Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recognize Discouragement

Do you ever feel discouraged when you serve others or do the work that you feel God has called you to do? I sure do! It may not sound right but it’s not easy to serve others when there’s very few perks for those that serve. Maybe that’s the point. Do we serve for our benefit or for the benefit of others? Now I know the right answer but what is the truth? If we are really honest there is a lot of “us” in our serving.

I’m not trying to have a negative vibe here but it’s true isn’t it? Look, I like to serve at the Food Bank for the Backpack program. It helps provide food for children that are on the free or reduced meal plan at school so they can eat health on the weekend. For some kids it’s the only food they have until breakfast on Monday. I go there with 30-40 other people and for 3 hours we pack 3500 backpacks with about 10 pounds of good food. What would I do if I was the only one that showed up? What would I do if the great people at the Food Bank were not so good and yelled at me? There are a number of situations that could be discouraging and I would probably keep coming for a while but over time I’d drop out…and do you know why? I’m ashamed to say it. I’d quit because my needs were not being met.

What are my needs? I want to be wanted. I like others to think I’m a good sever. I like to think that without me and my hard work, these children would be worse off. I like to be patted on the back. I like having limited responsibility so I don’t have to see it through. I like the pleasant side of service so I don’t have to be aware or feel guilty about the challenges I’m not addressing. I’m sure there are many more reasons I serve that have nothing to do with the reason I should serve.

Let’s face it; we get discouraged when we serve ourselves. Discouragement just might be the warning sign that there is a problem with our hearts. We are to serve out of a response of our faith. We are to serve like Christ serves and he served by going to the cross. It should not matter how hard or how little the praise is, we should serve because of Christ. Stephen served by getting stoned. Paul served by getting arrested. John served in prison. I serve when I want to and only if I get the perks I think I deserve. Ouch!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Consider Your Ways

Here in America, we are about things and comfort. It is our cultural belief that things will bring us comfort and in the moment they sure do. We will spare no expense to avoid suffering and we want more than mom or dad ever had and we want it in our teens. We forget how long it took our parents to amass all that they enjoyed in their later years. As Americans we feel very strongly that we should have the car we want, a TV that is bigger than our waist line (which is getting harder to do), hours of TV time, vacations to the best of places, the same clothing the stars wear and houses with a room for every activity. But why? Does it make life better? Can money make us happy?

So what do you think God thinks about this American Dream? Is this what he had in mind when he created us? I know the answer to this question but I don’t like answering it because it then forces me to take inventory and in doing so I just might get convicted. Conviction is the pits because it forces you to change or rationalize and justify wrong behavior. We all know we should give more to God, but we don’t. We all know that we should do more for others, but we don’t.

Or do we? There is a cool thing that happens to a person who learns about Christ and allows that knowledge to change them. All of the sudden you start to think differently and act strangely. Before I became a Christ follower, I never gave to God, but now I do and I do it because I know it is all his already and I’m being obedient to his request. Before I became a Christ follower, I did serve others but I was actually serving myself, patting myself on the back and making sure others noticed. Today I serve because I know God loves all people and he has asked me to be his hands and feet in this world and to continue the ministry he was doing here.

Can I do better? Yes, only about 99% better, but I do see that Christ has changed me in some ways and I look forward to seeing more changes as I work hard to be changed.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

From the Desk of Pastor Doug

Click on the image to read it if full screen

The image on the letterhead is an old Bartel family crest from the date of my ancestors around 1860 when they came into to America through Prussia and Canada to start the Mennonite Brethren Church. It's a bit strange but I like it.