ARM Blog

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I have never been able to work well with my hands.  I was always the “go for” Dad.  I learned some things along the way, but I’ve never really been a handyman type.  Now, I did take on some projects, but most of the time I let someone who knows the use of their gifts to do the work.  I even had one church Trustee say that I should never have power tools in my hands.  They saw me at work with a chain saw.

God made people different.  He gives us what we need to do the work/ministry that He wants us to be a part of.  I may not be able to nail every nail straight, but I can play a tune on the piano sometimes.  God made us different so we could get all the ministry done that He sees that needs to be done.  We all have different “tool belts” we work with.  We just do what we know to do, and do our best.  It’s always how we minister effectively.

When you read I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the differences.  Paul stated there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service, different kinds of working, but the same God, the same Spirit.  So, we don’t all have to be works of healing or share words of prophecy.  We exercise the gifts manifested in us by the Holy Spirit.  What a wonderful release!  We are not all the same.  We can be different.

I know you already know this.  As the ARM Family, you all work in different ways in your home church, at an ARM event and as you serve on the Board and Council.  We need everyone to know their gift(s), and to be active in the use of them in ministry.  You do this so well.  When I attend the Aldersgate Conference, I observe the variety of gifts people have and how they are using them in ministry.  All of you are doing different things the ministry needs – all provided through the Holy Spirit.  ARM is blessed to have such a cadre of people.

Some people might say, “I wish I had this gift or that gift,” but God knows what He needs you to do.  There may be moments when you have another gift for a time.  God knows what He needs you to do.  Paul spoke to this, too, in the latter part of I Corinthians 12.  All the body parts are essential for the body to work properly.  One part can’t say it is better than the other and no part can work on its own.  Our body needs all its parts to function as they should in order for us to go about our lives.  It is the same with our giftedness.  We come together to do ministry and we use the gifts we have to accomplish what God desires – ministry… working like the body to complete our tasks.

What’s in your “tool belt?”  It may be a little different from mine, but we need all the tools in our ministry.

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Are you a worrier?  Do you often take time to think about “what might happen?” or “what if this happens?”  Many people take time every day to worry about something.     Parents worry about children.  Children worry about their future plans.  Many people worry about money.  Worry seems to be part of the American lifestyle.

But, we are told not to worry because it will not add one moment to our time.  We read this in Matthew’s gospel (6:25-34).  Worrying over food and clothing is not what our focus should be.  God takes care of even the smallest bird and the lilies of the field.  What can we do to add to God’s plan?

You see, in God’s plan, He is in control.  He doesn’t ask for our opinions or our thoughts.  He doesn’t ask for our suggestions.  He doesn’t need our input.  God has a plan, a purpose and He puts it into effect.  Even the birds do not have to worry about their food, nor do the lilies of the field have to care for how they will look.  God has a plan, a purpose for them and He will carry it out.                                                                                        

I had a friend give me a book once and told me to read it carefully.  It was at the beginning of my full-time ministry.  The title of the book is – Hope for the Flowers

It’s the story of two caterpillars – Stripe and Yellow.  Stripe sets out to find meaning in life.  One day he found a caterpillar pillar.  Stripe wanted to see what was at the top of the pillar. He was more worried about what was at the top of the caterpillar pillar than what he was supposed to do.  He was supposed to become a butterfly, not climb the pillar.  Ever been there…worried about something God has already taken care of?

The book is a simple read, but it has a strong message – do and become what God planned. 

How does Matthew end this passage – “…your heavenly Father knows you need these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

Instead of worrying so much, maybe our focus should be to make sure we are doing and becoming who God intended us to be.  If we believe God has plans for us, has given each of us a purpose, and he will help us through every situation, then have faith, God will see us through! 

As we remain in our faith journeys, God will give direction through the Holy Spirit.  When something arises that attempts to draw our focus away and we begin to worry about other things, the Holy Spirit will keep us on course.  If we wander, the Holy Spirit will be there to bring us back, if we listen. 

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I was in gym class and track was the business of the day.  Everyone had to run the 440 for their grade – twice around the track.  Some guys did this with ease while others struggled to complete the run.  The gym teacher was one of the football coaches, but he did have mercy.  I am reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians (3:13) – “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Pressing on is what we do in our spiritual journeys.  Rather than give into the world or the enemy’s schemes, we press on.

It would be so easy to give in.  Some of us who finished the run would go back to encourage others to press on though it did not look like they could.  Even the coach went over to talk with a few of the guys.  Pressing on takes strength – more than we have in ourselves.  It is the strength God gives us all through our journeys.  Pressing on takes time and sometimes we need encouragement from others.  We have all hit the wall in our journeys when we didn’t think we could go on.  But God was there to minister to us and give us what we needed to continue.  For a runner, to press on takes an inner strength they have tapped into before.

Do you remember the Barcelona Olympics in 1992?  It was in one of the races in which a young man, Derek Redmond who had to forego the Olympics in 1988 because of an Achilles tendon injury just 10 minutes before his race.  He began the 400m race well, but just 175m from finishing his heat, Derrek hears a pop.  He fell to the track, grimacing and holding his right leg – a torn hamstring.  Derek gets up and tries as best he can, but each step is more painful than the last.  He continues hobbling toward the finish line.  The crowd rises to cheer him on.  Then, something unexpected happens – Derek’s father runs down the steps from his seat, jumps the wall to get on the track, gets past security and races to his son’s side.  With his arms draped over his father’s shoulder, Derek makes it to the finish line.  His father releases him so he finishes the race on his own, but the father comes back to hold him up.   

Everyone in the stadium is cheering and applauding as Derek raises his hands.  No one left the stadium that day untouched by the inner strength of this young man, but also the great love of his father to help him finish. Pressing on…                                                                                               

This could be the picture of all us on our journeys.  We have been broken, injured, hurt and in despair, but our heavenly Father comes running to us to help us finish our race.  More than once have we known this to happen…  More than once have we needed our Father’s help…  And every time, God has been there with healing salve, binding wounds, holding us up, and giving us strength…and we press on!

 

Paul encourages the Christians at Ephesus – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loves us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Who was the first person to say to you, “I love you”?  For most of us it was one of our parents.  And, in our spiritual lives it was our heavenly Father.  Throughout the Scriptures God tells His people – and other readers – He loves them.  Jeremiah 31:3 – “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  And of course, Jesus, the love gift God gave to everyone.  John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  

Loving God’s way may mean we change the way we love.  We cannot put up barriers to our love.  God’s love – agape love – is unconditional.  So, we put down those barriers which keep us from loving –fear, selfishness, judging, and previous situations in life; and, we begin to love in the example of Jesus.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  How does Jesus love us?  Through the eyes of grace, with a heart of compassion, and unlimited availability is what I observe in Scripture.

Loving God’s way opens new doors of opportunity to share His word.  One author said, “We should wear love as the ‘bumper sticker’ of our faith.”  When love is witnessed first, sharing God’s word with someone becomes easier. “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  People who do not know God notice compassion and love being shared.

This children’s song reminds all of us about the way God loves… “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so”. (UMH p. 191)

Let’s declare God’s love to everyone.  Let’s try to love the way God does.  Let’s watch for circumstances where we can show God’s love.  Let’s love one another and confirm we are disciples of our loving Lord, Jesus Christ.

Can you believe it is 2016 already?  I think I’m still in October…  but, time moves on and we are beginning a new year, a new adventure in our spiritual journey.  Have you been hearing?  Have you been listening?  What is God prompting in you for the New Year? 

You know, many people are going to do many things as we begin this New Year.  Some will be serious, most will be frivolous.  Most will not amount to much because they are not God-centered.  Are you aware of what God is doing and saying to you?  Are you listening?  I was once a part of a children’s summer camp.  The theme of the camp was “Listen to the Voice of God.”  They had a theme song:

Listen to the voice of God. Listen to the voice of God.
It’s around you, it’s in you.  Listen, listen.
He’s calling your name.

Children listening to the voice of God is not a novel idea.  In the Scriptures we are all called to listen to what God is speaking into our lives.  God calls us by our name.

Isaiah 43:1b – “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine.”

In this New Year there may be challenges in your life.  There may be times of growth where you are taking new ground in your journey.  What is God speaking into you?  Are you prepared to respond?  Remember the response of Samuel when he heard the voice of God the third time – “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:10).  The essence here is the same – God calls Samuel by name.  When we come to the New Testament, the opening scenes of Luke are of God speaking to Zechariah (Luke 1:13) and Mary (Luke 1:30), calling them by name.  And in Acts Jesus calls Saul by name (4:4) and He speaks into his life.  Have you heard God calling your name?

As you begin this New Year, will you join with me and the staff of ARM and listen to hear God’s voice and what He is speaking into us and prompting us to do in this year?  I pray you will.  Our response can be like Samuel’s – “Speak, Lord, your servants are listening.”

May God bless you richly in this New Year!