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Ministry Encouragement

 

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“If you don’t learn to minister for an audience of One, you’re probably not going to last very long in ministry.”

“Serve, and even when you get to the point of seeing no fruit, still long to serve faithfully because your Master has called you to it and He is worthy.”

If I’m being honest, I must admit that I often fall into the trap of believing ministry is all about performance – what we accomplish, how much change takes place, and who notices it all.  Ministry becomes a destructive, self-centered cycle of trying to prove myself, trying to be well-liked, and trying to do something great (and clearly, at this point, true ministry has ceased to exist).

The above quotes were shared by CIU’s own Dr. Cooper in her Bible for Teachers class.  Reflecting on her words has encouraged me in three particular areas:

  • We minister to God by ministering to others – it’s first of all for Him.  This frees me from depending on the approval of others – they’re not my target audience.

  • The goal of ministry isn’t fruitfulness, it’s faithfulness.  This frees me from depending on measurable, external results to be successful.  Scripture makes it clear that if any fruit is ever produced at all, it’s because God did it, not me.

  • Ministry isn’t based on who I am, but on who God is.  This frees me from seeking to prove myself to others – the key issue is God’s worth and call on my life, not my talents or abilities.

The process of growth is life-long; I’ll never master all these things in this lifetime.  But I am thankful for the truth and the ability to remind myself of it time and time again.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.  (Romans 11:36)

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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No Exceptions

 

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One of the reasons I love Psalm 145 is because of David’s frequent use of the word “all.”  More than ten times in 21 verses, he makes sweeping statements about the scope of God’s love, power, strength, and faithfulness.

He is good to all and has compassion on all He has made.

He is faithful to all His promises.

He is righteous in all His ways.

Because of David’s “inspired love” of the word all, I can be assured that God will always be faithful to all of His promises.  I can have confidence that everything He does is righteous.  I can be certain of His compassion and love.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a relief for me to know that in an ever-changing world, there is something constant and guaranteed – no exceptions.

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Happy and Blessed

 

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The word “blessing” is thrown around a lot, especially in Christian circles.  We often equate it with material things (ex. – My new car is such a blessing), relationships (ex. – Knowing her is a blessing), or favorable circumstances (ex. – My roommate isn’t a morning person – what a blessing).  When we say things like that, the message is clear.  Our friends understand what we mean. 

But as I read scripture, it’s important for me to realize that “blessed” (or a variant) isn’t always being used by the writer the way I use the word today.  Often “blessed” could be translated as “happy” – an important thing to know in order to best understand the passage.  Look at what I read this morning:

Blessed [happy] is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed [happy] is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).

This isn’t a “Too Blessed To Be Stressed” bumper sticker message or a “You really blessed me with those Pretzel M&M’s” thank you note; this is the heart cry of a man whose sin the Lord does not remember.

More than changing the way I think about the word “blessed,” this really shakes up my understanding of what it means to be happy.  Suddenly “I’m so happy the sun is out” sounds a little bit wrong.  David defined his happiness in terms of the Lord’s finished work in his life rather than the changing world around him or his own fluctuating emotions.

If the first couple verses of Psalm 32 apply to you, you have something to be happy about – today and forever!

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Don't Forget to Remember

 

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I am amazed at how frequently I come across the word “remember” in the Bible.  Throughout Deuteronomy, which is where I’ve been reading recently, the Israelites are repeatedly exhorted to remember (or, conversely, to not forget) what God had done for them – the deliverance and provision which they had experienced.

Similarly, Peter warns his readers to be on the lookout for God to work in their lives through their knowledge of Jesus, lest they become “nearsighted and blind,” forgetting how God had cleansed them from sin (2 Peter 1:9).

Peter’s strong language indicates that a sort of spiritual blindness can develop over time if we forget God’s work in our lives.  Wandering too far from the cross, we so distance the miracle of salvation from our minds that we can no longer see straight.

When we forget to remember what God has done – how He has delivered us from sin and death – we become disillusioned and our entire perspective is skewed.

Let’s constantly rehearse the finished work of Christ so that we aren’t blinded to the reason we needed His grace in the first place.  Let’s not forget to remember.

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Small Words, Big Message

 

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I can’t get these words out of my head.  I keep coming back to them day after day.  I have to.  Where else will I turn as the world constantly threatens to shake my confidence in God?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me first set the stage.  King Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of Babylon.  Exercising his kingly authority, Nebuchadnezzar had a gigantic statue fashioned and erected in Babylon, commanding everyone to bow down and worship the image at the sound of conspicuous music.  Everyone had to bow down and worship immediately.  That was the rule and it was clear.  One last detail – failure to comply with the king’s command would result in death by fire.

Sounds like a situation I’m glad to have missed.  A couple Jewish boys who were actually pretty prominent in Babylon, however, were present and knew the rule.  When they refused to obey the king’s command since it would go against their allegiance to God, they were turned in.  Understandably furious, Nebuchadnezzar threatened them with the blazing furnace and mocked their God.

Their response?  “We don’t need to defend ourselves before you because we know God is able to save us from the fire and rescue us from your hand.”  Sounds good, but that's not all.  They continue with the words I can’t seem to forget: “But even if He does not, we will not serve your gods or worship your image.” 

The quote is ascribed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but I assume the three of them were not speaking in unison (but who knows!).  Maybe one of them was the spokesman.  Can you imagine standing beside him as he expresses confidence in God’s power?  You’re nodding in agreement until he utters those six words.  But even if He does not?  What are you saying?  He better save us!  We’re standing up to the king, here!

Six little words make a huge difference and demonstrate not only the boys’ faith in God’s power, but also their understanding of God’s character and sovereignty: God is able to save us, but our confidence in Him and obedience to Him are not based on whether or not He comes through like we believe He can (and maybe even think He should).

Let’s trust in God’s power to come through like we know He can; but even if He does not express His power like we think or hope He will, let’s not let allow our circumstances to shake our resolve to live in confident obedience.

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Christmas Music

 

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It’s that time of year. Thanksgiving is THIS Thursday and Christmas is exactly ONE MONTH from today! Which means Christmas music will be playing from just about every set of speakers in town. 

I find it interesting that, for a little over a month each year, almost every business and store has the same kind of music playing. 

Even more interesting is that the words of many traditional Christmas hymns are theologically rich. 

Perhaps most interesting is that non-Christians, even some of whom are opposed to the Christian message, are listening to (and maybe singing) lines like:

“O come, let us adore Him”

“Let earth receive her King”

“Haste, haste to bring Him laud”

“Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”

“Come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King”

I say keep the Christmas music playing and ask God to use it to make the life-changing message clear to non-believers, many of whom are just listening to festive tunes while driving home from work or stopping in the grocery store.

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Legacy

 

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“Five minutes!”  “Okay, I’ll be there in five minutes!”  This was the phone greeting I used for several years as I was the Starbucks source for my good friend, Dr. Terry Hulbert. We shared a love of good coffee and good conversation. Our times together wouldn’t end with a “Well, have a nice day.” I would ask him how he was doing and he would ask me about my exploits teaching theology, playing tennis with other old guys, and my heart for sharing the gospel with others.

He retired — became a “Professor Emeritus” — several years ago, and I miss our coffee times together. His office is mostly unoccupied, although he occasionally comes in for lunch at CIU’s cafeteria.

Yesterday I visited Dr. Hulbert at home, to take away most of his remaining library to sell or give away to students as he and Mrs. Hulbert are moving into an assisted living facility.

You have entered something very private, I think, when you are asked to go into a respected New Testament scholar and former missionary’s basement to cart away his lifetime collection of books.

Far more important than his library or his own publications is the impact he has had on thousands of student’s lives over the years. He has challenged them with the question, “What does the text say?” He has urged them to pursue a committed love for the Lord, to have a vision for this large, lost world, to be a man or woman of grace. And his life has impacted mine.

The question which looms large in my mind is this: What will be my legacy? What memories, what challenges, what intentional (albeit imperfect) examples will I leave behind that will inspire others to say, “My, didn’t he love the Lord and His Word?”

I’ve already begun to purge my personal library, to toss class notes I no longer need, in anticipation of someone else sorting through my stuff when I’m gone. I just hope they won’t forget the good things the Lord has done in my own life — and the promise held out to them that the same Lord can use them too.

Written by Dr. Larry Dixon Professor of Theology, Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Bearing Our Burdens

 

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19).

A burden, according to the dictionary, is “that which is carried” or “that which is borne with difficulty.”

The pressures of a hectic semester, deadlines for major projects, relationship struggles, and health problems are just a few examples of burdens carried by CIU students.

If you stop and think for a minute, you could probably come up with a substantial list of burdens that are currently weighing you (or people you know) down.  Stress and difficulties are a normal part of life on earth, but sometimes those worries become a considerably heavy load. 

But what an incredible comfort it is to know that we have a God who is both willing and able to bear our burdens on a daily basis.

He is strong enough to carry your burdens today. Will you let Him?

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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A Sense of Wonder

 

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“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

This verse of “How Great Thou Art” has always been my favorite. It is a beautiful summary of something I often lack in my relationship with the Lord.

“I scarce can take it in.” Those words have haunted me since the first time I actually stopped long enough to think about them while singing. The hymn writer was so moved by the reality of what God did in sending Jesus to be a sin offering for us (Romans 8:3) that he can’t even really let it sink in. It’s too good for him to understand. It’s so amazing that he almost can’t believe it.

That sense of wonder is sometimes missing in my life. I’m so familiar with God’s Word – I know the story. But even though I’m familiar with it, I don’t want to get used to it. I don’t want to “take it in” so easily and so quickly. 

When I take the time to see God – to gaze upon His beauty (Psalm 27:4) through prayer and His Word – I realize that He is high and exalted (Isaiah 6:1), He is holy (6:3), and the earth is full of His glory (6:3). When Isaiah had that experience in his life, he was changed forever. 

Do you take time to meditate on God’s majesty and glory?  If we do, we will be overwhelmed with a sense of wonder.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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When Does Sanctification Occur?

 

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I often catch myself daydreaming about spiritual growth and wondering what people, places, and events God will use to shape me.  It’s certainly easy to value the monumental over the mundane, falling into the assumption that God is more likely to use “big” things rather than “small.”

Romans 8:28 reminds us that God is actively working in all things for the good of His people.  Contrary to popular opinion, however, my understanding of goodness does not dictate how God works; His working is good according to His standard and purpose.  Romans 8:29 gives us a glimpse of His purpose – part of God’s plan is that His people would be conformed to the image of Jesus.  Progressively this is known as sanctification; in an ultimate sense it is called glorification.

We know glorification is coming in the future, but when does sanctification occur?  The bottom line is that God is always at work accomplishing what He declares to be the good of His people, namely their growth in Christ-likeness.  All of life is the operating room; nothing is off limits.  School, relationships, employment, and continuous to-do lists are not ends in and of themselves; they are a means by which God is refining us and the tools He is using to mold us as we approach the day when, ultimately, God’s “good working” in our lives comes to fruition because “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).   

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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