February 4, 2015

4 Feb 2015

Message:  “Volunteer, Conscript, or Neither??”

Pastor Larry Fossum

           Over the past six months I have seen a lot of things happen at the Cowboy Way Church.  This past summer we, as a church, took on numerous endeavors.  At times, I myself, thought that maybe it was too much.  We hosted 3 concerts and a Revival in a 2 and a half week period.  Even though I had concerns, I trusted the Lord.  I don’t know His specific plan for us, but I do know that if it is from God, He will provide, both strength and resources.  There is a purpose and a job for all of us.  From those weeks, allot of things began to build.  New people began coming, contacts were made for both Grant  and us, people were touched and healed, and myself, and I hope this body, was encouraged with a vision of what God wants this body to be a part of.  People have stepped up, and said I want to be a part of what Gods doing in this little Church.  It reminds me of that Nursery story that we’ve all heard since we were small.  The story about the little “Choo. Choo Train” that kept saying;  “I think I can, I think I can , I think I can.”  The only difference to me, is that our small group of people need to get on board this train and keep believing and repeating;  “I know we can, I know we can, I know we can!”   But to do that, we can’t sit on the fence, we gotta make a decision and get off the fence.  We need to be a part of what God wants us to do!!

Bill Wilson builds Sunday schools in some of New York City’s worst areas. He has been stabbed and shot, and had team members killed. A Puerto Rican lady, who could barely speak English, said to him one day, “I want to do something for God, please.” Bill said, “Okay, ride a different Sunday school bus every week, and just love the kids.” So she rode different buses.  Bill has dozens of them – and she loved the children. After several months, she became attached to one little boy. “I don’t want to change buses any more,” she said. “I want to stay on this one,” she told Bill. The boy came to Sunday school every week with his sister, and sat on the lady’s lap, but never made a sound. She would repeatedly tell him, “I love you, and Jesus loves you.”

 One day to her amazement, he turned around and stammered, “I. . .love you too.” Then he gave her a big hug. That was at two-thirty on a Sunday after­noon. At six-thirty that night, the boy was found dead in a dumpster, under a fire escape. His mother had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash. “I love you, and Jesus loves you.” Those were some of the last words that little boy heard in his short life – from the lips of a Puerto Rican woman who could barely speak English. Bill says, “Who among us is qualified to minister?  Who among us even knows what to do? Not you; not me. But I ran to an altar once and got some fire in me and then I just went. So did this woman, who couldn’t speak English. And so can you.”

Pilate had an opportunity to acquit Jesus of any wrongdoing, but instead he called for a basin and washed his hands of the entire matter. His attitude was, “I’m not getting involved.” And a lot of people have that same attitude. But not Jesus. The night before His death, He called for a basin of water and washed His disciples’ feet.  He taught them: “Who­ever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mk 10:43 NKJV). Peter objected because foot-washing was a duty designated to the lowest servant in Middle Eastern households, and he considered it beneath Christ’s dignity. Catherine Marshall writes: “We, the disciples, are to be the servants, I want to insist along with Peter’. But Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jn 13:8 NKJV). This is a stunning and stupendous thought. Unless I can believe in this much “love” for me, un­less I can and will accept Him by faith as my “servant” as well as my God, unless I can truly know that it’s my “good” He seeks.. .then I cannot have His companionship.” This is so con­trary to the world’s philosophy, where everybody wants to lead, and nobody wants to serve. But to be like Jesus, is to be a servant, for that’s what He called Himself. Never have goals so lofty, that they blind you to the needs of those around you. Without a servant’s heart, you’ll be tempted to use your gift for personal gain, or to exempt yourself from areas you consider beneath you. The truth is, the only way to serve God, is by serving those He loves.  He loves you, too, but it’s not a “Me – Me” game.     It’s them first, then you!!

In his book “Swim With the Sharks”, leadership expert Harvey Mackay, writes about Philip Pillsbury, of the famous Pillsbury milling family: The tips of three of Phillips fingers were missing…the unmistakable mark of a journeyman grain miller, albeit a somewhat less-than-dexterous one. Philip Pillsbury had an international reputation, as a connoisseur of fine foods…but to the troops, his reputation as a man willing to do a hard, dirty job, was the one that mattered.. .And you can be sure everyone was aware of it.” If you’re going to be following in the foot­steps of Jesus, it calls for being service-oriented, not self-absorbed. Often the reason we don’t volunteer, is because we think we can’t do it as well as somebody else. We’ve made the mistake, of making excellence an idol, by buying into the philosophy, “If I can’t do it right, I won’t do it at all.” The fact is, less-than-perfect service, is better than the best of intentions. If you’re not willing to do it imperfectly in the beginning, you’ll never get out of the start­ing gate. Almost everything we do, is done poorly at first. That’s how we learn. God’s plan has always been to involve as many folks as possible, not have everything run by a few experts. The best of people, make mistakes; that’s how you gain knowledge and develop character. The Bible says, “If you think you are too important to help…you are only fool­ing yourself.”  (Gal 6:3 NLT) Sometimes you’re called to serve upward, to those in authority; other times you’re called to serve downward, to those in need. Either way, you’re serving God, but only when you’re willing to do what’s required.

Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?.. .If I were still try­ing to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10 NIV). A true servant of God, is content to work quietly in the shadows. They know that in heaven, God will openly reward people we’ve never even heard of—people who taught emotionally disturbed children, cleaned up after the sick, nursed AIDS patients, and gave their lives in a thousand unnoticed ways. “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort” (1 Cor 15:58 TM)

During World War II, when England needed to increase its coal production, Winston Churchill called together labor leaders. He asked them to picture in their minds, a victory parade which he knew would be held in Pic­cadilly Circus, after the war. First in line would be the sailors, who kept the vital sea lanes open. After them would come the soldiers, who returned from Dunkirk, and went on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Next would be the pilots, who’d driven the Luftwaffe from the skies. Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men, in miners’ caps. Someone would shout from the crowd, “And where were you during the crit­ical days of our struggle?” And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, “We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.” Not all jobs are prominent and glam­orous. But those who serve God with their “faces to the coal,” play a vital role in fulfilling His purposes on this earth.

In his book “The Pursuit of Excellence”, Ted Engstrom writes: “I was cleaning out a desk drawer, when I found a flashlight I hadn’t used in over a year. I flipped the switch, but wasn’t surprised when it gave no light. I unscrewed it and shook it to get the batteries out, but they wouldn’t budge. Finally, after some effort, they came loose. What a mess! Battery acid had corroded the entire inside of the flashlight. The batteries were new when I put them in, and I’d stored them in a safe, warm place. But there was one problem. Those batteries weren’t made to be warm and comfortable. They were designed to be turned on—to be used. And it’s the same with us. We weren’t created to be warm, safe, and com­fortable. You and I were made to be turned on.” You must constantly remind yourself, that first and foremost, you’re called to be God’s servant. That way, interruptions won’t frustrate you. “Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good” (Gal 6:10 GWT). Be sensitive and spontaneous; otherwise great opportunities to serve God will pass you by.

“Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now” (Pr 3:28 GMT). Look for small tasks that nobody else wants to do, then do them, as if they were great things-because God is recording it all. Make yourself available. Don’t fill your time with other pursuits, that limit your availability. Be ready to jump into service, at a moment’s notice. Allow God to change your plans, without becoming resentful. As a servant, you don’t get to choose where you’ll serve. God does that.

Paul writes, “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit, but because Christ’s love controls us now.” (2 Cor 5:14 TLB)  God is looking for volunteers, not conscripts. Conscripts are motivated by law; volunteers are motivated by love. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, en­listment centers all over America, were jammed with boys too young to fight, men who had retired, and even the blind. One elderly man said to a recruitment officer, “I’d consider it my greatest privilege to die defending this country.” Why do men and women do this? Duty? Yes, but something even greater—it’s called devotion! Their hearts have been captured by a cause. Facing the loss of his freedom, his family, his ministry, and possibly his life, Martin Luther told the ecclesiastical powers of his day, “I will not recant.  My conscience is captive to the Word of God!” No one should ever have to beg and pressure you to teach a Sun­day school class, work with young people, give to the cause of Christ, visit the sick, lonely and needy, or serve others. You should be begging for the privilege! Paul said, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.. .for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Php 3:7-8). Commitment to Christ, is like signing your name on a blank check and saying, “Lord, You fill in the amount.” You’re not doing God a favor by serving Him; He’s honoring you by allowing you to serve Him. Today I challenge you to, measure what you “would” do for the Lord—by what you “actually” do.  So where do you fall??   Volunteer, Conscript, or None of the Above!!!!