Friday, 28 October 2011
Get Off the Fence

Sitting on the fence gets you nothing, except maybe a few splinters in your rear.

Most people seem to have trouble making decisions. Perhaps it is because they have too many options to choose from. Or maybe they had a parent or friend that made all their choices for them, so they never learned the decision making process. Many are afraid of making the wrong choice, while others are waiting to see which way others go so they can follow them. They think sitting on the fence and not making a choice will keep them safe in their non-committal world. After all, they think, they have plenty of time to decide. Why rush? But deciding not to choose is itself a choice, and one which can have dire consequences.

Joshua 24:15
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

When it comes to deciding if you are going to choose to accept Christ as your Savior and serve God, you don’t want to be dragging your feet. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 that “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Sometimes we put off decisions for so long that when we finally make a move, it’s too late. God created man and then made the most unselfish move – He gave us free will. That means we are free to choose serving Him . . . or not. The opportunity to choose to spend eternity in Heaven with a loving God is one that you don’t want to take for granted. We are all going to spend an eternity somewhere. The question for each of us is do we want Smoking or Non-Smoking? I’m not trying to make light of it . . . it’s an important decision to make. There isn’t an “opt out” button. If you don’t choose Heaven, you’ll get Hell by default. It’s not about if you are a “good person.” The Bible says that no sin will enter into Heaven. Revelation 21:27: “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Jesus is the Lamb of God that cleanses us of our sin when we repent of them.

Critics would say that I am another Christian using scare tactics to convert people to my faith. You bet! We should be afraid.  Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. But no wants to “scare” someone into choosing Christ. The fear you have for the Lord isn’t like the fear you have of the dark or of spiders or whatever it is that scares you. The kind of fear you should have for God is a reverent respect – the knowledge of who God is and how mighty and wonderful He is. You should choose Him because of this knowledge and the knowledge that He loves you and it is His will that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We love Him because He first loved us.

Deuteronomy 30:19
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

It’s funny that when you try to talk to people about God, they get evasive or try to change the subject. They’ll talk about how they grew up in church or how they do believe in God, but they don’t talk about having a current relationship with Him. Others will say that they have wanted to go to church, but they just aren’t ready or they haven’t had time. I’ve had people tell me they are afraid the church walls would fall in if they walked in the building. I hate to tell them, but Satan comes to church every Sunday and the church building is just fine.

You think Christians are trying to scare people into church? The devil is trying to scare them out of church. He has some classic lines:
• You’ll have to give up drinking your beer. Say goodbye to Margaritaville!
• You can’t serve God because you smoke.
• You’ll never get to have fun anymore if you start going to church.
• If those people at church find out about the things you’ve done, they’ll toss you out on your ear.
• You can’t serve God with all the things you’ve done. You’re not good enough.
• You’ll have to give up your whole day on Sunday.
• You work on Sunday . . . you’ll lose your job.
• You won’t get to sleep in on Sunday and get your rest for work on Monday.
• They are going to expect you to give the church all your money.
• What will your friends think if you start going to church?
• Church is just filled with a bunch of hypocrites.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Becoming a Christian is a life-changing experience that will transform you. When you talk to people about being a Christian, some think they have to clean up their act and change their ways first, but that is putting the cart before the horse. Once you are saved, through the confessing (or stating) that Christ is your Lord and repenting (or turning away from) your sins, then the Lord will do the clean up work. A drug addict may attend a revival one night and hear about Jesus and accept Him in his life. That addict may then choose to get into rehab to get off the drugs. Jesus will be there to help him through it, but he will still have to go through the withdrawal process. He will still have to make the choice every day not to do drugs. Some addicts relapse . . . that doesn’t mean God stops loving them. He will be your strength when you are weak if you will turn to Him for help.

Most people aren’t drug addicts, but we all have behaviors or habits that we realize don’t line up with a Christian lifestyle. But no one should expect everything to change overnight. I remember hearing a lady speak about when her husband started going to church with her and then he got saved. He was into heavy metal music and had it playing all the time. He told her that he didn’t want to stop listening to it. She told him that was fine -- it was between him and God. As the months passed, she began to notice that he was listening to the music less and less. Finally, he wasn’t playing it at all and she asked him about it. He told her that he just wasn’t into it anymore. She didn’t say anything else to him about it. She had seen the change in him as he began to fill his life more with the things of God. The moral of this story isn’t that heavy metal music is bad and will send you to hell. The moral is that when be begin to fill our lives with the things of God and get His Word into us, it transforms us and changes our priorities. We do become new creatures in Christ.

Changing your life takes time. When you make that first step to accept Christ, it is a moving, emotional experience. But then what? What is a Christian supposed to act like or feel like? Joyce Meyer posted this quote on Facebook recently: “If you will start choosing to do what you know is right, your feelings will catch up with it.” I like that. Every day we have to choose God and make Godly choices. As we do, we’ll develop that relationship with Him and then we’ll be able to walk on faith, not feelings. When you become a Christian, you don’t get a list telling you how to dress, act or talk, and you should run from any church that tries to dictate things like that to you. However, you do get an instruction manual. If you will read your Bible and pray and seek God, the change will come. It will start deep on the inside and transform you. But first you have to get off that fence. Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve.

Posted on 10/28/2011 8:25 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 21 October 2011
A Rewarding Service

Last Sunday was Pastor Appreciation Day at our church. We honored and celebrated our wonderful pastors and their wives, thanking God for sending them to our church. Each year on Pastor Appreciation Day, our Pastor also gives out two Ministry Service Awards. He has been doing it for three or four years now, and it’s his way of saying thanks to people who have given their time and talents to the ministries of the church.

Each year, Pastor gives me the names of the people he wants to recognize. I prepare their individual awards and have the plaque that hangs in our hallway engraved with their names. When he said that he didn’t want to do the awards as a part of the program this year, but wanted to give them out at a different service after the first of the year, I should have known something was up. I know it sounds bad, but I was just glad to have one more thing taken off my To Do list, as this month has been an especially busy one on all fronts. All I had to do for the service was type up an agenda and make sure everyone knew their role in the service.

Much to my surprise, at the end of the program, the Pastor came up front and presented the Ministry Service Awards to me and to Earl and Trish Anderson. Because the three of us are all involved with the planning of the Pastor Appreciation Service, the only way to surprise us was by telling us that the awards wouldn’t be given out. So, okay, Pastor, you got us! Good job, because I am not easy to surprise.

Matthew 6:1-4
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

It was very nice to be recognized and I was honored by all the effort it took to pull off the surprise. We all want to feel appreciated. And I am not writing about this award because I want to boast or get more recognition. I want to share what I have learned from it. When I was standing up front and looking at the award, I had a personal revelation that showed me how much I had grown.

There was a time in my life when that award would have meant everything to me. I would have been working and been doing all that I could to earn that award. I needed approval. I needed confirmation that what I was doing was not just good, but outstanding. I needed to be the best and to be recognized for it. Standing up there last week I realized that while it was nice to be recognized, I didn’t need it. I was satisfied with the work I had done and didn’t need public affirmation for it. The old adage is that a job well done is its own reward.

Revelation 22:12
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

I am sure that Earl, Trish and the past recipients of these Ministry Service Awards feel the same way that I do. While it is nice to be recognized, we don’t do what we do to win awards. We do what we do because we love God and we want to serve Him. If we perform our service well, then we give Him the glory and honor and thanks for giving us the ability and talent to get the job done.

And we must remind ourselves that no matter how many good works we do, we are not saved by our works. We are only saved by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus. However, we will receive rewards by being obedient and serving God. The greatest reward is, of course, eternal life.

2 Chronicles 15:7
But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

Serving God is not always easy. Sometimes we get discouraged and wonder if what we are doing is really worth it or making a difference. Serving God isn’t always easy, but it is always right. It seems like whenever I am getting discouraged, God sends someone with a kind or encouraging word and I am refreshed and recharged. Receiving this award is not a cue to sit down and take a rest. Instead it is a call to action – to live up to it and to do more for God. Ephesians 4:1-2 says: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ask yourself if you are living your life in a way that is worthy of the calling that God has given you. Are you using the gifts and talents He has given you? How are you using them – for His glory or your own person satisfaction?

I am going to finish this article off with the parable of the talents. A talent was a monetary unit, but I think that if you read it as talent the way we think of – natural ability or gift – you’ll get the same meaning out of it and it will speak for itself.

Matthew 25:14-30
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Posted on 10/21/2011 5:08 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 14 October 2011
How to Appreciate Your Pastor

Do you really appreciate your pastor? How do you show it?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. This Sunday our church will have a Pastor Appreciation Day Service to honor our pastor and associate pastor and their wives. We’ll have a guest speaker and special guests followed by a dinner. I’m sure there will be cards and gifts and flowers and warm hugs to let them know how much we love them. And we do – we are truly blessed with wonderful men and women of God as our leaders.

But is it enough to take just one day out of the year to say thank you for all that they do for our church and its people? And are cards and gifts enough? Let’s think about it this way: If a husband only brought his wife flowers and told her he loved her once a year on their anniversary, how good would their relationship be the other 364 days of the year?

While it’s great to have a special celebration once a year, we need to make sure our pastors know we appreciate them all year round. Despite the fact that they often exhibit superhuman abilities, pastors are just people after all. Like us, they need encouragement from time to time. They need to know that their flock cares, respects and appreciates them. They really don’t expect special gifts or offerings, but I am sure those are appreciated. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from giving gifts, money or gift cards or other tokens of appreciation, but I think there are some other ways to really show your appreciation for your pastors. (Note: These apply to pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors, etc. both men and women, but I will just say “pastor” to cover them all.)

1. Show the pastor respect. Romans 13:7 says to give honor to whom honor is due. The Pastor is the head of our church, just as Christ is the Head of The Church. He should be addressed as Pastor or Reverend or whatever title he has in your church. You may be on a first name basis with him, but at least during services and official church activities, he should be addressed properly. I think it’s best just to address him that way all the time. Give honor.

2. Pray for the pastor. Our pastors are at the top of the hit list for Satan, our Enemy. After all, they are preaching the word and working to bring salvation to the unsaved. They are the leadership of the church, and you always go after the leadership in battle. If the wolf takes out the shepherd, then the sheep are easy prey. We need to keep them in prayer daily. God has sent these men and women to be our leaders. Jeremiah 3:15 says: And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. Pastors have a big job. We probably don’t know more than half of what they do. Give prayer.

3. Support your pastor. You may not always agree with everything your pastor says or does. He can’t make everyone in the church happy at the same time. The worst thing you could do is to go behind his back, telling everyone that he is wrong and why. Then you are undermining your pastor, which causes a lot of harm within the church body. Our earlier scripture from 1 Thessalonians reminds us to be at peace among ourselves. 1 Chronicles 16:22 says: Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm.” If you have a problem with your pastor, go talk to him. I am sure he will listen and talk things out with you. Give support.

4. Get over yourself. I started to say be less sensitive, but I think “get over it” goes to the heart of the issue. Don’t get offended so easily, because an “offense” is a baited trap. James 3:16 says: For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. If the pastor didn’t shake your hand before service, go shake his. He may have meant to say hello and was sidetracked by another member of the flock that needed him. He is one person and he can’t be there for everyone at the exactly the same time. But Jesus can. So if the pastor isn’t available at the very second you need him, call on the One who is always there for you. The pastor wants to be there for you, but he can’t read minds. He can’t go see your uncle’s cousin’s girlfriend’s boss in the hospital if he doesn’t know he is there. And he can’t be in two places at the same time, but he will be praying for you even if he can’t be there in person. Give him a break.

5. Walk in your calling. I think the pastor would appreciate this so much. If every person in the church would walk in their calling, the pastor’s job would be so much easier. Romans 11:29 says: For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. They are also non-transferrable. They are your gifts and callings, not the pastor’s. But when you don’t do your job, he has to try to pick up the slack. So if you have been called to teach, then teach. If you have been called to sing, then sing. If you have been called to greet, then greet. Whatever it is you have been called to do, commit to doing it. Give your commitment.

If you haven’t told your pastor how much you appreciate him, now would be a great time since it is that time of year when we recognize our pastors for their hard work. A card, a note, or just a warm, sincere thank you in person would be a great way to start. Then you can remember to give all these other things year round. If you don’t currently have a pastor, I highly recommend mine: Pastor Craig Cook and Associate Pastor Paul Smith. Keep them in your prayers daily. Also remember our pastors’ wives, the First Ladies of the church, Belinda “Bekay” Cook and Susie Smith. We can all show pastors our appreciation by loving them the way they love us.

Posted on 10/14/2011 7:42 AM by Susan Nelson
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