Posts Tagged ‘Battle For The Family’
Judges 8:34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: 35Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel.
In yesterday’s TFTD (thought for the day), we explored Gideon’s triumph over his exhaustion. He finished his mission and in so doing blessed even the ones he had to leave behind. I thought I was finished with that passage. However, this morning, I was compelled to revisit the story by the Holy Spirit. It seems Gideon’s story has more to teach us. At the end of his mission, when the enemies were subdued; when peace was restored to Israel including the ones that challenged the validity of Gideon’s ministry, Gideon and his family never got to enjoy the kindness of a grateful people nor the rewards of doing a good job.
Since God changed my assignment to that of a spiritual Life Coach last year, I’ve received so many comments from Pastors and leaders all across this country that are exhausted and bewildered because they feel under-appreciated if at all. The luster of the role of pastor has long since faded. The ones they help the most, it seems, are the ones that cause them the most grief. This, I find, is true regardless of the size of the congregation or the seeming success of the church. There is a hidden pain that leaders are enduring in these last and apparently evil days. Their cry is how do I handle this vision-killing attack?
The answer may surprise you. The ones you serve are not the ones charged with the responsibility of validating your ministry, energizing your efforts or applauding your accomplishments. You serve people, but you work for God. Should the people you serve bless and honor you, receive it and be blessed. However, you should view such a response as icing on the cake of God’s approval. Then too, it is good to remember that, technically, deliverance flowed through you but was not because of you. It was God at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. God allows us to receive credit for what in fact is His work.
Admittedly, I too fell victim to expecting people to approve me. Its only natural to do so. There are two things to consider in the midst of your service. 1. People (actually that one word says it all. …Well ok, here’s the rest) are too heavily involved in their problems to do a good job of appreciating their prophet. Remember Jesus healed 10 people with otherwise incurable diseases, who by the way, approached Jesus first, to ask for help. All ten were healed and left his presence without saying thank you. It’s just that one felt badly about doing so and returned to say thanks. Notice Jesus’ reaction. He doesn’t say, “you’re welcome.” He wonders were there not 10 cleansed; where are the nine? To add insult to injury, the thankful one was the stranger in the bunch. He wasn’t even a member, just a needy visitor.
The wildlife conservationist, seeing a tiger whose paw is caught and mangled in a hideous trap, knows up front that liberating the cat will not result in him having a huge new house pet! His or her joy comes in knowing that this endangered species has been saved and the ecological balance preserved. James reminds us that “he that converts a sinner from the error of his ways, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
2. Even when the people do their best, they will never be able to bless you like God can, for whom you truly work! Jesus warned us about seeking notoriety for spiritual work. He observes that should you find such notoriety, it will be your reward. I cannot imagine that the applause of men is better than the reward of God. Apostle Paul shares this thought with us in 1 Corinthians 2:9 9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. Paul speculates that the God, who created the worlds with such splendor as to produce awe and wonder in us when we see it, has prepared for those that love him a reward so impressive that the wildest, most out of the box image we can muster, does almost nothing to prepare us for what it will be like. And, we get to reign with Him too? What a deal!
In conclusion, keep your eyes on the prize; look to the hills from which cometh your help, your blessing, your reward and eternal life. You will not be disappointed.
TFTD – Judges 8:4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. Inspiration alone does not fully equip us for the realities of the battle.
There are two times when you should avoid making life decisions: 1. When you’re extremely excited and happy, and 2. When you’re exhausted, down, sad or have suffered loss. Too often our circumstances exert too much influence on our thinking and on our mission. When I’m excited I am oblivious to circumstances. I can be easily fooled into thinking my current state is the norm for me. Many people have fallen because they were in a success stupor. In like manner, my times of doom and gloom are equally hazardous. In my valley I can assume that life has passed me by, I’m stuck like Chuck not realizing that weeping may endure for a night, but… So then, I was blessed when studying this passage of scripture. Actually, it was a verse I passed on my way to a text I needed to use in helping someone with their issues. I had to pause though because the text arrested me. We all are familiar with Gideon’s story, but mostly we are familiar with the more famous parts of it – the fleece, the 300 etc. What we are less familiar with is how God uses Gideon and his circumstances- that’s found in the details. Gideon is inspired to follow the mission God gave him after hearing the dream and its interpretation. How many of us are excited when we “get a word?’ The problem is most of the time we get the word, but never the details of what pursuing that word is going to cost us. Yes, “God sent you on a mission” or “God promised to deliver you” or “your help is on the way” or “your blessing is coming.” So you start out and – bam! challenges. You are winning the battle but fighting is tiring!! Your arms get tired from swinging the sword, your eyes get tired being on the lookout for new dangers, your enthusiasm is diminished because its taking longer than you thought. So now your exhausted. And your exhausted in the middle of winning the battle. This is the state of Gideon in this passage. He’s got credits behind his name for his accomplishments, and he’s “faint.” I looked up the word it simply means “exhausted.” What Gideon shows us in this passage (quite contrary to his reputation I might add) is commitment to the cause. The text states that he’s “faint, yet pursuing them.” Gideon realized that while his accomplishments to date were impressive, but the job wasn’t done. He had to pursue until all the enemies were subdued. What is left for you to do even though “you’re tired”, “sick of those people” “getting too old for this foolishness?” Hear the New Testament speak to this issue: And be not weary in well doing for in due season (the season assigned to you) you shall reap if you faint not (don’t lose heart!) I hope this helps.
I woke up this morning to the sounds of an old hymn of the church playing in my mind and spirit. My mind was playing a scene of a typical church service I attended as a child. Back then we didn’t know it was praise and worship; we called it “the song service.” The melody was pre-1950’s and the words were these:
“I believe that Jesus saves and his blood washes whiter than snow. (repeated twice)
I lay in bed quietly so as not to disturb my wife, but in my mind I was having old time church as over and over again my mind played that song. It was more than a nostalgic moment. I was being taken back in time to “old church.” We called it “churchin” back then. All day Sunday was dedicated to churchin’.
We started with Sunday school followed by morning service. We’d have dinner most of the time at the church in the basement. Come up from dinner for afternoon Missionary service, take a break after Missionary service and conclude the day with night service.
Our night services we called evangelistic services. They were hot! “Testimony service” was the main feature of those meetings. It was a time when believers new and old got up and gave their reports, called “testimonies,” of what God had done for them. Usually, a powerful leader named Mother Mary Flowers conducted the testimony service. Her husband played the piano and could wear it out.
She’s an old mother in Zion now and still anointed, but in her day Mother Flowers could lead that service like no other. She didn’t allow anyone to “break the flow of the Spirit.” If someone got up and started rambling on about something other than the goodness of God, Mother Flowers would gently but effectively sit them down. If they resisted her she’d sing them down.
She was so good at keeping the service hopping. Sometimes a person would start a song that “the Spirit” got into. From that point on Mother Flowers would use that song only. After each person gave his or her testimony, Mother started the song back up. The atmosphere was electrified. People brought their own tambourines and shakers to add a rhythmic flavor to the moment. When night service was over, we’d all go home satisfied knowing that we’d had “church!”
The next day we would call each other up to review the happenings of the night before. We would tell the people on the job about the services thinking that we were making them jealous for not having come themselves.
Testimony service had a specific and fundamental purpose in the overall vision of the church ministry. It was a training ground for believers to improve their skills at articulating their faith. The thought was that if one could tell of the goodness of God in the service, they would be better able to do the same thing out in the world. This idea was rooted in the understanding that believers had an obligation and responsibility to witness for Jesus.
An equally important purpose of Testimony service was its responsibility to reiterate, reaffirm and reestablish the doctrines of the church. Our songs and statements revealed the tenets of our confession. Anyone sitting in our services would already have an inkling of what we believed long before the preacher preached. This brings me back to my waking up experience today.
I realized this morning how much I miss those days. In fact my wife said to me not too long ago, with a note of sadness in her voice, that church just isn’t like it used to be. We weren’t sophisticated back then; we didn’t have the elegance of style, the dazzling special effects of technology nor the massive exposure that media provides, but we did have power! Our power was given to us I believe as God’s response to our passion. We loved God, and we loved the mission of the church.
God was much more to us than a meal ticket and a blessings factory. Jesus meant everything to us. We lived a life of sacrifice and devotion. We were on a mission. No, we weren’t perfect, but we were accountable. It was generally understood back then that our purpose was to win the lost to Jesus. Salvation was our battle cry, and we took our assignment seriously. We had the message of Salvation drilled into us. We knew clearly that there were dire consequences to a life of sin. We were not confused about the fact that Satan was our enemy and Jesus was our deliverer.
The church leadership taught us over and over again that Jesus was coming soon. We were taught that our responsibility was to work hard to make sure that our friends, relatives, neighbors even our enemies knew that without Christ they were doomed to experience the lake of fire.
We didn’t ask people did they go to church. We asked people “Are you saved?” Witnessing it was called in those days was a regular part of our lives almost daily. Our church services were a kind of rendezvous place for us after a week of living and witnessing for Jesus. Church was the place where we came to be recharged. But it was also the place where we’d bring the people to whom we had witnessed.
Our conviction was that if we did our part and witnessed to people followed by bringing them to our church the Lord would do the rest using the whole service as the final component needed to get people saved. We actually believed that the “song and testimony” services served as a preparation of the atmosphere that made preaching easy and effective. It was this mindset that caused us to sing songs that divulged our confession of faith.
The lyrics “I believe that Jesus saves and his blood washes whiter than snow” communicated unambiguously our theology. Not all of our songs were thumping either. In that same testimony service we’d sing a kind of altar call song too. There were times when people didn’t wait for the preaching to come to the Lord, they would run to the altar during testimony service as we sang: “Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your all doth the Spirit control oh o’ oh oh oh oll? You can only be blessed and have peace and sweet rest, as you yield Him your body and soul.”
In the Bible, the prophet Haggai comes to a people enjoying a rich legacy of having had the oracles of God entrusted to them for centuries. The prophet stands in front of the temple I imagine and asks the questions: “Is there any among you that remembers this temple in its first glory? How do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison as of nothing? I wonder would you let me imitate Haggai now?
I mean no disrespect. I freely acknowledge that we have great churches whose ranks are swelled with people. But are they all saved? I did a review of the songs we now sing and the sermons now preached. I can’t avoid noting that the messages they convey seem to center around us. We’re going to our next level. We are blessed; our money is coming in abundance; and their ain’t no stoppin’ us now!
Absent from our contemporary lyrics and sermon content, in many cases, are any allusions to the soon coming of the Lord, rebuke for sinful lifestyles, conviction for wrong doing, accountability for actions nor affirmation of holiness being the life that pleases God. We can still hear about Jesus, but he is relegated to being our “life coach” not our soul saver! I wonder if we picked people at random from our congregations and asked them to tell us both what they believed and what their church’s doctrines were could they do a credible job?
Recently the Pew Research Corporation did a survey and discovered that atheists and agnostics answered more questions correctly about the Christian faith and the Bible than did those professing to be believers. I don’t doubt the accuracy of their findings.
I am not asking us to return to using outdated melodies. I am asking us to return to the Cross of Christ as the principal motivation for our actions and lifestyle. The apostle Paul was onto something when he affirmed that he was determined to know nothing among his contemporaries than Jesus Christ and him crucified. I pray for us all, including myself, that we not preach for income, popularity or as a vehicle for getting more people to become members. I pray that we stop writing songs with a view to our place on the music charts or with visions of us standing on the stage receiving music awards.
Join me in reaffirming the fact that we are sold out to Jesus and want our entire existences to reflect his glory and present his message of salvation. I still believe that Jesus saves and his blood washes whiter than snow. Let me then close with the great doxology of the scriptures: Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. God bless you “The TechnoRev.”