25 ways to be useful to God

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Thoughts on God

1. Love your enemy
Proverbs 25:21-26:2

‘If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch;
if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink.
Your generosity will surprise him with goodness,
and God will look after you’ (25:21–22, MSG; see also Romans 12:20).

2. Watch your tongue

‘A north wind brings stormy weather,
and a gossipy tongue stormy looks’ (Proverbs 25:23, MSG).

If we want to change our actions we need to start with our thoughts and words. In our New Testament passage for today Paul urges us to ‘Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly’ (2 Timothy 2:16).

3. Avoid quarrelling 

‘Better to live on the corner of the roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife’ (Proverbs 25:24).

Avoiding quarrelling is also a major theme in the New Testament passage for today. Paul writes, ‘Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen’ (2 Timothy 2:14). He goes on to say, ‘Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servants must not quarrel’ (vv.23–24).

4. Bring good news

‘Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land’ (Proverbs 25:25). We are so privileged to be able to bring the good news of Jesus. It is like ‘cold water to a weary soul’.

5. Stand your ground

‘Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked’ (v.26). Sometimes it is important to stand your ground.

6. Do not seek honour

If we seek our own honour we will find that true honour eludes us. ‘It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour’ (v.27).

7. Be self-controlled

‘A person without self-control
is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out’ (v.28, MSG). Don’t try to control others. The only person you should try to control is yourself. Self-control is one of the characteristics that make up the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

8. Don’t worry about what others say

You do not need to fear bad publicity or slander. ‘Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an underserved curse does not come to rest’ (Proverbs 26:2).

9. Endure hardship
2 Timothy 2:1-26

Paul uses the analogy of being a soldier (v.4). Soldiers have to endure hardship. He goes on, ‘therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10). Paul goes on to say that ‘if we endure, we will also reign with him’ (v.12).

10. Avoid distractions

‘No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs’ (v.4a). Keep a clear focus and avoid distractions that waste time. Paul reminds Timothy that soldiers need to keep their focus and seek to please their commanding officer (v.4b).

11. Keep to the rules

Paul moves from the analogy of a soldier to that of an athlete. ‘An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere’ (v.5, MSG).

12. Work hard

From the soldier and athlete, Paul moves to the analogy of a farmer. ‘The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops’ (v.6).

13. Meditate on God’s words

Only God can give understanding, but you have your part to play. Paul writes, ‘Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this’ (v.7).

14. Focus on Jesus

‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel’ (v.8). The gospel is all about Jesus. Salvation ‘is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10).

15. Correctly handle God’s word

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (v.15).

16. Turn away from evil

‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (v.19). Repentance is not a one-off act; it is a continuing attitude. It involves turning away from wickedness (v.19) and fleeing ‘the evil desires of youth’ (v.22a).

17. Be a peacemaker

Paul urges Timothy among other things to ‘pursue … peace’ (v.22). ‘Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative’ (v.23, MSG).

Joyce Meyer writes ‘Strife is bickering, arguing, heated disagreement, and an angry undercurrent. Strife is dangerous and destructive. Strife is like a deadly, contagious disease. It spreads rapidly unless it is confronted and stopped.’ Keeping strife out of our lives ‘requires willingness to constantly communicate and confront issues … I encourage you to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to be a person who avoids strife and restores peace everywhere you go.’

18. Be kind to everyone

‘The Lord’s servant … must be kind to everyone’ (v.24). Everyone includes everyone – not just your friends, or the people you like, but all the people you come into contact with during the day (especially those who are often unappreciated, such as the person on the supermarket checkout, the person driving the bus, the person on reception, the person who helps you on the phone …).

19. Learn to teach

‘The Lord’s servants must be … able to teach’ and ‘opponents must be gently instructed’ (vv.24–25). Teaching is a specialist ministry but it is also the task of every Christian. A key characteristic is gentleness. ‘God’s servant must … [be] a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey’ (vv.24–25, MSG).

20. Don’t be resentful

‘The Lord’s servant must … not [be] resentful’ (v.24). Resentment poisons relationships.

21. Hear the word of the Lord
Jeremiah 49:7-50:10

Jeremiah was greatly used by God because as he said, ‘I have heard a message from the Lord’ (49:14). Thus he was able to say, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says’ (v.7).

22. Allow God to speak through you

Jeremiah not only heard the word of the Lord, he was prepared to speak it out and God spoke through him. ‘This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah …’ (50:1).

23. Seek the Lord

Jeremiah foretold of the days when ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God’ (v.4). Jesus says, ‘Seek and you will find’ (Luke 11:9).

24. Bind yourself to the Lord

This is the type of relationship God wants us to have with him – bound together, walking closely with him all the time (50:5). ‘Hold tight to God’ (v.5, MSG).

25. Find rest in the Lord

‘My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place’ (v.6). The Lord is described as your ‘own resting place’ (v.6), the place where you find rest for your soul (see also 6:16).

Lord, I want to be useful to you, the Master – an instrument for noble purposes, prepared to do any good work. I want to seek your face, to bind myself to you. I dedicate myself to you again today.
May we as a church be useful to you, Lord. May we be a community where people find kindness, faith, love and peace. May we bring the good news of Jesus to all those around, transforming our society and changing our world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s time to stop the worry

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Thoughts on God

Worry doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 37:8, NKJV. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm”

There’s no need to worry; God has everything under control. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 6:31-33, NIV. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

We cannot remove worry until we replace it with something better—prayer. It’s in the Bible, Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Worrying is a waste of time. It’s in the Bible, Luke 12:24-26, NIV. “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Rely on Christ, not yourself. By yourself you can do nothing. It’s in the Bible, John 15:5, NKJV.  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

You can give all your worries to the Lord. It’s in the Bible, I Peter 5:7, NKJV. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” It’s in the Bible, Matthew 11:28, NKJV. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We can trust God to give us what we need—after all, He gave His Son for us. It’s in the Bible, Romans 8:32, NKJV. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Avoid worry, even in difficult times, by trusting in God. It’s in the Bible, Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Take one day at a time; don’t worry about what may happen tomorrow. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 6:34, NIV. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Originally posted on Pastor Mike Says:

cantAs much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us. People who grow up in an average household hear “No” or are told what they can’t do more than 148,000 times by the time they reach age 18. Result: Unintentional negative programming. So how do we change this?

Chronic negative thinking, depression, anxiety, and similar disorders are on the rise all over the world. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected, which is nearly 20 percent of the population. Of that number, many are professing Christians.

Fear seems to be a root cause of many of these problems. It’s no wonder people are fearful in a world where it appears nothing is reliable. It can be quite disturbing for a person to realize almost everything in life is ultimately out of his control—from the…

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A risky type of love

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Thoughts on God

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 ESV)

So what is love really? In the English language we have one word for love. We use this word to say…

I love that pasta dish.
I’d love to go on a hike in the woods.
I sure miss you bro. Love you man.
I’m really glad you are my wife. I love you.

But we don’t mean the same thing with the word love in each of those phrases. The Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, actually has 3 words that are translated as “love” in English:

Eros—physical, sexual, sensual love. From which we get the modern word erotic. Eros is about chemistry, physical attraction, passion, sexual desire, and romantic love.

Phileo—brotherly or friendship love. This where the city Philadelphia derives its name- “the city of brotherly love.” Phileo is about companionship, camaraderie, partnership, mutual affection, or giving and receiving.

Agape—unconditional love. The word “agape” was not used commonly in ancient manuscripts, save the New Testament. Many scholars believe that early Christians used and possibly even coined the word. Agape is all about unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial love- the love displayed by God through Jesus. There is this underlying idea of total commitment to the object of love, even if the recipient doesn’t deserve or desire it.

The problem with agape love is that it’s risky and dangerous. If you choose to love someone else and expect nothing in return, to look out for their best interests at the expense of your own self-interests, at some point you are going to get burned; the love you give is not going to be reciprocated. That’s exactly how Jesus loved us, and only through Jesus can we come close to loving others with this incredible “agape” love.

Which of three Greek words for love most often describes how you love others? What prevents and hinders you from loving others unconditionally?

We’re just passing through

Posted: October 22, 2014 in Thoughts on God

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36 ESV)

I once mused on the following anecdote among some old friends:

On this side of eternity we are just in transit – whether we are on a train, or waiting to embark one at a station.

There’s no real need for heavy luggage, or even a carry-on bag, because when we arrive at the Terminal we’ll have to leave them all behind…we can’t go through customs with them. No material luggage (earthly possessions – houses, cars, etc.), and no emotional baggages either, will be permitted to get across the Pearly Gates customs.

Everything we’ll ever need or dream of awaits us beyond the Terminal, on the other side of eternity. The LORD Himself will be all we ever need on the other side!

Imagining this freedom, it’s hard to think of keeping it to yourself. How might lives change if, while we are in transit, we were to implore as many passengers as we can to catch the right train to the Terminal. Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”(John 14:6 ESV)

How would viewing yourself as just a traveler in this world change the way you live for Christ?

“Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14b NIV)

There are approximately 7.046 billion people in this world. Each person is distinct from another person. Each person has a unique fingerprint. Even identical twins differ in personality and certain physical attributes from each other. Each person was designed with a specific purpose on this earth. You are 1 out of approximately 7,000,000,000 with characteristics that are exclusive only to yourself.

Take a moment to think about the sobering magnitude of this truth. Can you imagine a Creator who is great enough to design something as complex as the human race, not to mention the complexity of the human body itself? Now add to the list every animal species ever to exist, every natural being on this earth, every planet in this galaxy and every galaxy in this universe. Now can you imagine the greatness of our God? It’s impossible to fully comprehend.

If by this point you have realized that we will never be able to grasp just how powerful our God is, then ask yourself this question. Why is it that every time we encounter a problem, situation or trial, we take this limitless, incomparable and unchanging God and put him in the bounds of our mere human thinking? Simply, why do we limit GOD to a “box” we’ve created with our own limited understanding?

You are only 1 person out of 7.046 billion people, and it seems impossible that you would be worthy of special acknowledgement. Yet, God looks down at 7.046 billion people every moment and He loves and he treats every person as if there is only 1.

Remember that you serve a loving and powerful God.

The Professor and the chalk

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Thoughts on God

Originally posted on Pastor Mike Says:

Religion Professor and President Gordon “Mike”...

Religion Professor and President Gordon “Mike” Michalson lectures to students during a class in 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a professor of philosophy there who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For twenty years he had taught this class and NO ONE had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever *really gone against him* (you’ll see what I mean later). Nobody would go against him because he had a reputation.

At the end of every semester, on the last day, he would say to the class of 300 students, “If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!” In…

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