Monday, August 29, 2005

True Ministry

I'd like to share portions of a newsletter received from a well-respected pastor.
It is entitled, "True Ministry".

"We need to be clear on why we do ministry in the first place.

Many Christians are actively involved in ministry for a whole lot of wrong reasons. That doesn't mean that God won't use it, but it's not the way God desires us to serve. The single reason we do ministry is because we love God and we want to do His will. The wrong reason is to think that if we did more things for God, He might like us more. It is important to realize that His love for us is perfect and complete.

We don't serve Him because we want Him to do good things for us in return. He is here to serve us by leading us to Himself, not to do what we want.

To do something out of love for God is not enough, it has to be something He wants you to do! The Bible talks about people who will even prophesy in Jesus' name, but in the end He says, "I never knew you. Depart from me." Matthew 7:21-23. In that same passage Jesus says that the people God claims as His own are the people that do the will of the Father.

True ministry is done for the love of the One who saved us, and is in direct accordance with His will. We do ministry not in order to get a relationship with God, but because we have a relationship with God. Ministry is sharing the love of God with others. This will naturally happen when you are experiencing the love of God yourself. God inspires us to do amazing things, which gives us the opportunity to live a life that is completely surrendered to the leading of His Holy Spirit. It's the natural overflow of a life lived in love with Him.

This is ministry.

Ministry involves sharing the love of God with more people and gives us
more opportunities to know Him better. Continue to ask God how He would have you participate and what the outpouring of His love through you looks like. He's just waiting to tell you."


Is that just awesome or what? After reading it, I found myself focused in on the portion that states that 'God inspires us to do amazing things when we take the opportunity to live a life that is completely surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit.' This is the process of sanctification. It is a lifelong journey and we will never completely "arrive" until we see Him face to face in eternity! But, through worship, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, ministry and evangelism, we are "purposed" in our lives here on earth and are more and more equipped to surrender and follow the leading of God's Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Have you ever neglected to do something when you had a clear indication from the Holy Spirit that it was something that God wanted you to do?

I have!

It was an awful experience, too.

I used all kinds of excuses for not witnessing to a neighbor and then, when the neighbor died, I also missed the opportunity to witness to his widow! I remember so vividly how my conscience was getting to me. I knew that I had rejected the prompting of the Holy Spirit during that time in my life. It got so bad that I even reached the point where I became physically ill.

I tried to "make up" for it when I ran into the man's widow in front of a Ralph's supermarket by inviting her to church with me. She never responded to the offer. Soon after, she moved away.

Now, I'd like to share an incident where I did follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I have to be honest and state that I felt completely inadequate to witness to this particular individual. Notice that I was focusing on my felt needs rather than focusing my attention and energy towards the leading of the Holy Spirit Who would ultimately help me in my inadequacy!

In the summer of 1994, my mom and dad were visiting us here in California. My dad had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer (due to asbestos exposure) and had been going through chemotherapy treatments. These treatments made him weak and we didn't do the usual sight seeing excursions as we had in the past. In fact, the one day we did go out, he had become very tired walking around a shopping area in LaJolla. When we came home, my discussion with my dad turned towards God. He abruptly said, "God is punishing me." This shocked me, at first, because I wasn't sure if my dad ever even thought about the things of God. He hardly ever went to church when I was a kid and I often worried about his relationship with "the Man upstairs"; as he liked to call Him.

We had a brief conversation about who and what was really responsible for him contracting lung cancer. He was tired and wanted to rest so I asked him if we could talk more about it later. He said yes, but we never did that day.

Soon, they were on the plane back to N.J.

In January, my dad had taken a severe turn for the worse. My mom was convinced that he had "a matter of days" to live. I boarded a plane and flew out to see my dad and talk with him about the Lord. On the plane, I had little booklets called, "Our Daily Bread" that contained excerpts of Bible verses and brief commentary about them. I started to highlight the portions of Scripture that I would share with him.

I can't say that I was "scared" to share the gospel with my dad; it was more of a worry that I wouldn't "do it right" and end up pushing him further away from the Lord. He never spoke to me about spiritual things when we were growing up so I just assumed that he was agnostic.

When I arrived at the house, I was so saddened to see my dad in such bad condition. He was bedridden, couldn't move, drowsy from medication and incontinent. My dad had always been a big, tall, and very strong man. To see him at half his normal weight and weak like that was very difficult. I waited until I was in my former bedroom upstairs in the house and cried my eyes out.

I helped my mom tend to him physically over the next few days, but I also asked him if we could continue our discussion from the summer about "God punishing him."

During our discussion, I discovered something about my dad that I never knew before. When my family was attending the Catholic church and my dad stayed home, he would usually watch sports on TV. What I didn't know is that he would often flip through the channels during the commercials and watch Charles Stanley's broadcast! I was certainly thrilled to hear that! It gave me an "in" to share the Bible with him.

I refered to the Scriptures I had highlighted in the booklets and shared the verses that would lead into sharing the gospel with my dad. Sometimes he would tire easily and ask me to stop. This went on for about 3 days. On that third day, I presented the gospel message to him and asked if he would like to repent and ask Jesus into his heart for the salvation of his soul. HE SAID YES!! My mom was nearby sitting on a chair and we all prayed together! I was so thrilled that my dad, in what was close to the 11th hour of his life made the eternal decision for Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! Praise God!

We continued with our Bible studies until it was time for me to fly home.

One afternoon, an unusual thing happened. I often hesitate to share this because people often do not react well to it and/or they claim that my dad was "doped up" and didn't know what he was saying. This is what happened.

We had just finished our Bible study and my mom was in the kitchen getting lunch ready. My dad said, "Alright Joe." I said, "What dad?" My dad said, "I was talking to Joe." I said, "Joe? Who and where is Joe?" My dad said, "He's right over there," as he pointed to the empty chair where my mom usually sits. I looked at the empty chair, then I looked at my dad. He seemed to be listening intently as he stared at the chair. There was a moment of silence and then my dad said, "Oh." I said, "What dad?" He said, "He says you can't see him." I was flabbergasted! Something like this had never happened to me before.

My mom entered the room and we had lunch. Later, I asked my mom if dad knows a "Joe." She told me that he was best buddies with a guy he knew while serving in WWII and he was named "Joe." Joe died while in the service.

I have often wondered if my dad had been visited by an angel who appeared before him looking like his friend Joe. I know I can't prove anything and I'm not trying to convince anyone here, but this incident has stuck in my mind and will never leave.

When I was flying back home, I realized that I probably would never see my dad alive again. The sorrow of that fact led to tears which were replaced by joy when my thoughts came to the great realization that I would one day see him again in eternity!

A wonderful thing happened soon after my visit. My dad improved a lot and was able to get out of bed and into a wheelchair. He had two last wishes. He wanted to take a ride in one of his antique convertible cars and sit in his favorite chair in the living room. He did both and much more in the month of March!

I saw this as a reprieve, sent by God!

If you had seen how bad my dad looked when I visited him in January, you would never have believed that he would have lived another 4 1/2 months!

My dad died on May 30, 1995 at around 9 a.m. in the morning.

My entire family went back for the funeral. I was asked to speak at the podium during the funeral. I will share that account next time. It was another incident where the Holy Spirit helped me so tremendously that it is one of times in my life where my faith became steadfast and solidified. I know that the Lord is real and He is with matter WHAT happens in life.


Susan Smith said...

What an OUTSTANDING post about why we do ministry, Christine. Thanks for posting the newsletter from the pastor. What a blessing and how true is the message!

And thank you for sharing the heart-rending story of your dad's last months. I believe he DID see Joe. My mentor (before I met her) saw her deceased mother once and received the answer to a spiritual battle she was having.

God works with different people in different ways. Thanks for being a servant of the Living God, Christine. God bless you this day! In His Love,


Jojo said...

The story about your father really touched my heart. I had a similar experience with my stepfather. It has inspired me to write about it at my blog. I will go do that now. :)

Christinewjc said...

Hi Susan and Jojo,

Yes! That newsletter is a wonderful reminder for us all as to just why we are involved in ministry!

I have found that when I share that story about my dad, the person I am telling (or, in this case, had been reading the account) oftentimes says that they have had, or, have known about, a similar experience! I remember that I was hesitant to tell my husband. I thought that maybe he would say that I was imagining things. Instead, he told me about a time when an angel appeared to him in a dream to tell him that his dad was OK. His dad passed away when my husband was in his late teens. I never got the chance to meet him.

The Lord DOES work in different ways with different people. After experiences like these I find myself at the point where doubt is absolutely shattered and faith is heightened tremendously!

Jojo, I'm looking foreward to hearing about your experience with your stepfather!

God bless you both!
Love in Him,