Showing posts with label Sacrifice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sacrifice. Show all posts

Friday, July 11, 2014

The church and it's culture of tipping ...

You've probably read the many stories of interviews from servers in restaurants who say Christians are the worst tippers (the photo above is a REAL example).

I've heard the same.

It's not just that so many Christians are cheap, it's that we've developed a cheap "tipping" mentality within the church.

For example, when we read of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), we see a single person who took on the task of meeting an important need of someone else, in its entirety, all by himself. We don't encourage that very often today. In fact, we take the most simple of needs, such as doing a little painting for an elderly person in the community, and turn it into a huge all-church project. It might take rallying 20 people for a project that would take one person a few hours and $20 to do.

Instead of teaching Christians to serve others in whole ways --- which would be more costly at the individual level --- we teach people to break down service in small enough slices that there's no real cost (and certainly no "pain") involved personally. We look at service as how we might be able to do something for someone and remain in our comfort zones. When it begins to challenge our comfort by costing us, we either pass on the need to others or outsource it altogether to parachurch ministries or state agencies.

Sometimes needs are big enough to require rallying others to help meet the whole need. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, it's something we see done as we read about the early church in the book of Acts. They worked together to the point that there was NO NEED left among them!

"All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need," Acts 4:32-35.

But even when the early Christians worked together, it wasn't because they were paring down their service to keep themselves in their comfort zones, it was because the need was bigger than their individual resources, which they were willing to give. But notice, when a need that big did come along, a Christian didn't ignore it, thinking it was too big for them to handle; instead, they rallied the church to come together and do whatever was necessary to meet the need.

There wasn't a "tipping mentality" among those early Christians!

That's because they had a mindset more like what Pastor Edward Skidmore of Castle Hills Christian Church describes in this story ...

"Years back, I heard someone talk about the 'faucet principle,' and I've discovered that it really works. If I turn on a faucet at my house, I have the entire contents of the Edwards Aquifer at my disposal. I don't need to worry that if I run the water I'll end up with a trickle ... unless, of course, I fail to pay my water bill. There's more than enough water available for anything I might need. I need not be stingy with my water.

"The same principle works with my giving. I have a spiritual faucet --- connected to the storehouses of heaven itself. When I turn on the faucet to give, there is an abundant supply to meet that need, with an abundance left over. I need not hoard my assets under the assumption that the reservoir might dry up. My heavenly supply is abundant, above anything I might imagine. I can give freely, knowing that God will see to it that I can give again tomorrow."

These early Christians teach us to serve in a way that's opposite of the cheap tipper. Instead of tipping a need, they took on a need and met it completely. If they didn't have the personal resources to do that, they worked with other Christians until the need was wiped out.

Are there people in need within your church?



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A devilish scheme that will ruin you and harm the church ...

Satan is not afraid of your faith.

There are churches full of people who truly believe in Jesus Christ and believe the Word of God. But Satan is afraid of believers who live out their faith and act in obedience to the Word.

That's why one of his most successful methods of defeating a real believer is encouraging "deferred service." That's when Satan motivates the believer who has a dream of living completely for God to put off acting on that dream for a more opportune time ...

"I'm too young right now. Once I get a little more experience, then I will ..."

"Right now is not a good time since I'm single. Maybe after I get married and settle down, then I will ..."

"The kids have so much going on right now and their activities take up all my time ..."

"When the kids finish school, then I will ..."

"Now that the kids are out of the house, my wife deserves some time ..."

"Once I get that promotion I'll have a little more time ..."

"Now that I've gotten that promotion, my new responsibilities keep me too busy, let things settle down and then I will ..."

"I need to study first. Once I learn more I will ..."

"Now is just not a good time financially. Once I get the bills paid off and save enough to be secure, then I will ..."

"My health needs my attention right now. Once I get in better shape, then I will be able to ..."

"I need to spend time with my grandkids right now. Maybe after they're a little older, then I will ..."

OBITUARY: "Today, Joe Believer died. He believed what Jesus said, and he believed the Bible. He just did everything other than live his faith, or obey the Word. But he had good intentions, he was going to get around to it one day."

Score one more for Satan, who robbed another life of living for Jesus Christ simply by getting someone to defer serving the Lord.

Knowing this scheme, Jesus spoke directly to what it really means to follow Him:

"Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33.

"Then he said to the crowd, 'If anyone wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but you are yourself lost or destroyed?'" Luke 9:23-25.

The Apostle Paul chimes in on this subject as well ...

"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do," Ephesians 5:15-17.

Do you know what the Lord wants you to do? What's keeping you from doing it?


Friday, November 15, 2013

You don't have to sneak out at night to do this ...

Nearly lost to the church in our day is the biblical concept of taking up someone else's burden ...

"Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important," Galatians 6:2-3.

Notice the scripture doesn't say "just pray about each other's burdens." We do that all the time --- we tell God of the burdens of those around us and leave it to Him to do something about them. The verse says share each other's burdens, meaning to make our own the burdens of someone else who is struggling.

We've diluted the idea of shouldering someone else's burdens by spreading the load so broadly that our little portion doesn't hurt at all. That's because if we are to serve someone else, we want it to be painless; if it really cost us something, we will likely turn our shoulder away from it rather than into it.

Such wasn't the case of two brothers who were both farmers. As they grew up into strong young men, one brother married and eventually had several children. The other brother remained single.

One night, the married brother thought to himself, "Here I am, blessed with a wonderful wife and beautiful family. When I get old, my children will take over the farm and take care of me, but my brother has no one to care for him. I will do something to make sure he will be secure in his old age," he decided.

In planning what he would do, the brother decided he wouldn't directly offer something to his brother because he was a selfless man and would likely say he didn't need it because he was single. So he decided that each night he would take sacks of grain and empty them into his brother's silo so he would have plenty for himself as he grew older.

Little did the married brother know that his single brother was thinking about him.

"Here I am, a single man blessed with a fruitful farm that provides me with plenty, yet my brother has a wife and children to care for. I will do something to help him make sure he has plenty for his family," he thought to himself.

So the single brother decided that each night he would take sacks of grain and empty them into his brother's silo so he would have plenty to care for his family over the years.

The brothers emptied their sacks of grain into each others' silos each night for a long time when, one particularly dark night, they bumped into each other. When they observed the other brother and realized what they were doing, they embraced in a hug and wept together, overwhelmed by the lovingkindness of the other.

Are you helping a brother or sister in Christ bear their burdens? Or are you fooling yourself, thinking you're too important to do something like that?


Sunday, July 14, 2013

An extreme God ...

God is an extreme God.

His love is extreme.

His mercy is extreme.

His grace is extreme.

His capacity for being extreme is best shown in His desire to save humankind from sin so we can be reconciled with Him. What did He do? He wrapped Himself in flesh by being born into this broken world as a man, and while wearing a crown of thorns He offered Himself as the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice for our sins.

That's the extreme to which God is willing to go to save us.

Now, He commissions us as His ambassadors to carry on this ministry of reconciliation ...

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'" 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

God has gone to the extreme to save us; now, to what extreme are you willing to go to carry on His ministry of reconciliation?


Thursday, May 16, 2013

This one word makes a HUGE difference ...

Have you ever wondered what God really wants from you? Have you ever thought deeply about what would be an appropriate response to God for His saving grace?

The Apostle Paul gives us an answer ...

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him," Romans 12:1.

We often think Paul is speaking of our physical bodies in this verse, but what do our bodies contain? They contain our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, our memories, our ideas, our imagination, our wants, our needs, our anxieties, our worries, our hopes, our fears, our dreams ... our bodies contain us!

It's "us" --- every ounce of who we are --- that we should offer to God as a living sacrifice.

Speaking on this subject, pastor and seminary president Dr. Stephen Davey once said, "God is not calling you to a martyr's death, He's calling you to a martyr's life." That's what being a living sacrifice for God is ... dying to self and living to the glory of God.

But there's a word in that verse we often skip over or give little thought to. It's the word "holy" ...

"... I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice ..."

Not only should we offer God the entirety of our lives as a living sacrifice, but as a holy one as well. That means allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into the holy likeness of our Savior so we can live holy lives offered as living sacrifices to God.

Have you offered to God your life as a living sacrifice for Him? Is it a holy life that you're offering Him, or just a living one?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

When "doing something" isn't good enough ...

The message from Nike: "Just do it."

The message from many pulpits: "Do something!"

Those two messages aren't the same thing, and it's turning out the message from Nike might be the more correct one.

As the church has been going through the throes of decline in our culture, and professing Christians have wallowed in the comfort of their padded pews, safely tucked away from the world, church leaders began a desperate plea for Christians to just "do something."

In fact, a very popular Christian fiction book builds to the climax of what is supposedly a great message from God to man: "Do something!"


Don't just sit there and let people perish, or starve, or hurt, or be homeless, or be alone.

"Do something!" came the cry.

Because people weren't doing something, instead of challenging them to pack up and head out to the far reaches of the globe to make disciples, we whittled  that down to convenient week-long mission trips where we only have to do a little but still feel like we've done a lot, squeeze in some sight-seeing, and then return to the comforts of home, spiritually satiated.

Not comfortable sharing the Gospel with someone? No problem! Just build a friendship with them, that will do the trick! Of course, evangelism by osmosis isn't a reality, but it sounds good and is much easier than actually telling someone about the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Too much to write a check, bring it to church, and put it in the offering plate as it's passed? No problem! We'll let you give online while you're surfing porn on the web so it will be "easier."

Is meeting the ongoing needs of the people around you just too much to ask? No problem! We'll develop little "projects" to help people so that you have to do very little; what one person could do we'll break up into 100 parts so 100 people can do something very little and not feel any pinch from it.

We've turned some of our "doing something" into symbolic acts ... support this cause by wearing this ribbon, this pin, this bracelet, this color, or writing something on your wrist or hands. Thank you! That really cost you a lot to do that! You really changed the world by wearing a funky bracelet you thought looked cool.

Yes, I know, some of these symbolic acts help "raise awareness" about serious and important issues, but if that greater "awareness' doesn't translate into action that results in real change, all you have are more people aware of a problem that continues to persist.

We don't really impact our world much by just "doing something." And by doing just a little, we accomplish just a little. Symbolic acts of service are just that, symbolic acts.

Christ's call on our lives isn't to just "do something," but to do everything He asks:

"23 Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it'," Luke 9:23-24.

That message is much bigger than "do something." Jesus lays out what we must do, and our response needs to be the Nike message.

Just do it!

Just do exactly what Jesus both asks and commands of us.

Do all of it! Spend, pour out, completely deplete your life doing what Jesus said.

Not part of it. Not a little of it. Not pieces of it. Not just "something."

Just do it.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A critical measure ...

Take a mental trip ...

... something has happened and you find yourself alone on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

What do you need?

An honest rendering of the list would come up with very few items. There are not a lot of things we must have to survive. What we tend to think of as "needs" are often things which enhance our comfort or happiness with life. Some are worthwhile, others are nothing more than indulgances.

Now compare this little mental trip to how you live each day. If you're an American, chances are your life is clogged with a host of things you have in your life specifically for your personal enjoyment or entertainment. There's nothing wrong with having things that make life comfortable or more enjoyable unless we give them the wrong value by treating them as needs.

We often reduce what we're willing to do for others --- especially for God --- to what we have left of ourselves and our resources after taking care of both our needs and our wants. Once we're done with our wants, there's not much left to give --- we tend to never run short of things we desire for ourselves.

What would your capacity for serving God and others look life if you measured your resources after meeting your needs? It might mean you may not have every electronic gadget known to man, or fewer means of entertainment and comforts, but you would have enough. You would have your needs, and be able to serve more, give more, help more.

How do you measure what you have to offer in service to God and others? Does the measure start after you meet your needs, or after you indulge your desires?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

How to survive being used in ministry ...

Bible colleges and seminaries fail to offer one of the most needed courses any future vocational minister will need: How to survive being used in ministry.

Such a course should be added to every institution equipping future church leaders and could easily be the shortest course offered. That's because the content could revolve around a simple answer: Expect it.

Yes, expect to be used.

Many young men see ministry through the images of rock star pastors sitting on chrome-legged chairs next to high top tables preaching to an audience of thousands. They see the same preachers traveling to be keynote speakers at conferences across the country, and see their hipster images on the back of best-selling books or starring in their own teaching series offered on CD. That is the alluring nature of today's call to ministry.

But the reality --- and the call --- is quite different.

A call to preach the word is a call to follow in the footsteps of Christ by spending your life in service to others to the glory of God.

Real ministry is about spending yourself on others, and others get used to that. They will ask for more, and they will seek your help. You may (or may not) get a thank you for your service, but often the reward is in lives that are changed and what God is storing up for you in heaven.

Expect to be used.

Expect for people to bring their sins, their problems, their challenges, their fears, their failures, their relational issues, their doubts, their difficulties to you for you to help them with. After all, you have answered the call to shepherd them. As a shepherd, you guide and protect them. And as you do that, your people will seek you out and use you for that purpose.

Be concerned if they don't!

How do you survive being used and not wind up being used up and burned out?

Love your sheep.

Christ so loved the world that He poured His life out in service and sacrifice. Love is so strong that it desires to serve and give and protect, and finds its fulfillment in the best interests of the other person being met. When the shepherd loves his sheep in the same way the Great Shepherd loves us, we will want to be used by the sheep for their guidance and protection.

In addition to being motivated by love, be guided by the Word of God, stay in constant touch with the Lord by praying without ceasing, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the shepherd's guide as well as his foremost tool, constant communion with God keeps you on course, and the Holy Spirit is the shepherd's constant partner in ministry.

Finally, refresh yourself often in times of worship, rest, reflection, and personal relationships untethered to shepherding responsibilities. By doing so, you will find yourself wanting to get off your knees and back out into the pasture with your sheep, offering yourself to be used by them.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What you have to be asked for speaks volumes ...

Have you ever offered an opinion, only to be rebuffed with the reply, "No one asked you!"?

Occasionally we may attempt something loving, something kind, something in the best interest of others that is rejected by those we offer it to.

But more often than not, in order to get something of such a significant nature out of us, we have to be asked.

Think about it: how many times do we offer unconditional love and truly sacrificial service to others without first having to be asked for it?

The preacher spends his ministry career pleading with the congregation to give, to serve, to do something. In most churches, about ten percent respond and the other 90 percent watch.

Jesus didn't have to be asked.

He offered EVERYTHING of Himself for us. His whole purpose for walking this earth was to spend Himself on us!

That sounds nice. But it's supposed to be more than a pleasant thought:

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had," Philippians 2:5.

Th attitude Jesus had was to make His entire life an offering for us. Now, scripture implores us to have the same attitude by making the entirety of our lives an offering for Him.

What we have to be asked for, and what we don't have to be asked for, are twin reflections of where we really stand in Christ.

Is unrestrained love and service to others the attitude and actions you share with Christ? Or is your attitude one of wait to be asked, and then perhaps you'll respond to some degree? How would your life change, and how would other lives be impacted, if you made this scriptural directive the new reality of your life?


Monday, May 28, 2012

Making it personal ...

Many of the heroes we honor this Memorial Day stepped up to serve their country because they love what this nation stands for and were willing to sacrifice themselves for such a cause.

For others who have served or are serving, the initial reason may have been less grandiose. For some, it was employment when they couldn't find something else. For others, it was for the benefits, especially for a means to go to college. And for others, they were too young to know what they wanted to do with their lives so they followed their buddies into the service. Some were told by the government it was their duty and were drafted.

Regardless of the initial reason, for most who have fought their nation's battles and those who continue to serve, the reason for serving quickly changes to one of relationships. The idea that brought them into service gives way to serving and fighting for the men and women they serve with.

It gets personal.

It's that "something personal" that provoked the Creator of all things to wrap Himself in flesh so that He might enter this world and serve us. A service so selfless it led to the last full measure of service, the offering of His life on our behalf.

Not because of any lofty theological ideas. It was personal. He loved us, and so He was willing to live and die for us.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends," John 15:13.

Today we salute, with genuine gratitude, those who have served our country selflessly, and those who continue that tradition. Thank you!

May we also remember each and every day the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf, and respond to His expressed love with obedience and service to Him.

"13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command," John 15:13-14.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How big of a barn do you need?

Do you have a bucket list? A real list of several things you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket"?

How do you decide what goes on your bucket list? What is so important that you would have regrets if you didn't get to experience it?

By the way those who live in the West are taught to dream massive dreams, pursue goals, not settle for anything less than the best, and seek what makes them happy, we've come to think that life is about stuffing our human experience as full as we possibly can.

Then we open the Bible.

There we're exposed to how God values life, and we hear the simple and clear teachings of Jesus. From these things, a new thought rises ...

Perhaps the quality of our lives is less about how full we stuff them and more about how graciously we empty them.

Kind of like how Jesus lived when He walked this earth:
"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11.

Just as Jesus emptied Himself, so we can find the richness of life in His example of humility, love, and service.

Or, we can go after the dream of packing life full of things we think will make us happy. Jesus once told a story of a man who chose that kind of path ...

"Then he told them a story: A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, 'What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.' 18 Then he said, 'I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!' 20 But God said to him, 'You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God," Luke 12:16-21.

 Have you chosen to try to stuff life to overflow, so you can kick back and just "enjoy life"? Or have you chosen to empty your life to the glory of God?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

You can't be serious!

Three of your friends are blindfolded. You're brought in, but they don't know you're there, they only know someone has come in, and they have to identify who you are by a catch phrase they will be told. What's the one catch phrase they could hear that would make them instantly think of you?

There's a lot of trendy catch phrases out there to choose from ...
  • "Back in the day ..."
  • "What up?"
  • "That's how I roll ..."
  • "Wooord ..."
  • "Whatever ..."
  • "My bad!"
  • "Hook a brutha up!"
  • "Duuuuude ..."
  • "I know, right?"
  • "Sweeeet ..."
  • "That's sick!"
  • "Just sayin' ..."
  • "It is what it is ..."
I haven't had a catch phrase common to myself, but lately there is one that seems to enter my thoughts often. It's this: "Seriously?!"

It must be that I've heard the phrase so often I've started to apply it in my thinking. And it seems to be a good one! When you consider some of the things people do, sometimes you just want to pause and say or think, "Seriously?!"

That catch phrase comes to mind when I read a somewhat startling sentence the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:9:

"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

Paul has to encourage these Christians to not get tired of "doing what is good."

Seriously?! I mean, seriously?!

Just how much "doing good" would it take to make you tired of "doing good"?


Do you "do good" so much that you really tire of it? Do you know anyone who goes about doing good --- in any way --- that they're worn out from it?

How much love would you have to give to weary from it? How much kindness or gentleness would you have to express to others that would make you tired of continuing? How much encouragement, how much support, how much service would you have to give as part of your doing good that would simply wear you out?

Have you ever loved someone so much you actually thought, "I better back off or I'll be completely wiped out"?

Have you ever given so much you thought, "I must stop here, or I'll put my own personal finances in jeopardy"? Ever?

Have you ever helped someone so much you had to move on to helping others because you met their entire need?

Actually doing good to the point of growing tired of it isn't really our problem. What is the problem is not caring enough about doing good that we weary of it so quickly we do very little of it!

In our minds, doing good should swiftly (more like immediately) be followed by reward for doing good. When the reward doesn't follow immediately behind the "doing good," we grow tired of it and revert back to what we do best: focusing on ourselves.

Paul tries to help us understand that in God's economy, reward will come more greatly than we can imagine, but usually not immediately after our "doing good." It could be much later, and some of the reward will not come in this lifetime. But reward should not affect our persistence in doing good. Paul says, "At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

Many give up doing good, but not from wearing themselves out from it. More are like a friend of mine who considers himself to be a church leader. He's intelligent, gifted, talented, financially blessed. He could, through Christ, do a lot of good. Instead, he first tries to "qualify" people for any good he would do for them:
  • Is their need due to sin?
  • Is their need due to poor judgment on their part?
  • Or have they done all they can, and "really" need someone to do some good in their lives?
  • If they're "qualified" for needing someone to do some good in their lives, how much can others contribute? (meaning how little can he do!).
That's far from the example of "doing good" we see from Jesus. Jesus did good things for people struggling because of their sin, for people struggling because of their poor judgment, and for people who were plagued with problems from no wrongdoing of their own but just so the glory of God could be shown through them. In other words, Jesus didn't qualify people for loving them, being kind to them, being gentle with them, being a joy to them, healing them, feeding them, saving them. They were qualified if they had a need ... and we all have need!

Jesus did so much good He died from it! Seriously!

And when He became weary of it, He did it anyway:

"41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 'Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine'," Luke 22:41-42.

The next time you think you're tired of doing good, ask yourself this: "Seriously?"

Have you really done that much good?



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's talk about sacrifice and service ...

Memorial Day is a great opportunity to not only remember and honor those who have given their lives in service to our country, but also to step back and, seeing their example, take stock of our own service and sacrifice we make as Christians.

Imagine this scenario: a Marine grunt goes in to see his sergeant. He complains that he is constantly being relocated, he is away from his wife and children for months at a time, that his work day is long, and what's required of him is demanding. So the sergeant asks what he wants, and the grunt says he would like eight hour days, 40 hour weeks, delegation of some of his duties to others, a permanent residence with no more relocation, and a sizeable raise.

Wouldn't you like to see the sergeant's face while listening to such requests?

Certainly, providing the Marine with such requests would make life more safe and comfortable for him. But his work as a Marine is about making certain sacrifices in order to best serve his country. Fortunately, as we remember today, our country has been blessed throughout its short history with men and women who have been willing to make great sacrifices for the best interests of America.

That is an example the church needs to look at.

Again, we are fortunate that throughout the history of the church, there are many who have been willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ. But there are many more who aren't.

Let's look at two different roles.

First, let's look at the service provided by those in vocational ministry. We human beings have a bad habit of trying to fix things with a "pendulum response," swinging too broadly one way or the other. In the past, we have expected far too much of those serving in church leadership (especially those serving in bi-vocational positions). We placed such a great burden on them that they were burning out in large numbers. Even today, more than 1,500 ministers resign and leave the ministry every month.

However, for some time now, we've swung the pendulum the other way. There has been a strong emphasis on ministry being like "any other job" --- working 9 to 5 and being unavailable beyond that. We've looked around at other jobs and have seen other professionals having time to play golf, go boating with friends, and do a lot of other things we were missing out on.

But here's the problem: ministry is not like "any other job." As a leader in Christ's church you're leading followers through spiritual warfare. Given that, the "job" cannot always be contained to 40 hours in a week, or eight hours in a day. Bad things happen in the middle of the night that people need their spiritual leaders for. Yet today, we have a lot of people serving in ministry who, like the Marine grunt, find the demands of "war" too inconvenient for them and their families.

That's where the service requiring sacrifice comes into play. Every potential church leader needs to sit down with spouses and family before entering the ministry and work through the issue that serving in church leadership will require some sacrifice, and it's better to make some decisions together as to what you're willing to sacrifice and how you can do that as a couple or a family. Working together will help you be better able and willing to face those times of sacrifice when they come.

And for those who want ministry to be just another job, perhaps with some service but without the sacrifice, it would probably be wise you find an actual job elsewhere.

Now, for Christians not serving in vocational ministry, we see that often about 80 percent of the work done in the church is carried out by about 20 percent of the people. Real service and sacrifice is extraordinarily shallow among those whose Leader calls His followers to give their whole lives in service.

A primary inhibitor to service or sacrifice is the "worship" of children by parents. Today's parents wrap their lives around the activities of their children, then say they can do little or nothing else because they are too busy.

Here's a simple question: who signed the kids up for all those activities? Parents, you actually can create time to serve in the church and minister to the community by not signing your children up for every activity offered in your city. Maybe they will have to pick one or two sports to be involved in. Instead of playing every sport, taking dance, learning an instrument, studying a language, and doing mixed martial arts, you may have to limit what you offer your children so all of you can actually do what is the greatest calling in all of your lives: serving Jesus Christ.

Making Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives is taking on a life of service and sacrifice. Jesus said it this way, "Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

Today, as we make time to remember those who have been great servants by offering the greatest sacrifice --- that of their lives --- let's use this as an opportunity to consider the service and sacrifice we are offering. After all, it is impossible to follow Christ without both service and sacrifice.