Crises of Faith – 3

Today I want us to look at the state of the church in America.  We see its values being attacked on a daily basis and its effect on the American culture lessening continually.  Church attendance is shrinking and the message is becoming confused with false doctrine.  In short, we are steadily losing ground  

Churches are trying different strategies to try to turn the tide, but nothing seems to bring lasting results.  One of the cries is that the church is out of date and boring, so some churches are changing the format to include a different type of music and dress code to make people feel more comfortable.  The doctrines are being watered down and compromised.  Some churches are promoting the “prosperity gospel” that is measured by physical prosperity.  While it is true that the attendance does increase for a time and the excitement is there, it is also true that many of the traditional values are driven out of the church and when the emotions subside (and they will) and when the music style changes (and it will), then the same results of a diminishing core will certainly follow. 

The reason that these will be the results will follow is that they have not identified the real problem.  It is just as my father used to say, “you can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  Attendance and excitement are not what makes a church effective.  In reality, it is much easier to fill a church with people than it is to fill a heart with hope. 

There are several flaws in this type of approach to building a church.  First of all, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord.  It is not our church and therefore the ultimate responsibility is His and not ours.  He is the one who has the power to convict of sin, and He is the one who will draw the people to come.  The point is that He will fill the church in direct proportion to the room we make in our hearts for Him.  God is willing and able to turn the tide but His grace is frustrated by our refusal to surrender the control of our lives to Him.  As long as we cling to the controls of the church, we prevent God from working as He wants to and our faith is in our abilities instead of in Him. 

As I shared with you in my last blog, the object of our faith is the Lord.  Not in what He will do but simply in Him.  We need to trust His working and not our programs.  We need to trust His promises and not our ways.  Our faith must not be in our ability but in His ability to effect change in us first and then in our living in His ways.  Here is a glimpse of what that means:   new life comes from the death to the old life; gain comes from giving; greatness comes from serving; humility and compassion trumps power and authority and Love never fails.  When the lost world sees the life of Christ in the believer, then that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger of the heart.  No other plan of man will work to stabilize the church.  The problem is not in what we are doing but is in our failing to live by faith in Him.  Romans 14:3 states that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  That is why I say we are in a Crises of Faith.   We are religious but not righteous.  2Ti 3:5  Having a form of godliness but denying  the power thereof.

Worship

Think back to a recent worship experience.  Was it enjoyable?  Was it memorable?  How about life changing?  Sometimes we leave the service with an “oh hum” attitude that leaves us examining the value of the use of our time. 

Your response to the worship service is quite revealing and it is worth noting how you left the worship service.  The first thing you notice is was it a positive experience or did it leave you with something missing.  It may be the service but it could also be because of what is going on within you.  Before we go criticizing the church for failing to bring you into worship, we should at least consider that it may not be their fault.  Worship is personal between you and God and must begin with us.  Worship is possible in any situation when we are focused on Him, rather than on ourselves.

Now look at the focus of the worship.  To what did the service call your attention?   Did it focus on life in the here and now or in the sweet by and by?  Did it emphasis individuals or the Lord?  Sometimes it seems as though the leaders are saying, “Hey, look at me” rather than “Hey, look at Him.”  Was the main emphasis the church growth, a program, a performance, or was it one of what God is doing and how He is leading.  Oh, and be sure to check out your own expectations.  Were you looking to be entertained or were you looking for some direction or answer from God?

Thirdly, Look at the message, itself.  Did you take notes?  Even if you never look at them again, taking notes are beneficial for you to digest the message and to organize your thoughts.  Can you tell about the message in a word or sentence or two?  What was the message about?  Another very important point is was the interpretation in agreement with clear biblical doctrine.  The message should be directed by its text.  Preaching should break open the hidden things of the text and expose it to be examined by the listener.  Where did you thoughts travel?  Did your thoughts travel heavenward or were they anchored here in this world by circumstances or needs.   Were they led by the speaker or was you focus on things of this life and you never caught the concept of what is beyond this life only. 

Fourthly, consider your vision of life, were you left with the feeling of times are getting worse and worse, or did you leave with hope in the end that God has a plan and He is in control.  There are needs a plenty and difficulty is common to all but how does God fit into all of life.  What is the purpose of God in allowing us to go through all of this?  How can we have peace in the midst of all of this turmoil?

Finally, as you think back over this experience, were your expectations met?  This may sound strange to you at first, but I hope that they were not.  Many people leave a church because their “needs” were not  being met.  The criticism vary and may include such things as the sermon was too long, the choir is always off key, so and so has this problem, and so on.   This type of criticism is selfish and focuses only on self.  It lacks understanding of the others and the point of worship.  Worship is a corporate event and includes everyone.  Though it is true that God is concerned about your every need, it is also true that He is concerned about everyone’s individual needs.  We all need to be loved and valued.  True worship finds us as a part of God’s plan that includes everyone and excludes no one. 

So, as you consider your own worship experience, consider that worship requires and investment of yourselves, a discipline to bring self under His control, a vision beyond this life into the next, a faith in God and not in something temporal such as a man or church or a plan, and  a surrender to the will of God rather than just your will. My prayer for you is that your worship will become richer and fuller with each experience. Since worship is at least a part of our eternal existence, we should be practicing it now.

I cannot take credit for this insight as it was outlined by David Jeremiah with the following thoughts:

                It is not about us – it is about Him

                It is not about here (the physical) – it is about there (the eternal)

                It is not about what is seen – it is about what is unseen

                It is not about now – it is about then      

                It is not about one person – it is about many people

What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

I have listed a few of my favorite scriptures on believing as I will be discussing them and they are here for your reference.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

In our harried world of social networking, busy schedules, pressures, and hectic paces, we often try to simplify or reduce the topic to one main idea.  We have all heard the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  When it comes to studying the Bible, we often look for basic concepts or verses that go straight to the heart of the truth.  One verse that was eye opening to me was John 6:28-29 (The title of this article and verse 29 listed above).  I was a new Christian and I simply wanted to know what I should be doing.  I didn’t know a lot of verses or history and it was all new to me so I wanted to just be doing the right thing.  I wasn’t interested in denominations or traditions, just what the Bible said.  Verse 29 summed it up for me.

But then I asked the question, “What does it mean, to believe on Him?”  I had a generic idea that it meant to be in agreement and to do right things but what were those things that I was supposed to do?  Like so many other people, I thought that the Lord would be pleased with me if I did the right things.  My understanding was in the doing, but the verse said that it was in believing and not in the doing.  As I studied I learned that the word, believe and the word faith are the same word in the Greek.  That word is pistis and it is translated as believe in one place and faith in another.  This opened a whole new thought process to me.  The Lord is not looking for me to do great things but He is asking me to allow Him to do great things through me.  Now I am not working for God (as though I am earning His favor), but He is working on me, and consequently through me so that he can transform me into His likeness and image to prepare me for eternity.

I learned that to believe on Him is to trust and rely on Him to do the work.  It is His job to do the mighty works and it is my job to be in a position of faith, reliance and dependence on Him for the results.  Those results are limitless. There is nothing impossible that he will not do to those who are believing in Him.   This brings up the question, why then, do we not see this power working in and through our churches today?  I believe that He answered that in Matthew 17:19-20.  The disciples could not cast out the demon because of their “lack of faith”.  But it was not a shortage of faith, rather it was that their faith was not in Him.  This was also brought out with the father of the demon possessed son.  He began with the word “if”, as though to say I don’t know you well enough to trust you but I have no other one to turn to so please help.  I trust you to help my son, but I need you to first help me with my faith.  The barrier to our seeing God work is that we see him as a man, but he works when we see him as God.

This faith in Jesus is to see him as the God of Creation who can move mountains.  Even to the extent of using the likes of me to do greater works than those that He was doing.  Simply put, to do the impossible.  So how do you know Jesus?  Is He just a man?  Or even a prophet?  A might man of power?  Or is he very God who loves you and will spare no expense, and cross any barrier that we might know Him for who He is and know His resurrected power in this present evil time.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

My Tribute to Joel Bandy

This Saturday, at 2:00 PM we will be attending the memorial service for Joel Bandy who was translating my book into Russian. He passed away about three weeks ago. Apparently, he passed away shortly after we talked on Saturday night. He had just finished Chapter 6 and he said that he would send me a copy the next day. He never had another day to send me that chapter but his brother has his laptop and told me that he would be sure that I would get it.

Joel and I talked about my trip to China last year and he wondered if something would happen and I would wind up in prison or something and he would lose me as his friend. You need to understand that he had called me several times a week for over 25 years. We had come to understand each other quite well. I was one of the few friends that he had and I had become one of his closest friends, but more than that I was his counselor, pastor, and father figure.

Joel had many problems but faithfulness wasn’t one of them. I always tried to tell him the truth, even though it hurt at times. He had grown from an angry man to a patient and forgiving person. He struggled with his ministry to the Lord and would often try to guess what it was. He made many guesses but none of them ever went anywhere. He would often come back to translating Russian which is what he was doing before his mental illness took hold. One day I suggested that if he wanted to be used in translation then he should be active in translating. He said, I have no one who wants to hire me and I have no avenues to take. I said, then you should just start translating something so you would have it to show. We talked back and forth for a few minutes and each time we came to a wall where he would just stop. Then I said to him, Okay, then translate my book to which he replied that it was too big a project. So then I said that he should try just one chapter and again he said that was too much of a commitment. I finally suggested that he had to start somewhere so just do a sentence. After a bit he said that he would do a sentence.

When he called me back he had done a whole paragraph, even though it was a short one. We then went over it and he read it to me in Russian, and it was fine. Then he was willing to take on one more paragraph which turned out the same way. Then for the next two years he would call when he had completed a paragraph and we went over it until he had finished a whole chapter. Then it was two, then three and the last time we talked he had finished six chapters which was over half of the book. Why do I recount all the details. Because he was that detailed. He would search a word that didn’t say it exactly right until he found a way to say it that carried the same meaning that I had intended when I wrote the book. He took great pride in doing a great job.

He was that same way in his personal relationship with the Lord. It took him a long time to get the doctrine right but once he understood it he would stand as strong as any one could. I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord and I was often rewarded by his example. I have never know anyone who spent more time in prayer and the study of the Bible, than Joel. He was a very lonely individual but he would often say that the Lord was his comforter and he longed to be with the Lord. Not in a suicidal way but in an eternal way as he recognized the temporary nature of this life and the promise of the eternal life of the Lord.

Though we talked about death and how he would make it if his mother, brother or I would be gone, we never considered how we would continue without him. That now is where I sit and I rejoice in his victory. I know that he is not lonely any more and he is with the Lord.

It’s Just A Little sin.

My oldest son, who lives 10 minutes from me, is building a cover for his patio and has asked me to assist him as some of the beams are 6” x  12”  x 18’ to 23’ in length.  For the last two days we have been moving the beams as well as all the other lumber to the rear yard by hand.  Along with assorted scratches and bruises, I managed to get a splinter in one of my fingers.  This morning I noticed that it had become infected and swollen so the splinter had to come out.   It was one of those splinters that was blond and not easily seen so it was not apparent that there was a splinter but because of experience I knew that it was there.  There was all the evidence; pain, swelling, infection and a puss pocket.  After it was removed there was immediate relief.  The pain and soreness quickly subsided, the puss was removed and the redness began lessening. 

So why did I wait until this morning to remove the splinter?  I suppose that there is a number of reasons.  I was in the middle of a job that had to be completed within the time I had.  It took priority over the situation so I just put it off until a more convenient time.  Then there was the fact that it didn’t seem that bad at the time.  I have had lots of splinters and they have never caused a major problem so I didn’t feel that it was that urgent.  Also, I wasn’t certain that there really was a splinter because I couldn’t see it.  Then there was no urgency as the splinter and its repercussions were not yet evident.  But by this morning all of these reasons for procrastination were gone and in its place was the urgency to do something about it, simply put – get it out now.  It would not wait even long enough to write this post. 

It is funny how something as small and insignificant as a splinter can command such attention.  It is such a small portion of the beam that its loss does not affect the strength of the beam yet when it is pricked into the skin of a person it affects the strength of the person so much as to require immediate attention.  The reason is that it brings germs with it that begin to multiply and attack the body.  Infection is the bigger problem and is more devastating than the injury. 

So it was with man.  He was created without sin and was a giver by nature.  He was in step with God and His ways.  Harmony was the order of the day and all of creation was in harmony as well.  Plants did not have thorns and were not poisonous (with the exception of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), animals did not eat each other and everything supported the plan of God in perfect harmony.  So what happened?  You know the story of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They injected their will in the order and sin (like germs) began to effect man and all of creation until now,  Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  The order has been infected by sin and now instead of being a blessing, we seek to get a blessing.  We have become takers instead of givers. 

With the entrance of sin into the world comes the consequence of sin , DEATH.  (Romans 3:23)  Physical death is a certainty but eternal spiritual death is yet to be decided.  It can be averter but ONLY by the blood of Jesus our Lord. Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Just as the splinter demands its removal  for healing, so also our sin demands the blood of Christ, or there is no remission of sin.  There is no plan be or any other way.  You cannot earn it by your good works but it is offered free to those who will put their trust in Jesus as the Lord of their life.

Adversity

I did not write the following illustration but I felt that its message was worth passing on. I don’t know who the author is or when it was written but the message is timeless and the author undoubtedly knew the Lord an His ways.

____________________________

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. 
   
      Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying A word. 
 
 In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. 
 
 Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”  “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. 
 
 Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. 
 
 Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?” 
 
 Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. 

 “Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? 
 
 Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? 
 
 Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? 
 
 Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
 
 May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy. 
 
 The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches. 

The Greatest Miracle

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his  glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (KJV)

We see miracles every day but we don’t call them miracles.  The miracle of a new birth, the miracle of life itself, the miracle of our environment, healing, and a million other things that go together that we call life.  Somehow we have come to expect miracles to happen as though they were the natural order of things.  These events are not natural, but supernatural, and go beyond the scope of universal law.  They require the involvement of our creator’s intervention.  He who established the law has reserved for Himself, the right to supersede the law and go beyond it.  For example, natural law allows for a chemical reaction whenever wood is burned.  Also, the heat of the fire will cause a burning of the flesh.  However, in the third chapter of Daniel we have the story of three Hebrew children who were cast into a burning furnace that was heated 7 times what it was designed for, yet they were unharmed in any way.  We call that a miracle.

In the New Testament we read the story of Jesus performing a number of miracles.  He healed the sick, caused the blind to see, calmed the storm, walked on water and raised the dead.  Still, it was not enough to convince the Pharisees of who He is and they still asked for a sign.   Luke 11:29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  That was the sign that God would give, He would be resurrected 3 days after He had been crucified.  The miracles that Jesus did was not the focus intended.  God wanted mankind to know the God of the miracles, and not to just marvel at the miracle.

It was a tremendous thing that God (the Word) would be made flesh or simply become a man.  The incarnation is and incredible and wondrous miracle that defies our understanding, yet it enables us to know our Creator (and we beheld His glory).  Even greater than His arrival into this world was His purpose of delivering man from sin.    Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:  God never intended to abandoned man when he sinned but to deliver him from sin and its grip on him.  Not only did He die for man but in three days He was resurrected to destroy the power of sin and truly set us free.

Once delivered from sin it is then God’s purpose to transform him into His own children. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  That is a miracle the exceeds words to explain it.

So what was the greatest miracle; God becoming a man, Christs miracles that reveals God’s love for man, His death to pay for man’s sin, His resurrection, His ascension?  I don’t think it is any one of them, but rather all of them.  It is not his deeds, but rather, it is He, Himself.  It is not about what He did, it is about who He is.  That is the greatest miracle and it finds its expression in His love for me.

A Diamond In The Rough

The following is quoted from Wikepedia:

Carbon (from Latin: carbo “coal”) is a chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6.  It is nonmetallic and tetravalent-making for electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds.  It belongs to group 14 of the periodic table.  Carbon is one of the few elements known since antiquity.

Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen.  Carbon’s abundance, its unique diversity of organic compounds, and its unusual ability to form polymers at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth enables this element to serve as a common element of all known life.  It is the second most abundant element in the human body by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen.

The atoms of carbon can bond together in different ways, termed allotropes of carbon.  The best known are graphite, diamond and amorphous carbon.  The physical properties of carbon vary widely with the allotropic form.  For example, graphite is opaque and black while diamond is highly transparent.  Graphite is soft enough to form a streak on paper, while diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material known.  Grophite is a good electrical conductor whlile diamond has a low electrical conductivity.  Under normal conditions, diamond carbon nanotubes, and graphene have the highest therman conductivities of all known materials.  All carbon allotropes are solids under normal conditions, with graphite being the most thermodynamically stable form at standard temperature and pressure.  They are chemically resistant and require high temperature to react even with oxygen. 

Carbon forms a vast number of compounds, more than any other element,  with almost ten million compounds described to date, and yet that number is but a fraction of the number of theoretically possible compounds under standard conditions.  For this reason, carbon has often been referred to as the “king of the elements”.

To simplify the the above quote, the stuff to make diamonds with is the 15th most abundant element on Earth which is carbon. All it takes to make a diamond is the basic element, carbon, and a lot of heat and pressure. It does not take a lot of time either for diamonds have been made in literally a few hours, rather than the millions of years that is sometimes stated. And so it is that a diamond is made from the simplest and most common elements just as God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. 1Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;   All of us have the potential to become a jewel in the crown of God. All we need is the difficulty and pressures of this world to make us into a precious jewel for the Lord.

Just being a gem stone is not the same as being a cut stone that reflects the brilliance of the Light. It must be cut and polished in order for its beauty and glory to be seen. An uncut stone looks just like any other stone until it is cut. Only then are the beauty and dynamic of all that went into its creation, seen and radiate the Light from its creator. The glory is that of its Creator and not of the stone. Only He knows how much fire and how much pressure it takes to build all the faucets within to reflect the Light out for others to see the wonder of God’s working, for we are the workmanship of God.

Arrows in a Good Man’s Quiver

Psalms 127:3-5 Lo, children are a heritage of Jehovah; And the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, So are the children of youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: They shall not be put to shame, When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

The Holidays are nearly over and life will soon get back to normal. We have been blessed to have 4 of our 7 children and their families, home for Christmas. Our other three could not make it but we still had contact via phone. Family is so important to us and we have a great time whenever we can get together. Truely we are greatly blessed and our hearts are full. This scripture has come to mean a lot to us and is so true.

Did I say normal? What I mean is back to a routine. The thing is that all routines undergo constant change. The one thing that is certain is that change is constant. But change is not necessarily bad. The joy of seeing our children grow up and become responsible adults raising families of their own. Then there are the grandchildren and later, the great grandchildren.

What does it mean to grow up? That is, at what point are we grown up? Is it when our body reaches a certain point of development? Could it be when we reach a certain point of mental maturity? Or is it when we have become what God had in mind for us to be? I think it includes all of the above possibilities. The important thing is to remember that everyone is at a different stage in their development yet they are to be valued as though they had already reached maturity. For example, an embryo is a person in development, a small boy is to be considered as a man in development, a youth is an adult in development and a person is a child of God in development. The only thing that can become a person is an embryo, the only thing that can become a man is a small boy, the only thing that can become an adult is a teenager, and the only thing that can become a child of God is a person.

How far reaching is the understanding of family. No wonder that the happiness is his whose quiver is full of them.

Hammering It Out

Yesterday I was out splitting wood and broke the handle on my sledge hammer.  It wasn’t because I used it wrongly, but because I abused it for several years leaving it out exposed to the weather without any consideration to its preservation.  When I hit the wedge while splitting the wood it simply broke because the wood had deteriorated next to the steel head and it couldn’t take the shock of the force.  Today I spent several hours repairing it to the shape you see above.  It is now fully restored to usefulness.

So what is the lesson?  Simply this, the Lord has invested much into making us usable in his service and we should not take it for granted.  He invested everything to free us from our sin.  He called us when we were not completed nor perfected.  He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to guide us and to equip us for service, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He continues to forgive us our shortcomings and our sin.  He loves us when we are ugly and wrong.  He is our number one (#1) supporter and He is the author of every good and perfect gift we receive.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  He promises us victory as we follow Him by faith.

The list goes on but you get the idea.  Yet I hear the question asked sometimes, “Why doesn’t the Lord use me?”  The answer could be for the same reason that I couldn’t use my sledge hammer today.  Through neglect, I had allowed the weather to cause deterioration to the structure of the handle so that it was weakened and could not take the stress of the job that it was designed to do.  The shock was just too much and it broke under the shock.  It should have lasted many more years of good service but no provision for maintenance was made and deterioration set in.  It is the same way with our service.  It is one thing to be called into the Lord’s service but if there is no maintenance plan enacted to not only maintain but also to strengthen the tool (me) then deterioration will set in and then when the real test comes (and it most certainly will) then failure will be the result.

Let me suggest a few things that will be good to include in your maintenance plan.      1.  An ongoing study of the Scriptures.  It should be regular and often.  2.  Corporal fellowship and worship.  3.  Time alone with the Lord when the world is shut off so that you can focus on spiritual things and prayer.  4.  Ministry to others.  This  includes services, gifts, time, etc. that will meet their needs.  5.  Christian Disciplines (this in itself requires study and discipline).  In short, become the person that you would be proud to be.  You can in Christ.  This is your gift to Him.