Give and Receive

Matthew 10_39_Recipients and Contributors

It was an innocent question.

During a business meeting one night, a congregant was studying the church’s budget.  Seeing entries for children’s ministry, youth ministry, and women’s ministry, he noticed nothing similar for men.  So, he asked, “Why is there no money for men’s ministry?”

The answer – one that likely applies to numerous ministries in churches all around the globe – was this, “We used to, BUT…no one has volunteered to lead it recently.”  It was an honest question, met with a painfully honest answer.

We all want to be part of a church that offers an array of ministries, and rightly so.  Yet it seems what we really want is to be a recipient from those ministries more than to be contributors to them. The result – ministries shut down from a lack of worker bees.  Shortly thereafter, entire churches may close their doors too.

Here are a couple of truths to bear in mind.  First, the church staff’s role is not to perform all the work themselves.  Instead, they are to equip you and me to serve (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Next – and this is a bit of a secret, so “shhhh,” don’t tell anyone – but serving in a ministry is actually far more fun and rewarding than simply receiving from that ministry.  Teaching a class is more rewarding than simply attending.  Being a human jungle gym for preschoolers to climb over is much more memorable than dropping kids off for someone else to watch.  Helping to paint the sanctuary is more gratifying than admiring the work of others.  You get the idea.  We find real life…satisfying life…when we give ourselves away in service.

Do you want your church to have a healthy offering of ministries?  Do you want to find real satisfaction in this world?  Then become a contributor as well as a recipient!  You won’t regret it!  –Dave

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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An Open Book

2 Cor 3_2_3_An Open Book

Ours is a story-telling and story-reading family.  All of us enjoy reading (major understatement), and most of us write nearly every day.  But did you realize that even if you’ve never written anything, YOU are a book being read by others?

In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3, emphasis mine)

In Paul’s day, many teachers traveled from city to city to engage different groups with their messages.  It was common for such teachers to carry with them letters of recommendation from past audiences to build credibility with future groups.  Paul, however, stated he wouldn’t need such letters because the people whose lives had been changed by a genuine encounter with the gospel of Christ were his letters.  Changed lives are evident for all to see – and as the verse suggests, people are watching.

Paul reminds us that our lives are open books before the eyes of the world.  And as others read our stories and study our lives, they should “know” a bit of Christ as a result.  “Known” in the verse above means “to make known through personal experience.”  From the front cover to the epilogue, the pages of our lives ought to show others a glimpse of the God who holds the pen and writes our story.

Do others consistently experience Christ within the book of your life? Any pages you need to rewrite? –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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The Unseen

Sunday_2 Cor 4_18_On the Unseen

What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal – so focus on what is to come!

(To receive these daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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The Puzzle and The Glue

Colossians 1_16_17_The Puzzle and the glue

Silent nights and peace on earth don’t seem to punctuate the weeks leading up to Christmas for many of us.  Instead of peace, we run ourselves ragged trying to meet the demands and keep it all together.

But the reality is life can fall apart any time of the year.  That is especially true for those who try to hold it all together themselves.  If we look only within for the ability to “make life work,” we’ll eventually come unglued.  Why?  Because we were not created to hold all things together; that’s Christ’s job.

Writing to Christians, Paul provided these timeless reminders:

For in Him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

Please reread those verses slowly.  In them are truths that serve as “glue” to hold our lives together.  Sometimes life falls apart because we forget we were created FOR Him.  We weren’t created to live solely for ourselves.  In his book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller notes, “Nothing makes us more miserable than self-absorption…”  Life falls apart when we’re miserable; and we’re often miserable because we live for ourselves and not for the God who created us.

In some ways, life is like a puzzle with hundreds or thousands of interwoven pieces.  Some of us treat God like He’s just one of those pieces.  What we fall to realize, however, is that God isn’t just one of many equal pieces, He is THE GLUE that holds all the others together.  If we invite Christ into every piece of life, He is able to hold them all together.

Is your life falling apart?  Remember, you were created FOR Christ; so invite Him in to each part of life. –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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Waiting During the “Why” Times

Exodus 6_1_Waiting while whying

Last time, we looked at Pharaoh’s refusal to free the Israelites, and how the Hebrews turned against Moses.  In the aftermath of those defeating events, Moses asked the all-too-familiar “Why” questions. His queries brought into question God’s goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness.  Today, let’s focus on God’s response to Moses.

But the Lord said to Moses, “NOW you will see what I will do to Pharaoh…” (Exodus 6:1, emphasis added)

I love the fact that there was no, “Back off, Moses; you’ve gone too far.  Who do you think you are?  You should be ashamed of yourself.”  There’s none of that.  Instead, God simply tells Moses, “You’ve had to wait to this point…but NOW you will see my power and faithfulness.

We too will see God move, IF we’re willing to wait for Him.  However, many of us struggle to do so.  About this passage, Chuck Swindoll writes:  “I’d like to underline a major truth in this world of ours that I don’t pretend to understand. Here it is:  The best framework for the Lord God to do His most ideal work is when things are absolutely impossible and we feel totally unqualified to handle it.  That’s His favorite circumstance.  Those are His ideal working conditions.”

“So many times, however, you and I miss the opportunity to watch the Lord work in mighty and miraculous ways.  Why?  Because instead of “standing still” and watching Him pull off our deliverance, we seek out the carnal alternative.  We look for the back door – the fleshly shortcut.” 

Friends, God’s answer to our “Why?” questions is often, “Wait. Wait for Me to show up.  Wait for Me to reveal My plans.  Wait for Me to show my goodness and wisdom to you – especially in the difficult times.”  Will you wait during your “why?” times? –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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The Hard Questions

Exodus 5_22_23_The Hard Questsions

Moses had been rejected by Pharaoh, and his fellow countrymen had turned on him as well.  In the midst of this difficulty, Moses asked:

O Lord, why have you done evil to this people?  Why did you ever send me?  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all. (Exodus 5:22-23)

The people had turned on Moses, and he in turn, turned toward God.  But Moses didn’t just turn TO God; he turned ON God as well.  And he did so with that question many of us also ask during unbearable situations…“Why?”  “Why have you done evil to the people? Why did you ever send ME?”

Don’t miss these questions – the first one brings into question God’s goodness; the second one, God’s wisdom.  I’m no Hebrew expert, but the wording suggests that Moses is not questioning why God had ALLOWED evil to occur; the accusation is that God had actually caused the evil directly.  The last verse ascribes Pharaoh’s evil to God’s inactivity.  In other words, Pharaoh had done evil, and God hadn’t done ANYTHING to free His people.  “Lord, there isn’t the slightest hint that you’re doing what you told us you would.”

What do you think?  Is Moses being disrespectful?  Is he blaspheming God?  Or, does God allow His children to ask hard questions?  Do you ever ask similar “why” questions during your times of heartache and disillusionment?  If so, you’re not alone.  Scripture is full of examples of God’s people doing the same thing – and the wonderful thing is, God accepts His people and their questions.  As we’ll see next time, His answer is often…

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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Duty-Bound

Acts 20_22_Compelled Yet Not Knowing

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. (Acts 20:22)

The guy speaking was Paul; the place he was leaving, Ephesus.  They loved him there; and he loved them.  He had friends; his ministry was a smashing success.  All was well.  So, why rock the boat?  Especially without a sure-fire plan in place for leaving.

Honestly, it’s the last part of the sentence that would have stopped me from going.  I know it would have because the “not knowing what will happen to me” stops me all the time.  If I can’t see where a path will take me, I don’t want to travel it.  If change is coming, I want a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Itineraries were invented for guys like me.  Dates, times, locations, activities – all spelled out in nice, predictable, no-surprises-allowed fashion.  Sign me up!

While vacations may work that way, real life doesn’t.  At least a life of faith doesn’t. If we always walk by sight, we risk never experiencing what Paul described as being “compelled” by the Spirit.  The word Paul selected literally meant “to tie or bind.”  It was used figuratively to describe “being duty-bound by one’s convictions.”  Paul was duty-bound to the call of God’s Spirit.  He didn’t know what would happen after arriving in Jerusalem – but he knew he was supposed to go.

Friends, we’re all “compelled” by something.  We’re bound up with, and tied down by, all kinds of things – some of which perhaps we wish we weren’t.  May I gently ask – are you as duty-bound to God as you are to the things of this world?  Will you follow Him even if you don’t know what will happen? –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/books.html).

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