Sometimes you just have to laugh at the devil. He is so painfully obvious. Like how the dryer goes out on a Monday morning when you are already a week behind on laundry. Then, when you get in the car to take the load of wet clothes (which just happen to be all of the work clothes you own) to use the dryers at the laundromat, you get a dashboard light warning of two low tires, low fuel and you have an hour and a half to be at work. That is the kind of thing he can use to get you riled up and self-focused if you let him.
But as it turns out, I like the laundromat. The laundromat is a wonderful place to ponder. What else is there to do? I have always been amazed at the efficiency of the machines that can wash a load in 20 minutes. As I sit there, I share a dream with Tracy Turnblad's mom* of owning a coin-operated laundromat someday.
Scripture is full of references of us sheep and of our Father, the Good Shepherd. We are in His service and are therefore called to tend His sheep. In John 21:15-17, we see Jesus' conversation with Peter. Christ is reminding Peter what it is to truly love Him. Essentially, tend His sheep and follow Him.
When I think about tending sheep, I must first think of my own relationship with the Good Shepherd. I must have a humble, loving and teachable spirit toward Him and those He has purposed in my life to tend me. I think of my quiet time, time spent in His Word, time in prayer, time of confession and repentance, time just thinking about Him and wondering over Him. Time as we search my heart together and I call on Him to mold me and make me into who He has called me to be and to serve well those whom He has called me to serve.
Have I been tending to that? These times are both intentional and stolen. Stolen back from the devil even as I find myself sitting at the laundromat again on a Sunday night, at peace with an inconvenience that actually bought me more time with Jesus and more time to think about His sheep He has entrusted to me. This time I share with Him is so important -- I cannot forget that. After all, I am a sheep too -- His sheep (John 10, 1 Peter 5:5, Psalms 51:17).
Tending my sheep also pertains to fulfilling the call of my life to share the Gospel, with a special focus on the people I am called to serve with. Coming beside them and walking them home, being real and vulnerable with each other, sharing with them who Christ is and how they can know Him (Matthew 28:18-20, James 5:16).
Tending my sheep, my herd, my little lambs -- my family. They are my responsibility, a gift, and I love them (Proverbs 31, Ephesians 6:2-3).
Tending my sheep is serving my local church and my community.
Tending my sheep is taking care of my profession, business and my home so that I can serve efficiently in other areas. It is becoming a master of my craft and the call of my vocation to the glory of the Father who gave me these specific gifts and opportunities (Proverbs 27:23-27).
Tending my sheep is also, "Other duties as assigned". I think of Colossians 3:23-24:
"Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve" (AMP).
In this moment, I will switch my six loads of laundry, share the Scripture I just came across with my friend and see where that takes us, and I will tend my sheep.
"What is your motive for serving Me?"
That is the question the Lord has been asking me a lot over the last couple of months. To preface what I am about to talk about, I have been experiencing a period of refining in my spiritual life. What I mean by that is that the Lord has been removing the parts of me that are not like Him and replacing them with more of Himself. When you give the Lord your yes to refine you, you do not know what that is going to look like. You do not know what He is going to reveal in your life that you have hidden deep in the recesses of yourself.
One thing I have been learning is that I have a lot of pride. Specifically, the calling God Himself placed on my life. I had bowed my heart to the position instead of the Giver of the position. I had taken more pride in the calling than developing the connection with the Giver of the calling. I had forsaken my source.
I heard a quote a few months ago that brought me to my knees before Jesus and is still bringing me back to that place even now. It goes like this: "Consider this: How much of our time with Jesus and serving Him is influenced by our desire to get what we want? We may have spent time in God's Word, prayed, fasted, served vigorously in the church and other ministries with the underlying thought, 'How can I do things for God to get ME into MY purpose?'"
If you felt that hit you like a train, then you are experiencing how it hit me. Serving God should never be about ourselves. Ephesians 2:1-6 reminds us of who it is all about:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (ESV).
It is always and forever about Jesus. We were dead. We were powerless in changing our situation. We were by nature children of wrath...but God!
The only reason we can experience true life, incalculable love, mercy, joy and peace from our position in the heavenly places is because of the One True King: King Jesus. No amount of prayer, service, reading of the Word, fasting or any other work that we do is sufficient. Our heart should be after one thing and one thing only: Jesus Himself.
We should desire to dwell in His presence continually, walking in a real relationship with Him because of what He did. Everything else -- the calling, the ministry, the time spent in the Word, prayer and fasting -- will all flow from the relationship we have with Him. It should forever be about Him!
This week we have been looking at the APEST groups on our Facebook and Instagram pages. APEST is an interesting topic, and I compare it to the Briggs-Myers and the Enneagram tests. There are different groups that do not necessarily define who you are, but give common characteristics you may share with people in your APEST group.
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ," (Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV).
The APEST groups contribute to the idea of the body of Christ. "Now if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body" (1 Corinthians 12:15-20, NIV).
We are all parts of the Body, and different body parts have different functions. The hand has its function. The foot has a different function. Every part functions differently and almost no two parts work the same.
APEST separates us into our groups so that we can recognize and understand what our function is. Normally, you are either more on the APE side, or more on the ST side. This is not to say that you cannot be a Shepherd and a Prophet, but it is normally one or the other.
I lean more towards the ST side. I love studying God's Word and relaying the information I learn to others, meaning I am a Teacher. I am also very protective of my friends and prefer to keep a small, consistent circle, meaning I am a Shepherd. By recognizing I am a Shepherd and a Teacher, I can better utilize myself for the Kingdom.
I realize that I am not an Evangelist, which means I am not good at going out and bringing people in. Because I realize I am a Shepherd, I know that I am better at taking the people the Evangelists are able to bring in and raise them up through discipleship.
The APEST groups are not meant to put anyone above anyone else. No one group is better or worse than the others. Prophets are not closer to God than anyone else. Shepherds are not more pious than the other groups. Evangelists are not better Christians than the other groups. Apostles are not necessarily better equipped to be leaders. Teachers are not necessarily smarter than the other groups. We are all parts of the Body. Just because we function differently does not make anyone more or less useful.
The APEST groups are meant to help us realize our roll and get a better understanding of how to play our part in extending the Kingdom of God. An Evangelist's talents might be better utilized out of small group, while a Shepherd's talents are better utilized in small group. The APEST groups help us to understand where our place is so we do not try to fill in someone else's place.
Do you want to find out some idea of where your APEST group is? Click the button below, and you will be redirected to the Fivefold Spiritual Gifts Test found on designdiscovery.com and let us know what your results are! It may not be 100% correct, but it can certainly point you in the right direction.
To give you an example, I took the test and here are my results: Apostle - 53%, Prophet - 73%, Evangelist - 53%, Shepherd (the results will say "Pastor" but it means the same thing) - 62%, Teacher - 67%.
I said I was a Shepherd and a Teacher, but my results say I am a Prophet, Apostle and Evangelist as well. You will have a little of everything, but you will lean more in one direction. For me, I lean more toward Shepherd and Teacher, but I still have some of the qualities and flaws the Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists have. I am just better suited at being a Shepherd and Teacher (and Prophet) than an Apostle and Evangelist. Not that that is not my place, but I would not necessarily excel in that area.
To read more on the APEST groups, here is a PDF by Remedy Church.
Does anyone ever feel ready to transition in life? I think transitions are always happening but sometimes we never notice them until we look back and see the changes that have happened along the way.
It is the big life changes that we can see that I have never ever enjoyed. Transitions are never easy for me. I do not enjoy change and I struggle to embrace it. It is ironic, though, that I felt the Lord calling me to move over 800 miles away from the only place I have ever lived.
I absolutely loved college and that season of my life. It was the place where I finally figured out my identity in Christ, found the most genuine community and was challenged to live my life devoted in obedience to Christ. Why would I want to leave the place that seemed so good for me? I dreaded the thought of what my life would look like after I graduated.
Once August of my senior year rolled around, God began to stir in my heart and called me out from this place of familiarity and comfort. He was calling me to something I would have never chosen on my own. I had finally understood that if I wanted to be "all in" in following Jesus, I could not just ignore and disobey the prompting of the Lord to leave everything I knew.
Just like when the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1, ESV). I felt that same call. God was asking me to leave all I knew. My family that I love so much, the deep relationships in the community of believers I had surrounded myself with and the security in my plan rather than His plan.
He was calling me away from this life of comfort that I had created, to a life of walking in complete obedience. This sounded completely scary at first. How was I supposed to say yes to something that I had zero answers to? I would often ask God, "Where am I going? For how long? What will I do there?" and each question was met with a response similar to Jesus' words of "Follow me."
It really is that simple. If we are willing to follow Jesus, we are going to be transformed. When I pursue an intimate, personal relationship with God, I am not looking to myself, but rather seeking first the Kingdom. My focus shifts from "How does this affect my life?" to "How does this affect the Kingdom?"
This change in perspective is huge and completely changed the way I make decisions. I no longer wanted to live a life full of self-centeredness where I was in control, but I desired to see God move in ways I have never seen. I desired for God to use me to accomplish it. It all begins with the simple obedience of following Him.
As we face transitions and changes in life, we must remember who is in control. I am definitely not. And praise God for that!
We can try to plan it all out and watch our efforts fail when it does not happen or we can surrender now. Do not wait for the next change to come before you start walking in daily obedience to a relationship with Christ. Spend time in His Word and watch your heart and mind be transformed. He is working and He wants to use you.
All you have to do is say yes and follow Him.
At the beginning of this school year, everything was confusing. There was fear and uncertainty everywhere. Nobody knew whether schools were going to be in person or online. If they were all online would they let students still be on campus? Nobody knew for a while.
Then, school started. They allowed students on campus and it seems -- from the outside looking in -- that it is just normal life to go to classes and wear your masks and such. Amidst all that was, and still is going on, we as Christians have to ask ourselves: What are we doing for the Kingdom?
This question is pretty heavy. I think during quarantine and uncertainty, we took our eyes off of our job that was commanded by Christ in Matthew 28:18-20, which says:
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All Authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, until the very end of the age'" (NIV).
This is one of our most important commands that Christ has given us, because if we are not going out and making disciples, then the world will grow further and further away from God. Some of you may be thinking that the world is so much farther from God than it has been since Noah's time, and you may be right. However, thinking about it that way shows us one thing: We have failed as disciples of Christ.
Instead of going out and being disciples that make disciples, we do our own thing. We do what we want to do. We are a busy group of people. We fill our schedules so full that we do not have time to dive into God's Word and pray, let alone go tell people the Gospel of Christ.
That kind of makes things a little sad, but there is hope. As I'm reading through the book of Acts, I see Peter step up in the first couple of chapters and sharing the Gospel, after being given boldness from the Spirit. When he shares the Gospel, literally thousands of people come to know Christ. Not only are they coming to know Christ, but Peter and the apostles disciple them and teach them to go out and do the same exact thing that they are doing -- sharing the Gospel. Reading about the things that God did through Peter gets me fired up, but also shows me that I am not doing enough.
We all have to sit back and ask ourselves: What are we doing for the Kingdom? Not only do we need to ask that question, but we need to answer it honestly. Our sole purpose in life should be the advancement of the Gospel to make disciples. Basically, be disciples that make disciples.
Any person who has a relationship with Christ can go share the Gospel, because the Gospel is all you need. Just for reference, the Gospel is this: Because Adam and Eve sinned in the beginning, every single person is born into sin. We know from Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin are death" (NIV). Because we are born into sin, we have to die. Because we are born into son, we should have to spend eternity separated from God.
However, because of God's unfathomable love, He gave us a way to Himself -- He sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and die on the cross. He took the punishment of death that each and every one of us deserve. Because of this, when we repent from our ways and put our trust in Him, He (Jesus) connects the once broken relationship between us and the Father.
That is the Gospel. That is the good news. That is what and why we should be sharing it with others, because without the Gospel, there is no way to have a relationship with God; this means people without the Gospel have to suffer the full punishment of their consequences and be eternally separated from God in hell. That should encourage all of us to go out and share the Gospel with every person we see.
So, I will ask again: What are you doing for the Kingdom?
Are you interested in getting to know people from other cultures? Do you want to grow in your walk with Jesus by studying the Bible and sharing Him with others? Then you should consider joining the NSU BCM's International Student Ministry.
I got involved with this ministry two semesters ago after the former coordinator, Maddi Rogers, invited me to a Bible study for international students that met in her apartment every Thursday. It was such a neat experience to study the Bible with people from literally all over the world. I got to meet people from South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Some were Christians, some were not. Getting to be a part of sharing Jesus with them was awesome.
Jesus has called us to reach the nations in His name, and here at NSU, He is sending the nations to us. Serving with ISM presents a cool opportunity to build relationships with the international students on campus. We get to love them, learn from them and share Jesus with them.
Starting September 24, we are having a Bible study for international students at the BCM at 8 p.m. on Thursdays. If you know any international students, please invite them. In addition to the Bible study, we can serve internationals by inviting them to church, giving them rides to the store and just being a friend to them.
If you are interested in this awesome opportunity to make Jesus known to people from all over the world, text me at (405) 435-5685 or email me at email@example.com. Introverts, extroverts, guys, girls, internationals and Americans are welcome to join the team. All you need in order to join is a relationship with Jesus and a desire to make Him known.
While we read the Bible, we have to remember to keep what we are reading in context. But when I say context, I do not just mean the surrounding pericope. When we read the Bible, we have to consider some other kinds of context: Historical and geographical. Sometimes we do not understand Scripture because we are not considering the context surrounding what we are reading. However, once we consider the context, we can gain a better understanding of the Text.
"'Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God's creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:14-16, CSB).
If we look at this verse at face value, you might get the idea that God wants us to either be in or out. We can get this idea with these two phrases: "On fire for God" and "Giving them the cold shoulder". To be on fire for God is to be ecstatic about serving Him (what we all should be every day). But to give someone the cold shoulder means to reject them harshly. Jesus says He wishes the church of Laodicea would be either hot or cold, but does that mean God either wants us to serve Him or not?
Some might look at this verse at face value and wonder, Is it not better for me to try and fail than to give up and turn my back on God? Would He not want me to at least try to live for Him? Does He just want me to give up outright because I am not on fire for Him?
We need to consider the context when reading this Scripture: Jesus is speaking directly to the church of Laodicea, and He knows they will understand what He is saying. Think of an inside joke you may have with a friend; you do not have to explain the context when you mention it to them, because you are both aware of the context. In this situation, both Jesus and the church are aware of the context, so no explanation is needed in their conversation.
Seeing the benefits of both kinds of water, Laodicea attempted to tunnel both kinds of water to their own city. However, as the cold water made its way to Laodicea, it started to get warm, and as the warm water made its way, it started to cool down. By the time both the cold and hot waters got to Laodicea, they were lukewarm.
Unlike hot and cold water, lukewarm water has no purpose. After running a marathon, would you choose lukewarm water or cold water? On a cold winter night, who likes to sit next to a fire drinking a cup of lukewarm cocoa? Who enjoys sitting in a lukewarm jacuzzi? Or who chooses to take lukewarm showers? Maybe you get the point.
Jesus is not advocating the church of Laodicea, or subsequently us, to be either hot or cold, He wants us to be either, because both have a use. He wants us to be useful, because if we are useless...well, that is just it -- we are useless.
God put us on this earth to make Him known to all peoples and all nations. He wants us to be useful, and if we chose to not be useful, well, perhaps you should read Revelation 3:16 again.
Whether you are a college student, a parent, an NSU alumni or just some person who randomly found this blog post, I urge you: Be useful. God wants to use you! He wants to include you in His work here on earth. He wants to use you to make Himself known. So we have a choice today, tomorrow and every day of the rest of our lives: Am I going to be useful to God?
2 Cor. 5:20 says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (ESV).
Starting this school year (Fall 2020), we have been bombarded with change, fear and uncertainty. Change because everything is different -- in our worlds around us and the globe as a whole. Fear because we do not have the answers to fix what is causing the change. Uncertainty because of the lack of answers that has led to the fear due to all the change in the world.
So the question I want to ask you is: So what? What do we do with the fear, the change and the uncertainty? The answer is a simple response but a longer adjustment, and to being consistent in that response. The simple response is to trust Jesus Christ with your fears as you cast them onto Him; to find your certainty in Jesus and not in the world of uncertainty. A simple response is to find the never changing truth in God's Word, while living in an ever changing world.
How do we stay consistent in that response? We remind ourselves of those truths of Jesus and His Word. I quote that Scripture at the beginning for a purpose. That purpose is to show and understand how we stay consistent. We must be consistent in being ambassadors for Christ, meaning represent Christ and His interests wherever we go, not our own or others', but His.
We are ambassadors for Christ and His mission and purposes which gives us propose and a mission. Why? Because God is choosing to make His appeal through us to others. If we are not useful vessels how will He make His appeal and how will we have purpose and be on mission? Simple response: We will not. So be that vessel on behalf of the Holy God of the universe.
So what is that purpose? What is the appeal? To implore others on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. In other words, tell others repent and believe in Jesus Christ and not only are you saved, but you are then mobilized to be on mission to be an ambassador for Christ.
So what? In the face of change, fear and uncertainty, our mission is never changing. We are sent by the One providing hope, not fear, to show the certainty we have in a future by the One who holds it. So What? He is using you (or wants to) in this to know Him and make Him known, until there is no place (or person) left that does not know Him.
Members of leadership include