I love collecting and sharing stories that I hear. Not long ago, I heard a story about a boy who went to the local drug store to purchase three gifts; one-, three-, and five-pound boxes of candy, each to be gift wrapped. The druggist asked the boy why he needed three boxes. The boy said, "I am so excited. I have a date tonight with the cutest girl in school. We are going to have dinner with her parents, and then sit on the front porch swing. If she lets me hold her hand, I am going to give her the one-pound box of candy. If she lets me put my arm around her, I will give her the three-pound box. If she lets me kiss her good night, I will give her the five-pound box." That night as the family sat around the table, the father asked the boy to offer the blessing. The boy started praying, and he prayed for everything he could think of. He prayed for all the missionaries. He prayed all around the world until he finally said, "Amen." The girl looked at him and said, "I didn't know you were so religious." The boy answered, "I didn't know your father was the druggist."
THE BLESSING AND FAVOR OF THE LORD UPON YOUR MINISTRY IS WORTH EVERY EXAMINATION AND ANY SACRIFICE.
We laugh at that story, but it illustrates that appearing to be religious can be a show. Sadly, people sometimes use the name of God to impress others or to make themselves seem upright. They say one thing, but their lives demonstrate something far different. The problem is that people can be fooled, but God never is. He sees our hearts and weighs our motives. He knows when we are being honest, sincere, and genuine. Throughout the Bible, we read that God encourages people to examine themselves and to test their own hearts so that they might not be found disqualified later.
In the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7, Jesus told the people that they must be different from those who call themselves religious. If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must think differently, speak differently, and act differently. In the language of today, the phrase would be "keeping it real." At the end of the sermon, Jesus even said that not everyone who called Him Lord would enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father Who is in heaven. As we read what Jesus said, it is clear that what we say is not enough. Our words need to match how we live. We cannot say that we love God but hate our brother. We cannot say that we are followers of God if we do not obey what He has told us. From a pastor's heart, may I ask if you are real? Are there any contradictions in your life? If you were to stand before the Lord today, would you be disqualified? This is important not only for each of us personally, but also for ministry.
The truth of this reality is highlighted in Joshua 7. The command was for the army of Israel to completely destroy the enemy and all their possessions. However, a man named Achan took some of the plunder and, instead of destroying it, hid it under his tent. The entire nation paid the price because of his sin. The army lost a battle, and soldiers died. One man's sin affected the whole nation.
The Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, is seeking to reach our culture by making high quality movies which include, "Courageous," "Fireproof," "Facing the Giants," and "Fly Wheel." After the movie "Facing the Giants" came out, I heard an interview conducted with the pastor of the church. He said that the volunteers who work on the making of every movie, from the on-camera talent to the behind-the-scenes support teams, are all asked this final question in the interview process before they work on the film: "Is there anything in your life that would hinder God from blessing this outreach ministry?" Without judgment, the pastor then simply asks the person to honestly look at their life and remove themselves from the film if there is unconfessed sin or a lifestyle that is not biblical.
PEOPLE CAN BE FOOLED, BUT GOD NEVER IS.
The message of holiness in the context of ministry is sobering. The ministry of pregnancy centers is in the cross hairs of Satan's rage. Pregnancy centers literally deal with life and death issues and minister the words of life every day. Because of the importance of the life-saving and life-changing ministry of every center, it is vital that everyone involved understands the need not to entertain sin in the camp.
The good news is that God is merciful, forgiving, and compassionate. If we confess our sin, He will forgive us of our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). His call is to be honest before Him and honest with ourselves. The time to examine ourselves is now so that if changes need to be made in our lives, we have the opportunity. The blessing and favor of the Lord upon your ministry is worth every examination and any sacrifice.
Pastor Mark Hiehle is the lead pastor of the Claremore Church of the Nazarene. He seeks to help centers grow with fundraising tools at www.highcalling.com.