Called to be Servants

Have you noticed how affectionately the followers of Jesus were described in the Bible? Many warm names were used to describe God’s children, here are just a few: brothers and sisters, children, believers, disciples, the elect (I like that one), sons and daughters, and one of my favorites – SERVANT.
 
Sadly, many don’t appear to appreciate or have the desire to accept the role of someone who serves. I have to admit; how I act, what I think, what I talk about, and many times the content of my prayers center around my needs and wants – not someone else’s.

Jesus lived and taught something different to those around Him. He gave His life so we could experience freedom from sin and have eternal life with Him, quite the act of a servant. For us salvation not only includes forgiveness and eternal life, it also means taking on the character of Christ and becoming servants of the Father.

This, however, is not the way it shall be among you.  If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others – like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.  Matt 20:26-28 (GNT)

 

Even though Christ had a huge following, He didn’t look for power, status, or admiration. He came to serve, and He never lost sight of that during His time on earth. The Bible tells us Jesus is our example. It also tells us He was equal to God but humbled Himself to become a man. Just like Jesus, we are one with the Father. Add to that the truth of how we are made in God’s image. It seems reasonable then that serving is a part of our new nature and make-up.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good deeds, which He has already prepared for us to do. Eph 2:10 (GNT)

If we struggle with the idea of serving others and are honest with ourselves, it looks like the only thing that stands between us being who God designed us to be and who we are today is… ourselves.

 

Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. John 12:25 (MSG)
 
Without a doubt, the Father will honor our hearts and actions when we move from concentrating on ourselves to focusing on how each of us can help a hurting world. Jesus is our Savior AND the Lord of our life. We have one purpose and that is to be His servant to glorify Him.
 

What might be the result of giving ourselves to a life of service as our Savior did? I think it’s this: when we, the body of Christ, share His love and give of ourselves to others, we give God an open door, through us, to affect the world in an amazing way.

 

As for you, my friends, you were called to be free.  But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another. For the whole Law is summed up on one commandment; ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’. Galatians 5: 13-14 (GNT)
 
This topic is near and dear to my heart so I could go on, but I’ll leave you with a few thoughts to ponder instead.
 
From My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measure it, but only by what God pours through it — and we cannot measure that at all.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 1 Corinthians 9:19 (ESV)

 
Servanthood has an eternal impact on lives. It willingly involves itself in the needs of others as the Holy Spirit leads us, leaving God to work the results. God is asking us if we are willing to do a servant’s work for Him. What is He calling you to do today?
 
Author:
Church Development

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Holiday Blues

The holidays are viewed by most as a time of happiness and rejoicing, but for others it can be a time of painful memories, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Usually these feelings of sadness are often referred to as the holiday blues and come around the months of November and December. While the holiday blues is not an officially recognized psychiatric condition, it does not mean that the feelings it can produce should be ignored. These feelings can have a major impact on we function each day. 
 

Even people who love the holidays can have having the holiday blues during this busy time of year. The demands and high emotions can leave a lot of us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted.

 

How should a Christian handle the holiday blues? Let’s face it, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are immune to sad feelings, anxiety, loneliness, and the list goes on. Jesus tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us, but This doesn’t mean life is going to always be easy. Jesus knows what we are going through because He himself has experienced life as a man who walked this earth. 

So, here are a few practical tips to help us handle the holiday blues together.

  1. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate any negative feelings you might have. No, this isn’t a platform to promote or condemn drinking alcohol. But, many people like to have drink. As Christians we cannot rely on alcohol to deal with life’s tough days and hard times. We must rely on Christ and the strength he provides. Psalm 59:17 says You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself. Sadness often makes us want hide by ourselves at home. Some may live away from family and feel like they have no one to connect with. Push yourself to become socially connected by serving in your church or volunteering your time for those in need. When we focus on serving other our sad feelings can slowly fade away. 1 Peter 4:10 says Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  3. Try to exercise regularly. While it can be difficult to stick to a workout schedule when you are feeling down, research has shown that regular physical activity can play an important role in preventing and reducing symptoms of depression. We are to be good stewards of the body that God has given us.
  4. Set limits and have realistic expectations. You can avoid overcommitting by knowing your limits and learning how to say no. That doesn’t mean that you should say “no” to everything, but make sure that you leave enough time for yourself to relax and enjoy the season.

These tips focus a lot on the individual and they are all important. the most important, final tip however, is to fix our eyes on jesus.

 
We must be intentional in spending quality time with him. In our prayer time, our devotion time and our time when we are experience Jesus together as a body of believers. If we are not being intentional in those three areas then it is almost inevitable the holiday blues will catch up with us.
 

This holiday season, offer yourself to Jesus as a fresh offering. Your time, your focus, your conversations, your worship, your body, your health, your family, your thoughts and every part of your being. Jesus is our king and he deserves our praise. Practice a lifestyle that revolves around Jesus, making him the center.

 
Listen to Casting Crowns “Christmas Offering” and make it your prayer this holiday season.
 

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Author: 
Worship leader, Faith Assembly

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Raising Up the Next Generation for Ministry

For 20 years, I have had the privilege to work at one of the nation’s premier science laboratories owned by the Department of Energy.
 
This laboratory is now over 50 years old – and for those of you in the building and utility business – you know 50 years is about how long these systems last without major reinvestment. I am amazed every day with the physical actions that a very dedicated work force conducts to keep the old place up and running. Actions that not many people know about and most take for granted and so much so, we don’t plan as well as we should to prepare for replacing a seasoned workforce just a few years from retirement.

Again today, as I was hearing about two major waterline breaks and a site wide problem with our building security system, I thought about the parallels in the spiritual world and how critical even urgent it is to grow up the next generation here too.

 
Bringing this a little closer to home at our church – Faith Assembly – there are countless people I call spiritual giants, operating as prayer warriors and servant leaders in any number of our ministries and meeting needs (some of which not many people even know about). Several of these people are retirees, near retirees, and others in the midst busy lives. They serve with a happy heart for the Lord and for the local church body. Importantly, they are mentors and models seeking to raise up the next generation to serve after them and in their footsteps.
 

Without raising up the next generation at our places of employment and churches, how will these places be sustained to not just survive but to thrive?

2 Corinthians 9:12
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Ephesians 4:12
…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
 
If there is no next generation, who will be there to know how to repair the next waterline? In the local body, who will be there to pray and serve in the various ministries God has given us?
 
  • If you are one of our more seasoned spiritual giants, I thank God for you. Keep going.

 

  • If you are a more seasoned person without a specific ministry focus, I also thank God for you and submit it’s never too late to serve in whatever way God calls you. Get involved. There is no retirement in the Kingdom of God.

 

  • If you are one of the not-so-seasoned currently serving the body, I thank God for you and your willingness to be mentored as the next generation. Keep learning, serving and growing. God is using you for to reflect his glory.

 

  • If you are one of the not-so-seasoned not currently serving the body, I also thank God for you and submit that the body needs you. God knows whom He will call; so please be in prayer as to how He wants to use you and be open to His prompting. You will find community, growth, and God will use you for His glory.
Revelation 2:19
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
 
Over the past 23 years of my service for the Kingdom and my observation of others in service over this same period, I have found time and time again that God is faithful and His promises are true – He equips those He calls! God bless you as you serve.
 
Author:
Elder 

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Listening to God’s Call

The calling the Lord puts on your life – what is it?

 
I’m not talking about when you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. I’m talking about the calling that God puts on your life after that to further His kingdom.
I’m not sure I took this part of my walk in the Lord seriously enough early in my walk. When I first became a Christ-follower, I needed time to mature by reading the bible, praying, and just falling deeper in love with the Lord.
 
Still, when you embrace a love relationship with Jesus, His calling is already there waiting for you to live it out. At some point in our walk, we need pray that the Holy Spirit will show us what the Lord has for us to do through ministry in the Kingdom. The important part here is that the Holy Spirit – and your heart – are in line with His calling, then to obey and follow through with what the Lord has called you to do.
 
God’s calling for you could be serving in the church in some way, a ministry in your community, your neighbors and a multitude of more ways. There is no limit to what the Lord can call a child of His to do, and it is often a combination of areas. Remember though, the calling is to glorify God.
I love how the following scriptures call us to ministry:
Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
 
John 15:15
We did not choose Him, He choose us and appointed us to go out and bear fruit and it should abide (accept or act in accordance with this appointment).
 
Ephesians 4:4
There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.
 
I Peter 2:21 (our example)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps.
 
When we talk about a “calling”, it can be kind of scary. However, in big ways and small, His Word lays out what His will is for our lives. Sometimes we make it too complicated. It’s really quite simple: God wants a servant’s heart willing to do what He asks, when He asks it, according to His will and guidance laid out in His Word. What has the Lord called you to do?
 
Author: 

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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain – Part 2

The last time we visited the story of Cain, we looked at his issues with denial – and his refusal to acknowledge responsibility in his relationship with his brother. Today, let’s examine how denial played an even larger role in his relationship with God in Genesis 4:1 – 24.

The story opens with a brief introduction of the main characters – Cain and Abel – the two sons of Adam and Eve. When the boys become men, it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own relationships with God.

In time, they both offer sacrifices to God in worship from the fruit of their own labors. The next thing we know, God has accepted Abel’s offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering of grain. Cain responds to the rejection with anger and despondency. Later, he lures his brother out into a field to talk about it. In a moment of rage he strikes him, killing him.

I used to struggle just a bit with a small sense of injustice for Cain’s sake. How was he supposed to know God didn’t want an offering of vegetables? After all, God instituted a grain offering years later through Moses (Leviticus 2:1 – 15). Besides, this came from him and what he was good at doing. It kind of feels like the parent who doesn’t accept a small child’s art project because it wasn’t good enough.

Thing is, Cain knew exactly what he was doing. He was worshiping God on his own terms without care or concern for how God would feel about it. That’s not a healthy relationship. Let me explain…

 

The expulsion from Eden would have been far more devastating for his parents than we might think. The exclamation point of watching two animals get slaughtered to cover the nakedness of their lives after sin might have been far more personal than we realize… they weren’t likely just farm animals.

God’s covenantal relationship with them was established and sealed with blood, and Cain would have known the story all too well. For Cain, worshiping God on his own terms carries at least some similar characteristics to his parent’s sin. Cain wanted to be in control of the terms of the relationship rather than submitted to the expectations of someone else (God) like his brother, Abel.

Taking control places him beside God, which is similar to the enemy’s sin as well.

Even then, in a moment of mercy, God beckons Cain to see where he is, and to reach out in trust to Him when He says, “7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Denial keeps us from recognizing where we truly are by keeping us focused on only ourselves… our rights… our own version of justice or fairness. It keeps us from hearing the heart of someone else and finding the path to wholeness. Whenever that happens, both people are robbed of life. Often times, those effects play out in the lives of others in the vicinity.

 

Take a moment and ask yourself if you’re trying to be in control.

It may help you realize whether you’re in denial in your relationship with God and/or someone else in your life.

God was indeed reaching back to Cain. If only he had noticed God’s compassion before he crossed a line that stole Abel’s life… a theft that affected his parents, himself and all the members of the family he was about to have.

God is indeed reaching to you. Reach back to Him and let Him walk with you to restoration.
 
Author:
Faith Assembly

 


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The Power of Teamwork

Throughout my life I have been able to witness the power of teamwork. I’ve seen teamwork at its finest in the Army, corporate America, law enforcement… everyone coming together to further the organization’s vision and goals. We often hear about being part of a team or think about sports teams putting their hands together and shouting TEAM! It’s a common theme used in uniting people towards a common goal.
 
I also feel it’s a word that is taken for granted and not truly appreciated in our culture – even in the modern day church. Everything around us (TV shows, billboards, commercials, social media), tells us to do what is best for the individual and to do what makes the individual feel good or succeed.
 
Teamwork is defined as the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient. This definition reminds me of the Biblical book of Acts and the beginning of the local church. If you have time to read about the development of the church, you will find it was a total team effort.
 

In Acts 2:45 it says “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need.” Can you imagine this happening today? The believers in the book of Acts understood what the word “team” meant and they were willing to give up their own personal possessions to further God’s kingdom. Are you willing to do the same?

 
In 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about one body with many parts. Chapter 12 compares the human body to the body of Christ and the church.
 
Verse 19-22 mentions “a body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.
 
 
The concept of teamwork is embodied throughout scripture. I want to encourage us to embody the same concept. We are stronger together and we are not meant to do life alone, but rather as a team of believers. We have a common goal in Jesus Christ. Let’s embrace teamwork as Christians and show the world the love of Christ.
 
Check out this song by Casting Crowns that challenges us to be a part of the body and embrace teamwork as Christians. 
Author: Ryan Bivins
 

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Listen Up!

 
Have you ever been talking with someone and you suddenly realize you have no idea what the person is saying? Not because they aren’t making sense, but because your mind is far away thinking about what matters to you. This has been me on too many occasions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve experienced it as well. Let’s talk about the importance of being a good listener. Yes, there is a difference between listening and hearing!
 

I have always been told that communication takes two people: one person to send a message- verbal or nonverbal- and one person to receive the message. Of course, message sent doesn’t always mean message received. Good communication requires the message receiver to actually acknowledge the message was received.

In general, our society is filled with people engrossed with pleasing only themselves. When we participate in this behavior, our focus is off of others and solely on ourselves.

 
I can tell you from personal experience that when this happens, I suddenly find myself with more anxiety, more stress and more self-pity. When I finally wake up, listen to God and start serving others, my perspective about my situation changes. Serving others as Christ did is a whole other topic, but let’s face it, taking time to listen to each other is a vital part of serving one another.

Most people in life just want to be heard. I witness it in my job every day. Someone else’s problem may seem small to us, but to them it could be a major crisis or devastatingly life changing.

The Bible tells us in James 1:19:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

 

Did you notice what James points out first? Be quick to listen. I am so quick to think of what to say next- or have a response prepared- before I’ve even completely processed what someone else is actually saying. That makes it all about me.

Making it about them requires more than merely hearing, but actively listening.

I encourage you- along with myself- to take the time to really listen to others. You never know how you may impact someone’s life just by taking the time required to truly listen to them. The next time you find yourself working to actively listen to someone, remember these three things:

1. Actively listening prepares us to speak well.
2. Actively listening is an act of love.
3. Actively listening reflects your relationship with Christ.
 
Author: 

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Why Old Testament Sacrifice?

Old Testament sacrifice. It’s neither pretty, nor appealing.

In the Old Testament, God asks for sacrifices and lays out meticulous demands. Why? Why were they part of God’s covenant relationship with the Israelites? In various ways; sacrifices are obnoxious, offensive and dreadful. To the modern world, sacrifices seem violent and brutal.

Why Sacrifices in the Old Testament?
Sacrifices were designed to teach impure and imperfect people how to live in a relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely Holy God. They helped people see the nature of their Creator God, and further illustrated the reverence, respect and honor due Him. Sacrifices provided atonement for the people’s sin, through substitution. It was a picture of what was to come- Jesus ultimate sacrifice (atonement) on the cross for all sin, past, present and future.

God Repetitively Decreed He Didn’t Need Sacrifices
God simply didn’t want them if they were not completed with sincerity and a contrite, repentant heart.

If God had to choose, he prefers a right heart:

Psalm 51:16-17
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God informs us that it is an insult and an offense to bring sacrifices to Him with any kind of wrong heart:
Isaiah 1:13-14
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

To do so is hypocrisy, a sin God thoroughly hates. Jesus pronounced His strongest indictments against hypocrisy in Matthew 23, when he criticized the religious leaders of the day.

The Significance and Application for Christians Today
1. Jesus taught that sincerity and authenticity were God’s principal need in worship.
John 4:23-24
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
 
2. Sacrifices are a reminder that each of us contributes to the evil in our world. It demonstrates that something must be done… and we must do more than conveniently question why God allows sin. For if God were to remove all evil, none of us would continue existing!
 
3. God gave instructions for whenever sin was “unintentional” or “in ignorance”. This was because even when done in ignorance; sin still pollutes, poisons, and brings judgment. This thought runs contrary to modern rational.. the thinking today that sin does no harm when it’s between “consenting adults”. God called for sacrifice because sin’s destructive effect still poisons, defiles and hurts though done in ignorance (or unintentionally). These sins poisoned, defiled, and hurt the person, his family, society; indeed they hurt the very environment and the community as a whole. Any cries of blamelessness due to ignorance did nothing to stop or cancel the destructive effect of sin or halt its judgement. While sympathetic to a person being in ignorance, God in His wisdom knew all of this and provided guidelines to address it to protect His people.
 
 
Biblical Sacrifices Taught These and Many More Lessons.
Today, because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are asked to sacrifice in different ways- not for atonement- but rather to give up our lives for the sake of Christ. This is the new covenant. We sacrifice daily because of our love for Jesus and gratefulness for the grace we’ve been given. We sacrifice by giving up our rights, serving others, working to build His kingdom, denying our old nature and choosing God’s will and way.
 

God’s nature has not changed and never will. He is holy, and we are still impure and imperfect people. Thank you Father for Jesus! He is our sacrificial Lamb, and now we live in a new covenant with God!

 
May the Lord continue to teach us how to live in relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely holy God. Let our prayer be that our lives continue to give Him all the reverence, respect and honor due Him.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Retired Pastor at large

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