A recent revelation that the Lord has been giving us when ministering to others is helping people see how our routines make us completely blind to other people's feelings.
We all have our specific ways that we would like things to get done. The problem with many of these routines is that if your priority is following your routine, instead of making people the priority you will find yourself trampling over other people to make sure that the routine gets complete in the manner that you want it to be done.
At some point in time everyone of us is going to have to decide what our priorities in life are going to be. There are many different priorities that people choose some of which are family, money, God, work, our reputation, and even acceptance. You will have to choose what are you going to value and make your top priority, what is going to be that thing that you will stop everything you are doing for? Whatever that thing is for you is your true heart priority.
Sadly, many people have a much greater emphasis on schedules and routines instead of people. God has brought me through many seasons of testing in this area. Seasons where I had to choose what was I really going to focus my energies on and what is that thing for me that I will stop everything for.
When I first went into full time ministry my true heart motives and priorities were tested in a way that they had never been tested before. One of things that I most admire about my mentor, Phil Livingston, was that he would put the people first instead of trying to follow a routine or a schedule. The problem with being a person who is relationally focused and not task oriented is that you will often times find yourself frustrating the many people who are task oriented.
Often times it would be moments before a church service and I would watch as Phil would recognize someone in the group who really needed to be ministered to. It was at this place that I was modeled what it truly looks like to be a responsible shepherd. Here are your options; either you go and minister to that person knowing quite well that you will upset all those task oriented people in the group who came for a seven o'clock service or you decide to blind yourself to the needs of that one individual and please everybody else that came for a very timely service. I watched as time and time again Phil would stop everything that he was doing to reach out to that one person who was in need. I also watched as many of the people in the congregation had issues with the fact that our services never started exactly when we planned them too. I also watched as members of the church would stop coming because he took extra time to pour into that one person in need.
What would you do?
Would you focus more on the routine of the service that you are "supposed" to follow or are you going to go after that one sheep who got separated from the flock? It is moments like these that become defining moments in your walk with God. Moments where God looks deep into your heart and finds out if you will truly go the extra mile for His people and be responsible to the people that He has put in your life. After seeing this relational lifestyle modeled to me I made it my heart commitment to always make sure that I am building a living temple and not just a physical building. If you are really honest with yourself the answer to the question of where to put your focus is obvious. Are you going to make your focus the living temple or the physical temple? As pretty as all of our church buildings might be on the outside, none of it really matters compared to the precious people on the inside.
After being modeled what it looks like to really be a responsible shepherd I was put to the test. We began a construction project at the church and being that we were low on resources I was the one doing the majority of the work with some volunteers in the ministry. One of the hardest things in the world is to be in the middle of a project that you are so close to finishing when you get that call asking for help and prayer. I remember many moments of being in the middle of having paint or mudding compound on my hands and suddenly hearing the phone ring in my pocket. I mean what do you do? Do I pick up my nice smart phone and get paint on it just to take a call? I mean God would never ask me to do something like that, right?
Wrong! That doesn't mean that in every case we should delay every service and stop everything we are doing for that person in need. What it does mean is that you set your heart priority in a place where you are yielded to the Lord promptings in every given situation. That means when the phone rings in your pocket at the worst possible time you ask the Lord, "Would it honor you to stop painting or would you like me to continue my work?" There are times when God wants to interrupt everything that you are doing to stop for that one person and there are times that it would be bondage to stop what you are doing for that person. Sometimes that person needs attention right away and sometimes it enables them to think that they don't have to take other people in consideration in the midst of their needs.
How do you know when it is right to stop everything and when it is enabling?
Well, you don't. The truth is that we are just not smart enough to have any idea of how to respond in a way that is going to bear good fruit in that person's life. Therefore, the only solution is to let go of your routine in every way that you think things are supposed to be done, then you will have to ask the Lord to show you how he wants you to respond in every given situation. Sometimes He does ask you to stop everything to take care of that person and sometimes He wants that person to wait. You will never ever be wise enough to know the difference unless you ask Him.
God does not fit into well structured services and programs. He is God. He holds the entire universe in the palm of His hands and we think that somehow my "program" is going to always allow His Spirit presence to manifest itself in the most powerful way. The truth is that you become completely blind to God and the people who are around you when routine becomes the priority.
The same can be said of objects as well of what we have been talking about with routines. How many times do we treat people so poorly just to make sure our cars don't get scratched or that most prized possession doesn't get damaged. What is truly more important; the object getting trashed or the person who you are dishonoring? Often most of the furniture inside of people's homes are treated with greater care than the people living inside of those homes. What a sad truth!
Most Christians know that people are the priority over the programs and objects. I mean every Christian program was designed to help serve people and draw them closer to the Lord, right? Who would actually dehumanize people for the sake of the program? Let's look at few scriptures.
Jn 11:46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
Jn 11:47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.
Jn 11:48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
Jn 11:49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!
Jn 11:50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Jn 11:51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
Jn 11:52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
Jn 11:53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
These were the religious leaders of the Jewish people, the most Holy God fearing people in the world, who had a meeting to discuss how to deal with this man who would not conform to their routines. God had given them all of these routines and rituals and this man, Jesus, was really getting in the way. They all looked at what was happening and they saw the beginning of a great awakening or rebellion depending on how you want to look at it. They responded in the same way that most other religious leaders have responded throughout all of history when the Spirit of God comes in power. Do whatever it takes to put a stop to all these miracles that are making it difficult to hold onto our routines.
They all came into agreement with each other that the best solution was to let one man die for the sake of all the people. Yes, this was a prophetic, inspired word from God. The truth was that God had intended for Jesus to die for the sake of the sins of all humanity. This was God's motive in giving this prophetic word. God's motive thought about the people who would be saved through the death of Jesus. Was this the religious leaders motives? Were they considering the people or were they concerned about their own reputations, personal glory, or position?
I think it is pretty obvious to see that they had deceived themselves into thinking they were doing the best thing for the people, but they were really looking out for their own reputations and trying to hold onto all of their rituals. Doing so made them completely blind to the fact they are sending the very Son of God to die on the cross in both a humiliating and torturous manner. They killed God because they were so blinded by their own self-serving priorities. Yes, they were trying to hold onto the customs that God had given them to follow, but God meant for those very customs to create a greater compassion for people, not a ignorance to them. They had no regard for human life and the suffering that was caused because of their agenda. I believe that if they were really honest with themselves they would see, like Nicodemius recognized who was also one of the religious leaders, that they were not being faithful representatives of the God that they were supposedly serving.
All they had to do is look back to their forefathers who sacrificed everything to love people and honor God. Great patriarchs like Abraham who left everything he had to travel to a new land. Jewish history even tells us that Abraham was so focused on relationship over routine that he would regularly set up a table full of food at two well traveled crossroads just to feed the people who passed by. After giving them a meal they would thank him and at that point he would say no thank God, while pointing to the sky. This is where we believe Lovefeast originated. Abraham was a man who sacrificed everything he knew to be a man of love and one who honored God above all.
Does this mean that God never wants us to have some sort of schedule or routine? The answer is no, but the routine is not supposed to be the priority. Every week we have a routine of how we felt the Lord has instructed us to do a church service. There are many weeks where we follow that routine very closely, but there are some weeks where the Spirit of God prompts us to do things differently. If you are so focused on the routine you become blind to how the Spirit of God wants to move in a room.
The messages that I give every week are no different. Many times I will have a prepared message of what I believe the Lord put on my heart for the week. Then we are five minutes before I am to speak and the Lord downloads a entirely different message. This was a quite undoing process to begin with because I didn't always have everything laid out as I would have liked. After much experiential training the Lord has taught me to focus more on trying to be in the flow of His Spirit, rather than holding onto what I have prepared. After many services I found myself in a place where on many occasions I don't even have anything prepared and just have to trust the Lord will speak through me when I get up there. You think you trust God until you tell Him that you won't do anything until He speaks to you, then you begin your decent to the stage hoping that He won't leave you hanging with no message. Sometimes He will tell you everything you need to know days and hours beforehand, sometimes He wants us to be more dependent on His promptings than our routines, so He waits to the last second to show us what to speak about.
GOD'S PRIORITY IS NOT ON ROUTINES, IT IS ON THE PEOPLE
1Sa 15:22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
Isa 1:11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Isa 1:12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Isa 1:13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Isa 1:14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
Isa 1:17 learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
Isa 1:23 Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.
Hos 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Mic 6:6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Mic 6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Mic 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God
God is more concerned about the way the people are treated than the routines and customs. Very few people in this world spend more time considering other people's feelings over their own personal priorities. God simply cannot use a person in the fullness that He wishes to when they are blind to the hurts and wounds of the people around them. If you want to be that great man or woman of God than your process begins in becoming a lover of man. God is looking to raise up a fellowship of people who are so united with one another that they will not divide when difficult circumstances come their way. Until this happens the devil will always be able to find a way to divide and keep the power of God from manifesting in the fullness that God wants it to. Not until the Church learns to be more relational and less task oriented will they enter into who God has really intended them to be. Many churches today are so shallow in their bond to one another that if you simply start the service late or change the style of worship you will lose most of the congregation in a month's time. How could a fellowship ever accomplish great good in the Kingdom of Heaven when they become divided by something as petty as a few modern inconveniences?
The first century church looked so different than the modern day church. They were not bound by routines, but they were bound by their love for Jesus and their love for each other. The least of their concerns was whether a service was going to start on time. They were more concerned about being in fellowship with those who were like minded and hearing testimonies of how people are not compromising their beliefs. They were selling everything they owned just to make sure that everybody in the fellowship was eating. They gave everything they had and focused more on taking care of the needs of others than on serving themselves. Would you sell everything you had for your fellowship? Are you more concerned about making sure people are being take care of than meeting your monthly budget? If we all are really the body of Christ, are we making sure that all the parts of that body are taken care of? We are not there yet, as a ministry these are many of the hard questions that we have had to ask ourselves. Until our priority both with our words and deeds become obedience to God and love of people, we will not be living out what Jesus meant for a fellowship of believers to look like.
I encourage you all to do what we call a checkup from the neck up. Meaning this is a moment to ask the Lord for a report card about where you really stand with Him. Will you be that person who will be more focused on the people in front of you than your daily schedule? How could we ever expect God to use us in powerful ways if we are not willing to lay down our life and the way we want things done? God is searching to and fro through the earth for people who will represent Him in a way that actually reflects His true heart for humanity. Are you that person? Selah