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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fresh Encounters!

One of the many important aspects of the pastoral training that I received in Bible School was the importance of never neglecting your personal Bible study time.  It would seem that many ministers get so busy with their ministry duties and responsibilities that the only study time they get is when they are preparing for a service.  As a student of the many revivals that have swept the world, I always sit in awe as I read about some of the greatest Christian orators in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds that would literally spend untold hours and even days preparing for their Sunday sermons.

In many respects that sounds like heaven on the earth to me!  Over the years and countless programs and plays, VBS curriculums, puppet skits, retreats and even weekly kids and youth services, I have normally enjoyed the preparation time just as much as the actual presentation.  So to be able to take the time to spend hour upon hour preparing for one service seems fantastic!  Having been an associate at smaller churches where few if any additional staff was available, I have seen the senior pastors struggle to juggle all their weekly responsibilities from counseling, preaching, and the other spiritual and physical needs of the congregation to the upkeep of the building and yard care!  It doesn’t always leave much opportunity for personal study time!

I discovered early on in my various positions as a part-time staff Pastor, that I HAD to spend quality time alone in the Word or I was simply not going to be any good at ANY of the responsibilities I had in life as a husband, father, employee at a full time secular job, running a side business, and spending a lot more time than I was actually being reimbursed for at the church as I pursued my heart’s calling as a minister of the Gospel! 

As I am sure I have mentioned before, as a Youth or Children’s Pastor, I spent most of the Sunday’s and weekday services leading those groups.  In my last assignment I probably experienced less than a dozen times sitting in the adult service!  But that didn’t really matter as I was doing what I loved and was called to do!  The responsibility for my spiritual strength and growth was strictly on my shoulders though!

It is interesting that I am getting more word on a regular basis now that my wife and I are dealing with this attack on her health than I ever did before as an active minister in the field!  And believe you me, it is the one thing that has keep us going with a smile on our faces, an ever increasing faith in His Word of truth and peace in our hearts in the midst of persecutions, bad reports, facing the physical effects of the disease, and dealing with other individual’s negative words, feelings, reactions to our situation and choices and then helping to minister to their needs!

It would seem that Peter and John faced some of these same situations in their daily walk with the Lord.  In Acts chapter three we find them on their way to an afternoon service at the Synagogue when they came upon a man with a severe need.  I think it is interesting that they did not respond with their heads but with what was inside them.  They knew that what this lame man needed was to be found in Jesus and not some physical solution and made that pretty clear to him!  Peter spoke to the man and told him that he didn’t have the physical things that the man was requesting, but boldly stated: “I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you what I DO have.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6 God’s Word ©/MKJV)

There are many things that impressed me with Peter and John’s response to this situation.  First the Word tells us that they were on their way to a meeting.  I am sure that these two main leaders in the early church were VERY busy men, but they still knew the importance of keeping themselves filled and fresh with the Word of God!  And like I stated above, they didn’t think twice about the need that presented itself to them at the Temple gate, they immediately responded from their hearts and not with their heads!  I think that this action tells more about where a Christian is in their walk with the Lord than anything else!

I was also encouraged with the reaction that the people who witnessed the event and its aftermath.  Verses 9-11 tell us that “All the people saw him walking and praising God,” (God’s Word ©) and they were amazed, stunned and excited all at the same time and ran to hear Peter preach a message!  Peter and John’s actions brought thousands more people into a saving knowledge and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!  (Read about it all in Acts chapters three and four)

I remember when visiting a friend in Oklahoma when we flew back there for our youngest daughter’s wedding a year after our return to California, and she questioned me about some of the “confusing and troubling” comments she had heard from a church friend in California who had talked to one of those who had accused me of some faults in caring for Piper.  The negative report she heard was definitely NOT one to arouse amazement and excitement about Piper’s perspectives!  Those who found fault approached our situation from their heads and not from their hearts and instead of rallying the troops into a strong faith for Piper’s eventual healing, it raised questions, fostered distrust and reeked of hopelessness.

I want to live my life in such a way that it leaves those I encounter with a sense of expectation in God and His promises to us.  But the only way I can hope to attain to this model in the face of the constant drain caused by the situations in our life, I MUST have daily fresh encounters with God in His Word!  What about you?  Have a wonderful day today.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What FRESH ENCOUNTERS am I expecting to have with God today?”

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