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Instruments for Good

By |2024-07-22T02:33:17-04:00July 22nd, 2024|

The criminal had been apprehended, and the detective asked the perpetrator why he had brazenly attacked someone with so many witnesses present. The response was startling. “I knew they wouldn’t do anything; people never do.” That comment pictures what is called “guilty knowledge”—choosing to ignore a crime even though you know it is being committed.

The apostle James addressed a similar kind of guilty knowledge, saying, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin” (James 4:17).

Through His great salvation of us, God has designed us to be agents of good in the world. Ephesians 2:10 affirms, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These good works aren’t the cause of our salvation but rather the result of our hearts being changed God’s Holy Spirit taking up residence in our lives. The Spirit even gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to accomplish those things for which God has recreated us (see 1 Corinthians 12:1–11).

As God’s workmanship, may we yield to His purposes and the empowering of His Spirit so that we can be His instruments for good in a world that desperately needs Him.

Serving at the Pleasure

By |2024-07-01T02:33:13-04:00July 1st, 2024|

Andrew Card was the Chief of Staff to American president George W. Bush. In an interview regarding his role in the White House he explained, “In each staff member’s office hangs a framed statement of purpose: ‘We serve at the pleasure of the President.’ But that does not mean that we serve to please the President or to win his or her pleasure. Rather, we serve to tell him what he needs to know to do his job.” That job is to govern the United States of America.

In so many of roles and relationships we slip into people-pleasing mode rather than building up each other in unity, as the apostle Paul often urged. In Ephesians 4, Paul wrote, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith” (vv. 11-13). In verse 15, Paul cut through our people-pleasing tendencies, stressing that these gifts should be expressed by “speaking the truth in love” so that “the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love” (v. 16).

As believers in Jesus, we serve “at the pleasure” of our good God in all things, to accomplish His purposes. Whether or not we please others, we’ll please God as He works through us to create unity in His church.

United Diversity in Christ

By |2024-04-24T02:33:05-04:00April 24th, 2024|

In his essay “Service and the Spectrum,” Professor Daniel Bowman Jr. writes of the difficulty of navigating decisions about how to serve his church as an autistic person. He explains, “Autistic people have to forge a new path forward every single time, a unique path that takes into account . . . mental, emotional, and physical energy . . . alone/recharging time; sensory inputs and comfort level . . . time of day; whether or not we’re being valued for our strengths and accommodated for our needs rather than excluded for perceived deficits; and much more.” For many people, Bowman writes, such decisions, “while reorienting people’s time and energy, likely will not undo them. Those same decisions might well undo me.”

Bowman believes that the vision of mutuality Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 could be a healing solution. There, Paul describes God uniquely gifting each of His people for “the common good” (vv. 4-7). Each is an indispensable member of Christ’s body (v. 22). When churches come to understand each person’s unique, God-given wiring and gifting, instead of pressuring everyone to help out in the same way, they can support their members to serve in ways that fit their giftings.

In this way, each person can find flourishing and wholeness, secure in their valued place in Christ’s body (v. 26).

Lower Deck People

By |2023-07-30T02:33:08-04:00July 30th, 2023|

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 21–27 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 51–53; Romans 2 Play/Pause Mute/Unmute Vol+ Vol- Download Download MP3 Subscribe to iTunesThose parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. 1 Corinthians 12:22 A friend of mine works on a hospital ship called Africa Mercy, which takes free healthcare to [...]

Doing Our Role

By |2020-11-09T08:06:02-05:00November 9th, 2020|

When two of my grandchildren tried out for the musical Alice in Wonderland Jr., their hearts were set on getting leading roles. Maggie wanted to be young Alice, and Katie thought Mathilda would be a good role. But they were chosen to be flowers. Not exactly a ticket to Broadway.

Yet my daughter said the girls were “excited for their friends who got the [leading roles]. Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

What a picture of how our interactions with each other in the Body of Christ should look! Every local church has what might be considered key roles. But it also needs the flowers—the ones who do vital but not-so-high-profile work. If others get roles we desire, may we choose to encourage them even as we passionately fulfill the roles God has given us.

In fact, helping and encouraging others is a way to show love for Him. Hebrews 6:10 says, “[God] will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people.” And no gift from His hand is unimportant: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

Just imagine a church of encouragers “diligently” using their God-given gifts to His glory (Hebrews 6:11). Now that makes for joy and excitement!

A Truck Driver’s Hands

By |2020-10-29T09:06:03-04:00October 29th, 2020|

Lucy Worsley is a British historian and TV presenter. Like most people in the public eye, she sometimes receives nasty mail—in her case, over a mild speech impediment that makes her R’s sound like W’s. One person wrote this: “Lucy, I’ll be blunt: Please try harder to correct your lazy speech or remove R’s from your scripts—I couldn’t sit through your TV series because it made me so annoyed. Regards, Darren.”

For some people, an insensitive comment like this might trigger an equally rude reply. But here’s how Lucy responded: “Oh Darren, I think you’ve used the anonymity of the internet to say something you probably wouldn’t say to my face. Please reconsider your unkind words! Lucy.”

Lucy’s measured response worked. Darren apologized and vowed not to send anyone such an email again.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,” Proverbs says, “but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). While the hot-tempered person stirs things up, the patient person calms them down (v. 18). When we get a critical comment from a colleague, a snide remark from a family member, or a nasty reply from a stranger, we have a choice: to speak angry words that fuel the flames or gentle words that douse them.

May God help us to speak words that turn away wrath—and perhaps even help difficult people to change.

Preach or Plow?

By |2020-10-15T09:06:03-04:00October 15th, 2020|

According to the family legend, two brothers, one named Billy and the other Melvin, were standing on the family’s dairy farm one day when they saw an airplane doing some skywriting. The boys watched as the plane sketched out the letters “GP” overhead.

Both brothers decided that what they saw had meaning for them. One thought it meant “Go preach.” The other read it as “Go plow.” Later, one of the boys, Billy Graham, dedicated himself to preaching the gospel, becoming an icon of evangelism. His brother Melvin went on to faithfully run the family dairy farm for many years.

Skywriting signs aside, if God did call Billy to preach and Melvin to plow, as seems to be the case, they both honored God through their vocations. While Billy achieved greatness and fame during his long preaching career, his success doesn’t mean that his brother’s obedient calling to plow was any less important.

While God does assign some to be in what we call full-time ministry (Ephesians 4:11–12), that doesn’t mean those in other jobs and roles aren’t doing something just as important. In either case, as Paul said, “each part [should do] its work” (v.16). That means honoring Jesus by faithfully using the gifts He’s given us. When we do, whether we “go preach” or “go plow,” we can make a difference for Jesus wherever we serve or work.

More than Meets the Eye

By |2020-03-04T12:12:09-05:00March 7th, 2020|

Attend any rodeo with riding and roping competition and you’ll see them—competitors with four fingers on one hand and a nub where their thumb should be. It’s a common injury in the sport—a thumb gets caught between a rope on one end and a decent-sized steer pulling on the other, and the thumb is usually the loser. It’s not a career-ending injury, but the absence of a thumb changes things...

Carefully Crafted

By |2019-11-28T16:10:05-05:00November 30th, 2019|

In a YouTube video, Alan Glustoff, a cheese farmer in Goshen, New York, described his process for aging cheese, a process that adds to a cheese’s flavor and texture. Before it can be sent out to a market, each block of cheese remains on a shelf in an underground cave for six to twelve months. In this humid environment the cheese is carefully tended...

Not Second Rate

By |2019-10-10T07:46:58-04:00October 20th, 2019|

After the conclusion of the First World War, US President Woodrow Wilson was recognized as one of the most powerful leaders on earth. But few knew that after a devastating stroke in 1919, it was his wife who managed nearly all of his affairs, determining which issues should be brought to his attention. In fact, modern historians believe that for a short while, it was really Edith Wilson who served as the president of the United States...

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