It seems that many of the things we use today in our daily lives have a “reset” option. When something stops functioning the way it is supposed to, we can hit the reset button and—in most instances—it will return to normal. We get so accustomed to our devices just working as they as they should, that sometimes we are surprised that we need to reset them. We just assume they will continue to do what they're supposed to.
This past Sunday we had a powerful worship service. As Pastor Drew Hawkins led worship he began to talk about how we worship, what worship really is, and how our worship becomes a living sacrifice. He talked about how we must empty ourselves of ourselves, and seek to put Jesus first. He must increase, we must decrease.
You see, our worship should be an overflowing abundance of gratitude for all that God has done for us, but it should also come from our desire to know God, and desire more of Him and more of His presence in our lives. When we worship God intimately and from the depths of our hearts, He responds to us in powerful ways.
I sometimes feel like we can get into a rut when it comes to worship. Maybe we don’t care for the particular song the worship team chose, or maybe they sang it in a key that was too high or too low for us to sing with. Maybe they sang a song that we've have heard a hundred times or more, and we’re just tired of it. But, we have to realize worship is not about us. Are we just singing along because we like the melody or is our worship coming from a grateful heart that seeks more of God?
I remember when God called me into ministry. It was during a worship service, and we were singing a song by William McDowell called, I Give Myself Away. The chorus simply repeats, “I give myself away, I give myself away so You can use me.” I had never heard the song before in my life. But as I sang that song for the first time it became my prayer to God. More than anything else I wanted to draw closer to Him and do all the things He had called me to do.
At that point in my life I didn’t really think that was a lot. I was overwhelmed by the failures of my past, and even though I knew God had forgiven me, I was afraid He was still mad at me—or at the very least—disappointed in me. So, I really didn’t have any great expectations of being used by God for anything.
But as I began to empty myself of me, and I began to focus solely on Christ something began to happen. For the first time since I had rededicated my life to Christ, I began to realize that God was not mad at me. And even more exciting than that, He certainly did want to use me for His glory. And, He has not stopped amazing me since that day!
I’m certainly far from perfect though. I still have to check myself quite often. I have to ask myself if I’m just singing a pretty song, or if I’m truly giving all of myself away and lifting up Jesus above everything else. I have to evaluate whether I’m really worshiping, or if I’m stuck in a rut. Am I just singing along, or am I offering myself as a living sacrifice to the One who gave His all for me?
The words of that simple song—I Give Myself Away—all those years ago still serves as a great reminder for me. When I sing that song now, its like I’m hitting a reset button in my worship. When my worship isn’t functioning in the way it is supposed to I have found that I need to hit the reset button to wake me up and get my focus back to where it should be. How about you? Could you use a reset button to help you get your focus back?
Romans 12:1 NLT
“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.”
Most of us have experienced the simple act of tossing a pebble into a lake or a pond to see what happens. I remember the amazement I experienced as a child when I would toss a stone into a lake and circles would appear on the glassy surface. One after another they would appear and extend farther and farther out across the lake. We refer to this as the “ripple effect.”
One tiny sudden impact on the surface of a small area of still water can send out ripples that eventually effect a much larger area. We may think that a tiny pebble tossed into a giant lake can’t have much of an impact, but it certainly does. And, the same thing happens when one life is touched by Jesus.
Recently as I was ministering in the jail, I met a young lady who gave her heart to Christ in one of our services. Her whole countenance changed. She seemed to just glow with the light and the love of Jesus. I see many ladies who make decisions to follow Jesus, but some fall by the wayside when they are released from jail. But I could tell that this young lady was different.
We will call her *Angel. She was hungry for more of God, and it was obvious that He had impacted her life in a powerful way. She never missed a service, and she always came up for prayer. I could sense a strong call to ministry on her life, and she wanted everything God had to offer her.
While Angel was in jail, her parents made a wise decision to move to another state to make a brand new start. I was happy with this decision because it is so good for these ladies to be able to start over in a new place away from former influences. She called me as soon as she got to her new home with her parents in the new state.
She was so excited as we talked about her long drive home with her father. She told me how she had told him about everything she learned in the jail services. She talked about all the lessons I had shared with them, and how my testimony had inspired her to follow Jesus and seek His will for her life. I was so thrilled to hear the excitement in her voice.
But, it continued to get even better. She said, “Miss Donna, when I got home I sat down with my family, and I read the Bible to them! But that’s not all! I also prayed with them, and they accepted Christ as their Savior.” I almost shouted right then and there! She continued, “And, Miss Donna, we have found an Assemblies of God church just seven miles from our house, and we are going Sunday!”
I could not have been smiling any wider at that moment! She shared the name of the church with me, and I told her I would give the pastor a call. I called him the following Monday, and he shared with me that she did attend and filled out a visitor card. He told me that their church had just started the new “Living Free” program for former addicts, and those fighting addictions. He assured me he would call and try to meet with her, and get her involved.
He did just that, and she called me back so excited as she told me how the pastor mentioned getting her involved in several areas of ministry in the church! Both of her parents are attending church with her, and she is absolutely thrilled to see what future plans God has for her.
She is determined to live out her calling and become a minister herself. And, she is already doing just that, by leading her parents to Christ. I believe her testimony will begin to make an even greater impact in the area she has moved to. It is obvious to see that God is preparing the way for her.
Sometimes we may feel that we are having little to no impact in what we are doing for Christ, but that is nothing more than a lie from the enemy. The smallest actions, can make the biggest impact. Just like a tiny pebble causing ripples across a lake, our testimony shared with another individual can change a life. When that changed individual shares their testimony, other lives are changed.
The ripples keep reaching outward. We can’t just look at the lives changed in our direct line of sight. We have to remember that the impact we make on others will extend farther than we can even imagine. Oh, the stories we will share in heaven when we meet those whose lives were changed as an indirect result of our ministry.
Small beginnings have immeasurable results for eternity! So, keep casting those small pebbles out into the lake. You are making an impact!
Zechariah 4:10 NLT
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
Proverbs 11:30 NIV
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.”
James 5:20 CEB
“Recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”
*Name changed to maintain privacy.
In a society that proudly shouts, “No Fear,”—I believe one could say that very phrase sums up our problems in a nutshell. People have lost the fear of God. Many in our current society have no fear of being held accountable for anything. We have walked away from the Holy Bible, and the truth contained in it. We swear upon it in our courtrooms, but that in itself has become a meaningless gesture for most people. People have ceased to fear God because they have stopped believing the Bible is true.
But there is no changing the absolute truth. And it is only found in the Holy Bible. We have got to get back to the Word of God and quit listening to false prophets. How well do we know the Word of God? It is easy to be misled when you don’t know what the Bible says. We must believe and hold onto what we have been taught, but we must also continue to teach truth lest we ourselves become false prophets. False prophets are full of rotten fruit. And instead of growing strong believers they only seek to dumb down the sheep.
How do we recognize false prophets?
Matthew tells us:
Matthew 7:15-20 (NLT)
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
Unfortunately many ministers have become more concerned with numbers in the pews rather than souls making it into heaven. If nothing else, the verse below should shake us all to the core—ministers or not!
Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
I understand. It’s not easy. People no longer want to hear truth. They would rather tell us we are being judgmental or bigots. But, we have a charge to keep. We have been chosen and set apart for a Holy calling, and we have been brought to this royal position to uphold righteousness and rescue the perishing. We were never called to make a name for ourselves, or win popularity contests. Paul understood that love does not equal acceptance of sin.
Look at what Paul says about ministry:
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (NLT)
"We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
And Paul endured all these things because of the truth he was preaching in sincere love. Sincere love is based on our future vision or eternal destinies—not on our acceptance or popularity. This was part of his message that caused many of his hardships:
2 Corithians 6:14-18, 7:1 (NLT)
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
'I will live in them
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD.
Don’t touch their filthy things,
and I will welcome you.
And I will be your Father,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the LORD Almighty.”
7:1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
Paul also struggled with speaking harshly to those in sin. But, he understood though it might be painful for a while, it would lead to their ultimate freedom from bondage and lead to the reward of eternal life instead of eternal torment.
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NLT)
“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
I pray that God would help us by the power of the Holy Spirit to be people who fully believe the Word of God, who are not afraid to speak the truth, and who love people enough to endure hardship or discomfort as we go about fulfilling our Holy calling and leading this royal charge to rescue the perishing. Do we truly realize who we are, and Whose we are?
Yes, we must speak the truth in love. But, we cannot stop speaking the truth all together. Let us be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves as we consider our call as ambassadors for Christ.
Romans 16:17-18 (NLT)
“And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.”
(*Bold emphasis mine)
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.