Being a Useful Servant

The life of the apostle Paul is a perfect example of the redemptive and transformative power of Jesus Christ. At first, Paul, a Jew among Jew’s was on the Damascus Road to hurt the disciples of Jesus and then faced the Lord himself (Acts 9). Once Jesus made himself known to Saul (Paul), Paul had no choice but to serve Him. Paul was able to experience the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ and from that point, his life would be changed forever. I think it is funny to know a little of Paul’s history because it made him perfectly equipped to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul had a deep understanding of the Jewish, Greek, and Roman culture. This made him a valuable tool for the Lord to use. You see, without Paul knowing it, God was grooming and equipping him to be His servant. I believe that this is important to understand before we begin to read our Scripture for today. By understanding where Paul came from will help the audience grasp a deeper understanding of not only how to understand this Scripture but how to apply it into their lives.

It is written, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:1-7, NASB).

In Paul’s introduction to the Roman church, he first identified himself as a “bond-servant” or “slave” to Jesus Christ. The Greek word used was “doulos” which cogitated a special servanthood to Yahweh. This term was used for the biblical characters of Moses, Joshua, Abraham, David, and the prophets. Paul was letting the church understand not only his position but his complete devotion to God. This is not the first time Paul referred to himself in this way, he did so in Galatians 1:10 and Titus 1:1. Paul did this because of his complete and full devotion to Jesus Christ.

Imagine living in a time where the term “slave” meant that a person was worth as much as an animal. Being a free man, Paul was showing the church his humility, obedience, and submission to Jesus Christ. Even though God set Paul aside from normal people, Paul did not see himself in a manner other than being a servant. There is a lot to learn from Paul’s position.

Paul knew that being a servant of Christ enables believers to be partakers of the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. To Paul, understanding this fact was a privilege but also his responsibility to share with the world. Since he experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ he could no longer sit still. He needed to share the Gospel of Christ until his last dying breath.

Many of you may be telling yourself “I do not have the anointing and calling of Paul.” However, I believe this statement is not true. God may not have called you to be an international missionary; however, He has been guiding your steps since the day you first took your breath. As God used Paul for whom he was, God wants to you each and every one of us today. Once a person accepts Christ into their hearts and minds, they are born again as a new creation. They become slaves to Christ! As slaves to Christ, there must be a certain amount of submission that is required. Your attitude, mindset, and actions must change for the better.

Since the old you is gone and your sins are forgiven, what is holding you back from being the useful servant that God wants you to be? So I will ask everyone here today some reflective questions to help guide you to become a useful servant. First, what is your attitude toward Christ? This may be a straightforward question but the reply to it will share with you your spiritual maturity. If Christ is at the center of everything you think and say, you can be useful. If you are distracted by things that challenged the old you, you have to let go and allow Jesus to take control of that aspect of your life. My second question is are you willing to obey and serve Christ? I get it, sharing your testimony with people or allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you can make you feel uncomfortable, and however, is the lack of willingness keeping you from your calling? Being a slave means that you will do things that will make you uncomfortable. Your life is not your own anymore. As a Christian, your life is no longer yours. Your life belongs to Jesus Christ. Have you felt uncomfortable lately? My last question is are you serving another master? I simply mean are you putting other things before serving Jesus?

As you reflect on your replies, only you can know if you have been a useful servant of Jesus Christ. This is something very important to learn from the apostle Paul. Paul lived a life that understood that we all cost Jesus too much to simply sit still. As we come to learn about Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we should be compelled to not only accept him but share the transformation that we have had in our lives through Him. As we become true servants for Christ can His Gospel continue to spread? If we sit still and grow stagnant, we start to lose the fruits of the Holy Spirit. So I challenge everyone reading this today to reflect if they are being a good servant.

How to get the fullness of joy?

While listening to one of my favorite Christian songs “Joy” by for King and Country, I started to think about the fullness of joy and where it comes from. The reasoning behind this was because I started to think about how many Christians that I have met while traveling during these past four years that had little to no joy in their lives. Then I started to think about how many nonbelievers I have seen that are unhappy and use things like alcohol, drugs, or something else to fill a void in their life for temporary relief. So, I want to share with everyone today a little devotional about the fullness of joy and how to attain it today.

Most people know that every Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives after they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and are baptized (Acts 2:38). Once a believer receives the Spirit of God in them, they start to feel energized and want to grow closer to the Lord. This season of a Christian’s life is one filled with love, peace, and joy. However, over time a Christian can become stagnant and stops seeking the Lord in everything they do. Soon, they start to allow worldly opinions and desires cloud their judgments and they start to lose focus on what joy is and that only through Christ can the fullness of Joy be in a believer’s life.

In Jesus’ lesson about the vine and the branches (John 15), He teaches us that no branch can bear fruit by itself. To be able to bear fruit, you must remain in Christ Jesus and Him alone. He goes on to clarify what He is teaching by stating, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” (John 15:9-11).

I think that Jesus is the ultimate authority on the fullness of joy because His joy becomes our joy when we keep His commands. I say this because no one can steal your joy! Joy does not come from getting a promotion or getting something that you want. Joy cannot come from alcohol or drugs either. Those things may make you happy, but after a while, you will start to feel another void in your life. Something will upset you or you may not get your way. This is why I want to share with everyone today that to have the fullness of joy in your life is a simple choice. That choice is to accept Jesus Christ into your life. Within this choice, you can choose to follow and obey Him or choose not to. You can become fruitful and enjoy the gifts of His Spirit or not. It is that simple.

My family and I have chosen joy and I pray that many of you start to follow. If you are already chosen joy (Christ), but you do not feel joyful on a daily basis, sit back and consider where the source of your joy is coming from. It may just take some time to reflect and then get back on track. For those who have not come to know Jesus, I challenge you to learn a little about Him. Pick up a Bible and read about His life and ministry. Then I challenge you to follow His commands and you will see a change in your life for the better. Then you can make a choice to accept the fullness of joy in your lives.

I pray that everyone reading this today takes what the Lord wants to put in their hearts as a reminder to lean on Him not only for strength and peace but also joy. Please have a blessed day!

FIVE STEPS TO BE A MORE EFFECTIVE MINISTER

Lately, I have not been writing many devotionals because I have been studying hard to graduate with my master’s degree. While doing so, I have been so focused on doctrines and the complexities of theology that I have been having issues relating to those I am called to minister to. While doing laundry today I prayed. I asked God to provide me with the wisdom to be a better husband, father, and minister. I have been trying so hard to balance being a full-time student, husband, father, and minister and to be honest, I have felt that I am missing the mark at times. However, after I prayed, I opened up my Bible to do my devotional time and I read 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. Then it hit me like a brick! The Lord gave me the solution to a problem I was pretending not to have because of my pride. I need to get back to the basics of ministry and leave the complexity of theology for school and get back to the foundational principles that made me an effective minister, to begin with. It is these five principles that I want to share with you all today.

It is written, “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may, by all means, save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it,” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23, NASB).

Principle One:

Find a common ground with everyone you meet. I am a strong believer that you can start a conversation with anyone. My wife tells me often that I have never met a stranger because of this principle. Do not be afraid to engage others to find a commonality. It may take time, but when it comes to ministering, it is a requirement.

Principle Two:

Humility is key when communicating with people. You never want to have or give off a know-it-all mentality, especially when trying to minister to an unbeliever. This is key for having an impactful conversation with someone. You want people to not only hear your words but respect them as well. So, when you communicate with someone, always do so in a loving manner.

Principle Three:

Always make sure to make the people you are in contact with feel accepted and loved. Whenever you engage someone, you must always remember that they are a person you want to help find salvation and not a number. It does not matter how many people you have saved or how many people are in your congregation. When you are ministering to someone, they are the sole focus of your ministry. Treat that person as if they are the only member of your congregation.

Principle Four:

Try to have a sensitivity to what people are dealing with and try to meet their needs. These needs can be physical, emotional, or spiritual in nature. Sometimes people do not want someone to solve a problem for them, but in actuality, they just want someone to listen to them. Sometimes people have a physical need that needs to be met such as food, water, or clothing. Other times, people are dealing with real spiritual needs. An effective minister must be able to not only be able to identify what a person’s needs are but to have the sensitivity to show compassion and not pity for others.

Principle Five:

Look for opportunities to share Jesus Christ with others. This does not mean shove religion down people’s throats, but to emulate the qualities of Jesus. Share his love, compassion, and mercy. This could also be an opportunity to share one Bible verse with someone having issues to lift their spirits, help them with comfort, or to encourage them.

Even though I am sharing with you all the five principles that came into my heart, it takes time and dedication to actually do them. We learn from Paul’s commitment to his ministry that it requires personal discipline. In fact, Paul compared this discipline to that of an athlete that is striving to be the best in his or her field. Like Paul, we have to be willing to give up certain thoughts and actions to win the prize, and that prize is helping someone find and build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I pray that these Principles help someone today to get back to the basics. If anyone wants to add or share a personal experience relating to this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear how the Lord is working in your life. God bless you all!

Filling the Void

Ecclesiastes 2:16

“For neither the wise nor the fool will be long remembered, since in days to come everything will be forgotten. The wise man dies the same way as the fool, does he not?”

Death is the ultimate equalizer of all people. It does not matter how much you have attained in wealth, wisdom, or popularity. Death comes for us all the same whether you are penniless or a billionaire. Many people may ask “why not just enjoy your life?” I agree with asking these questions from a slightly different perspective. I ask, “why not live and enjoy the life God gave you?” The way we live our lives affects the outcome of our death. Do you want to pass away and hear angels singing and glorifying our Heavenly Father, or do you want to suffer the consequences of living life full of sin and worldly desires? So, what does the Bible teach us how to enjoy your life?

1 Timothy 6:6-8

“Of course, godliness with contentment does bring a great profit. Nothing to this world we bring; from it take us nothing. With food to eat and clothes to wear; content we are in everything.”

The Bible teaches us to enjoy the life we must be content with what we have. This lesson can be applied to both spiritual growth and personal fulfillment. If you put God in the center of your life and not your personal desires, then you can be content with all that God has already provided you with. Often times people confuse riches and possessions with being fulfilled. Money cannot buy you happiness. People get stuck in a vicious cycle of gaining riches and possessions, and they never feel fulfilled. They have a void in their hearts that only God can fill. However, these people try to fill their voids with more things that do not bring about any fulfillment in their lives. They try to fill the void in their hearts with things that can only bring about temporary happiness. When the void comes back, they repeat the process and end up living a life of emptiness.

Are you currently stuck in this cycle? If so, how do you break it? Many things can be learned from this simple truth God shared with us in 1 Timothy 6:6-8. First, is to love people more than you love your money and your possessions. When you die you cannot bring your things with you. However, the positive impact that you leave on the people around you will be everlasting. Focus on being a good person and being Christ-like. Do not be religious, but act compassionately towards others and be a blessing. Too many people go to church and go through the motions and still fill a void in their lives. But a life of service and love will always bring about rejuvenation to a person’s soul.
Secondly, there is a fine line between what you need and what you think you need. If you continue to try and fill the void in your life with possessions and riches, you can never be content with what God has already provided you. Think about your family and your friends that you are losing in your pursuit of riches and possessions. Think about how many people you could have shared what God has blessed you with and made memories with. If this is you, take some time and figure out what is really important in your life and what you truly need to achieve it.

Ecclesiastes 8:15

“So then I recommended enjoyment of life because it is better on earth for a man to eat, drink, and be happy since this will stay with him throughout his struggle all the days of his life, which God grants him on earth.”

The Lord wants us to enjoy our lives when done in the right spirit and with the right moderations. People who are not believers “yet,” often have this mindset that they cannot fully enjoy their lives if they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They focus on what they have to give up in their lives instead of realizing what they are gaining in return. You see, the Scriptures teach us that life is not just about enjoying what you do have, but understanding that you would have nothing without God’s mercy and compassion towards humanity. By understanding this, you will finally be able to enjoy an abundant life. If you continue to try and fill a void that only God can fill, then you are going to miss the happiness of knowing Jesus Christ and the daily gift of the Holy Spirit. I pray that this short devotional helps someone find fulfilled today in Jesus Christ. Only when someone can truly come to terms with the fullness of having Him in their lives can they truly live an abundant life.

A Lesson from the Life of Judas Iscariot

During my Bible studies, I have enjoyed studying and researching biblical characters. For today’s devotional, I am choosing to teach two vital life lessons from the life of Judas Iscariot. All Christians know that Judas was one of the twelve disciples that Jesus chose himself. However, often times Christians just teach about how Judas betrayed Jesus Christ. This is very true, but the biblical principles that I want to share with you all today goes a little deeper than just simple betrayal.

The exact motivation behind Judas’s betrayal is not very important, because all people can do is speculate what was going through his head. Judas’s real problem was that he did not understand Jesus’ mission. Like many Jews of that time, Judas expected Jesus to make political and military moves against the Romans, however, Jesus kept teaching about his death. This could have discomforted Judas and even made him doubt that Jesus was really the Messiah.
It is written, “And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them,” (Luke 22:3-4, NASB).

The first lesson that I want to address is that Satan uses our doubt in Jesus to do horrible things. In the case of Judas, Judas betrayed Jesus. For many of us, when we do not understand Jesus’ mission in our lives and his love for each and every one of us, we can allow doubt to slip into our minds. This doubt can be used by Satan to make us do things that we would normally never do. It could be to betray the ones we love or commit a sin that we know we would normally not do. However, once the sin is committed, guilt starts to kick in. Like many believers, after Judas chose to sin against Jesus, he realized that he did the wrong thing. I can’t imagine what raced through his mind when he saw Jesus being surrounded in the garden of Gethsemane. Judas knew that very moment that his misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission caused him to be used by Satan. In fact, the Scriptures teach us that he ran back to the temple and cast down the pieces of silver and went and hung himself (Matthew 27:5).

The second lesson that I would like to address on the life of Judas is how he was remembered. He is called, “the one headed to destruction,” (John 17:12). But why is that? You see, when Judas ran off and hung himself, he did not repent to God nor did he seek forgiveness from Jesus himself for his actions. He choose not to enjoy the gift of forgiveness and he lost his relationship with Jesus Christ. In my opinion, this has to be the worst decision in history! This was a mistake because Judas thought he lost his relationship with Jesus. He felt such sorrow of never being able to be redeemed for his actions that he ended his life. Due to his choice, he died unsaved and could only head down to destruction.

We can learn a lot from Judas’s mistake though. The story of the life of Judas reminds us to take a second look at our hearts and reflect on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We are able to ask ourselves the question, are we true disciples of Jesus Christ, or just pretenders? Do we choose despair and death, or do we choose repentance, forgiveness, and hope through our faith in Jesus? Have we truly accepted the gift of Jesus Christ into our lives? Jesus wants our love to be Genuine (John 21:15-17). He also thought us that God seeks out those most alienated from Himself (Luke 15).

I am praying that everyone tonight take some time and reflect on their hearts. Think to yourself, “do I understand Jesus’ mission in my life?” Repent if you have any doubt in your heart before Satan can use it to control your actions like he did Judas. However, unlike Judas, we all have time to make the right decision and fully accept Christ into our hearts and minds. The mistakes that Judas did, allows us today to recognize how much we do not want to betray Jesus Christ. If you have drifted away from his love, please run back to him before you are also deemed, “headed for destruction.”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

The Workers are Few

Last Easter Sunday, I gave a small lesson on the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ to my family on top of a mountain. I shared that message online, in our ministry’s blog. The purpose of that message was to remind audience (my family and our online community) the importance of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, his persecution, his death, and his resurrection. These topics get preached on every Easter Sunday by churches across the world. However, this Easter Sunday, I would like to share the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. This foundation is and will always be the compassion and love that Jesus Christ had for all humanity. So this message will focus on Matthew 9:35-38. I will be dividing this Scripture into two parts to allow the audience to understand the depth of Jesus’ message.
Matthew 9:35-36
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
As Jesus was going through all the towns and villages of Israel, he was teaching and preaching about the kingdom of heaven. Not only did the Scripture identify Jesus as teaching the people, but healing them. Jesus must have been exhausted, but He did not stop healing those in need. Even though more and more crowds of people surrounded Him, he had “compassion” towards them. The Greek word “esplanchnisthe” is the Greek word translated in this Scripture for “compassion.” Its definition is a strong inward emotion of sympathy. After everything that Jesus already did, he still felt a deep sense of “compassion” for everyone.
Jesus was overwhelmed with compassionate pity over the people. His response echoes the deeper inner working of God, which is described in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 34:5-6 also compared Israel to sheep without shepherds. Like sheep bothered by wolves, lying down and unable to help them, having no shepherd to guide and protect them, the people were misaligned with crooked religious leaders. The people were lost, wandering around without a spiritual leader. Jesus knew what His role of being the “good shepherd” was. He came to show people how to avoid life’s pitfalls.
Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
When Jesus looked at the crowds of people following Him, he referred to them as being a ripe harvest. Many of the people were willing to give their lives to Jesus if there would be someone to show them how. Jesus commands us to pray in response to the harvest. We are to pray over the harvest with the same compassion and love as Jesus did. In Jewish times, the teachers knew that teachers could only successfully teach and lead so many students. This is why Jesus knew that his followers would have to pray for God to provide more workers to accomplish his job of helping humanity find salvation and truth.
Applications
The application for this piece of Scripture is simple because of Jesus’ instruction. Jesus devoted himself to reaching people everywhere (9:35). It is not practical for every Christian in this world to be missionaries; however, each Christian is called to be loving and compassionate towards their fellow man. We are called to share the light of Christ in everything we do. We are called to deeply care for people, whether they are saved or not. Matthew 25:31-46 teaches us the value of all people is important, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or religion. The modern day “least of these” are the homeless, the disabled, the uneducated, the sick, and the unsaved. Many of those people will not grace the door of a church, but they will read the Bible of your life through your actions. Our actions will always speak louder than our words. So the first step of this application is allowing yourself to be available for those in need of help, whether they know they need help or not.
The next step in this application has to do with the intentions behind our actions. Jesus showed His followers that the motivation of His ministry was compassion and love (9:36). If God’s Spirit is truly within us, this should be the same motivation for us. Providing spiritual care for people is not only about ministering to them, but meeting their practical needs. These needs are food, water, shelter, and clothing. We are called to listen to people and do our best to meet their needs with righteous intentions. This is not something simple to do, but on this Easter Sunday, I pray that we all remember the sacrifice that Jesus did for ALL humanity. Being a Christian does not mean that life is going to be easy. We learn about the sacrifices of Jesus and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit after our conversion, but it is not supposed to end there. Our conversion is the beginning of our walk with Christ. We must act after knowing the Word of God. We are called to be doers of the Word of God, not just listeners (James 1:22). It is when we cannot continue to move forward to help our community that the enemy wins and we become stagnant.
When reading this Scripture, I get emotional and feel an overwhelming sense of love and compassion from someone who thought that I was worth dying for. I pray that this motivation that fueled Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice does not die because of our lack of actions. It is not about waiting and letting someone else to do God’s will, but it is up to each one of us to move and do something. As the stone moved and Jesus was not there, we should not be found in our couches or seats, but out sharing His love and sacrifice into the world. This is my family’s mission. I pray for more families to stand up and move out towards their community out of love, because the harvest is ripe. The sooner we can come to realize that we are the laborers that people have been praying for, the better our communities can be. So please take this short lesson to heart, and remember who we represent and what we are all called to do. God bless you all.

Paving the Way

Luke 1:13-17

But the angel told him, “Stop being afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy, and many people will rejoice at his birth, because he will be great in the Lord’s presence. He will never drink wine or any strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring many of Israel’s descendants back to the Lord their God. He is the one who will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to prepare the people to be ready for the Lord.”

While burning incense at the altar, Zechariah was also praying. Reading that the angel told him that his prayers were answered, and that he would have a son that would pave the way for the Messiah, must have been an amazing feeling. What amazing news to hear and that Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord told him, left him speechless, because he did not believe the angel. It was not until the child was born that Zechariah was able to speak again. How many times has God blessed you, and left you speechless because you couldn’t believe it was happening? I know it has happened to me, but my faith in God’s words got me back on track. Zechariah’s doubt in the word given to him from God left him with consequences just like it does today.

In this scripture, the Lord said to name the child John or “loannes” which means “Jehovah is a gracious giver.” John’s name was given to him by God and not his human parents. In biblical days your name was extremely important and identified who you were and your character. This is why in the old testament our Lord changed so many names like Abram which means “high father” to Abraham which means “father of a multitude.”

John’s name was given power by the Lord and he was set apart for a special service for God. His father was told that he must not drink alcohol. This could be part of the Nazirite vow of consecration just like Samuel in Judges 13. The Lord had great plans for John and gave him the power of the Holy Spirit before he was even born. Just like Elijah paved the way for Elisha, John was to pave the way for Jesus Christ. What an amazing task to be given and what an honor it was to be compared with the great prophet Elijah. This is an honor because Elijah stood up to evil rulers and encouraged the people to turn away from sinning and turn their lives back to our Heavenly Father.

When the Lord told Zechariah that John would be recognized, it meant that his life would have purpose and his life would be a blessing to all mankind. Also when it was told that John would be great, this meant that he would be a distinguished preacher or speaker. He would be sanctified and guided by the very Spirit of God. What an amazing purpose to live your life for!

During the time of John the Baptist, the Jews were separated into many different sects or branches and a lot of them were at war with one another and others just hated their neighbors. John was called to unite his people and show them that they all had only one true master and that would be the coming Messiah.

The reason why I wanted to share the beginning to the story of the life of John the Baptist is because he was always humble and never turned anyone away who wanted to know more about God. John knew his place in life and was content with his purpose. Many times in life we may feel that we are not where we need to be in life or our ministry. We may even feel that we deserve more and that is just our pride getting in our way. Please remember that our Heavenly Father never makes mistakes. Sometimes we are called to be like John to pave the way for another and plant the seeds for future generations to come. We never know who we are paving the way for next, so please be content with where God currently has you at this place and time. Your life has a purpose and each and every one of us has been set apart for God. Each one of us is called to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us just like John the Baptist.

I pray that this lesson about John’s life helps you seek out your purpose and be humble enough to be happy with it. God bless you all!