The board room and the birthing room

Proverbs 10:16. The labor of the righteous leads to life

I was very encouraged when I read this verse recently as I have been learning new things and stepping out in areas that have made me uncomfortable. And I rejoiced to read this verse that our labors for the Lord will lead to life. Isn’t that what we want? Christian blogger, isn’t that why you write? Isn’t it about more than just getting your thoughts and opinions out there, but about affecting lives for the kingdom of God?

For this purpose we make plans and labor to learn technology and setup platforms and produce content. This is the board room – the place of planning and activity. Without the labor in the board room there will be nothing to present to the world.

But there in another labor that must occur….this one in the birthing room. All our blog posts, podcasts and videos become merely more cyber clutter without the touch of God upon them. We can work ourselves into exhaustion in the board room but if we neglect the birthing room of prayer all our labors will be ineffective and lifeless.

The board room is organized and professional looking. Everybody admires the work done there. But the birthing room is a place of groaning, sweat and tears that we often would prefer to avoid. But we must have both.

In the board room, we bring things forth. In the birthing room, God gives them life.

Your labor will be rewarded

1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

I know people who seem to have the “Midas touch” in ministry. Not that everything they touch turns to gold, but everything they touch turns to fruit for the kingdom. It seems that almost effortlessly everything they do in the name of Jesus is profitable. The people they share the gospel with are profoundly affected and get saved. People they pray for get healed. They teach the truths of God’s word with great wisdom and authority.

And then there are other people, who seek God like crazy and yearn to make a difference in this life for the kingdom and have significant periods of time that yield no fruit.

I’ve read stories of missionaries that labored their whole lives in almost unbearable conditions to bring the gospel to a heathen people group. They live and die seeing no conversions to Christ. But the next missionary comes and the harvest is so ripe it requires almost no labor on his part.

So, getting really real here, I often feel like the one always desiring and laboring that my life would be profitable for the kingdom of God, and mostly feeling like it isn’t. Always sowing, rarely reaping. In frustration, ready to stop trying and just wait for heaven.

But at the same time, I can’t stop. Inside there is such a stirring to speak of Him, write of Him, that maybe somebody, somewhere at sometime might be helped.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with discouragement.

A number of years ago somebody shared a video with me that has encouraged me tremendously. I want to share it with you now. It’s about 8 minutes long but well worth the time to listen.

I hope it encourages you as well, to continue in your service to the Lord, even when you cannot see the fruit.

Sharing the spoils of victory

David had been through many years of struggle. Anointed as king by Samuel and then chased all over Israel by King Saul, he now lived in Philistine territory as an apparent ally to Israel’s most hated enemy. He kept his military skills sharp by going out on raids, but during the absence of David and the men of war, their city, Ziklag, was raided and burned and all the inhabitants were taken captive by the Amalekites. At the Lord’s direction, David and his men pursued the Amalekites and not only recovered all of their own people and possessions, but they got extra because the Amalekites had invaded several areas prior to Ziklag. David could have kept all the spoil for himself, but instead it pleased him to share it with others.

1 Samuel 30:26 Now when David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD”–

His victory wasn’t just for him. It was for the benefit of the people of God.

Although we don’t fight physical battles, we definitely are in a warfare and there are victories that we win and spoils of those victories that we acquire. And these spoils are not merely for us to celebrate, but they are for the help and benefit and encouragement of the people of God. The battles you have won—share the fruits of it with others. Share your story. Share your failures and share how Jesus brought you through it. Tell the testimonies of His grace and His power at work in your darkest days. And tell how He brought you out of that darkness. Somebody needs to hear it. Your victory wasn’t just for you.

1 Chronicles 26:27 Some of the spoils won in battles they dedicated to maintain the house of the LORD.

This is what your victory is for- to strengthen the people of God and to encourage them.

To tell the story of God’s victory means that you will have to tell the story of your failure. Don’t be ashamed. Everyone else has failed too. They just may be more concerned about protecting their reputation than sharing the spoils. Tell your story as often as you can and watch what God does.


Intimacy precedes ministry

Mark 3:14-15 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons

When Jesus chose his 12 disciples he didn’t choose them so he could throw them out into the harvest for them to “figure it out”. It says it was appointed that they might be with him before He ever sent them out to do anything in ministry. I’m sure He taught them things from the Scriptures and taught them about the kingdom of God. But they needed more than knowledge. Earlier in the same chapter we see several instances of the Pharisees, with their exhaustive knowledge of the Scriptures, having no real understanding of the heart of God towards a lost and suffering humanity. They didn’t care that the miracle working power of God was present to heal the tormented and afflicted…because the traditions couldn’t be broken.

Jesus knew that before His disciples could ever labor for Him, they had to understand His mission. So they watched Him touch lepers and heal Gentiles and forgive adulteresses and rebuke Pharisees who looked on disapprovingly.

All our ministry will deteriorate into brittle religious ritual if it isn’t motivated and fueled by intimacy with Jesus. We were always meant to work WITH Him and not merely FOR Him.

Barnabas…being faithful to be Barnabas

This morning I got up early so I could spend some time seeking the Lord. I opened my Bible to read for a little while and ended in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas had an argument that ended their ministry together because Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark, who had earlier had a little fall from grace, with them in the ministry. But Paul didn’t want him involved. It says that Barnabas and Mark went on their way and Paul and Silas went on their way commended by the church. That little bit of scripture seemed important this morning so I just stop to meditate on it for a while. And as I was just thinking on it I saw how there’s great importance in who you partner with in life and ministry. It can change the course of everything. It seemed at first that Barnabas made the wrong choice and it brought the disapproval of the church. But as I looked into it more and thought on it in the Lord’s presence, the message of this verse became so beautiful to me….especially now. Earlier in the book of Acts Barnabas is called “Son of Encouragement”. He was the one who believed in Paul when everybody else was afraid of him. This same Barnabas was the one who wanted to see Mark restored when others were angry that he hadn’t been faithful. Barnabas’s ministry may not be praised through the generations like Paul’s is, but it didn’t end with his disagreement with Paul. He continued to be a faithful minister of the gospel, maybe just behind the scenes now. The testimony of Mark is that he remained a faithful and useful man. What would have happened to him if Barnabas had rejected him in order to keep Paul’s approval? Thankfully we will never know. What we do know is that it cost Barnabas his partnership with the illustrious apostle Paul to be faithful to his role as a son of encouragement. Yet now, thousands of years later on a cold January morning, he is still encouraging the brethren.

Third Street Outreach – July 6, 2018

Last Friday as a young man was passing by on Third Street, I handed him a gospel tract and tried to start a conversation with him. He seemed eager to enjoy his evening and not very disposed to stop and talk until I mentioned the name of Jesus. He stopped in his tracks and told me that he was a backslider.  He had been raised in church all his life and had made a genuine profession of faith in Christ as a young man. He had been active in ministry and diligent in the spiritual disciplines. But he had a struggle that he couldn’t talk about with anyone….until it overtook him. Having been molested by a family member when he was a young boy, he found himself struggling with same sex attraction for years.   He prayed and sought freedom from these desires but eventually grew weary of the fight. He told me that all through those years he was active in evangelism and discipleship. In the midst of his own personal struggle he was always going after people for the kingdom….he said ”and I wondered when is somebody going to come after me”. All up in the middle of church and ministry, yet sinking into the seeming hopelessness of a besetting sin….battling alone and being overcome.   He wept, right out there in the middle of Baton Rouge’s party street….longing to be free….missing the Father’s house.

We prayed together and I trust that the Spirit of God will complete the work of restoration. Please pray for D. and so many, many like him who are slipping away from Christ in the midst of the house of God. Make no mistake….this world we live in is a battle zone. As the people of God, we must war with one another and for one another so that we can all say at the end….”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Willing beyond our ability (the life that causes others to marvel)

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.  And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

The context of this passage is related to the offering that Paul is expecting to receive from the Corinthian believers for the relief of the saints in Jerusalem. They had previously committed to helping financially and as the time is approaching for the funds to be collected and delivered to Jerusalem, Paul is encouraging their generosity by presenting as an example the sacrificial giving of the Macedonian believers, which would have included Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

There are some intense words and phrases used in this passage that warrant some attention:

  • Great trial of affliction – When you read Acts 16-17 you see the hostility the gospel faced in these three cities when Paul first came preaching. Not only can we assume that the believers in these places also faced the same trouble, we see Paul writing about it in Philippians 1:29For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
  • Abundance of joy and deep poverty – When someone is below the poverty line in America, they will normally still have a cell phone, TV, electricity and many things that are not necessities. But these Macedonian believers were living in a state of “deep poverty”. Yet even in the midst of their deep poverty, they were abundantly joyful. What a dichotomy! But also a reality that is possible in Christ.
  • Abounded in the riches of their liberality – In such a depth of poverty, we would expect that they were carefully conserving all that they possessed and had access to. But instead, they gave to others in need, and they gave liberally.
  • They were free willing, imploring Paul urgently to let them be involved in giving. They didn’t have to be guilted into it or persuaded in any way, except that they were compelled by the love of God to share with others in need.
  • They first gave themselves to the Lord – so this wasn’t just a matter of religious duty. They yielded themselves to Jesus and from that, these desires began to come into their hearts…desires that were bigger than their ability.


So I was reading this passage from 2 Corinthians 8 a few months ago and I had a flashback to a Sunday school lesson that I heard taught over a year ago. Here is a brief synopsis of one of the points that was made:

Jesus was in the synagogue and there was a man who had a withered (shrunken, dried up) hand. The Scriptures tell us this: Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Matthew 12:13

The problem with the story is this….Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand, but that’s exactly the one thing that he couldn’t do. It is entirely possible that this man could have walked away in despair, knowing that what he had been asked to do was beyond his ability. Instead he just did what Jesus told him to do, what was beyond his ability, and the power and glory of God were manifested right there in front of all who stood by.

The story of the man with the withered hand is powerful. The story of the Macedonian believers and their sacrificial giving is powerful. But it’s the common element in both stories that has become so significant to me. Let me explain:

Jesus was asking the man with the withered hand to do something that was beyond his ability, and many times the desire of God is to bring us to a place where we step out into things that are beyond our ability, and He’s looking for this Macedonian attitude of being freely willing beyond our ability. We live in a natural world, but we are citizens of a supernatural kingdom. Living in a place of our own ability is a comfort zone of sorts and we can easily finding ourselves gravitating towards and settling into that comfort zone. If I know that I’m able to do something, I can rely on that ability. I can trust in myself. There’s very little fear….probably very little prayer and trusting God. Life is just easier that way.

But 2 Corinthians 5:16a says this:   Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.

This gets right to the heart of the problem….I am often regarding myself according to the flesh, making judgements about what I’m able to do and what I’m not able to do, based on what I know about my abilities. Not only am I not to regard myself according to the flesh any longer, my eyes shouldn’t be on myself at all.

Col 3:2 tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth. Because looking at myself or anything in this world around me is not going to encourage the kind of faith that is willing beyond my ability. When I look at me I see weakness and inability. But when I look at Him I see not only mighty power, but almighty power. And it’s a power that He is willing to use on our behalf and through our life, and there’s a reason why:

1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

It’s a matter of glory and who’s going to get it. And how is He going to get the glory through us if we’re not willing to be put into situations where there’s no question that the power and ability working through us is His? A great example of this can be found in the book of Acts.

Acts 4:13-14 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

The great part about this passage is that by observing the lives of these apostles it verified that they had been with Jesus. His presence and His power marked their lives in a way that was discernable. They had run away in fear when Jesus was arrested, concerned about saving themselves. That’s what was in these men. If they had only continued having prayer meetings and Bible studies while hiding away in the upper room that would have been no big deal because that was safe. But they are preaching the gospel publicly and being used to perform miracles of healing. This was not the apostles’ ability. It is the ability of God. They are living beyond their ability through His ability. Why? How did they get to that point where they were willing….willing to live beyond their own ability? It’s because they had just been with the resurrected Christ and were now a people filled with the Spirit of that Christ. The ability of God now dwelt within them.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11 makes some great promises: And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

He is promising that for every good work that He puts before us to do, He will provide what is needed, making all grace abound toward us. Should we be afraid when God prompts us to do something that is beyond our ability? The answer is a resounding NO! But what He requires of us, we must require of Him. We must realize that our ability cannot accomplish the works of God…that we are absolutely poverty-stricken. Yet there is such hope in God, and we can rejoice that He has provided all that is needed. And then we must, by faith, lay hold of what He has already promised.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us

There is a power of God in the believer. He wants that power to work in us and to work through us. And whether or not you let that happen determines the legacy you leave on this earth. Will you be content for people to say at your funeral that you were a nice Christian?   Or do you want to be known as a man or woman whose life was a marvel because you walked with God and refused to be content to live in your own ability.

God, make us willing beyond our ability!







No ambition but Christ

1 Samuel 23:16-17  “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.  And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.”
This is an amazing passage.  Jonathan should have been the next king.  Certainly he had been raised with this expectation and trained to fill that position after his father Saul.  Yet he was aware who God had chosen for that role and it wasn’t him; and that was okay.  He was able to see the bigger picture – who God had chosen and anointed.  He didn’t feel threatened.  He knew that he would be near the king and that was enough for him.
Saul on the other hand, although he also knew God had chosen David to be king, was tireless in his efforts to hunt down and kill David.
I have heard a term used for what there seems to be so much of in the church these days – “spiritualized ambition”.  So many people are waiting for their world wide ministry to materialize.  Not content with the ordinariness of now, we waste today by always looking off into the dreamed of tomorrow.  Oh that we would turn our focus on what is truly important – not our ministry, but our King – Jesus.  Whatever our role is to be in serving Him on this earth, it is enough that we shall be next to Him.

Therefore I came

Each time I read the words of John the Baptist it makes me want to repent in dust and ashes for my prideful, self-seeking heart.  He has a way of getting directly to the heart of things.  Even though we only have record of a few sentences, they pack a powerful punch.

A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.  John 3:27

He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30

He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  Matthew 3:11

I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.  John 1:31

This is a far cry from so much of what I see in “ministry” today.  Driving down the interstate there are billboards advertising local churches displaying huge pictures of the pastor and his wife.  Not just one.  Many.  The phrase that comes to mind each time I see them is “what were they thinking????”

“Therefore I came”, John said.  Why?  That Christ should be revealed. 

Not that I should become well known.  Not that I should build a thriving church.  But that Christ should be revealed.

There is a trap set for us, and it is ministry.  Oh it looks so beautiful and desirable, and it seems so good.  But ministry becomes idolatry when the purpose is anything other than revealing Christ.

In these days of Christian celebrities, may God guard our hearts from being caught up in such folly.