Friday, August 21, 2009

Psalm 1 - Communing With God

In my growth out of Religious Christianity, where I tried to fit into a mold created by a set of "rules" perceived from the Bible, to a Spiritual Christianity, where I am guided by the Holy Spirit, I've head a few personal revelations. This is one of the most recent.

I had spent the last few weeks waking to various praise songs in my head and heart. Each morning the first thing I did as I awoke was thank the Father for giving me another day. As I went about my morning on one particular day singing and working around the house, I found myself just talking to God off and on. I wasn't on my knees (for which there is definitely a time, place and reason and something I enjoy), I was just saying things like, "Lord, it is so beautiful outside.", "Lord, it's amazing the way you make chicks hatch.", "Lord, it's comforting to feel you." These are all things we say to each other during the day, but I was sharing my feelings and thoughts with the Lord. I was feeling such peace and contentment and a overall feeling of joy.

That was when I felt this blossom in my heart. I had been singing Psalm 1 over and over again in my mind for several days:

Blessed is he who will follow the Lord,
he will not stand in the path of sinner,
he will not sit in the seat of the scoffer,
but the law of the Lord is his delight.

In His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by waters.
He will bear his fruit in its season, his leaf won't die.
In whatever he does, he will prosper.

I had been drawn to and was mulling over the reference to "meditating day and night". In my Religious Christianity view I had often wondered how one could do this without being a Monk! I mean, how can you spend the entire day "meditating" on the Lord and His words when there are other things to be done?!

Well, it hit me that morning that I WAS meditating day and night! I just had to get away from my definition of "meditating" (think transcendental) to a definition more akin to "communing". Many people like to go for walks outside to "commune with nature", which is to say, surround yourself with it. When I go through the day singing praises, reciting Scripture in my mind ("I have hidden Thy word in my heart that I may not sin against Thee." - Psalm 119:11), and talking to God throughout the day as I would a friend, I am doing exactly what the Psalmist wrote about!


Friday, August 7, 2009

Who are You Serving?

Key verses:
John 4:4-42 - Woman at the Well
Matthew 11:30 - Easy yoke, easy burden

Question: Who are you serving, the church or the Lord?

Many of us spend years and years "serving the church." The result is a large and growing number of spiritually burned out Christians. Look into the faces of the people "serving the church" and you will see exhaustion and frustration from always being rushed and from doing way too much. They feel, and have been taught, that "serving the church" is ministry. One look at the results and it is obvious that it isn't.

Christ never burned out. Yes, He became physically tired as He was also man. But he never burned out spiritually. He took His time in each "project" and finished to completion before moving on.

In John 4 we have the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus sent His disciples on, but He sat. He took His time to talk to her. As I read this story, I don't envision a Jesus out of breath, eyes heavy, agitated and exuding an overall presence of "I have to get through this really quick so I can check it off my list of things to do and move on to another project."

He sat. He talked with her. How long? Now I can't tell you the exact amount of time, but I CAN tell you it was a LONG time. How do we know this? Because it was...

Long enough for the disciples to continue into the village to purchase food.
Long enough for He and the the woman to have a life changing conversation.
Long enough for the woman to run into the village herself.
Long enough for her to tell many others about Him.
Long enough for the disciples to hear what was going on.
Long enough for the woman to return to Jesus bringing many people from the village with her, including the disciples.

That's a long time! And He was still there when she returned.

Notice that He didn't move on from one project to another and than back again weary and worn. He waited patiently for God to complete the work. The Bible does not mention what He did during this time, but being Jesus, I like to think that He probably spent that time in conversation with the Father. He was probably growing in excitement knowing what was about to come.

I feel pretty certain He wasn't complaining about all the work He had to do and how tired He was and wondering when He got to rest.

Christ said in Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Now I ask you, if His yoke is EASY and His burden is LIGHT, what kind of feelings should be stirred inside you while carrying out the ministry he has called for you to do? Let me answer that for you.

It will not cause angst and anxiety. It will not cause you to be slumped over. It will not leave you frustrated. It will not leave you too tired for your family. It will not leave you with a bad taste in your mouth when it is finished. It will not create anger because there aren't enough people helping. It will not make you want to miss church. It will not leaving you feeling empty because you have poured yourself out.

It WILL feel you with the same joy Christ had though! It WILL fill you with excitement! It WILL fill you with energy. It WILL leave you looking with anticipation for the next ministry opportunity God brings your way!

Examine the exchange between Christ and the disciples at the well after all was said and done. He was exuberant, joyful and looking forward!!!

John 4:31-38 (NLT)
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.
34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

WOW!!!! Can you feel the excitement and joy in His voice?! He couldn't wait to do more! He saw an entire field of work and He was not only ready to go, but energized and excited about it!!!

What was the result of His taking his time? First, John 4:40 says that the people BEGGED Jesus to stay! Second, verse 42 tells us that the villagers told the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Imagine that! People came to Christ. And it wasn't because he was exhausted from all his church activities. It was because He was joyful!

Why was He joyful? Because He wasn't "busy" with "serving the church" but was instead was carrying out His ministry that the Father had given Him.

We ALL have a ministry. Many times that ministry involves working in the church and serving there. But there is a line. Have you crossed over it from carrying out "your ministry" call to "serving the church"? When you serve the church, you serve man. And it will wear you out. Make you resentful. Make you wonder where all the joy has gone.

But we know that when we serve CHRIST there is joy.

Do you feel joy when you think about all of your "church activities"? Do you feel energized? Do you look forward to the next ministry while still in the middle of the one you're in? Do you feel peace? Are your activities bringing people to the person of Christ (notice I did not say "bring people to your church")?

If not, then it's time to step back and evaluate your focus. You may be serving the church instead of the Lord. As Christians we have a tendency to become so wrapped up in looking to discover our place of service in our church that we completely forget about about our ministry and service to the Lord. What did He say to the disciples while in Samaria? John 4:36, "... What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! ..."
The answer to one simple question will tell you who you are serving: Are you feeling the joy of planting and gathering the harvest? What you do with the answer is between you and God.

I have said these things unto you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33