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“MINISTRY, MERCY, AND MOTIVATION”

2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, since we have this Ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

This is one of my favorite scriptures about working in Ministry. The Apostle Paul, who wrote this book makes three simple, but essential points.

1. WE HAVE THIS MINISTRY

To minister means to serve. It doesn’t mean you have to preach or teach; it just means you serve in a particular area of the Kingdom of God. Paul said, “This Ministry.” What is that for you? As you read this, say it out loud or speak it in your mind. Know what it is that you do, and do it with all your might.

2. WE HAVE RECEIVED MERCY

This is why we’re able to minister. We do not deserve it, and we certainly didn’t earn it. But because of God’s Mercy, we are privileged to be in the Ministry. You and I could have easily been excluded from the call of God, but I am so thankful that my mistakes didn’t stop Him from using me. We should never forget, every time we minister, that it’s only by His Mercy. When I’m preaching, God doesn’t see my past failures; He sees me doing what He predestined me to do.

3. WE DO NOT LOSE HEART

To lose heart means to become so discouraged that you quit, or give up. Ministry is not easy, and at times you will feel so overwhelmed that you think it’s too much to handle. I’ve been there, and I understand it completely. But I believe Paul is encouraging us by saying, God has given each of us a unique calling, and no matter how challenging it is, we must take our gift and keep ministering. Yes, we could give up serving, but what if God had given up on reaching for us when we were lost? Somebody needs the Mercy of God that will come through your specific Ministry. So, please, I know you might be tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and even hurt; but you have a Ministry, you have been shown Mercy, now let this be your motivation to not lose heart.

“A SELFIE THAT MATTERS”

On average, ninety-three million selfies are posted per day, and ten selfies are posted to Instagram every ten seconds. Some are funny, some are sweet, and some go way too far. The bottom line is, we have major self-image issues. With the use of filters and other creative apps, we can pretty much manipulate our image into whatever we want. Some people spend tens of thousands of dollars on trying to make themselves look like someone famous. Because they are not happy with what they look like, they work relentlessly on copying someone else’s look. My question is; if you can accomplish a perfect look-alike, what have you gained? The truth is nothing. It would not change anything other than a false image.

Why not spend your time copying an image that can change and transform everything about you from the inside out? Take a selfie that matters. I’m talking about becoming more like Jesus and conforming to His image. Let me share with you my selfie scripture.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Let me encourage you to take off the world’s filters of what they think you should be. Let the Spirit of God become a filter, so you can see yourself covered with Grace instead of shame. Only the mercy of God can take away the blemishes of your past and make you look brand new. Stop trying to look like someone that can’t change your yesterday. Work hard on looking like Jesus, then take a selfie that matters.

“REAL FRIENDS”

This morning, I woke up with two words on my mind. The first word is real. That word means genuine, factual, and authentic. When you have something that is real, you know it’s not a copy or something artificial. Real is something significant, because there are a lot of things that appear to be authentic, but are counterfeit. Have you ever purchased something at a retail store and hand them a large bill? They will take that bill, hold it up to the light, and also mark on it with a special pen. The reason why is because counterfeit money not only is common, but criminals have gotten very good at producing look a-likes. I’m sure you’ve heard the term, keep it real. That means, speak the truth, give me facts, and not some made-up story that has not been authenticated.

The second word on my mind is friends. What is a friend? The dictionary says it’s someone that you like a lot and share a strong bond of mutual affection. In my opinion, it’s someone that loves you at all times and is always there for you. They do not compete with you, but they are loyal through good times and bad. A friend doesn’t use your back like a dartboard, because you can trust them whether you’re with them or not. Honestly, I think it takes years of living to define friendship truly.

Put the two words together, and it’s “REAL FRIENDS.” I noticed this morning when I started searching for definitions of a friend; I saw not only the word friend but also, good friends, true friends, and best friends. What’s interesting to me, is the word friend in itself is so powerful, why would you need to put something in front of it? Can it not stand by itself? The problem with friendship is kind of like the same problem retailers have with money. There is so much counterfeit currency; you have to put it through a process to make sure it’s real. Yes, real, genuine, factual, and authentic.

After fifty years of living on this earth, I can assuredly tell anyone that you need real friends. You see, it takes a while to authenticate real relationships and filter out the fake. Seasonal friends will drain you. Counterfeit friends will steal your joy; fake friends can cause you to doubt the existence of a real one. Some will walk away from you at the first sign of a storm, while others might wait until the storm gets bad. No matter when they leave you, if they can walk away, then you only lost what you thought you had. You didn’t realize you were spending counterfeit money, and the light just revealed it.

I wish I had time to write more on this subject, but let me close by saying this. As you face real problems, you’re going to need real friends, or maybe just one real friend to get through it. Blessed are they who have real friends.

“TOO SOON?”

One of the most dangerous things a person can do is react too soon. Relationships are so important, and they take time to build, so to protect them; respond wisely. My wife and I try our best to teach our kids to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Don’t immediately assume something negative. Just because something has been said or done that you don’t like, doesn’t necessarily mean it was intentional. If something has hurt or offended you, there’s a correct and Biblical way to handle it. You could jeopardize a relationship with a comment or text spoken too quickly. And why tear something down and seconds that it took years to build?

I am not perfect, and I have my good and bad days like everyone else. However, the longer I live, the more I cherish the people that are close and loyal to me. I realize that they are human just like I am, and we all mess up from time to time. Give people around you some space for imperfections. If you believe in the law of the harvest, then what you sow in a relationship is what you will reap. So, watch what you say, and how quickly you say it. Be kind, be loyal, and be careful that you don’t react too soon. Remember that relationships built with love, patience, and wisdom will endure through the greatest of storms.

“MY CHURCH IS PRAYING FOR ME”

I wrote yesterday about the importance of prayer in the church. This morning, I would like to show another element of prayer that was in the book of Acts, and we need it active in the body of Christ today. We know that from Acts one and on, the apostles and followers of Jesus are continually praying. Their communication with God is vertical because it’s them lifting their voices toward Heaven unto God, and Him blessing them in return. But after a while, I noticed a change in direction. In chapter twelve, Simon Peter was arrested and put in prison. When this happened, look at what the church began to do.

Acts 12:5
So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

This prayer was not just in the church, but it was prayer through the church because they were praying for one of their brothers that were in trouble. It went from vertical to horizontal. And the power of this prayer caused God to send an angel and deliver Peter from the chains and the prison cell where he was locked up.

Can you imagine the joy and amazement that Peter felt as he walked out of that prison completely free? It wasn’t long until he was reunited with his brothers and sisters. Once he told them what happened, and they shared with him how they had been praying for him, they realized the power of prayer through the church. I can see Peter looking up toward Heaven and saying, Thank God, my church was praying for me.

In the next chapter, prayer through the church continues as they send Paul and Barnabas out to preach the Gospel.

Acts 13:2-3
2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

The church laid hands on these two men and prayed for God to anoint them, bless them, and keep His hand of protection upon them. Paul and Barnabas walked away from that place with a passion for their mission and knowing that their church was praying for them. They weren’t sure what they would encounter, for the church was under great persecution. However, they were convinced of their calling, confident that God would protect them, and they knew their brothers and sisters were praying for them.

Not only did the church pray for them that day, but I believe they committed to pray for them every day. They let Paul and Barnabas know, we might not be with you physically, but we are with you spiritually. These men not only had the power of God with them, but they also had a praying church behind them. Don’t ever underestimate the effectiveness of a praying church.

It wasn’t long after they were traveling until the enemy came against them.

Acts 13:6-8
6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus:
7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.

This evil man thought he would bring harm to Paul and Barnabas and stop them from preaching in the name of Jesus. What he didn’t realize were two significant factors.

A. THE POWER OF GOD

B. PRAYER THROUGH THE CHURCH

The Apostle Paul called this devil out, rebuked him, and prayed blindness upon him. The people were astonished at what they had just experienced. Here was an evil spirit trying to destroy these men of God, but through the authority in the name of Jesus, they walked away victorious. This is my opinion, but I believe Paul and Barnabas could feel the prayers of their brothers and sisters. For you see, prayer is not just something that can be heard, but it is also felt. It’s a force that works not only vertically, but also horizontally. Knowing their church was calling on God for them, gave these men such high confidence and boldness to carry the Gospel. No matter what they would face, they could always say, “MY CHURCH IS PRAYING FOR ME.”

I shared these scriptures and stories with my church on Sunday. We had what we call “BACK TO SCHOOL RALLY” because our kids started back to school on Monday, August 5th. I told all of our young people that the same commitment the church gave to Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, we were going to give to them. For in these last days, we have no idea what all our kids will come in contact with. Evil is ever-present in our world today, and the enemy would love nothing more than to destroy young people that are serving God.

I let them know, that no matter what they would encounter, one thing they can count on, and that is; their church is praying for them. We ordered wrist-bands for all of them to wear this year that says, “MY CHURCH IS PRAYING FOR ME.” We wanted it to be a reminder and also a witness to anyone that might inquire about what they are wearing. I want our kids to be protected from the evil that is in our world. Our church is committed to praying a hedge around them, so the enemy can’t lay a hand on them. We want them to walk down the hallways of their schools with confidence and boldness, in the face of adversity. There’s a long list of things that will come in contact with today, but in the midst of whatever the enemy might try to attack them with, they can overcome it and proudly say, “MY CHURCH IS PRAYING FOR ME!”

I would love it if you joined this campaign with us. Let your kids know what we’ve committed to them this year, and you do the same thing. Give them something to wear that says, “MY CHURCH IS PRAYING FOR ME.” I want every Christian young person to know that we might not be with them physically, but we are with them spiritually, and we are praying for them.

“PRAYER IN THE CHURCH”

One of the most important things Jesus taught His disciples was how to pray. This was a foundation that He established with them so that after He was gone, they would continue to communicate with the Father. Jesus knew, to establish the church, it would have to be built on a healthy relationship with Him. In Acts chapter two, after the birth of the church, we see them gathered in an upper room praying. The scripture tells us they continued in the Apostles doctrine, with fellowship, the breaking of bread, and with prayer. The early church understood the necessity and the power of prayer. It kept them close to God, united with each other, and it gave them the strength to face adversity. This means that there was prayer in the church.

If we want to follow the pattern of Pentecost and discover the same move of God they did, then we must have prayer in our churches. We can bring a lot of new ideas and programs, but they must never replace the importance of prayer. We’re not running a business; we’re building a church; God’s church that is called by His name. Our prayers to Him is our communication with Him. The more we talk to Him, the more we learn about Him. If we leave prayer out of the church, then we might have a building, but we won’t know the builder. We have been instructed several times in the New Testament to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we have a strong relationship with the God of the church and not just the church with the name of God on it.

I encourage you today to communicate with the Lord in prayer. Have a simple conversation with Him. You don’t have to approach Him with an eloquent speech, He just simply wants to hear from you. Bring Him thanksgiving for all the things He’s done for you. Pray over your house, family, and friends – Pray over your job and ask God to place you in the path of someone that you can help – Bring Him your petitions and requests – Step into intercessory prayer where you begin praying for things that you didn’t even know about.

I have several other things that I want to write about on the subject of prayer this week, but today I want to emphasize the importance of prayer in the church.

Acts 2:46-47
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

“THE CHURCH HAS NO OTHER CHOICE”

We have awakened to the horrific news about two deadly shootings in our Nation — one in El Paso, the other in Dayton, Ohio. After hearing the first report from El Paso, my wife said to me. I’m starting to be afraid for our kids to go anywhere, and to be in a large crowd. I agreed and shook my head as we sat in complete shock of what happened, and what is happening to our Country.

From the White House to every political branch in our land, they are going to try their best to figure out what to do. In the coming days, you will hear all kinds of opinions about what should happen and how to solve this disease of violence in America.

I don’t claim to have the solution to the problem, but I do offer this challenge. It’s my opinion that THE CHURCH has no other choice but to seek the face of God in these troubled times. We are out of options. Thank God for our programs, our progression, and our involvement in our communities. All of that is extremely important. However, nothing will take the place of God’s people dropping to their knees and boldly approaching the throne of God. There is no alternative, no recourse, and no other option. The Church that has been bought by the blood of Jesus, filled with His Spirit, and called by His name has no other choice but to pray.

“WATCH THE DOOR”

1 Corinthians 16:9
For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

The great Apostle, Missionary, and Church Planter told the people, in his letter to the Corinthians, about an opportunity to further the Gospel. He called it a door. Which would imply, it can both open and shut. Evidently, he had checked the door before, and it was closed. With Paul’s passion and gift, I’m sure he wanted that door to open, but was patient until the time came that it began to open. Even though he might have been ready, he refused to try and force a closed-door to open.

When the day finally came, Paul saw the opening and walked through it with faith and confidence in his God. However, once he stepped on the other side of the door, he knew he would encounter opposition and resistance. But rather than focus on the adversity, Paul believed that God wouldn’t open a door for him to walk through, if he couldn’t handle what was on the other side. Paul told his brothers and sisters to pray for him as he walked through the door and faced opposition.

These two things that Paul talks about is for someone today. You might be checking a door that hasn’t opened for you yet. You’re gifted and have the passion to walk through, but the door is still closed. Let me encourage you to be patient while you keep checking whether or not it has opened. There isn’t anything wrong with you, and don’t take it personally during the process. Just be ready when you finally see it transition.

Once it opens and you walk through, there will be incredible opposition waiting for you. You might have even known that you would face it, but until you walk through the door, you have no idea how intense it’s going to be. Do not focus on the adversity. For the God that opened the door knew what you would encounter, and he has already equipped you for this moment. Rejoice about the open door and don’t start complaining about what you didn’t anticipate. Remember, this is what God called and gifted you to do. So walk through the open door, and step into your calling.

“THE DAILY GROOVE”

I’m sure you will get up today and go through your daily routine. Get dressed, make the coffee, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, and then you’re on your way. Your daily groove may look a little different, but you understand what I’m saying. You get everything together, and then you’ll do what you’re used to doing every week. Since it’s Friday, you’re going to want the day to hurry and be over with, so the weekend can start. For that reason, you’re probably moving a little faster.

My only suggestion to you would be for you not to forget how important you potentially are to those around you. Don’t get so busy in the bustle that you pass an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Make time for morning prayer and devotion to God. Before you face the day, make sure you’re prepared to help someone else that might be struggling with an issue. Anything from a friendly smile to a kind word could help bring change to an individual going through a hard time. Don’t just try and get through this day; make an impact on it. You never know what someone could be dealing with. Whether it’s a co-worker or a stranger at the store; be sensitive to needs that are beyond yours.

So, walk a little slower, listen more intently, pay closer attention, and ask God to help you make an impact on a day that you had planned just to get through.

“THE PROBLEMS AND NEEDS OF THE CHURCH”

I’ve had the privilege this week of being with great friends at a ministerial conference in Orlando, Florida. Seeing thousands of Christians joining each day and night to worship God and hear from His Word has been encouraging. It’s just another reminder of why I am so glad to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle wrote about the Church to the Ephesians and told them that we are the Lord’s body, fitly-framed together. We are a powerful and unique organism that is filled with the Spirit of God. We have been called out to bring the captives out. Anointed to carry the Gospel, and appointed for such a time as this.

Are the members perfect? Absolutely not. We are filled with God’s Spirit, but we still live in earthly bodies. We are not super-human; we are human with a super-force within us. We still battle human problems. We tend to say things we shouldn’t say, and our actions can be far from perfect. We are subject to mood swings, low times, and bad hair days. However, just because we may act out in our flesh at times, doesn’t mean that we are not the Church. We are the imperfect ones, serving the perfect one, and trying our best to be more like Him every day. The truth is, no matter how hard we try, we will always come short of that goal while we’re on this earth. But that’s why His grace and not our works save us.

You’re probably wondering why I chose to write about the Church this morning. Am I just reminding us how great it is to be in it? Well, I just want to encourage whoever might read this to realize that every Church congregation has problems, but that’s not what we should be focusing on. The Church has been on a mission ever since Acts chapter two. We must stay on target with what God has called us to do. We do not have time to be distracted by our imperfections. You don’t have to look far to find problems within the body of Christ. However, I think it’s time we focus on the needs of the Church rather than the problems.

Who are we bringing to God?
Who are we currently teaching the Bible to?
When is the next time we’re going to feed the homeless?
Who is next to be baptized?
Are people being healed in our Church?
Are we promoting unity?
Are we committed to investing in the next generation?
Are we in the Will of God?

My friend, I could go on and on with these points, but I think you understand what I’m saying. Instead of worrying about who didn’t speak to you on Sunday, why don’t you worry about how many guests you connected with that day? Let’s stop complaining about the lights, the temperature, and whatever else the enemy tries to get us thinking about, and remember why we are there. I want to challenge each of you today to stop pointing out the problems of the Church and start focusing on the needs.