the voice of God a ready-made formula that happens quickly? Or is it a commitment to be patient and wait on the Lord? In our culture, it is easy for our lives to get so cluttered and loud that we don’t hear the gentle whisper. Some of the greatest figures in the Bible — Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David — had to wait for many years for God’s promises. Something was happening while nothing was happening. Everything that happened in the meantime was used to prepare them, inwardly as well as outwardly.

Even when we can’t see what that long-term outcome is going to be, we can be sure that God has the perfect plan for our life and all we have to do is keep our mind and heart open to His voice and guidance, and then ask for patience and wisdom to embrace the waiting, and trust that God is on the case, even if we don’t specifically see anything happening at any given moment.

God asks each of us to look beyond ourselves. True trust begins by acknowledging God, His wisdom, and His ways, and then choosing to act on what we’ve acknowledged. Do I trust God enough to wait for Him?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you experienced a situation when God was late that still doesn’t make sense? What’s it like to go through that?
  2. God’s delays are not God’s denials. Agree or disagree and why? 

The Obedience Of Faith

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:3-6. 

God has always been at work in our world. He is at work today. But how is He working today? The answer to that question is clear, from the Bible and from history: God has always chosen to work through people. In fact, there is so much about this in the Bible that it is difficult to know where to begin. 

God always will take the initiative to come to people and reveal what He is doing, or what He is about to do. That is His invitation for you to join Him. After God has taken the initiative to involve you in His work, you need to adjust your life to Him in obedience. You must obey Him first. Then, He will accomplish His work through you.

When you come to a moment of decision when you must choose whether to obey God, you cannot obey Him unless you believe and trust Him. You cannot believe and trust Him unless you love Him. You cannot love Him unless you know Him. Each “new” command of Jesus will require new knowledge and understanding of Him. The Holy Spirit will teach you about Jesus, so you can trust Him and obey Him. This is how you grow in Him. 

1 John 2:3-6 says “we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.” Obedience can be difficult. We tend to argue, push back, and fight a lot when God asks us to do something we don’t really want to do. We want our way. Yet the interesting thing is that in hindsight, we wonder why we fight so much because it always works out better than we imagined in the end. Do we trust God enough to obey when we are skeptical, hesitant, or even defiant when God asks us to do something? Are we willing to obey God when He speaks into our lives? The bottom line is that obedience to God proves that we love Him and demonstrates our trust.  

A lot of people think obedience is about fearing God, but God wants us to see obedience to Him as a relationship of love. And out of love comes trust and obedience. If you trust what God is saying to you, and you believe that He loves you, then that will lead to obedience. Obeying God as when He speaks to us is our responsibility and choice.  

“God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” ― Elisabeth Elliot.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In many ways, obedience is your moment of truth. What you do will: 1. reveal what you believe about Him. 2. determine whether you will experience His mighty work in and through you. 3. determine whether you will come to know Him more intimately. Agree or disagree and why?

Making Adjustments As Needed

“Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines the outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.” – Warren Wiersbe. 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see/hear the word adjustment? Most people would define adjustment as a small alteration or movement made to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result or the process of adapting or becoming used to a new situation. 

We want God to speak to us and give us an assignment, but we are not all that excited about making any major adjustments in our lives. The Lord uses adjustments to bring us back into alignment with Him and the plan He has for our individual lives. These adjustments might have to take place in friendships, relationships, school, or career choices. At times, these changes may make sense and seem easy enough. But inevitably, there will come a day when the Lord will call you to leave something or pursue something that may not make sense. A change that will leave you uncertain and honestly scared because it is unlike anything you have experienced. That is where faith comes in. When that time comes, a decision has to be made.

Every time God spoke to people in the Scripture about something He wanted to do through them, major adjustments were necessary. They had to adjust their lives to God. Once the adjustments were made, God accomplished His purposes through those He called. We have story after story in the Old and New Testament of people the Lord called to make huge, life-altering adjustments.

In Genesis 6, the Lord decides to destroy all of humanity due to their wickedness and during this, He calls Noah to build an ark. Verse 22 says, “So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” The New Testament is also riddled with stories of major life-altering adjustments. When Jesus encounters each disciple, they are going about their life. Matthew, the tax collector, is sitting in his office when Jesus calls him to follow Him. Simon and Andrew as well as James and John are in the middle of fishing when He calls them. Encounters with God can sometimes seem inconvenient and disruptive. As believers, we are continually being shaped and molded to be more like Christ. That process is hard and messy.  The adjustments He calls us to at times may seem impossible and terrifying. Making those adjustments requires obedience. If you refuse to make the adjustment, you could miss what God had in store for your life.

The Bible tells us that when God speaks to His people, He always calls for a decision about what you believe. Now that we see that, based on that belief, He challenges us to make major adjustments to our lives in order to allow Him to work through us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are ways God leads us to adjust to Him in how we think.  About people?  About issues?  About biblical principles that we struggle with?  
  2. Why does God lead us to adjust to Him? Why is this important? What is God doing when He asks us to adjust to Him? 

Is There Another Way?

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Luke 22:42. 

 Jesus did not want to do what God wanted Him to do. After 33 years of life and ministry, Jesus is nearing the completion of His mission. But reaching the finish line was anything but glorious. He was going to be named “King”, but the crown was a crown of thorns.  He endured pain and suffering with the weight of the world in addition to the physical pain, He was also going to endure betrayal and denial from His closest friends.  Loneliness, agony, and finally death. Imagine how He must have felt as He was just hours away from experiencing all that. He felt like just about all of us would feel. After all, who would want to experience that unimaginable suffering?  

So Jesus prays a prayer that makes a lot of sense: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me…” (Luke 22:42) Many of us can identify with that because we pray that exact same prayer. In that prayer we are asking the same question as Jesus, “Lord, is there no other way?” 

Take a few moments and consider what Jesus chose to do when faced with a task that God had given Him.  You and I are faced with many tasks, all are immeasurably less significant, but still, cause us the stress and strain of wanting to obey God, but also of not wanting to obey Him at the same time.  If obedience to God means that we will likely have to endure pain, change, give up something, or do something that we are uncomfortable with, we usually try to figure a way to do it, but in our own way. Or we simply delay.   

Jesus didn’t delay.  While He did share His true feelings with His father, He doesn’t say “I’m not doing this.”  He doesn’t procrastinate. He simply asks God if there is another way.  Jesus prays, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”  That is an intense prayer.  A prayer of commitment.  It is not just adding an obligatory “God-willing” at the end of the prayer.  It is a representation of a heart, mind, and will that is submitted to the Father.  Though He knew that it would be severe and painful, He was still willing to go through with it because that’s what God wanted Him to do.  Jesus placed His life in His Father’s hands and is basically saying, “Lord, you know best.  Though this thing you are asking Me to do will be agonizing, I trust that You not only have my best interest in mind, but You also have the best interest in the world in mind.”   

We need to remember that we’re not working for God. We’re working with God. We are working with a God that can do anything. But He chooses to work through us. Or as Oswald Chambers said, “work out” what God “works in” you. When God wants us to do something we don’t want to do, we can pray for another way, but we must also pray that we are willing to do what God wants us to do. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think God has unrealistic expectations for us?
  2. What do you think God wants to do through you?  What can you do this week to accomplish what God wants to do through you?

Small Steps

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” — Chuck Swindoll

We worship a big God with a big mission that will one day reach this whole big world. We live in a culture that gravitates to the big things. In an age where everyone seems to be longing for attention and approval, what better way to garner it than with something big. We think that someday you will be able to do something great. Maybe you will write a huge check to your favorite charity or possibly fund a program to feed the hungry. Perhaps you might start a needed ministry at church. 

We, as Christians, can waste so much time waiting to do something big that we miss opportunities right now. As always Jesus serves as our example; He took simple things from ordinary folks and turned them into resources beyond imagination.

We always start the year with big intentions. Becoming more consistent with my walk with God.  We long for God-sized encounters but believe we are more qualified for smaller things. Small steps.  Small progress. Small steps of progress in parenting, marriage, character traits, loving people, and so on.

But smallness is not the issue because smallness is not a problem for God. For spiritual success consists of everyday small steps of consistent obedience to Him. Small, everyday steps of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Small, everyday steps of staying faithful to reading His Word and allowing His Spirit to change our hearts.  Small, everyday steps of faithfully administering God’s grace in the lives of those around you on a day in and day out basis.   

The reality is we can experience God in the small things as well. God can speak to us in the small moments of stopping to receive God grace’s and presence in a time of scripture reading and prayer.  

One day a little boy overheard the disciples of Jesus trying to figure out how they were going to feed 5,000 families. The boy offered his lunch of five loaves and two fish to help. When Jesus received it, He multiplied it into enough food to feed 5,000 families – with leftovers.

This same Jesus can turn the simple things you bring to Him, those deeds of service day by day, and multiply them into great blessings for you, as well as for others. As small as it may seem, He is looking for people who will give Him all they have, and trust Him to do the rest.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some small things you can do well?
  2. What can we do this week to be better at the small things?