Friday, October 9, 2015

FRIDAY CHORES & BLOOD THREAD REDEPTION

I had to stop doing my chores and tasks today. I was distracted by a thought about redemption. That longing we have, deep inside, no matter how busy or successful we are, we feel there are things missing. I believe those moments are an internal cry for redemption. The desire to see things restored and made good. Good in a pure way, not in a "those Oreo cookies are good" kind of way. 
We long to see bad things become good, wrong things made right. Some say this is a desire for justice, and I agree we long to see justice, but truth is, justice is only part of it. To see a bad guy get what he deserves, still leaves us longing for more. That more is redemption. We long to see all of life restored to joy, happiness and peace. 
A friend of mine said one time "we all long for Eden". I think he was right, deep inside we long for the peace God once offered to the first man and woman. I guess I can't be too angry they messed it up for all of us, I would have done the same thing, probably worse. So, now, I wonder what to do with this feeling.
Today I heard the voice in my heart and head remind me there is a story, thousands of years old, that led to this moment in time, where I am doing my chores on a Friday morning. That story includes all the tragedy, drama and victory written in our history books and now lived out in real time through social media. The redemption we long for is part of that story.
Rape & theft are popular in the area of town where my church is located. Bullying, drugs, self abuse and neglect are popular in families near my home. School shootings are very popular and politics seem to just circle the issues with trillions of dollars in their wake. I'm not mad at anyone, I don't think. I'm just a father of five, a husband of twenty one years, a neighbor and friend, hoping to find a way to satisfy that longing for redemption, for all things to be set right. The context we live in is troubling, even frightening, yet I feel better, disconnected even, when I get a nice dinner at my favorite burger joint and watch some great prime time television. I mean, they are seeking redemption as well. And it seems, every week, they get one step closer to a resolution of the conflict, you know, where the main actors finally get together and share their true feelings. I mean, how long do we have to wait for Ross and Rachael to get together....my word. 
Still, we feel troubled, so much for prime time tv, maybe I should get my cable back on. Anyway, the redemption is in fact part of our story and I am reminded to see it, to hear it, to look for it. 
Over thousands of years now, our selfishness, hunger for power, desire for blood, war and possessions, had created conflict in our hearts, homes and nations. In the midst of it all, through the woven rope of our experiences, stretching form one generation to the next, there is a red thread woven in. It's always there, it always has been and always will be. Thousands, millions, actually, hundreds of millions have experienced the reality of finding the strength is the blood red thread of redemption that is woven into every day experiences. 
The voice in my head and heart reminded me today to look for that blood red thread of redemption. To acknowledge it has always been there, agree or disagree, and acknowledge that our hope cannot be in a Utopian world where all things are made right. Rather, it should be in a loving Savior who shed his blood on the cross to provide a redemptive option for my story. Wow, I guess the days and years are not really the issue. The evil in the world, creating pain and conflict, is not the issue. The issue is, do I see the way God has cared enough to weave this redemptive thread of reality into my context? Do I see it? Do I trust it? I sure need it. 
Back to chores - looking for the red.  

Billy.Ramsdell@Gmail.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

CHURCH LEADER "3 secrets to e4 simplicity"

I find that we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to fulfilling our ministry calling. Church leaders end up forgetting the reason we got into the business of God's Kingdom and God's people. The "stuff" of ministry begins to steal our attention and affections, slowly, like the frog in the kettle. 

The 3 secrets to "e4" simplicity are really not secrets. They are in plain view, yet hidden from most of us. Let me shine a light on them and encourage you to take courage. 

What is "e4"? The "e4" principle is found in Ephesians chapter 4, where we are taught in verse 12 that Jesus himself have given church leaders a clear and single mission of ....to "equip his people for works of service".... So, let the "e" remind you of Ephesians and the call to Equip. To equip, not to entertain or coddle, but to equip. 

Equip means to: "furnish or provide with" the ability and/or tools in order to fulfill a given assignment or purpose. The 3 secrets are found in the call to equip, so let me point them out. Again, they are in plain light, but sorely missing from most of our sermons. 

Secret One: His People
Secret Two: Works
Secret Three: Service

I have found that God's Word does a great job at explaining itself. When contemplating the true impact and importance of this call to ministry leaders, we find books, blogs, podcasts, sermons and more, all spending page after page trying to explain the call to equip. 

Let me suggest the true meaning of the "e4" calling is found in the actual verses. Verse 12 of Ephesians 4 tells us all we need to know. 

The secret to unlocking the secrets is this one understanding, that God himself saw fit to oversimplify the primary role of those ministry leaders mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, who are the primary gifts at work in the local church leadership, have many roles to play, but none more specific to the essence of church leadership as an equip-per. There are so many things asking for our time and attention, but none are more worthy than our role to equip. To equip implies several things. 

It implies a level of engagement with people, attention to the needs of people, a growing need for leaders around us. This growth minded approach demands we equip the saints to carry out the ministry instead of trying to do it all ourselves. Why is this so difficult? Why is there a leadership famine in most of our churches and cities? Why are leaders leaving the church by 1500 a month? I believe it is because we misjudge the simple call to equip. 

These 3 Secrets will rekindle your fire for the call of God to equip the people/saints/members/disciples for works of service. 

Secret One: His People
This truth is likely the single most important paradigm of Christian Ministry. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus gives the five fold ministry as a gift to the church. Jesus alone redeems the church. Jesus alone reserves the right to know what Father God wants to say and do with His Church. We often bear the weight of ministry as if the people belong to us, and they don't, they just don't. The call of God belongs to us, but the Church belongs to HIM, and Him Alone. The pressure of the future of the Church upon Jesus. We are only stewards of the role he assigns us to and the station in life he calls us to. We have delegated authority and responsibility, not sovereign authority and responsibility. Jesus himself is sovereign, always has been, always will be. So, let's focus on being the faithful steward and let Jesus be the Lord. This will free us to focus on the equipping role, instead of master CEO of the Church organization, the fundraiser, the master teacher or the growth expert.  

Prayer: Maybe we should pray a prayer of release to Father God today. In prayer, give the sovereign burden for the success of the Church back to the true head of the Church, Jesus Christ, and embrace our delegated responsibility to train & equip 
HIS PEOPLE. 


Secret Two: His Works
For so long we have debated about being saved by works. I absolutely do not believe scripture supports a salvation by works. However, the scripture completely supports equipping for works. We are, indeed, saved by grace through faith, faith in Christ alone. We are saved by grace, through faith - TO WORKS.  Church leaders who take equipping seriously will know that we equip the followers of Christ to be and to do, not just to be. To reach others with the grace of God, means to fulfill the mission of God, through the works of God. The "doing" of the Kingdom of God never happens in the Church, in the streets, in our cities, until the people of God get out and up, to go and do the good works he has prepared for us. The parable of the talents teaches us the principle of stewardship and we must take this call to train & equip God's people to good works as our own mission. 

Prayer: Pray that God would burn a new fire in your heart for equipping the Church to do the works of God. Unless God's people are trained by God's leaders, Christ will not be known across the earth. Pray for God's fresh anointing to call people to His Work. 


Secret Three: His Service
When we take the role of Church leader, we respond to the call to equip His People, for His Work. This work, not be confused with many other kinds of work, are clearly and simply, works of "service".  This is the one place we seem to go terrible wrong as Church leaders. We assimilate members, we recruit volunteers and we inspire givers. We rarely focus on the simple and single task of training servants. If we focus on the training of His people, to do....and begin our list of expectations to do....to serving people, then we win, 100% of the time. If we build the organization, but don't train people for works of service, we train them to build our organization only. Serving others requires selfless living, sharing of time and energy, unity of vision and a teachable spirit. This is exactly what Jesus demonstrated and called His disciples to, as recorded in John 13, to serve on another. If we seek to change our cities, we must create city changers. City changers will be those who serve one another, as unto Christ and who develop a family and friend group who naturally work hard serving one another. Serving changes the atmosphere and culture to match that of heaven and this is a true secret to "e4" simplicity. 

Prayer: I suggest a fresh prayer of surrender to a lifestyle of service in God's Kingdom and to serve by training God's people to work hard at serving. Pray for the Church to have the heart of a servant and to love serving more than being served, for Jesus Himself did not even come to be served, but to serve the one who sent Him. Pray for supernatural power to be released as our Churches serve others, 
face to face, hand in hand. 

 
    Billy.Ramsdell@Gmail.com

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