Serve Him 2014 – #3

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“You are pregnant!”

Do those words strike fear in your heart?
Are they a long desired and anxiously awaited announcement?
Is your first thought…”No way…not me”?

Let’s look at a record of the most famous pregnancy in all of history – Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary found out about her pregnancy from an angel. That was quite an annoucement!

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Her first, and natural response was – this cannot be!
Mary was a virgin. Yet here was this angel telling her she was pregnant, and that the child she bore was to be the Son of God!

Now think about this for a moment. As Christians we want to serve God. We want to have our lives make a difference and count for eternity. Yet, what if Mary had answered God the way we often do when called to serve Him. Our responses often sound like this:

* I’m not good enough.
* I’m not smart enough.
* I’m too busy.
* I’m too afraid.
* I’m tired.

Well, you might say – if an angel came and told me how to serve God – that would be different.

Would it?

Just because an angel announced this birth – this news brought with it some big concerns. Mary had to face
• Telling Joseph
• Telling her mother and friends
• Mothering the Son of God – now that is BIG!

Yet… Luke 1:38 records her response. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

That is how I must respond when I recognize the service God has called me to – I am your servant, may I fullfill your will.

Remember – Service to God is not based on my
• Talents or Abilities
• Preferences
• Education
• Moods

God may use our talents, preferences, education, and even our moods –
BUT the choice is HIS!

Joy in service comes when we can say as Mary did in verses 46 – 49

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
Holy is his name.

May we respond as Mary did when He calls us to serve.
May ALL we do be service for God’s honor and glory.

Amen.

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Serve Him 2014 – #2

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Session 3 – Serve with all My Mind

God uses relationships to communicate His Truth – He is a God of relationships. We often think that to serve God we must go to a foreign county, or at least a place that is “poor and needy”. Certainly God calls some of us to serve Him in those situations. God tells us to go into “all the world and preach the gospel.”

My friend Carol and I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois which is 30 miles west of Chicago. Our youth group would have mission trips and we would go to Appalachia to serve God during our spring break. Now we live in Appalachia and youth groups from here go up north to Chicago or New York to serve God.

Why do we think that to truly serve God we must go somewhere else than where we are?

Are there needs close to home? Yes, of course there are.

But it is often harder to meet the needs of those close by, maybe even our neighbors, because they really know us. They know we aren’t perfect, that we have needs of our own.

A woman in the Bible had lost her husband and both her sons when they died while they lived in a foreign land. She was understandingly devastated. Ruth 1 tells this story.

Naomi is a widow, a harsh reality in those times.
Ruth chooses to stay with her mother-in-law, even though her mother-in-law tells her to return to her own people.
Ruth chooses to serve God by serving Naomi – Ruth 1: 16

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Look at the way Ruth serves her mother-in-law.
Ruth –
* forsakes all she is familiar with
* vows to be faithful
* she must have seen something in Naomi that drew her to God
* she does what needs to be done – was it her “gift?”
* she gleans from harvested fields to get enough to eat
* she saves enough for her mother-in-law
* she honors her mother-in-law, Naomi

God is calling us to serve Him by serving others. Those others may be:
• In-laws
• elderly parents
• children
• husbands
• others 

Why are we so often willing to serve OTHERS before serving those closest to us?
Or maybe our challenge is serving those OUTSIDE our family.

The key is – Obedience – Philippians 2:5-11

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

AMEN! – have the same mindset as Christ Jesus!

We are to have mind of Christ – that is a mind that:
• made Himself nothing
• took on the form of a servant
• humbled Himself
• became obedient to death

To serve God I must have the mind of Christ – that of a humble servant.

I must be willing to serve God wherever He desires me to serve – starting right where I am.

Serve Him 2014 – #1

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I had the privilege of sharing at the Women’s
Retreat – Serve Him 2014 – this past weekend.
It was a special time of fellowship with a varied group of women aged 70+ to 22. I was so blessed by the sense of unity and the desire of those of us present to grow in our understanding of what it means to serve God.

Several people told me that they were unable attend – so I thought I would share a brief summary of three of the four sessions – one each for the next three weeks.

Session 2 – Serve with All Your Heart

We started by reading the scripture from I Samuel 25:1-38. This passage tells the story of Abigail, an “intelligent and beautiful woman”. She was married to a man known for being stubborn and foolish. David has been anointed to be the next king, but Saul is putting forth an attempt to maintain the throne. David is hiding from Saul and his troops, even though it is well known that Samuel anointed David to be the next king.

David asks his servants to request supplies of food from Nabal, Abigail’s husband. The servants do as they are told, but Nabel treats them rudely and refuses to give them any supplies. David decides he will lead his men and take the supplies they need as well as teach Nabal a lesson.

But, one of Nabal’s servants tells Abigail what has happened. I Samuel 25:14-

14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”
18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

So, Abigail responds to the servant with wisdom to save the lives of her household. Abigail knew that David was God’s anointed. David recognizes the wisdom of what Abigail says –

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.

In that time and culture – women were only as important as the man they were married to. Her position as Nabal’s wife was significant.

Abigail was willing to put that secure postion aside for the more important goal of serving God.
We can learn some very important principles about serving God from Abigail’s story:

1) Abigail recognized God’s will – she was not doing something she just thought up
a.God wanted David to be king
b.She realized that Nabal’s insults put her and her family in danger
2) Abigail used her influence to save her family
a.She listened to wise counsel – v. 17 – “consider what you will do”
b.She was courageous
c.She acted quickly – “made haste”
3) Abigail bowed before David – symbol of God’s anointed – God’s will a.She submitted to God’s will
b.She used kind, wise words to ask for mercy for her husband
4) Abigail told Nabel – but waited for the RIGHT time
a. There is a right time to do the right thing
b. There is a wrong time to do the right thing
c. There is a wrong time to do the wrong thing
5) Abigail obeyed – God was responsible for the consequences

When our heart is set to serve the Lord – He will orchestrate the circumstances – and He will bring it to His desired outcome. Verse 31 – “And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then earnestly remember your handmaid.”

Abigail is an example to us of a woman who desired to honor God. God protected her and later blessed her by causing David to marry her after her husband died.

When we trust God to show us how to serve Him, we can trust God with the consequences.

Never Too Young

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“How can I give this to God?”

Our daughter told me that she was amazed by her son’s question as they sat in church yesterday. She thought her son (almost five) wasn’t even paying attention. The pastor was sharing about the importance of offering ourselves and all we do to God. Our grandson was drawing on the children’s bulletin not appearing to be listening at all. Then he asked how he could give the picture he had drawn as his offering to God.

He was responding to the pastor’s message.

We should never underestimate the depth of little children’s understanding.

The disciples tried to “protect” Jesus from the distraction of children as he was teaching and healing those people who followed.

There were no nurseries or children’s ministries then. In fact, women and children were generally left out of religious gatherings during that time. Young boys were allowed to join their fathers when they were around 12 years old – as Jesus did when he went to the temple (Luke 2:42). Yet we know from various accounts in the gospels that many women followed Jesus – and so probably brought their children along as well.

Jesus valued the children and gathered them to himself despite the disciples’ efforts to turn the children away.

Luke 18: 15-16

15 One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.

16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.

I think children’s ministries and nurseries are important. I feel that those who care for and teach the children are such a blessing and are serving God. I look back on my earliest memories of attending church and I remember Sunday School teachers who taught me Biblical truth through their lessons AND their lives. I am so thankful for their willingness to put up with me, one of those wiggly, talkative children. (one teacher even put me out in the hall for talking too much!)

I also feel that there are times when children benefit from participating in the service with their parents. We can learn so much from a child’s response to Biblical teaching and when we experience the service with our children or grandchildren we can talk about the shared worship time. I remember seeing scripture through new eyes when our children shared their understanding of a particular passage. Our example of praying, worshipping through singing, and attentively listening are all examples to our little ones as well.

If Jesus said we needed to be like children to be part of the Kingdom of heaven, then we have much we can learn from these little ones.

Laugh At the Days to Come

Don't laugh now!

Don’t laugh now!

Our son told me years ago – and in fact reminded me of this recently – that before I tell a joke, I needed to run it by him to make sure it was really funny.

I don’t think so.

First of all, I am a 62 year old female. I don’t expect the things I find funny to be funny to young men.

Secondly, I do not find it funny when people are physically hurt. Males tend to LAUGH when someone falls down. I feel their pain and want to help them up. I am not sure I always trust my son’s evaluation of my humor.

Finally, what a person finds funny changes over time. I now find it so funny when small children say things really loud in quiet places. When my own children did this – it wasn’t funny.

I also think it is funny to tell my students that organic shapes (as opposed to geometric shapes) are shapes that have no preservatives or additives.

One student actually laughed, so I felt good about my effort to use humor in class.

Laughter is important. It lightens our mood, refreshes our outlook, and it can be contagious.

Solomon gives this wise council when describing a Godly woman.

Proverbs 31:25-26 NLT

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.

Why is she able to laugh at the future? Because she has strength and dignity. I believe it also means that she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

She doesn’t know what her future holds, but she knows God holds her future.

Let’s laugh together with our children.

Let’s laugh together with our grandchildren.

Let’s laugh together with our friends.

Let’s laugh at the days to come because we trust in our Father’s faithfulness.