Small is Not Insignificant

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything significant in life. I don’t see the results I would like. The wheels keep spinning but it doesn’t produce many visible outcomes. That happens often in small, rural churches.

Words like insignificant, unimportant, irrelevant, inconsequential are often part of my mental vocabulary. We don’t normally equate small with significant.

One reason for this equivalency is that our culture has taught us that large is better than small. Everyone strives for big. Bigger businesses. Bigger churches. Bigger events. No one likes small. Small is bad.

But is it?

Certainly there are times when small is not ideal – when growth is not only desirable but necessary. But is small always bad and large always good?

Not necessarily.

There were times when God used the small – even the insignificant to advance His Kingdom.

He chose Israel to represent Him on this earth, not because they were big or mighty but because they were small. He specifically said that He chose them because they were the least of all peoples (Deuteronomy 7:7).

He selected David the youngest and the smallest of his family (1 Samuel 16:11-12) to take down the giant, Goliath and then to rule His people.

He used a little servant girl to bring healing to General Naaman (2 Kings 5) and He picked another little girl from an insignificant village to bear the Messiah (Luke 1).

All of them small but not insignificant.

That’s just the way God works. He sometimes chooses to use the little things instead of the big things.

Which should say several things to us.

One is that God is OK with small things. They aren’t insignificant to Him. In fact, they are important enough for Him to use in His eternal plan.

Another is that God can use small things for big purposes. All of the illustrations I gave above testify to this.

A third is that small things have the potential to have an impact/influence that is out of proportion to their size. That’s encouraging.

I’m not trying to defend staying small. I’m just saying that small is not the end of the world when it comes to serving God.

If God has you in a small place, serve Him well. You’ll never know what kind of impact you will have.

And in that reality, I find great encouragement.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Where is Your Identity?

All of us have an Identity. It’s Who We Are.  It’s not Who We Want To Be. It’s not even Who We Think We Are. It’s Who We Are. Deep down on the inside.

People struggle with the issue of their identity. Some people don’t like who they have become. Other people think that they are one thing when everyone else knows them as something else.

One thing is certain – we all have an identity.

The problem with Identity is that often we don’t want to be Who We Are – we want to be something or someone else.

The question is: What Defines You? What gives you your identity?

For some it’s their occupation. When two men meet for the first time it doesn’t take long for one of them to ask, What do you do? By which he means, what is your occupation? Men self-identify based on their job.

I suspect it’s different for women but I’m still trying to figure that out.

For other people their identity might be associated with their wealth or social standing. Identity can even be tied up in your family name. The Kennedy family comes to mind. Or it can be associated with your husband or even your hobby.

Identity for the Christian is supposed to be different. We’re suppose to find our identity in Christ. One writer explained it this way: your identity lies in being a member of the body, with Jesus as the Head. Your identity is reflected in your relationship status: a bondservant, a child of the King, the friend of Jesus, and the bride of Christ—the (Church.Conciliapost.com)

That is were we find our identity. In Christ and in His Church.

That is a thought that has never crossed the minds of most Christians. Not that our identity is to be found in Christ. Most Christians will agree with that.

But that our identity is to be found in the bride of Christ—the Church.

And not just in the “Universal Church”. In the Local Church. The local church is the manifestation of the universal church. It is where the universal church is played out. The New Testament never even hints that there can be Christians who are not a part of a local congregation.

Your identity is intimately tied into the church you attend.

That means that you are to see yourself as a member of that body with Christ as the head. You are to see yourself as a bondservant, a child of the King, the friend of Jesus, and the bride of Christ in that place.

And when that is true, how you see yourself – your identity will radically change. For the first time, perhaps, you will see yourself as God sees you.

And how God sees us is our true identity.

Don’t base your self-evaluation on external, extraneous things. Make sure that you base your identity using the same standard that God uses. Then you will be satisfied, even if your bank account, or your occupation, or your social standing, or any other standard of measurement you want to use is not what you want it to be.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

No Insignificant People

One issue that Christians deal with, often in the context of the local church, is a feeling of insignificance. It manifests itself when you say or think: No one knows me. I’m not missed when I’m not there. I’m not important. I don’t do anything that’s vital in the church. I’m insignificant.

This is one reason that people leave their church. They’re looking for significance. They don’t feel like they’re being used or accomplishing anything important. They don’t feel appreciated – which, in their minds means, other people don’t think I’m necessary.

Let me put the lie to rest. There are NO insignificant people in the Family of God (read my local church). To believe that you or anyone else is insignificant in the church is to listen to the lie of the evil one. He’s the only one who has a vested interest in you believing such a thing.

The Bible is clear. Writing to the believers in Corinth the Apostle Paul said those members of the body which seem to be weaker (insignificant) are necessary (1 Corinthians 12:22). What he’s saying is that those people that we (not God) think are less important are in fact necessary, they are essential, they are required.

In his previous discussion he made it clear that God has put each of us in the Body of Christ in the place where He wants us (1 Corinthians 12:7, 18). Whatever you do in your local church is a divine appointment!

Not only has God put you where He wants you to be, but without you the body is incomplete. We NEED you in order to be a healthy, functioning body. WE need you.

More importantly, GOD needs you in the body – that’s why He put you there. And that’s where He wants you to live out your faith in the context of your local church. God does not deal in the insignificant. You are not insignificant to Him!

Your place in the body (represented by your local church) may not be flashy; it might not be up front (that’s much overrated – take it from someone who is upfront every week); it might not be as noticeable as someone else’s place. But never for one minute think that you are unnecessary or what you do for God, the Body, His Church is insignificant.

There are no insignificant people in God’s kingdom.

That means that you need to be there – every Sunday! Be there, if not for yourself, be there for the rest of the body. It means that you need to throw yourself wholeheartedly into whatever God has given you to do. It means that you need to stop looking at people (including yourself) and start looking at God (Hebrews 12:2) because ultimately only His opinion of you counts.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Let’s Keep a Balance in the Church

I had a conversation with a dear saint in our church this week about church. In the course of our conversation they commented that something in church ministers to me.

I’m always happy when church ministers to someone and they leave blessed. We live in such a complex, hyper-busy culture that people today need to be blessed. Life is just difficult. For many, church is the fountain of life that they’ve been waiting for all week (as it should be).

As a pastor I need to think about how we can design our services to minister to all of our people – but especially to people who are discouraged, elderly, facing physical problems, run down, unemployed, going through a divorce, etc.

That’s not easy to do.

But people need to be blessed on Sunday.

There’s another side to every church service that we need to keep in balance with our being blessed and that is God being blessed.

I often tell our church that our primary reason for being in church is to bless God. That’s what we do when we worship Him – and worship is why we’re there (Ephesians 1:4-6 He chose us . . . to the praise of the glory of His grace). But I also tell them that I hope they are blessed, encouraged, motivated, and taught while they are blessing God.

The key is balance and order.

By balance I mean it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By order I mean that blessing God has to take priority. It has to be the focus of why we are there. Church has to be about God first and us second (in fact all of life has to be about God first and us second). Unfortunately, we often get those two things reversed.

But, and here’s the beauty of it, if you come ready to bless God instead of seeking a blessing, you will go away counting your blessings. God wants us to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).

It’s not easy to put your focus on God instead of on your problems, especially when you are hurting, but it’s exactly what we need to do. Focusing on self can easily obscure your worship of God and what He wants to do in your life. Whereas, focusing on God helps us keep self and all of life in the right perspective.

Try making church about Him and see if it doesn’t make a difference.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Wise Women

One of the issues that churches wrestle with is the role of women in the church, especially in the area of leadership. Can a woman serve as the Pastor? Can women be Elders or Deacons?

What exactly is the role of women in the church?

It seems obvious that we will never reach a unanimous consensus. Those who believe that some leadership roles are restricted just to men have built their case from specific teachings in the Bible and are not likely to change. Those who believe that there are no restrictions on women serving in leadership roles have done the same.

Too often there is more heat than light in these types of discussions. That’s not helpful.

Regardless of which side you find yourself on in this issue, I want to remind all of us that there are significant roles that women can perform in the church.

One of the most significant roles is the role of the wise woman of Tekoa.

2 Samuel 14 records the story of a woman from the village of Tekoa who moved King David to action when even his advisers could not persuade the king to act. As a result she has become known as the wise woman of Tekoa.

There are other examples of women in the Bible that were used in very special ways by God. Women like Easter, Deborah, Anna, and Mary come to mind.

What is so intriguing is that these women lived in totally male-dominated cultures. Women were not only subservient to men but were often viewed as property to be owned and used by men. To advise kings, lead armies or speak words of prophecy were not only unusual but violated every standard of society. But thank God these women were there.

As a pastor I’ve been privileged to have some of these wise women in my churches. Women who were in the right place at the right time for God to use them. And I have benefited greatly from their wisdom. They are often older women. They don’t normally have much to say in public meetings but aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said in private. They don’t perceive themselves as wise, but they have accumulated a life-time of keen observations of people and events. They have walked with God, learned from the Word of God and talk with God as friends talk together. They have an intimate relationship with the Almighty.

There are a number of lessons that we can learn from these women, but one that stands out is that none of us know when or how God will use us if we, like these wise women, are spiritually ready to be used. One of the intriguing things about these women is that they don’t always know that they are speaking words of wisdom at the time they speak. It is simply that their collective time with God has given them a godly perspective on life so that when they speak they speak wisely.

That should be the goal – and it is an attainable goal – for each of us. To speak wisdom into every situation and event of life. That is only possible as we are immersed in the wisdom of God’s Word. Psalm 19:7 says the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple (spiritually unwise).

Wisdom for life can only come from the Word of God as we apply it to our everyday lives.

The challenge then is to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul who wrote, See then that you walk (live) circumspectly (accurately), not as foolish people but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Speaking Truth to Power

Speaking Truth to Power is a mantra that is becoming increasingly popular in our nation. It holds a special significance for Christians who believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word from God and is not just true but supreme in our lives.

It is the prophetic role of every Christian to speak the truth to those who hold temporal power in our nation. We have a long line of examples going back to Moses confronting Pharaoh, extending through the prophets who spoke to Kings (Nathan to David, Elijah to Ahab etc), and continuing into the New Testament (Peter to the Jewish Sanhedrin, Paul to King Agrippa and perhaps to Caesar himself).

Unfortunately, as Evangelical Christians have become increasingly engaged politically, a large part of the church has lost its prophetic voice. Many seemed more concerned that we have a strong political voice than a strong spiritual voice. That’s unfortunate because our strength is found in our faith not in our political views.

I’m not suggesting that Christians have to settle for one or the other. I am suggesting that in many situations we have chosen to elevate the temporal over the spiritual, even to the point of ignoring clear Biblical teaching.

Recent events of racial violence in our nation give us the opportunity to regain what we have lost. Ed Stetzer who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and is the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center has written eloquently on the subject here. I encourage you to read his article.

My purpose is not to repeat what Stetzer wrote. I simply want to offer some practical suggestions on how we can integrate the truth of God’s Word with the political landscape, especially as it touches on the area of racism.

1. Make sure your loyalty is in the right place. As Christians we are called to supreme loyalty to God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 22:37) not to political parties or earthly leaders. When political positions collide with spiritual truth you need to speak truth to power (see Acts 4:19).

2. View people as God views them. All people, regardless of race or color were created by God (Acts 17:25) and carry in them the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, James 3:8-9). That means that every person has intrinsic value and should be treated with godly respect. Racism elevates some people over other people and has no place in the Christian worldview.

3. Be more concerned with your spiritual family than your political family. Paul’s instruction to the church (Galatians 6:10) is instructive at this point. Christians are to treat other people in a good (godly) way, but we have a special responsibility to those who belong to our spiritual family.

Unless you are from a minority race in this country, especially African-American, you have no idea the kind of pain and fear that is caused by racial symbols. I’m not advocating that we rewrite history or that we even ignore part of our history. That would be unwise. But neither do we need to protect or flaunt symbols that inflict pain on people of color, many of whom are our Brothers and Sisters in the faith.

You may not understand their pain or fear, but the simple fact that they find the Confederate flag and statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers offensive should be enough for us to stand with those who want them removed from public places. Think about what a statue of a confederate soldier means. It puts a specific individual, in a uniform that stands for a set of ungodly values, on a pedestal. In other words it elevates the person and the worldly philosophy that they represented to a place of honor (see 1 Corinthians 1:18f) in our nation. Those things are certainly part of our collective history and should be taught to our children, but not as deserving of honor.

4. Don’t act out of fear. If I read the Evangelical landscape correctly, this is where many Christians find themselves. They are so afraid of the other political side that they are willing to keep quiet about issues that conflict with their faith instead of speaking truth to power. Fear does not come from God (1 Timothy 1:7), it comes from a lack of trust in God’s sovereign control over nations and events. If you are living in fear that is driven by the political turmoil in our nation, or by the potential ramifications of the “wrong person” coming to power, you are in the wrong place spiritually. Our actions, including political actions, should operate out of faith, not fear. We need to do the right thing and leave the results up to our sovereign God.

The events of the last several days in Virginia and North Caroline give us the opportunity to shine as spiritual lights in a very dark world. If our actions are driven primarily by a political agenda and not a faith agenda we will miss a valuable opportunity.

It is time for the Evangelical church to speak truth to power, individually as we have the opportunity and collectively as we see the need.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Can You Love Jesus but Not Love His Church?

Good Question.

If you asked most Christians if they loved The Church they would probably answer in the affirmative. But many would have some mental qualifications.

I love The Church but not all of the people in it.

I love The Church, just not MY church.

I love The Church, it’s Christians I can’t stand.

I love the Church but I don’t need it.

According to a Barna survey, 10% of self-identifying evangelical Christians don’t attend church anywhere. They say that they love Jesus, they just don’t love His church. And the percentage is growing – slowly, but growing.

There are inconsistencies here. As Mark Galli, the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today pointed out in a recent article, can people really say that they love Jesus if they “refuse to participate in the community he promises to be present in?” Seems rather inconsistent.

The problem goes even deeper. Can people say that they love Jesus if they consciously choose not to do what He said to do? Hebrews 10:24-25 can’t be any clearer about our responsibility in regard to church attendance. Neither can John 14:15 be any clearer about the standard we are to use to judge our love for Jesus.

You can’t say that you love Jesus if you don’t do what Jesus said to do and you’re not doing what Jesus said to do if you don’t attend church. Pretty simple really.

The real issue here is not attending church verses not attending church. The real issue is an issue of the heart. Will we or won’t we bend our hearts to His will?

There are numerous reasons for the Christian to attend church. Among the most obvious are, Obedience, Worship, Fellowship, Instruction, Ministry, Exercising your Spiritual Gift, and Encouragement. Things that you can’t accomplish or experience on the same level as a Long Ranger Christian.

But the most important reason to attend church is because you love Jesus. Christians who say that they love Jesus but don’t love His church are demonstrating theological inconsistency at the highest level.

You can’t separate Jesus and His Church. To love one is to love the other. To be faithful to one is to be faithful to the other.

It’s no stretch to say, You love Jesus best when you love His church.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve