Dear Church Family,
Summer time is drawing to an end, and it is time to start preparing for the normal routine of the school year. For some, leaving the Summer behind can be a sad prospect. But for many, the idea of jumping back into a normal and predictable routine is a welcome comfort. Don’t get me wrong, the Summer is an amazing time… but it’s also a crazy time, especially if you have kids. The school year brings with it plenty of its own craziness, but it usually has a regular ebb and flow that you can predict and know is coming. Maybe that’s just me. But as I already mentioned, the one thing that the transition into the school year means for the Student Ministry is preparation.
August is the time of year that we position ourselves to disciple our students through the Fall and the Spring. It’s a time for recruiting, a time for planning, a time for curriculum prep, and especially a time for prayer. There are many things that the Student Ministry needs to do, but there are at least a couple things I would like to ask you to do as well. The first is to simply pray for the Student Ministry. Please pray for the adult leaders. We need God to help us love students well and be committed to them and their spiritual growth. Pray for new adults to feel the call to serve in the Student Ministry. We need God to send younger and older adults to participate in the discipleship of the younger generation in the Student Ministry. Pray for parents. We need God to continue to unite the parents of our church in one accord in raising the younger generation of the Church with hearts fully abiding in Christ and not in the world. Pray for your pastors. We need God to help us equip parents, leaders, and the students to grow in their faith and do the work of ministry. Without God, the builder builds in vain. So pray He would bless all these things and lead us in His will.
Secondly, I ask you to consider God’s calling in your life. What has God called you to do by way of service to the body of Christ, the Church? The Bible tells us we are all a part of the body of Christ. And as each part works according to its purpose there is great harmony in the body, and God is glorified (Eph. 4:16; 1Cor. 12:12-26). Are you walking in loving obedience to His call on your life? If so, then praise the Lord, excel still more! If not, then may I politely ask, what is stopping you? Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it a lack of knowledge of His will? There could be any number of reasons why we haven’t headed the call of God in our lives. But may I encourage you, there may be reasons, but those reasons are not excuses. We must confront whatever it is that is stopping us, and we must take it to God in repentance. If fear, then turn to Christ and pray for faith. If laziness, then turn to Christ and pray for a renewed heart. If there is a lack of knowledge, then turn to Christ and pray for diligence to read and learn His Word. That is how we discern His will. If finding abundant and eternal life comes only from abiding in Christ, then we must put aside anything that stops us from following Him and His call in our lives.
Lastly, may I exhort us all; If we know what it is that we are to do and do not do it, we are sinning (James 4:17). So if you know what God wants you to do, be encouraged! You can do all things that God has called you to do! So today, make no more excuses and take just one step of faithfulness toward the Lord. He will lead the rest of the way. All you have to do is keep stepping.
Dear Church Family,
All Scripture is God breathed and profitable, but you've got to love passages where God gets right down to business and tells us what we need to do and why. And when it comes to knowing what God wants me to do and why, I can always count on the Apostle Paul to tell it like it is. The book of Ephesians is full of practical instruction for the individual believer and for the church, but today I want to look briefly at the end of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5.
Paul instructs the church in Ephesus, "Let ALL bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with ALL malice." (Eph. 4:31, emphasis added). Sadly, in too many churches these words go unheeded, but that is not what I want to focus on today. These sins of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice are a fast growing and aggressive cancer to both the soul and the body of Christ. These sins have no place in the family of God. Instead, Paul charges us, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:32). Instead of taking offense, we are to be kind and tender hearted. And rather than allowing the root of bitterness to grow within our hearts we are to freely offer forgiveness, especially with the body of Christ.
Now, I know you may be thinking, "I can't forgive that person, you don't know what they have put me through". And you are probably right. It may very well be that I do not understand and cannot empathize with the pain that you have experienced at the hands of another person. The fact of the matter is, only on occasion have I ever truly been hurt by someone, and even then, it has rarely been that person's intention to cause me harm. Rarer still has that person been someone who was close to me, whom I loved and trusted. I don't pretend to understand the agony that you have felt, and I would not dare hold myself up as an example and say, "If I can forgive then so can you."
But I am not the standard by which you are to forgive, Christ is. And while I may not be able to empathize with your suffering, Christ can. And what we need to understand is that God has already forgiven us of infinitely greater trespasses than we could ever suffer and then be called upon to forgive. That is why Paul holds up the Thrice Holy God as our standard of forgiveness when he says, "as God in Christ forgave you." And he drives the point home in the next verses when he says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph 5:1-2, emphasis added).
I do not appeal to you today as someone who has forgiven much, but as someone who has been forgiven much. I do not know what it means to forgive someone who has committed an unspeakable sin against me. I do know (in part) what it means to have been forgiven by an infinitely holy God, although I will not fully understand until I see His face. And the fact of the matter is that the one who has forgiven us has commanded us to forgive as we have been forgiven. I like to think of it this way. To be forgiven is to breathe in the life giving air of the gospel, and to forgive is to breathe the gospel back out again.