You don’t have to wait to be accepted.

acceptance 2Anyone with college-aged kids knows the inundating routine that is college applications. Visit campuses. Choose a few schools to focus on. Make applications. Fill out forms. Write essays.

For anyone who hasn’t “been there, done that,” the filing of the application and financial aid forms is nothing compared to the waiting. It’s like the first time you look at your girlfriend or boyfriend and say, ‘I love you.” You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait to see if they respond in turn.

For the college applicant, the end of the waiting is signaled with a letter in the mailbox – hopefully saying “You have been accepted.”
We all have a desire to be accepted, don’t we? In fact, that desire made it into Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs. He theorized that acceptance is basic to our nature and to our psychological health.

Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story. She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.

Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead,accepted-1024x240 Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.

Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too along with his mother Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the two spies Joshua sent into the land.

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EXCELLENCE

excellence 4Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col. 3:23

 

If anything, those words call for excellence in everything we do, especially when it comes to working for the Lord, because, after all,  all we do is actually for the Lord. Excellence should be the passion of our heart-all the time.

 

Daisy Hepburn writes in “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” “Good, better, best, never let it rest—until your good is your better and your better is your best!” Nothing but the best should characterize what we do for the Lord, all the time.

 

Bob Russell, long time Lead Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY says…

·           In everything-excellence.

·           Excellence is not valuing one ministry above another.

·           Excellence is not perfection.

·           Excellence is not being judged by the standards and opinions of others.

·           Excellence is doing your very best in whatever you do, especially for the Lord. Excellence is quality ministry. Excellence is going the second mile. Excellence is planning and preparation ahead of time. Excellence is first class ministry. Excellence is ministry flowing from a healthy, full relationship with Christ. Excellence is refusal to cut corners or just doing enough to get by on. Excellence is God’s call to every Christian.

Whether you sing a song…play an instrument…serve communion…greet…usher…teach a class…preach a sermon…read excellence 2Scripture…participate in drama…serve in the nursery…change diapers…change light bulbs…mow grass…facilitate a group…lead a ministry team…whatever you do, do it “with all your heart”.

 

I can think of two enormously important reasons why excellence is needed in everything we do for the Lord– all the time.

 

BECAUSE JESUS GAVE US HIS VERY BEST.  

 

Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”

 

Why? Because His ministry on our behalf was a ministry of excellence.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci was once at work for a long period of time on a great masterpiece. He had labored long to complete this work of art and it was near completion. Standing near him was a young student who spent much of his time with his mouth open, amazed at the master with the brush. Just before finishing the painting, Da Vinci turned to the young student and gave him the brush and said, “Now, you finish it.” The student protested and backed away, but Da Vinci said, “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?”

 

Because He gave His very best he deserves the very best from us.

 

PEOPLE’S ETERNITY DEPENDS ON IT.

 

Everything we do in ministry and for the Lord effects the eternity of people who come our way. How you do your ministry will oftentimes be the factor that determines whether they will return or you will get a second chance. We are influencing people all the time. And that influence reaches all the way into eternity.

 

Darren Walter wrote a book called The People Magnet Church. Some of what he addresses applies to the first impression people, but much of it applies to everyone who serves the Lord.

 

“The good news is that because of the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me, I’m going to heaven by God’s grace, regardless of how people treat me in any church. The bad news is that there are people who do not know God’s grace and are unaware of Christ’s sacrifice. They are going to Hell. And they will make a decision to accept or reject God based on how they are received in His House, by you and me. I’m not trying to be over dramatic here. I truly believe that eternity hangs in the balance when a guest walks through the doors of your church. Those who volunteer their time to greet, welcome, usher, and answer questions of those visiting have some of the most important challenges in the entire church body. Many times we only have one chance to make an impression, one shot at showing our love for people.

 

The fact is -most guests make up their minds whether they’ll return for a second time in the first few moments of their visit. Long before they hear the sermon or the solos, they’ve decided if they’ll ever come back based on how we treat them.”

 

·           How we treat them is the first factor.

·           The second one is the quality and passion with which we do our ministry. How well we represent our Lord. If He really is the most important person in life to us then it will be seen in the excellence of our ministry.

 

In effect, people come with two foremost questions in their mind that they want an answer to.

1.         Do these people really care about me?

2.         Are these people really serious about this thing called Christianity?

 

excellenceThe quality with which we serve the Lord and do our ministry influences others and that influence can touch eternity. Never forget that. Engrave it on your soul

 

I know it is highly likely that you will not receive the response or recognition from people that you anticipate or desire or think you deserve. So what do you do? Do it anyway. Do excellence anyway.

 

Robert Schuller wrote. (I have altered it a little.)

 

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

LOVE THEM ANYWAY!

 

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies.

SUCCEED ANYWAY!

 

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY!

 

People favor underdogs but follow only the top dogs.

FIGHT FOR SOME UNDERDOGS ANYWAY!

 

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

BUILD ANYWAY!

 

People really need help but may attack you if you help them.

HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY!

 

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY!

 

From “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do” by Robert Schuller

 

Do it anyway because it’s not the response of the people that we are doing it for. It’s our love for Jesus that moves us.

 

So do it. Do it with all your heart, with your very best. And keep doing it regardless of the response we get.

 

Excellence Glorifies God and Inspires People.

 

THE ANIMAL SCHOOL

The animals hanimal school 4ad a school where the curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming.  All the animals took all the subjects.       

The duck was good at swimming and flying, but he was terrible in running.  So he was made to drop his swimming class and stay after school and practice running.  He kept this up until he was only average in swimming, which was acceptable.  The others, including the teacher, were no longer threatened by the duck’s swimming abilities and everyone felt more comfortable – except the duck.

The eagle was considered to be a problem student.  For instance, in the climbing class he could beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own method of getting there.  He had to be severely disciplined and finally because of his non-cooperation in swimming he was expelled for insubordination.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but obviously was inadequate in other areas.  Because of so much make-up work in swimming, he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school.

The turtle was a failure in almost every course offered.  His shell was considered to be the leading cause of his failure, so it was removed.  This did help his running a bit, but he became the first casualty when he was stepped on by the horse

Here’s the summation.  The faculty was disappointed, but all in all it was a good school on humility.  There were no real successes.  None seemed to measure up to thanimal school 3e others, but they did concentrate on their weak points and soanimal school2me progress was made. 

Get the point?  Everybody doesn’t fit the same mold, and in the church we don’t want to zero in on what you’re not good at but on what you are good at.  Everybody is a 10 in some area. 

If you’re in a ministry where it’s not working out, there is a way to know, you’re under stress. It’s a very stressful thing to do.  There’s not something wrong with you.  It means you’re in the wrong ministry area. So find the right one!  Get it?

(Copied from somewhere but I have no idea where)

Remember what matters most!

Is there any better time than right now to go back and pray the prayer of David? “God remind me what’s important in life.  Help me remember what matters most.”  Help me to focus on the things that really count.  When I focus on what really counts I begin to worry less about the things that are bad in this world and are out of my control.  We need to pray what David prayed in Psalm 39 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.”  And in Psalm 90 “Teach us to make the most of our time.”

Right now let’s be reminded of the most important truth in life. When we do, all the disappointments in life begin to diminish in magnitude. This is not a new truth. Everything I am going to say, you probably already know. But if you would take this truth and write it on a card and place it where it is a regular reminder to you it will keep your focus and energy where it needs to be most.  Put it on your refrigerator, put it on your dashboard in your car, put it up on the mirror in your bedroom, computer screen – look at it over and over and over.  If you will follow, if you will apply, if you will practice this truth you’ll have a healthier life.  You’ll have a happier family.  You’ll have a more productive business.  There will be far fewer divorces and separations in our culture if we will just listen to what God has said. And the political climate and results will begin to hold less and less sway in our hearts.

So here it is, the best use of life is love

1 Corinthians 14:1 says “Let love be your highest goal.”  Make it your number one priority.  Make it your primary objective.  Make it your greatest ambition.  Make it your life purpose.  Don’t put it in your Top Ten.  Don’t say, “One of the things I want in life is loving relationships.”  Make it number one!

Why does God say it’s all about love?  Why does God say to make it your highest goal?  Two reasons:

       1.  God says love is what life is all about.  1 Corinthians 13:3 in the Message paraphrase ”No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”  Who wants to be a millionaire?  You can have a million dollars but if you don’t have love God says you’re bankrupt.  It is amazing to me that too often we act like loving relationships are something we have to squeeze into our schedule, that we have to find time for quality time, that we have to make time for people in our lives.  That we have to just fit them into our lives as if loving relationships are an important part but just another important part along with many other things.  Wrong!  God doesn’t say that relationships are a part of your life.  God doesn’t say that loving relationships are an important part of your life.  God says loving relationships are your life.  That’s what life is all about.  It’s all about love.

One day a guy comes to Jesus and says, “I need Cliff Notes on the Bible.  Summarize the Bible for me.”  Jesus says, “Here it is.  Love God and love other people.  That’s it”.  “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”  In a word, Jesus is saying the point of life is “relationships”.  It’s not about achievement.  It’s not about the acquisition of things.  It’s about relationships.  It’s not about elections and voting. If you miss that you miss the point of life.  That’s the bottom line.  What matters most is loving relationships. 

If that’s true, why do we always allow our relationships to get the short end of the stick?  When we get misfocused and overloaded we start skimming relationally.  We fulfill all kinds of other commitments but we cut back on time with those we love.  We don’t give our relationships the time, the energy and the attention they deserve because we’re too busy with what we think are more important pressing matters.

Why do we do that?  Because we get busy.  Because we get preoccupied.  Because we get distracted with less important things.  We focus on the urgent rather than on the important and I hope you know the difference.  Not everything that’s urgent in your life is important in your life.  As a result we spend all of our time focusing on making a living, getting the job done, finishing the work, paying the bills, making progress, accomplishing the goal as if that’s the point of life.  It is not.  The point of life, God says, is love.  The point of life, God says, is relationship. 

2.  The other reason that God says you need to focus on it is it’s all that’s going to last.  The only thing that’s going to last in your life is love.  Everything else is eventually going to burn up.  It’s going to decay, fall apart.  1 Corinthians 13:13 ”There are three things that will endure: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love.”  If I were to ask you, “How many of you want to leave a legacy after you die?”   You’d all agree.  “How many of you want to make a difference with your life?”  You’d all say yes.  “How many of you would like to make a positive influence on this world that outlasts you?”  You’re all on board with that.

God has shown us how to leave a lasting legacy.  God has shown us how to make an enduring impression.  Fill your life with love.  He says “Faith, hope and love.  These are the things that will endure and the greatest of these is love.”  He’s saying love, not work, not wealth, not elected candidates is the key to a lasting legacy.  It’s love. 

We think it’s our achievements people are going to remember.  I hate to tell you this but nobody’s going to remember your achievements.  Five years from today nobody’s going to care what you’ve achieved.  Every trophy or award you’ve ever earned is eventually going to be trashed.  Remember all those trophies you got in Little League or Drama Club, Speech Club, bowling trophies.  They’re all going to be trashed, all your trophies.  You don’t have any of your grandparents’ trophies.  Why would you want to keep those?  You couldn’t care less about them.  People don’t really care about your accomplishments.  We know this.  We just forget it. 

We know this by watching people when they’re dying.  In watching people of the closing moments of their life when they stand on the edge of eternity, they’re evaluating their life; you never hear of a single person saying, “Bring me my diplomas!  I want to look at them one more time…Get me that gold watch I got for twenty-five years of service!  Show me my awards.  Show me my medals.”  Nobody asks to be brought trophies because we don’t surround our lives with objects when our life is ending.  What do we want around us when our life is ending?  People!  People who love us.  People who have a relationship with us. 

Here’s the point: You are eventually going to figure out in your final seconds that what matters are relationships.  Why don’t you figure it out sooner?  Why wait until you’re on your deathbed to figure out that things don’t matter.  Elections don’t matter in eternity. That the only thing that matters is relationships.  Nothing can take the place of loving relationships.  Fame can’t.  Wealth can’t.  Success can’t.  Success without love is empty, hollow, depressing.  Life is not about achievement and it’s not about accomplishment.  It’s about relationships.  When you get to heaven God is not going to say, “Now what was your career?  What did you accomplish in it? “ God is not going to say, “Can I see your bank balance and how much you’ve got in your portfolio.”  God is not going to say, “By the way, what about the hobbies that you enjoyed while I put you down on earth?”  He is not going to say, “What is that great cause you supported?”

What He’s going to say is, “How did you treat other people when you were here on earth?”   

I suggest that from this day forward for the rest of your life when you wake up in the morning, you set down on the edge of the bed and before you get off that bed you pray this prayer, “God, whether I get anything else done today and I may not get anything else done, but if all I accomplish today is I spend some time with You and with others, I want to make sure today I spend some time loving You and loving other people,” because that’s what life is all about.  If you miss that you have missed the point of life, and that day is a failure, that day is a waste. 

The greatest use of life is not achievement.  It’s love.  The problem is we get busy and stressed out and so into things that don’t last and we forget what we intuitively know.

So what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to change?  Or are you going to stand before God one day and explain why things were more important than people?  What excuse are you going to give for not putting first things first in your life?  Who do you need to start spending more time with?  Who do you need to reach out to? What do you need to cut out of your schedule?  What financial sacrifice do you need to make for things that really count? 

(Adapted from a message by Rick Warren)

 

Post cards Join Peanut Butter for the Month of January

I am so excited about our outreach effort for the month of January. Instead of inviting our community to join us for worship we are asking them to join us in collecting peanut butter for the Richmond Food Bank. We are extending our church wide December peanut butter collection through the month of January. The food bank is in serious need of peanut butter and a few other critical items. We cannot deliver a pick-up truck full to the food bank on our own but we might be able to with the help of our neighbors. Community minded people are usually quite willing to serve the needs of the community. They just need someone to organize the effort and make it happen. New Venture will serve as the point “person” in this collection effort.

We have 2500 postcards ordered and should arrive any day. We will be distributing the postcards door to door to the community closest to our Sunday meeting place on Saturday morning, January 7 at 10 AM. We need lots and lots of volunteers, including older kids and teens. We have a lot of territory to cover. We are counting on you.

Then we need a few volunteers each week to “man” the collection places each Saturday and Sunday in January. The collection times are 10 am-12 noon on Saturdays at the Ministry Center and 9:30 am-11:30 am on Sundays at the church building. We need people to cover all or part of the collection time each week. It is just a matter of being there when people arrive and accepting their donation when they bring it. We will have banners posted to inform the public of the effort and “drop zone” location for their peanut butter. Who would like to be the first to sign up as “drop zone” volunteer?

Attached is a layout of the postcard and banners that will be arriving any day now. Please put the 7th at 10 am on your calendar and join us for the mass distribution. We are only asking for one hour of your time on that day. And then please give me a call, 874-3269, or email me if you would like to serve as a “drop zone” volunteer.

Begin now to pray for a tremendous response from our community. And please continue to bring your peanut butter each week. Let’s have a HUGE part in meeting the nutritional needs of some of the under resources people of the greater Richmond area and be a community leader in doing so.

Keep on doing the hidden things

I decided to go for a change of pace for my morning jog. Rather than jog the usual four miles I decided to just do a brisk walk for about 45 minutes. The morning was beautiful, the clouds were breathtaking the air was a little cooler so I decided to slow it down and smell the roses. I took streets through the neighborhood that weren’t on my usual jogging track to take in some new sights.

As I was walking along one particular street I came upon something that was quite surprising. I can’t figure out if it was there by accident or intention. I hesitate to tell you about it because just telling it takes away some of the value in what happened. But here it is.

As I walked along I happened to see a lengthy section of street with nails strewn along it. Perhaps, if I had been jogging, I wouldn’t have even noticed them but since I had slowed my pace I couldn’t miss them. Maybe they fell off the back of a construction truck driving through the area. Or maybe they were placed there by intention since they were across the entrance to a high school. Could they have been planted by kids from an opposing school to “slow up” the competitors since football, field hockey, track and band practice were all in full swing. They weren’t long nails. Just 8 penny finish nails but enough to cause a few flat tires and some stressful circumstances.

First I thought about walking right by, but something wouldn’t let me. I considered it again and found myself stopping to pick up the pointed intruders. The more I picked up the more I found. They were not just along the edge of the street but out in the street. I dodged traffic to capture the last nail. I looked around for any remaining ones but didn’t see any and continued my walk with my hand full of nails. What was I to do with them? When I came to the first piece of wooded area I gave them a toss.

I tell you this to say that if I hadn’t told you this you wouldn’t have known anything about it. And, as I already said, the fact that I have told you takes away some of the value of the action. But I share it to encourage you to continue to do the things that God puts before you to do whether or not anyone every finds about them. In fact, do everything you can to keep them your secret. Do them because they need to be done. Do them because it’s the right thing to do. Do them because it’s what makes God smile. Do them for an audience of ONE.