One thing at a time

Read: Numbers 7, Mark 4:21-41

It’s winter where I live. Usually, living on the southwest coast of Canada, we don’t get much for winter but buckets of rain. Today, the temperature is below freezing and there is a thin layer of crunchy snow on the ground. Though some bulbs have managed to push their shoots through the cold ground, no seeds will be planted for months yet.

Many of us Christians, myself included, act as though we are in a perpetual spiritual winter. We withhold the seed in our hands claiming the soil isn’t ready. Or maybe it is, but we either don’t know how or just plain refuse to scatter it.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.”

Mark 4:26 (NIV)

Who is the man in this story? I am. You are. What is the seed? The Word of God. What are we supposed to do with the seed? Scatter it. Then what?

Mark 4-27.jpg

Too many of us hold on to our seeds unsure of what we’re supposed to do once we scatter. Sometimes it’s nothing at all. But what if it doesn’t grow? What if it does?

When you go out and plant seeds in the soil, aside from a bit of water, there is very little you can do to ensure your plant comes up. You can’t dig down and check on it. You have to wait and trust that the seed you planted was a good seed and that it will sprout at the right time.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NIV)

You have a seed to plant. We all have seeds that can be planted. And we all have water to help those seeds to grow. And still, we all have the tools to harvest those plants once they’re mature. It is rare that one person will plant, water, and harvest the same seed.

The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:8-9 (NIV)

Instead of worrying about a whole field, focus on one thing at a time. Plant the seed that’s in your hand right now. Share the Word of God. Keep planting. You may find you encounter someone who’s already received a seed. Water it. Keep sharing the Word of God. Keep watering. You may come across a person who’s received a seed and had it watered. That’s your harvest. Keep harvesting.

This is not just the job of pastors and teachers and church leaders. It’s your job. Ephesians 4:12 says that all of those people were given to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we reach unity in the faith. We are all to do works of service.

One person doing their work may be able to change their circle of influence. But if we all do our work—just one thing at a time, we will change the world.

More important

Every Sunday before church starts, we encourage our volunteers to join in corporate prayer. I sometimes feel like a broken record calling people to stop what they’re doing and come and pray. I’d rather our hearts and spirits be joined together in prayer than have every technical aspect of the service perfect.

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Hosea 6:3 (NLT)

Oh, that we might know the Lord! Is there any better or more significant that we can strive toward in this life? Is there anything more important than knowing the very One who created us?

Anyone who has spent a long time serving in church may find themselves in a circle of service. Your spiritual life may be lacking and yet you try to convince yourself that what you do in the church makes up for it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. We must all find a balance between service and relationship. I believe we all need both. But service without the relationship is empty.

I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

More important than our offerings is knowing God. And not just knowing about Him. Truly knowing Him. Understanding His love and grace. Passionately pursuing Him. Serving is an important part of our Christian walk. But it is more important to know Him whom we serve.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 5-8, Revelation 1

No perfect people

On the marquis on the front of my church, you’ll find the words No Perfect People. It is an open invitation to the lost and broken in our community that they can find a place in a church that will not judge them. Over and over again, we’ve heard of people coming in our doors because of those words. Then they came back because they held true. None of us are perfect, so how can we judge anyone else’s imperfections?

One Palm Sunday, I was invited with a group I sang with to sing the mass at the local Catholic church. I jumped at the opportunity. I enjoy learning about how other Christians express their faith. After the service, I made a comment to one of the parishioners about how our church services could be so different, yet we still worshipped the same God. The felt response I received was one of scorn; how dare I compare my contemporary church service to the sacred mass?

I think that, in our own church circles, denominations, traditions, we often forget that we are not the only Christians around. There are millions of Christians in churches all around the world who celebrate their salvation in different ways.

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people, He is the man Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 2:5 (NLT)

I may not agree with everything the Catholic church does, but I can see merit in much of it. I have a great appreciation for the respect and honour given in the church. Personally, I like the open atmosphere in the church I attend, but that doesn’t make me right and them wrong. It simply makes us different.

So whether you prefer mass, a traditional hymn service, or a contemporary service with fog and a light show, remember that there are no perfect people. We all serve the same God in the way that suits us best. So long as we are obedient to the Word of God, no one is wrong and yet no one is perfect. And, in our imperfection, we have all at some point in our lives, approached the single, perfect throne of grace to be accepted by the one true God.

No matter what church tradition you find yourself a part of, we are all still a part of the same body. The Church. Where there are no perfect people, but there is perfect grace.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 7-8, 1 Timothy 2

The good portion

I have served in the church for as long as I can remember. From the time I was strong enough to push a dry mop, I was put to work. When the doors of the church were open, I was there with my family doing what needed to be done. I still do what I can. There are those who believe me to be employed full-time by the church. I’m just a volunteer.

But in all my volunteering and service, I still need to be careful. Though I’ll never tell anyone that service in the church is a bad thing, it can become so if that’s all we do.

In my years in the church I’ve seen people who equate service with holiness. They work and work and work and when Sunday morning rolls around, they’re still working. While the church requires servants for nearly every aspect of the ministry, if we never take the time to stop working and just listen the the Word of God, we put ourselves in a very dangerous place. A place where works become our salvation and words become a distraction from the work.

But Martha was distracted by much service, And she went up to him and said, “lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:40-42 (ESV)

If all you’ve ever done is serve, but haven’t hidden God’s Word in your heart, what will you be when the service is gone? Service can be taken away in many ways, whether it be due to health issues, a new church, or a change in leadership. But once God’s Word is in you, it can’t be taken away.

I am not telling you to stop serving. Please serve in your local church! The church needs people willing to sacrifice and serve. But the local church also needs people saturated in the word. Without the Word, we can’t even call ourselves the church. And if we are no longer the church, why should we bother with service?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 18-19; Luke 10:25-42

Serve

I give your priesthood as a gift.

Numbers 18:7b (ESV)

Do you view your service to God as a trial or a gift? Do you serve because you have to or because you get to?

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:5b-6 (NKJV)

In the Old Testament, much was expected of the priesthood. The processes and procedures outlined in Leviticus and Numbers seem endless. To most, this would seem a great inconvenience compared to the rest of the tribes of Israel who were left to live according to the law without having to worry near as much about it as the Levites.

But, like God set apart Israel as a chosen nation, He set apart the Levites as a chosen tribe. A priesthood. A gift of service to Aaron.

As we approach our churches on Sundays – and many throughout the week – do we look at our service as work or a gift? Our attitudes about what we do and why we do it will go far when it comes to our effectiveness in ministry no matter what area(s) we serve in.

In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.

Colossians 3:23 (NCV)

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 18-20, Mark 7:1-13