Category Archives: Good Works

Planting Seeds

Note to Reader: A link to a video is provided below.  It is a tribute to someone who has exemplified a life of planting seeds, as discussed in this article.

Blog_ThumbnailBoom! There are times when we can see the impact of our actions instantly. I remember watching a friendly game of washers turn into a goofy and out of control game of basketball washers, where they were trying to block each other’s attempt to get the washer in the box. The problem with this was that there were cars nearby, and one of the washers went through the rear window of my car, shattering the glass all over the back seat. Not a fan of that version of the game.

There are other times when we don’t see the impact of our actions for a long time. Maybe we never see any during our lifetime. However, every action that we take, or don’t take, has an outcome, whether for the good or the bad. Again, some actions or events can have instant, large impacts. Other actions may result in small or even unseen impacts. A small, simple effort may not seem to have any effect initially, but, years later, could influence numerous people and events. In fact, these may end up having more long-term, lasting influence then events that seem to have immediate, blockbuster impact.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:10-12

There are many things that could be said about this passage. One of major points relates to the prophecy of Scripture. The Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ. Their prophesies not only indicated what type of Messiah the people should expect, but it even provided details about when he would be coming. In other words, the people should not have been surprised by Jesus Christ when He came. It is one of the ways in which God shows the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God. I spoke on this last time, so I am not going to touch on it at this time. However, if you would like to study more on the topic of the reliability of Scripture, see the resources available from the 2015 EFCA Theology Conference which focused on The Doctrine of the Scriptures. This is excellent material from some leading evangelical scholars and teachers.

For today, I want to focus on one phrase in 1 Peter 1:12, where it says, “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you…” These prophets were writing what the Spirit had revealed to them. However, in addition to the actual prophecies of the coming Messiah, it was revealed to them that they were serving a people yet to be born. They were told that they were serving the people who would come to trust and follow Jesus Christ. Long after they were dead, the writings of the prophets would serve the followers of Christ. Therefore, their faithfulness to listen and respond to God, served those who lived hundreds and even thousands of years in the future. And this includes those of us today who follow Jesus Christ.

What immediate results did the prophets see when they proclaimed the message given to them by God? Stephen, right before he was stoned to death, provides the answer. “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:52-53). The primary result the prophets saw from their faithfulness was persecution and death. And yet, the prophecies they recorded would serve God’s followers for years to come.

So, how does this apply to us? When we follow Christ, we are called to live our lives to give glory to God, faithfully serving through the opportunities that He gives us. Sometimes, we see the results of our efforts. Other times, we don’t see any positive results. If fact, there are times when it seems like the opposite. We give ourselves in service to God and others, and we receive criticism and opposition in return. Or, the recipients of our gift of service actually turn away and go the opposite direction, walking away from God. This can be confusing and even heartbreaking. So, how do we respond?

Be faithful and keep planting seeds. Whatever God has called you to do, continue to do it faithfully. Whether you are a pastor, executive, laborer, housewife, teacher, service provider, or whatever you do, continue to serve and take the opportunities that God gives you to plant seeds along the way. God does not call us to produce results. He calls us to faithfulness. That is a weird message for modern America. We can get instant anything.  We want instant everything. God does not operate on our culture’s standards. We should be thankful for this.

Be humble. Some “Christians” receive opposition and criticism simply because they are jerks. I wanted to use a stronger word, but that would probably get me in trouble. It is true that the true message of Christ will be offensive to many. However, that does not mean that we have the right to idiotic behavior that would be offensive regardless of what we were presenting. In Scripture, God continually calls us to humility and to have a servant’s mindset. Do the work God called you to do with humility and compassion as you seek to plant seeds of the Gospel. We need to leave pride and arrogance at the cross, where they need to die.

Trust God with the results. As I said, God calls us to be faithful. He is the One Who produces the fruit from the work that He does in and through us. God may allow you to see the fruit of some of your efforts. For other things, you may never see the results in this lifetime. A faithful act performed today may result in someone’s life being changed hundreds or thousands of years from now. You may plant a seed through your service that leads to impact several generations from now. Trust God, He knows what He is doing. He will be faithful to complete the work He is doing in us for today and for generations to come, until Christ returns.

The video I have linked below dates back 27 years ago, to April 22, 1988. The quality of the video is not great. It is probably a copy of a copy of a copy of an old VHS tape. I don’t share it in order to show what a great performer I am, because the performance is not that great. I don’t share it to show how high my vocal range used to be, how much thinner I used to be, or how much more hair I had then. I share it to illustrate a point. This event was held in a large auditorium in Kansas City. However, there were not many people in attendance, even though we had advertised the event through radio and other avenues. Several music groups performed and a pastor friend of mine provided the message. I remember the event date because it was his birthday.

I was on the stage that night because God had used him as a faithful witness in my life. It was this man who first encouraged me in leading worship, even though I always thought that he was far better at it and more gifted than me. For almost five years, this man had been my friend and planted seeds in my life, encouraging me to seek God. This was during time of great time of struggle with doubt and confusion regarding my faith. It was a dark time spiritually. I was lost and floundering. And yet, there I was, five years later, on that stage, back on the road of faith in God and His Word, and giving praise to God.

I can’t point to any one thing that turned things around, but there was finally a point where things clicked, and I came to a decision that, though I did not understand everything, I was going to put my full trust in the Lord. It has not always been a smooth journey. There have been ups and downs. But I can say that I am where I am today because God used a faithful man, planting seeds, to serve the needs of others. To serve me. I am forever thankful for his friendship and his faithfulness.

So, keep living faithfully for the Lord and planting seeds because God will use you to serve the lives of others, even long after you have gone to be with Him.

Together for His glory…

The Invitation to the Life of Worship

I can remember when my boys were younger, I would be working on a task or job and they would sometimes come along with me. On some of those occasions, they would want to help out. Now, depending on their age, the amount that they were able to do was limited. However, I enjoyed spending time with them and wanted them to feel like they were helping out. So, if we were moving a table or something like that, they would help carry it. However, I would position myself towards the middle of the table, so that I was carrying the majority of the weight while they helped and “carried” their end of the table.

In many ways, I think this provides a good picture of living the life of worship. In Matthew 11:25-30, Jesus offers us an invitation. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It is the invitation to come and follow Him and to live a life of worship. But it is unlike any invitation offered by the world and by other religions.

The wisdom of God is revealed to the child at heart. In Matthew 11:25-26, Jesus says that the Father has hidden things from those who think they are wise and important and He has revealed them to little children. In another passage, Jesus says that unless we become like a child, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-4). I believe this says that God reveals Himself to those who know that they need Him. To those who are self-sufficient and confident in themselves, God hides His wisdom from them. God wisdom is provided for those that come as a child.

Religion is a heavy load to bear. Jesus does not offer us religion. Jesus does not invite us to come and prove ourselves to Him. But for most who are involved in religious activities, it is a labor of proving their worth or earning the favor of whatever god or system they are following. Even many people who call themselves Christians live their lives this way. It is often perpetuated by leaders and organizations who pile up burdens on people, telling them that they have to live a certain way to earn God’s favor and get into heaven. They create their own systems of righteousness that have nothing to do with God’s Word. This is what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did, and this was the load that the people were trying to carry in order to please God.

Jesus offers rest for the weary. Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets, not to abolish them (Matthew 5:17-18). But the burden that was being piled on the people was beyond the Law of God. It was a system of manmade rules and laws. Jesus is offering freedom from that heavy burden. He is saying to take His yoke and follow Him. It is a simple call to follow Jesus and live a life of commitment to Him. It is about loving God with all that we are, and allowing Him to work in us to change us and transform us to be more like Christ. We don’t have to prove anything. In fact, we can’t. We just have to follow. This is the yoke of Jesus.

Jesus carries the load. The reason His burden is light is because Jesus has born the full weight of God’s requirement Himself. He has lived up to the standard of holiness required of us. He has taken upon Himself the full penalty of the wrath of God against our sins, failings, and the consequences of sin in this fallen world. Jesus has paid the complete price so that we can receive His righteousness and be declared holy before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the gift of God for all who will receive it and for all who will give themselves to Jesus.

This does not mean that the road will be easy. There are going to be many trials and challenges along the way. As in the story I shared at the beginning, when my boys would help carry that table, they were working hard, huffing and puffing as they worked. They would be tired afterwards and would occasionally get a pinched finger or scraped knee. But I was always there to meet their needs and they were actually carrying very little of the actual burden during the work. I was carrying most of the load, but they had fun “helping Dad.”

The life of worship is the invitation to come and follow Jesus and to delight in Him. Life can be hard. It can be really hard. But we can have joy in Christ, as we delight in Him and in doing His will. And we can be confident that, as we walk with Him, He has put Himself in the middle of the table and has carried the heavy load.

Together for His glory…

It’s Not About Us

One of the things that I love about the Bible is that it contains the stories of real people. By real people, I don’t mean that they really existed (which is still true, despite what some say). What I mean by real is that their stories are not sugar-coated. Their lives are described with all of their flaws, failings, disappointments, and tragedies. Even the heroes of the Bible, except One, are flawed.

As I have studied the Bible and observed church history, I have noticed an interesting thing about the human race. We are intent on making ourselves the center of attention. Look at the religions of the world. All of them are about what we have to do in order to earn the favor of some god, earn our way into heaven, or earn a better status in the next life. It is about adhering to rituals and rules and tipping the balance in favor of our good works. We operate under the premise that it is up to us to make sure that it happens.

In the Bible, God provides us with continual examples of people who lived their lives based on this same misunderstanding. Yes, God desires obedience from His people. However, He desires that this obedience flow out of a trust and love for Him. As we seek Him, He works in us and through us to produce good works and He transforms our lives by His Word and the work of His Spirit (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:20-21; Philippians 2:13).

We need to remember that we will never be made righteous by any effort of our own.  This is produced through the power of God through faith Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26). There is no place for boasting or holding up our own good works before God (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). The Pharisees tried to demonstrate their own righteousness amongst the Jewish people. They went to great lengths to observe the minutest detail of laws and rituals. Yet, Jesus called them white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28). On the outside, they appeared righteous, but Jesus said that on the inside they were full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

God is never fooled. He sees through everything we say or do and straight into our hearts. He knows the thoughts we think and the words we will say before we even say them (Psalm 139:1-12). Therefore, why do we, as human beings, consistently try to fool God or earn His favor? In the end, I think it is the sin of pride. It is based on the premise that we are good enough on our own. We don’t need God’s help. We will do it our way. We are the center of the universe and can manage our own lives, thank you.

Time after time in Scripture, people made the same mistakes. Even devoted followers of Christ made these mistakes. That’s why I love the Bible. Because there is hope for me. How many times in the New Testament do we see Jesus correcting His disciples? How many rebukes and challenges are contained within the letters of the apostles? Even the apostles themselves had to be corrected. No one was exempt. We all fail. At times, we all think more highly of ourselves than we should. We cease to pursue Christ out of love and devotion, and default back to going through the motions, performing ritualistic activities, and looking good on the outside.

We work so hard. And yet, Jesus said to come to Him for what? Rest (Matthew 11:28-30). What do we need to rest from? We need to rest from laboring under the burden of trying to prove our worth to God. We need to rest from the burden of earning something from God that we could never earn. God has already demonstrated that He loves us beyond our ability to comprehend. He sent Jesus Christ to pay the most horrible debt and penalty imaginable because He valued and loved us (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1).

God’s standard is too high. His holiness requires holiness from all who come to Him. Perfection. And in His marvelous grace, He bestows perfection on us through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He gives us what we could never obtain on our own, as a free gift to all who will call on the name of Christ. God opposes the proud. He does not help those who help themselves. But for those who humble themselves before God, He will raise them up, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:5-7).

It is not about us. It was never about us. Before the absolute perfection of God, what could we offer? Yet, He does ask us to offer Him something. Ourselves. And as we give Him our lives and receive the gift of His forgiveness through Jesus Christ, God transforms our lives from the inside out. It may not always be pretty. We might not always get it right. But you know what? Neither did those who loved and followed Him in the Bible. This gives us hope. This spurs us on to continue in the race to which we have been called to run (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1-2). We run the race because the hope of glory awaits us at the finish line. Then, our eyes will behold the very One Who longed for us to know Him. Because only in Him, will we find our greatest joy.

Together for His glory…

The Resume of Jesus

“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).

I was recently asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone who was applying for a job. This person is gifted and hard-working, so it should not be that difficult of a task. But as I thought about it, my mind turned in another direction. What if I was required to have a letter of recommendation to present to God? What would I want it to say? What could I have it say that would have any impact on God?

God is holy and His standard is perfection. In Scripture, the standard response to being in the presence of God was one of being overwhelmed. The prophet Isaiah, when seeing a vision of the Lord, cried “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). Not only is God holy, but He calls His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). This is a very high standard, and it is one that we cannot accomplish on our own.

We have no qualifications to stand before God. The Lord has made it clear that no one, in their own righteousness or goodness, can stand before God.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even the good things that we attempt to do are tainted by our sinfulness in this fallen world. Our own righteous acts are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6-7). Scripture makes it clear that none of us can present ourselves before God based on our own merits. There is no negotiating and no balancing act of presenting our good works to God and hoping they outweigh our failings. God’s standard is perfection – 100% holiness. This is an impossible task. However, nothing is impossible for God.

We stand before God based on the worth and works of Christ alone. On our own, we have no hope of satisfying the requirements of God. However, by receiving the gift of God and trusting in Christ alone for our salvation, we enter into God’s presence as heirs together with Christ (Titus 3:3-7). This is grounded in the grace and mercy of our God, having absolutely nothing to do with our own goodness and good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, we have absolutely nothing to boast in except the greatness and glory of our God, Who is compassionate to those who do not deserve it. And as unbelievable as it sounds, we are commended by God (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). As we stand before God, He looks upon and commends us a righteous. In a sense, when we hand God our resume folder, He opens it and sees the resume of Jesus Christ. Our resume, with all of it weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings, has been run through the shredder and it is no more. If we are in Christ, God applies the work of Christ over our lives, and we stand before Him in Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus has made us His own possession, so we press on toward the goal. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14). We have been declared righteous by receiving the sacrifice of Christ, but our perfection is not fully realized. So, we press on until that final day. Why? Because Christ has made us His own! Did you catch that? We are His own! And because we are His, we can press on in pursuit of Christ and our glorious future, forgetting the sins and failures of the past. We can leave behind our failed attempts at pleasing God on our own, and run the race in confidence, knowing that our position in Christ is secure. We have this hope and assurance based on the eternal character of our Father and the work accomplished through Jesus Christ.

So, as the apostle Peter declared in 2 Peter 1:1, we stand in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a letter of recommendation without parallel. It is a resume written in the holy blood of Jesus Christ. It has been presented on our behalf. We have been sealed in the righteousness of Christ. So, let us run the race that is before us, pursuing the joy that is found only in Christ.

Together for His glory…