Thursday, November 08, 2007

#3 I Stopped Letting Others Dictate My Load

Hello All,

There is a principle that I find to be universally true, in every time and in every place. It comes from the lips of Christ Himself, recorded in the gospel of Luke.

Luke 10:2 : "After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, 'The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Notice a few things. The Lord is about to send these people out. He appointed them. He commissioned them. This was not their idea or their agenda. Second, He did not send them out without purpose. He sent them where He Himself was about to go. This was a preview and call to attention to the cities that were about to receive the Lord Himself into their cities and towns. Then notice the third thing. Jesus acknowledges that the harvest is great. It is abundant. There is enough for everybody to do, but even with everybody involved, the laborers are few in relation to the harvest. Jesus then instructs them wisely, to pray. Pray that the Lord would send out laborers into His harvest. It's instructive that Jesus does not instruct them to recruit people or pressure or coerce people into the work of His harvest. He tells them to pray to Him, asking that He might meet the need and provide for the lack that is always present.

The harvest is always great! There will always be more to do than there are people to do it! That truth is difficult to deal with and our prideful hearts can often believe that if we just keep pushing and working, we can do it all. And even the Lord will whisper in our ears, "I did not tell you this to overwhelm you or make you think that you are the answer to the situation. I AM THE ANSWER TO THE SITUATION! I asked you to pray to send laborers!"

In leadership this lesson is ever present, and the temptation is to believe that we can do it all. It's never been true and it never will be.

I remember when I learned this lesson. I was watching my Pastor, Ed Rea, field yet another request for some ministry opportunity. A well meaning believer came into the office and I happened to be sitting in the back cubicle listening to the exchange. (Privacy was not ever guaranteed in those days!) This man was telling Pastor Ed of an opportunity that he had been presented with, and he believed that Ed was the one who was supposed to take advantage of it. To be honest, I cannot remember the substance of what the opportunity was, but I remember the sense of urgency. His voice was so excited, and his desire was evident to all within earshot. Ed patiently listened and told the man that he thought that the Lord had indeed given an HIM! The man realized that Ed was not going to take the bait and asked why, Ed simply replied that the Lord had called him to something else and that he could not leave that responsibility.

Too be honest, at the time, I believed that Ed was missing an opportunity, but soon realized that he was absolutely right, a realization that I made quite frequently actually! If Ed had taken this opportunity, it would have taken his energies from his main responsibility, namely that of bringing God's Word to the body on Sunday morning and evening. That would have been a disaster!

I learned that not every opportunity was intended for me, even though many wanted to pawn some off on me. As a young Pastor, you think that you should take every opportunity that comes your way. This is truly not the case. It is vital to your ministry that you remain at your post, and guard diligently the ministries that you are sure God has given you.

In any minister's case, the first priority is our walk with the Lord. Have you communicated with Him? Have you opened your heart to what He would say to you? This is always first. Second, in my case, there is my wife. Am I a blessing to her? Am I being sensitive to her needs as a wife? Third, there are my children. They need Daddy to be attentive and "home" when he's home! Fourth, there is the ministry that I have been given. There are weekly responsibilities that I am responsible, via agreement with Pastor Chris Norman, that I have agreed to deal with. I do them as unto the Lord and to the best of my ability. Anything on top of this must come from the Lord Himself!

Does this mean that I pass on every opportunity? Not remotely! I pray over every invitation, submit my intentions to my boss and then my wife. If given the "all clear," I take whatever I can, meaning that nothing happens which violates the priorities laid out in the above paragraph. When someone comes to me with an opportunity, whoever he or she might be, that idea is filtered through the matrix and some make it into action.

What this does for me as a minister is free me to be His alone! I am not a Christian contractor, open to the highest bidder. I am owned by Him! Second, it frees others to be used of God, and to grow in their responsiblity toward the Lord. After all, there is a harvest that is plentiful right? Finally, my filter keeps me content with what God has called me to do. We are often bombarded with "cooler" opportunities which might even be more attractive to our flesh or serve to bring ourselves glory. This filter keeps that from happening.

I pray that you as a minister, might pray and ask the Lord to mark out the boundaries clearly for you, that you might serve Him freely and joyfully. There are tasks that only you can do, that He has given you stewardship. Don't leave your post...there is freedom in that you know!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

#4 I Stopped Promoting Myself & My Virtues

Hello All,

My good friend Kim Hutchcroft would often quote Psalm 37:23 to us young men around the Packinghouse in Redlands. The verse reads, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way." I used to and still do, love when Kim prays mentioning this verse. God has ordered my steps. He has laid out a path before me, one that I don't need to find. All I need to do is follow the Lord closely because He knows where He is going.

Sounds simple enough I suppose, yet I have often caught myself in "promotion mode." What do I mean by this? Promotion mode is when a person attempts to thrust themselves into a situation where they might be the answer to a need or a perceived want.

Let me explain with a story. It was Sunday night at the Packinghouse which was blessed with the opportunity to have guest artist John David Webster as the musical muse for the evening. JDW is an exceptional artist, whose first album blew all of our minds because of the awesome songwriting and craftsmanship that attended it, a rarity to be sure among Christian circles, where cliche and imitation rule the my opinion, of course!

The other great thing about John's album though was that he had members of one of my favorite fusion bands, Karizma, and namely, my favorite drummer in the world, Vinnie Colaiuta. So, naturally, each of the musicians at the Packinghouse were anxious to meet John David Webster, and to propose to him that we might learn his music and join him the next time that he came.

This idea began with a good friend of mine, but I made sure that I actually went after it, seeking to convince John that we could pull off the musical challenge. I mentioned it to him in passing before the service, then during the service, then just after the service. Each time, he politely said that it would be great to have a band, but stopped short of endorsing the plan.

I was frustrated and thought, I am going to really press him right before he leaves, seeing that I was usually one of the last ones out of the building back in those days. Kim, JDW and I sat by the old stage in the old building and I pressed hard. John David would not budge despite my best sales pitch! I left and got in my car, thoroughly unsatisfied.

Now, back in the day, I was blessed with a 5 minute commute across the wash, and into Highland. Right when I entered the wash, the Lord spoke to me in a clear voice about my self-promotion. He said, "Haven't I always given you gigs and put you with great musicians? Haven't I done this without your help?" In those 5 minutes, God flashed all the experiences, the recordings, and the great memories that I had had up to that night. I was humbled and grateful, but it was still a LONG 5 minutes!

From that point on, I purposed not to insert myself as the answer to anyone's problems. I was not going to promote myself or the virtues that I might possess. I want to take every open door that I am invited through, that the Lord opens for me, but there is a huge difference between that, and what I was trying to do, shoving a proverbial crowbar in the door that God had purposed to close, likely more for my benefit than my detriment.

In ministry, it's easy to believe that you are the answer to someone's dilemma. In ministry, it's still an attraction to be included in situations of our own making. But my pillar of freedom comes when I am trusting in His goodness to open the door and then, consequently, trusting in His goodness when a door is not opened. The embracing of what He opens and the embracing what He won't is the pillar of freedom that let's me enjoy serving Him in ministry the most.

I hope that this helps you as you serve Him.

Blessings...To Our Friends
Frank Sanchez