Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Set Apart... to serve

This week I have been on the Catawba Indian Reservation as an assistant Project Coordinator as the night Worship Speaker with World Changers in Rock Hill, SC. I have seen God work in so many ways, it just is amazing. Roofs are being repaired, lives changed.....
This morning, I helped with an interview of one of the residents, Mary Wallace, a senior adult lady, with one leg, who was so overwhelmed by the presence of God in her life, I was incredibly encouraged by her testimony. While she was sharing, over 20 students and adults were working on her roof above, she was teary about the thought of the project being completed, because that would mean the Student Crew would be leaving..... She said, "I am glad that my house was in such bad condition that caused these beautiful students to come into my life... God has sent them."
I have committed my life to be a servant. But in times like this, when I am just volunteering to serve in ways like this, I have to ask a question to myself. If I merely 'choose to serve', I keep some of the control for myself. I am still in charge of what tasks I will actually perform. I might even worry that people would take advantage of me. I may even be concerned how others will react to me. Yet... .if I choose to be a 'servant of Christ'...., I have discovered what is different. In doing this, I give up the reins of my life. I am 'set apart' as a follower of Christ. I surrender my desire to take control. I voluntarily give up my rights, and choose to allow Christ, as my Master, to direct my path. Then, it does not matter what, when or where... I am still His servant... in formal ways, and "random" conversations with any person I will meet. That is being 'set apart' to follow Him.
John 15:5 says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Remain a servant of Christ, not just a servant, and you will see the fruit.... I am a witness, the fruit sprouting in front of my eyes is abundant and eternal.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trust me....

Years ago, on a Thursday, I was invited to speak at Furman University's Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, in Greenville, SC. Being an alumni of this group, made it all the more exciting for me. While I was waiting my opportunity, during the time when the Worship Team was leading us in song, I sensed God asking me "do you trust Me?".... well I immediately answered in my mind "of course!" No sooner had I thought those words, came another statement... "Give away your guitar!" I had a genuine sense that God was asking me to give my Ovation-Ultra away to one of the band members that I knew from back when I was attending there in College. I brushed away the thought as the time approached for me to speak.

After the FCA meeting, some of the students were going over to an apartment to hang out, stay up late and visit... I was invited. At this "party" I bumped into Toby (a member of the FCA band), and the earlier thought immediately echoed in my mind again.... Toby and I talked of years past, and all that God was doing, but the subject of my personal musical instrument, never came up...., well, I never brought it up.

I stayed the night in town, and late into the night, as I was trying to sleep, the thought remained in my mind... and then the first question returned... "do you trust Me?"... and that was all it took. At 7am I got up, called Toby and asked him if he would meet me for lunch on campus, we set the time and place around his classes, no mention of details were discussed... I was still not completely convinced God was clear on his question, and his request.

I went to an appointment I had set, while I would be in town, with my childhood pastor to visit with him about a decision I had about some choices I had before me. I was getting different advice from some about attending Seminary, or accept a position before me... I was uncertain of the choices, as they both seemed God honoring... You know what my pastor said? "Trust God in this, and act on his leading...." He probably said more than that, but that was all I heard.... and it was about all I could stand.

I met Toby for a brief lunch, with my guitar in hand, I gave it to him immediately upon seeing him. He was confused, he stated that he had a guitar already, and thanked me deeply. However, I would not take it back, I insisted that he take it, sell it if he did not need it, I convinced him that I was not leaving with it. I left, and headed back to Summerville, SC, where I was serving at my first Student Ministry position as a Youth Pastor.

The whole way back, and the few days after arriving back at my home, I was none the clearer for what I had done. I used my guitar in my personal worship, in songs of praises from my heart to Him, I used it to lead students in song during our regular youth meetings, I used it in our campus Bible study groups that I was part of... this was a tool of ministry. I began to wonder if I had acted on foolish sentiment, but I had no regret for the action... I truly trusted God, and that was all that was important to me.

I arrived at my office early on Sunday morning to get things ready for the ministry of the day, and having been out of town for a few days, I expected to find some things that might need my attention. In front of my desk, in my office, there was a guitar, a limited edition, Alvarez guitar... with a post it note on it that read "from God." I fell to my knees in awe, and to take a closer look.... I later asked any and everybody I connected with on that Sunday as to the origin of the guitar that was left in my office, and nobody had a clue. Monday, I asked my secretary and other staff the same question, and got no additional information. Wednesday at Youth Group, I asked the students, told them the story of what had just happened... Some of the students inquired a bit about it, but most were not moved by this occurrence in my life as they were to be with their friends for the night. After our youth meeting and the following after-glow around Volleyball in the gym, the College/Career students began to arrive for their late night Bible Study hour. I led the music (with this beautiful instrument), and facilitated the study (we were reading Screwtape Letters together and discussing it each Wednesday night). I briefly mentioned the origin of the guitar as I was leading music, and the study occurred normally. A few students came in late from work, or other ministry things.

After the Bible Study, my friend Bill (having arrived late), who attended another church, but helped me with the FCA at the local High School campus, came to me with a smile on his face and humorously asked me if I found the guitar he left in my office on Friday, and did I like the 'note,' as he smiled? I asked him about the note, and why the guitar, and he said that Thursday night, he sensed God was telling him that I needed another guitar, and he was supposed to give me one of his. He stated that he came by on Friday to give it to me. Not finding me in my open office, he decided to leave it there, and attach the note for a grin. As I began to tell him about my past few days, we both began to weep in the presence of seeing what God had orchestrated.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.... (Ps 56:4). Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5-6). Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Cor 4:2). "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. (Jn 14:1).

I can't begin to tell you how easy the decisions before me were to make, as I followed God's leading, ever so quiet that it might have been, with great enthusiasm and trust, regardless of the uncertainty that might lay ahead.

Can I ask YOU a question?.... Do you trust Him? If God is asking you that question today, make sure you know that there just might be an unusual request to follow.