I Will . . . Go

Who first told you the good news that Jesus’ forgiving love has reconciled you to the heart of the Father? Listen to these lyrics from an acapella Gospel group called Glad.

Did you hear the good news?
You don’t have to run and hide.
You can drop all your defenses.
His arms are open wide.

There’ll be love and laughter
when you finally give in,
and the celebration
waiting to begin.

For each person who has come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, someone has shared with them the message of salvation. Someone was key in their life to share not only their love for Jesus, but also why they believe that His shed blood and death on the cross of Calvary atoned for the sins of the world and reconciled all people to the heart of God the Father. Someone shared that, because Jesus rose from the dead, God, now, in Jesus’ name, offers eternal life to everyone who believes. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). That is why faith is like a language coming alive.

Our hearts are stirred with hope when we hear this beautiful message that God created us and loves us. Though we were broken and rebellious sinners, God cared enough to send Jesus to receive the punishment we deserve. He has defeated death and wants us to be in a relationship with Him as the living God. He invites us to trust our very lives to Him. The more we hear that Word, the more the Holy Spirit uses this message to create faith in the hearts of the hearer. We hear about the grace of God in the Word of God, written and proclaimed to us.

I can still hear the booming baritone voice of my father as he preached to his congregation, inviting them to come to the open arms of the Father in Jesus’ name, confess their sin and believe that Jesus forgives them, and believe that God fills them with the Spirit. Though that was a powerful word in worship, it was my mother who would come into my bedroom at night and pray with me letting me know how Jesus was personally real. When she prayed, she talked as if Jesus was sitting there on the bedside with us. She spoke to Jesus as if He was our living Lord and personal friend. Through their witness, I never doubted that Jesus is God, that I could trust my life to Him, that I could come to Him with the burden of my guilt or my shame and that He would lift it from me.

So many people in the course of my life have spoken of their love for Jesus. Sunday school teachers, members of the churches I’ve served, other pastors, family members who have ignited my faith or deepened my passion for Christ by sharing their love for Jesus with me. That is how it works! That is how God intends to spread the message of salvation and build the kingdom of Jesus Christ until it reaches the ends of the earth. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem until you receive power from the Holy Spirit. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

So, what is God’s plan to reach the world? When Jesus ascended into heaven, He commissioned His apostles to share their faith (the message of the Gospel) with others. The Spirit would then ignite faith in the hearts of others that they, too, would become part of the kingdom of Christ. That Message would build the Church until it reached the whole world.

God, you see, is counting on us. That is why He poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost upon all people. In the hearing of the Word, those who believe would share it with others that they, too, might believe.

Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful the feet of those who bring the good news.” I wonder if you would say that you have beautiful feet. When I look at my own feet, I find bunions and corns. The nails on my toes are a bit twisted and discolored. But the Bible says I have beautiful feet because I am willing to share my faith with others who have come to love Jesus and believe in Him as God’s Son and our Savior.

This is God’s plan. In fact, the Scriptures say that God is a “sending” God. Jesus sent out the twelve apostles and gave them authority to proclaim the Good News, to pray for healing, and to command the evil spirits to be gone in Jesus’ name. They returned rejoicing that they had power over the enemy.

Jesus also sent out seventy-two others with the same authority and the same commissioning. He sent them out in His name to say to all, “The kingdom of God is near to you.” How is that true? Because the Spirit of the living Jesus dwells within the heart of every believer. So wherever the believer goes, he brings the presence of Jesus. Like it says, “You’re like a winsome perfume bringing the scent of victory everywhere you go” (2 Cor. 2:14), the scent, the sweet smell of the aroma of Jesus Christ.

So God in the Word says that we are His apostles sent out in His name and under His authority. We are to be His ambassadors. Wherever we go, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ. God sends us as His missionaries to build the kingdom of God. We have a mission from God Himself, and we are called to be His witnesses. Like that old African-American spiritual says, “Can I get a witness for my Lord?”

So the question really comes not, “Has God sent you to go in His name?” but “Are you willing to go in His name?”Are you willing to share with others what you have come to believe about Jesus Christ? Will you tell others about what an integral part of your life He is, how He fills you with His spirit, graces you with forgiveness, fills you with the promise of eternal life, and that you belong to Him? Will you tell others that great truth? Are you willing to go in the name of Jesus?

What if you said, I will not go. Jonah from the Old Testament is a biblical example of a person telling God no. He was asked by God to go to the village of Nineveh and preach the Word to them that they might repent. But in the first chapter of Jonah, it says that Jonah fled from the Lord to Joppa. He boarded a ship and went down into the belly of the ship. A great storm put the ship and those who were sailing with Jonah at risk, and so they said to him, “We need you to pray to your God.” They cast lots, and it was determined that Jonah was the problem.

What should they do? Jonah told them to throw him overboard, and they did. Then God sent a great fish who swallowed Jonah where he remained for three days until the fish spit Jonah out on the sand. Then God repeated his call to Jonah. “Jonah, will you go?” God gave him a second chance. I need you to go. I need you to share my Word. That’s how My kingdom works. When God’s people share the Word, His Spirit works, and lives are drawn to God.

I love the story of Peter. I resonate with that blue-collar fisherman. He was bombastic in his personality, impulsive and passionate. According to Luke chapter 5, Peter was cleaning his nets after fishing all night. Jesus was preaching about the kingdom of God on the beach. He got into Peter’s boat and began to preach some more. Then He said to Peter, Let’s go fishing. Peter said, “Lord, we fished all night and have nothing in our catch.” His next words were significant: “But at Your word, I will do it.”

Although the command of Jesus was illogical, Peter began to experience the miraculous power in his obedience. He began to witness about Jesus as the Lord of creation. The fish filled the net so much that the boats were sinking, and Peter realized he was in the presence of God Himself. He fell flat on his face and said, “Depart from me, Lord. I am a sinful man.”

But, as Peter lay face down on the bottom of that fishing boat, Jesus tells him, “Don’t be afraid, Peter. From now on, I am going to use your life to fish for people (to attract people to me).”

So God, in the name of Jesus, comes to where you are and wants to use the uniqueness of your personality, your life story, and the difference Jesus’ Spirit has made to your perception of reality by using your ability to attract people to Jesus Christ, to invite people to meet your best friend, Jesus.

Mary was another one that God came to. In Luke chapter 1, the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Hail, favored one. God is with you!” Then he told her that the Spirit was going to come upon her, and she would be the mother of the Lord, the Messiah. She would give birth to a son.

Of course, because she was a virgin, she naturally asked how can this happen. And the word from Gabriel is profound. He said, “Nothing is impossible with God.” No word is impossible with God. Mary’s response can be the response of all of us, “Let it be to me according to your word. I am the Lord’s bond servant.” It literally means that I am the Lord’s slave. My life belongs to the Lord Jesus. Use me as You will.

Are you willing to allow your voice, your life, your personality to be an ambassador, an apostle, a missionary, a witness? Are you willing to pray for those with whom you might be sharing your love for Jesus? I guarantee you that many people you meet day after day need to hear the Good News. They need to know that the uniqueness of your life and the authenticity of your faith in Jesus can be used by God’s Spirit to build the kingdom.

Do you have beautiful feet? Will you go? I remember the prophet Isaiah who in the presence of God, in a vision of God’s holy Temple, had his lips purged with the burning coal, and the Lord asked, “Who will go? Whom can we send?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I. Send me.”

If the Lord comes to you today, even as you hear this message, knowing that you have received His grace, that you have received forgiveness of all your sins, knowing that Jesus is in your life, and you belong to Him, would that you and I say like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen in my life just as you said,” or like Isaiah, “Here I am, Lord. I will go. Send me.”

I Will Drink My Milk

I am a huge Minnesota Twins baseball fan. It has been a fun season this year. They are a very good team.

One my favorite players is Torii Hunter. Last night as I was watching the game, I was happy to see him hit another home run and make a couple good catches as well. He’s having a good season. Torii is forty years old and still a great producer for his team. He is a power hitter and a good fielder. Some would say he’s not what he used to be, but for a man his age, playing in a young man’s game, he is quite impressive!

What makes Torii Hunter so effective on the field? As you listen to him talk and others talk about him, you find that Torii is a very disciplined athlete. He has workout habits that he keeps going year-round. He is always prepping for the next time on the field. This is what has made him one of the best in the game.

These past few weeks, we have been looking at some habits of highly effective Christians, fruit-producers, for the cause of Jesus. We have seen that the Church is at its best when it’s encouraging and producing healthy, fruitful disciples, such as those of the first church in Acts chapter 2. Their habits, such as worship, are what we encourage the followers of Jesus Christ to pick up. It’s important that we regularly come into the presence of God to praise Him and hear His Word.

In last week’s text, we learned that it is important to develop the habit and attitude of being a servant of one another. It is in serving that our faith really grows.

Today we look at another habit that keeps us growing and going for Jesus. It comes through Peter, one of our Lord’s disciples. It has been years since Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter has been following Jesus, starting churches, and growing up Christians for many years. He is writing a statement to a group of newer Christians.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation Ð if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

I love that image: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk.

Julie and I are grandparents now. Little Henry Steven came into this world a couple weeks ago, and he is perfect in every way. (Of course, I’m a little partial, I admit.) One day we were visiting and holding Henry. He was so contented. But then, all of a sudden, it was like an alarm went off inside of him. He started to scream, and we couldn’t calm him down. Finally his mother came into the room and said, “Henry needs to be fed. I better take him.” Within moments, Henry was again as quiet as can be as he busily drank his milk.

I remember, as a growing little boy, my mom said to me, “Steve, drink your milk! It will make you strong.” Peter is giving us that same sort of theme today, isn’t he? He is saying, If you have been born again, you are a child of God. Children need nourishment, and so does the child of God who has placed their trust in Jesus Christ. If you are going to grow and go for Jesus, you need to drink your milk and not stop.

Pure, spiritual milk is how he describes it. Pure meaning uncontaminated, not watered down, special, holy, spiritual milk. Earlier in God’s Word, Peter said, “You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (I Peter 1:23). God has provided milk in His Word. As an advertisement said Ð God’s “Got Milk!” It is His holy Word.

In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter quoted Old Testament Scripture that points to Jesus. After three thousand people asked Jesus into their lives on that day, the Church was formed. The disciples taught them Scripture and answered their questions with the Word of God. They fed them pure, spiritual milk from Jesus, and the people devoted themselves to it.

At the end of Acts chapter 2, it says, “The goodwill of the community was upon them (those who were in God’s word), and the Lord added to the number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). They were effectively growing and going for Jesus.

Why do you suppose Peter and the disciples emphasized the need for Scripture, craving it, needing it like newborn babes? Perhaps Peter was remembering Jesus’ words, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Real disciples continue in His Word. Peter remembered to abide, obey, put it to work, study it, remain in it, and cling to it. Real disciples do that with the Word because it contains truth we all need according to Jesus.

The world will give you all kinds of truth. However, only the scriptures have truth for your spiritual welfare Ð truth about God, how He created you, and He loves you. He holds the world in the palm of His hand and wants to have a relationship with you. You were created to have that relationship with God, but because you are a sinner and far from God, you cannot have it on your own. However, God in His mercy and love gave His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross to cover your sin. If you trust in Jesus Christ and what He’s done for you, you have a restored relationship with God and eternal life, which begins right now.

Jesus said that the truth will set you free Ð free from guilt and shame, free from being far from God, from fear and sin’s hold on you. As you live in God’s Word, you find God’s will for your life. You are empowered by it and you find out how life works best, because God knows best.

Maybe Peter was thinking of Jesus’ statement in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who not only hear this word, but do it. They will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock and it stood strong against the storms” (Matt. 7:24).

You and I know storms come in a variety of ways in our lives. They might be health issues, financial issues, relational issues, etc. Where are you going to find strength to stand strong? Jesus says, As you put it to work in your life, My Word will make the difference. You will be ready when the storms come.

Maybe Peter thought of the night in the Upper Room when Jesus told His disciples that He would be crucified the next day. As He prays for them, He says, “Father, sanctify them in your truth, for your word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s Word cleanses us and changes us. It is God-breathed and has the power to make all the difference in our lives as God reveals His mind, His heart, and His will to us. You and I need our spiritual milk! Peter discovered that after all those years. We need to be fed.

Martin Luther, a great man of God, said, “Nothing is more perilous (for our souls) than to be weary of the Word of God. Thinking he knows enough, a person begins little by little to despise the Word until he has lost Christ and the Gospel altogether.” We need our milk, the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word.

Craig Miller, a writer for Leadership Journal once said, “How do you solve a personal problem? Let’s say you have a fondness for gossip or quarreling. How do you stop? Or suppose you have a life-controlling addiction to alcohol, drugs, or sex. How do you get free? Sometimes the answer is something that seems totally unrelated. For example, in the middle of winter when your feet are cold, you may try putting on thicker socks or a blanket. Still, your feet remain icy. One secret to warm feet is to stop focusing on your feet and look at your head. That’s right, go to the other end of your body and put a hat on. Although your neck and head have only 10% of your body surface, you lose a whopping 30% of your body heat from the head. Having nothing on your head is like opening a window in your house in the dead of winter. If you keep that heat in your body with a hat, your blood will carry it down to your toes.

“Now in the same way when people have problems, spiritual leaders in the church often recommend they do something that sounds unrelated, such as read the Bible and pray, go to church, or focus on serving other people. These seemingly unrelated things bring grace to help them overcome those problems.”

We need the Word of God as followers of Jesus. That is why we teach in the Christian Church that the Word of God is our authority in matters of faith and life. It is the firm foundation upon which we build the Church of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many churches and even denominations have started to let that one slip a little bit, and that is when the church begins to deteriorate and crumble. We need the pure spiritual milk of the Word to abide by it.

In our church, we buy Bibles for our three-year-olds. Then we go to their homes, give the Bibles to the children and ask their parents to read the stories to them before they even get to Sunday school. When those children get a little bit older, we give them regular Bibles, and we teach the parents and children to read it together.

It is so important for us to get the Word of God! That is why we have Sunday school Bible classes, and small groups in our churches. The Church has always been built upon the fact that we need to drink our pure, spiritual milk if we are going to grow in our salvation, our relationship with God and one another, and if we are going to be effective for Jesus Christ. We need our milk, the Word of God!

In the United States, because of our religious freedoms, we don’t have to worry about getting our hands on a Bible. However, in other countries, that is not the case. People are hungering for the Word of God, and Bibles are treasured when they are received.

So how does one receive their spiritual milk?

1. Hear the Word of God. By doing what you are doing today, for instance. It is good that you here receiving the Word.

2. Personal study. Set aside a devotional time, maybe in the morning or whatever time works best for you. Sit down with your Bible, get a notebook, and keep a daily journal. Start perhaps in the Gospel of John. As you begin, just read a couple stories and ask yourself the question, What have I learned about God in this passage today? What have I learned about myself? Is there something I need to be practicing in my life? What is God trying to tell me? Record our thoughts. Dawson Trotman, the former head of Navigators Bible study, said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips. If you have not put your observations down on paper, you have not really thought about them.” We need to write our thoughts down so we can really process the word and savor it.

Then we need to ask, What have I learned today? and What part of this Word do I need to put to work in my life? How do I apply it? The Bible wasn’t written simply to increase our knowledge but to actually change us and conform us to the image of Jesus.

The book of James says we’re to be not just hearers of the word but doers of the word (James 1:22). So as we study passages in Scripture, we need to ask if we have an attitude that needs to be changed. Is there something here that I need to start or stop doing, or something I need to believe or stop believing?

3. Hook up with other Christians. Join a small group study or a class near you. Go, take it in. Like a newborn babe, crave the spiritual pure spiritual milk of God’s word.

The growth that Peter talks about happens through personal Bible study, savoring the Word by reading it slowly and thinking about it, then writing down your thoughts, and joining with other Christians in fellowship and study.

It is interesting how Peter finishes this verse. He says you will grow in salvation if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. The key word there, the hinge word, is “if.” If you have tasted that the Lord is good. In other words, if you have a relationship with God. Do you?

Have you tasted God’s grace in your life through His Son Jesus? Have you experienced the power and all-sufficient grace that carries a person through hard times? Have you come to the place where you know for certain that, if you were to die today, you would go to heaven? You can, you know. It’s a matter of saying “yes” to Jesus Christ. Do that.

And if you already have, do yourself a favor today. Say, I will drink my milk, Lord, every day, in Your holy Word. You will be glad you did.

I Will . . . Serve

During the 2014 final four NCAA basketball tournament, one of the coaches of the final four teams was asked about his team’s success. He replied, “We have a motto on our team. Good people do for themselves; great people do for others.”

Jesus is teaching something similar to His team (the disciples) in today’s text. The mother of James and John approached Jesus one day with a request on behalf of her boys. She was a “helicopter mom,” one who hovers over her children. Her request was rather self-serving and inappropriate in its context for Jesus had just revealed that He would be killed in Jerusalem. She broke in anyway and asked Jesus to make her sons vice presidents in His Kingdom. Of course, Jesus refused.

When the disciples heard His conversation, they became very angry at James and John because they wanted the same thing. It was almost like a playground fight. But Jesus stepped in and diffused the situation before things boiled over. He used it as a teachable moment. “. . . the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” In God’s kingdom, greatness is measured by a willingness to have the attitude of a slave.

Then Jesus gave them His own personal mission statement as an example to abide by: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In other words, He was telling them to follow His lead (Matt. 20:28).

Those who follow Jesus Christ are following a servant King. Following Him means salvation and a restored relationship with God, something we cannot have outside of Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of another episode in which Jesus illustrated this truth for the disciples when He washed their feet the night before He was crucified on the cross. Washing one’s feet was the work of a common servant in those days. The disciples were horrified and aghast as their Master and King washed their feet. Afterward Jesus told them, I have given you an example. If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, then you ought to wash one another’s feet. In My kingdom, people serve one another.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, this message is for you. You are called to be a servant. If you want to grow in your effectiveness for Christ and have a positive impact on this world for the Kingdom of God, be a servant.

This message is very countercultural when you think about it, because we live in a what’s-in-it-for-me world. Look out for number one. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to commit ourselves to doing just the opposite. We may find ourselves rather hesitant about following these directions for a variety of reasons. One, it’s goes against the way we are wired. We are sinners and have a tendency to look out for number one. Self-preservation is the top of our priority list. Who will look out for me if I don’t?

Kevin Miller, a writer for Leadership Journal, was once preparing a sermon on servanthood. He asked his Facebook friends this question: “Why is it so hard for us to serve?”

He received a host of answers. Someone said, “Serving is hard. It doesn’t fit my schedule or plan.” One person said, “It’s hard when people’s needs seem so endless. I don’t want to get sucked in and drained out.” Another person said, “I have such limited energy after a demanding workday meeting basic responsibilities.” Here’s my favorite answer: “What makes it hard to serve others? Others.”

People are sometimes just difficult to serve. Some are unlikable, unlovable, and don’t know how to say thank you. They don’t know how to acknowledge the kindness you’ve done for them. I remember someone saying, “Real servanthood begins when the applause ends and the thank yous stop.” How true that is.

Being a servant calls for an attitude change to take place inside of us. This is what Paul told the Christians in Philippi: You need an attitude change. He said, “Look not only for the interests of yourself but to the interests of others. Let the same attitude be in you that was in Christ, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be exploited but emptied himself taking the form of a slave. Being born in human likeness and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 4:8).

There you have it! It’s an emptying of self, a humbling of self. Humbling oneself means to exercise a healthy amount self-forgetfulness and being willing to admit that it’s not all about me. It’s a willingness to acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe. I am not God. I am one of God’s humble servants.

What Paul is describing here is a desire to be faithful to the One who first loved us, Who emptied Himself for us, and in loving response to Him say, I want to be like you, Jesus. I give myself away.

In my congregation, we have a new members class called New Connections in which we explain our theology and point to our various ministries. At our final session, we share the expectations of our members as they enter a covenant relationship with our family of faith. One of the things we emphasize is for them to have a servant’s heart. Servant attitudes make a healthy congregation that can have an impact for the kingdom of God. It is as simple as somebody asking, What can I be do for you? instead of focusing on what the church will do for me.

How does one cultivate a servant-like attitude? Three things make a difference.

1. Pray for an attitude change in your life. Servanthood doesn’t come naturally. It calls for a supernatural change, and only God can do the supernatural. Prayer doesn’t just change things, prayer changes us. Put yourself on call and ask for an attitude change every day. Ask God to help you see someone who needs your servant heart.

2. Pray for others around you. Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on people around you: people at work; people in your apartment building, community home, prison, neighborhood, or church. Pray for others around you. When we pray for others, we begin to view them in a different way as we see them through the eyes of Jesus.

3. Commit yourself to serving at least two hours a week. Be willing to say yes and then step in. Be intentional in your servanthood; the attitude will follow the actions.

One doesn’t have to look far to find opportunities for serving. Multitudes of lonely people are standing on the outside looking in and need someone to reach out and befriend them. People are hurting and have health issues. People are grieving and need someone to come along side, to just sit with them and be a friend to them. Kids need older folks to mentor them, to step into their lives in the community or in the church. People in the community need help making ends meet as they go to the food shelf.

I have a friend who works the food shelf a couple times a week. She gives herself away in that fashion, and she’s hooked on serving in that way. I have a friend who does short-term mission work. He is a retired dentist who works with an orphanage three times a year helping children.

We have opportunities in our church communities. A few weeks ago, I saw a friend in the work room on a Sunday morning. I was getting ready to preach, and she was getting ready to teach an adult class. She was as chirpy as could be and said, “I was up until 3 o’clock this morning. I had so much fun preparing this lesson. I can’t wait to share it with the folks today in our class!”

There is a nursery that is looking for people to look after kids, or there is Sunday school, or there’s people who need to be greeted as they come in the door on a Sunday morning. Or ushers Ð there’s always a shortage of ushers in our church. Card ministry, prayer ministry. Ask your pastor what you can do for the cause of Christ around the church. You will thrill him!

If you are retired, hear this: Retirement in the church of Jesus Christ does not exist when it comes to serving! Hear that again. Don’t let anyone put you on the sidelines just because you hit a certain age. There is no retirement in the Church of Jesus Christ! You still have the ability to serve.

What does giving yourself away like that do in your life? After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13, He explained to them, “If you know these things and you DO them, you will be blessed.”

I am reminded of a story out of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill W. found sobriety in the early days of A.A. However, he also found himself feeling like he was slipping and being tempted to start drinking again. So he told his story to another drunk named Dr. Bob. In the midst of telling his story, Bill W. was strengthened in his own weakness and was able to overcome the desire to take a drink.

I have a lot of AA folks in our congregation and many of them have said to me, “If you ever have someone who has hit bottom, call me anytime, night or day – I don’t care – I will come running to be with that person, to help them and take them to a meeting.” They have learned, you see, that in giving yourself away, you will be blessed and strengthened.

Dr. Tom Ranier once taught a class in a church about changing one’s attitude to that of a servant. A church member who attended his class began to pray for an attitude change and pray for others. In an email seven months later, she said to him, “Tom, I have never been more joyful to be a church member. I don’t have to worry about getting my way. My mission is now to serve others. It’s much more fun to serve than to be served. I still pray every day for my attitude, and I pray for specific people in the church every day, which has changed my attitude incredibly. I have also made certain I do something of service in the church at least one hour a week. I volunteer for nursery duty once a month, and I committed to visit at least three persons a month who are shut in. I truly have learned in action what Jesus meant when He said we would be first if we put ourselves last. I am last in the sense that I serve others before me. I am first in the sense that I have incredible joy coming directly from Jesus. I wish I had made this effort years ago. I have truly learned how to experience the joy of Christ by serving!”

There you have it! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ (and I hope you are for He is the way of salvation), here is your assignment that comes straight from the lips of your Lord and Master – BE A SERVANT. The only question left to ask is, Will you?

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if over the next ninety days everyone listening today would make the commitment to pray for others, pray for their own attitude, and give themself away two hours a week in service to Jesus. Let’s say 10,000 people are listening today. What would happen in our personal lives, our families, our church or communities? Multiply ninety days times 10,000 people. That’s 900,000 hours of service to others in the name of Jesus Christ. We would have a service revolution! Think about the lives that would be positively impacted for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Service in this way is done with God’s power. If you are willing to commit, pray this prayer with me now, would you? Repeat after me:

Lord, open my eyes to see the needs of others. Help me to live more like Jesus who always put others’ interests first. In the days ahead, show me how I can best serve in my church, my family and my community. I WILL be a servant for you.

I Will Worship

A number of years ago, a book was released that became quite popular. It was entitled, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Covey studied people who were effective in attaining their goals in business, in relationships, and so on, and he came up with seven common traits that contributed to their effectiveness. The book was a bestseller.

Let’s pretend you and I were asked to write a book: Habits of Highly Effective Christians. First we would need to define a highly-effective Christian. This person would need to be someone who trusts in Jesus Christ as his or her Savior and Lord. A highly effective Christian, I suppose, is someone who knows their doctrines well and is a good representative of the faith. Jesus told His disciples, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). In other words, a highly effective Christian is someone who is bearing fruit for Christ and making a difference for Jesus. It is an outwardly-focused individual who is leading others to consider Jesus as Savior and Lord.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to impact people every day according to their needs. They have emotional needs, spiritual needs, and physical needs. The question then is, how can we effectively impact the lives of others for the cause of Jesus Christ? What are the habits of highly-effective Christians?

Well, we actually have a book to give us the answer. It’s called the Bible, and it points us to certain practices that will help us be effective in impacting people for Christ. We’re going to look at a few of those practices over the next three weekends in a series I’m doing entitled, “I will . . .” The inspiration behind this series is a book with the same title by Thom Rainer, written for the Church of Jesus Christ.

In today’s story from Acts, we find some Christians who were having a very positive impact on others around them. It was the early days of the Church, right after Pentecost. Notice the line at the end of the story: “. . . and they were praising God and having the goodwill of those around them. And the Lord added to their number daily.” They grew as a Church, effectively impacting people.

What was behind their effectiveness? After three thousand people had been baptized into the faith, the disciples had their hands full. They now had a church and had to decide what to do with the new believers. So the people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. They spent much time together in the temple and praised God.

What does it mean to be devoted to something? “To devote” is heart language. It is all about passion. They gave themselves totally over; they were all in. They devoted themselves to being together, hearing from the apostles about Jesus and God’s plan, breaking the bread, praying, and praising God.

Our author is describing worship here. Worship was not an elective for the early Christians. It was a core course for them; it was vital. After all God commanded it: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Many of these people had a Jewish background, and they knew that commandment. The disciples had seen Jesus model it during the three years they lived with Him. In Luke 4:16 it says, “He (Jesus) went into the synagogue (to teach) as was his habit.” Jesus had taught that God seeks true worshipers, those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). The people needed to be together in worship. On this basis, then, the importance of worship cannot be overstated for the Christian.

In my congregation when we bring people into our new members class, we teach them how important it is to come to worship. We offer several worship times to make it possible for everyone to attend. We put the messages on our Web site for those who are homebound and then take communion to them.

Christian Crusaders actually exists to offer worship to those who cannot make it to church. We know many of our listeners are not able to attend a corporate worship service with others. This is why this radio ministry came into existence in the first place Ð so you can be a worshiper. And even though you might not be able to see one another, you are united in worship before God and His holy Word. Worship is important; it’s good you are here.

Unfortunately, worship participation among Christians in the United States is in a downward trend. Many people treat Sunday worship as an option and replace it with other activities they consider mandatory, such as athletics, recreation, vacations, and cabins. People sleep in after a busy week, viewing Sunday as a day to catch up. With an emphasis on individualism in our culture, we talk ourselves into believing we can worship in whatever way we see fit. Children are dropped off at Sunday school instead of attending worship with their parents.

Somewhere behind all this, some poor theology has come into existence. It is a consumer type attitude Ð the church is here to feed me and entertain me. It is here to meet my preferences. If you’ll serve me in that way, church, then maybe I will show up a couple times a month.

This is bad theology, according to Jesus. Good worship means worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Worship is about God. He is the audience Ð not you and me. In true worship, God is the audience and the cast is the assembled body of Christ. We are performing for Him. We come in humble adoration to the King to whom we’ve been called to give a command performance.

Leif Anderson, in his book, Winning the Values War, writes, “Worship is acknowledging the worth of God. When we worship God for Himself, we hardly notice who stands at the pulpit. We forget who plays the music or leads the singing. We barely think about being praise musicians or worship leaders. We are so caught up in loving and praising and worshiping God that everyone else becomes invisible almost because our hearts are filled with God.”

Pastor Rick Warren says, “If you’ve ever come out of a worship service and said, ÔI didn’t get much out of that service,’ you haven’t really worshiped. The worship isn’t about you; it’s about our heavenly Father.”

Good worship is about God, and it’s done in spirit and in truth. “In spirit” means it’s authentic, it’s sincere. It is giving all your heart, soul, mind, and strength to God. “In truth” means it is accurate. It celebrates the truths about God’s great love for us, which He has shown in Jesus Christ Who went to the cross for us.

Why is it so important? First of all, God deserves it. Amen? Look at what He did for us! He rescued us from our sin when we were absolutely lost and unable to have a relationship with Him. He sent His only begotten Son to die for us on a cross and raised Him again on the third day. He promises that whoever trusts in His Son has forgiveness. We shall be saved for eternity. That is worth praise and thanks, which God desires from us.

Participating in this worship actually brings us benefits. There is runoff on us.

Worship increases our effectiveness because it gives perspective to our lives. We are reminded of who we are (sinners in need of a Savior), and whose we are (children of God through Jesus Christ).

Worship builds community into our lives. It gives us a sense of home. We belong to something bigger than ourselves. It is our roots.

Worship gives meaning to our lives. We rediscover what is all-important Ð to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Worship gives hope to our lives. It is where we see the big picture. Some days, I know, seem so tragic, and history seems to be out of control. But we get the big picture in worship. We’re reminded that God has the last word over this creation, over this world of His. He holds this little planet in the palm of His hand. We are able to see beyond the tragic and the dark Ð to the light.

Worship brings joy to our lives. An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving Ð our hearts are filled with joy. Think about how you feel after somebody has prepared a delicious meal for you. It is fun and joyful to pour out praise upon them for the great thing they’ve done for you. It gives you joy in praising.

The disciples in Acts chapter 2 and the three thousand believers with them worshiped and had the goodwill of the people in the community upon them. The Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved. They were effective worshipers.

A personal question for you today as a follower of Jesus: Is worship of value in your life? I imagine that, because you’ve tuned in today, it is. It is important to remember that every decision we make, every relationship we have, every word we utter, the way in which we use our time, all of this is in some way an expression of our values. Everything we say and do is tied to what we consider to have the greatest and least worth in our lives.

Does the use of your time reflect the importance of worship participation in your life? As we have seen in this passage today, it’s important for followers of Jesus to be committed worshipers.

As I said, our sermon series this month is entitled, “I will.” It is basically a call to recommit ourselves to being more effective, more impactful witnesses for Jesus.

Last week I performed a wedding vows renewal ceremony for a couple who had celebrated their 25th anniversary. They wanted to stand before others again and say, “I will. I will love you. I will take care of you . . . till death do us part.” It was very touching to be a part of their celebration.

This is what I am asking you to do today with me Ð make a renewal of your vows to God. Devote yourself to being a regular worshiper. Promise God and yourself that you will show up each week to worship. Make your appointment with God a priority in your life. Before you turn on the radio or go to a corporate worship service, pray that God would be pleased with your worship. Promise to lift your heart in worship, not merely as a spectator, but in giving God your best Ð singing along, tuning in with the prayers, and so on.

If you are all in, here is a prayer of commitment you could repeat after me now. Let’s pray,

Lord, I will show up, pray up, and lift up your name in worship. I love you, Lord, and I want to be effective for you. Amen.

It’s good to be worshiping with you today.