Weekly Teaching: "Choose to Be a Blessing!"
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As Wendy and I prepare to head out next Monday to go plant and encourage microchurches, I can't help but reflect on God's goodness these past two years. And I can't help but recommend that you adopt the same motto that we adopted: "We just want to be a blessing." Here's what happened to us along the way. And what we believe is happening to us next.
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<TRANSCRIPTION OF ABOVE VIDEO>
Today, if I could, I just wanna remind you to be a blessing wherever you go, to choose that as your orienting statement, the inner dialogue: "I just want to be a blessing wherever I have opportunity to bless."
In Colossians 3, Paul's writing, and he says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." He says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
And then he says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Filled with gratitude.) "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. Through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks" (gratitude) "to God the Father through him."
And then he says, "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. Slaves..." (Now, in our setting, we might apply this — let's not do it too indiscriminately — but we can apply this to employees.) "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything and do it not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ, you are serving." Not just your master, not just your employer. "It is the Lord Christ you are serving." You are blessing. You are coming to be a blessing to.
"Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for the wrongs and there is no favoritism. Masters," (and we might apply it: employers, bosses) "masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a master in heaven."
And then he says, "Devote yourselves to prayer. Being watchful and thankful."
A couple years ago when Wendy and I stepped out of vocational ministry, full-time occupational ministry as a pastor â€” had been that for 22 years, that was what put a roof over our heads, that's what put food on the table â€” when we stepped out of that, we didn't know what we were gonna do.
We had given ourselves fully to it, and, even though I can't say that during my 22 years of ministry, I did everything well, I can say that I chose to do what was right. I did my best to love those under my care. I did my best to love my enemies. Of course, I failed at things, but my conscience was clear. At the end of that, my conscience was clear that I had decided to do good to those who hate me, bless those who curse me, pray for those who persecute me. And so that's what I did.
Coming out of that, yes, we were blessed. But we didn't know what the future was gonna hold for us. We just knew that we needed to do a new thing, meaning boil down this thing of church into something way more vital than all the extra programs that we like to throw into church, into being church.
We decided that we wanted to see what it is to do the essential things of being church and see whether that's enough. But we didn't know what that would mean for us vocationally.
Somewhere along the lines early on in that, we started using language of, "We just want to be a blessing."
Three weeks or so after we left the vocational ministry, we had opportunity to clean Airbnbs. And we went in saying, "We just want to be a blessing." And literally I was cleaning toilets. Wendy got the kitchen. I got the bathroom. Literally I was cleaning toilets, praying for the people who owned the Airbnb and for the people who were going to be renting the Airbnb. "I just want to be a blessing. Someone has to clean this toilet. I just want to be a blessing." And so we went in each day with gratitude. We just want to be a blessing. We just wanna be a blessing.
Around that same time, someone came to us and asked whether we could clean some ice cream equipment â€” Yoder's Southern Creamery. " We need someone to just clean the equipment after hours, to help out the crew so that they can keep on making ice cream, so they don't have to stop and clean and things." And we said, "Sure. If we can be a blessing, let's do that."
And we went in and we were trained by people half our age to clean things. And it stands out to me as this one time, Rhonda was teaching me how to clean a machine and I mean literally teaching me how to take a soapy rag and wipe down a machine. Literally just that. And so I do that and I looked at it and I said, " How's that?" And she looked, and she said, "You missed a spot." And it stands out as so humbling to be taught by someone half my age simply to wipe stuff off of a machine. But I went in day after day: "I just want to be a blessing. I just want to be a blessing." The Rhondas and the Elizabeths and the Joshs, the people who he got to work with. I went filled with gratitude: "I just want to be a blessing. I just want to be a blessing."
We'd been doing that probably, it wasn't quite a year, uh, maybe six, eight months, and one day the president of the company came out and said, "Hey, I want to talk to you." They have a n ice cream shop downtown. We were literally leaning on the mops and He asked whether we would be interested in managing Main Street Creamery. That was something that we had prayed for probably 15 years earlier, 10 years earlier at least. Like, like, and we had stopped really praying for it. Because of our season of life, it was something we would enjoy doing, but we didn't feel like we were supposed to try to put all our resources into something like that at the time. But what we would pray is, "What would be ideal is if someone else had a shop and we could just manage it. We could just run it." And what he said to us, "What if you were just to run it all? Like just take care of it all?" And we talked for a couple weeks on that and decided to take it, and went into the next season, just saying, "We just wanna be a blessing."
We just wanna be a blessing to the customers who come into Main Street Creamery in downtown Sarasota, and to be a blessing to Bill and Nate and the people that we work for, to be a blessing to our coworkers, those who work with us and work for us. Just to be this blessing to those people.
And to each person who comes in. We decided we just want to enjoy them. Every customer who walks in, we just want to give them joy. We want to give them an experience of feeling like someone has enjoyed their presence. Enjoyed them as a person. And so we went in every day with gratitude.
It doesn't mean it wasn't hard work, it doesn't mean we never got tired, but just with gratitude: "We just want to be a blessing. We just want to be a blessing."
And I had opportunities to coach a worship pastor at Bayshore Church and then he took a job somewhere else and they asked me if I would be interim worship pastor, and I was able to step in and be a blessing. When I went there, it literally, genuinely was, "I just want to be a blessing." I'm able to lead worship. I'm able to lead worship teams, and I believed that I have something to offer there. Not out of a self-confidence thing, but just out of experience. I decided, "I'll go be a blessing there." If someone wants to worship God, yeah, I'll lead you in worship if you are responsive to that. I had opportunity to go lead worship, and it became one month and two month and three months. And seven months later I'm still leading worship. I just wanted to be a blessing. I just wanted to be a blessing.
As God's call to leave Sarasota for a six month mission trip in this RV — as it became more clear that we're supposed to go in and plant and encourage microchurches around the US, people that have been reaching out to us and just to start conversations with people who don't even know we're gonna be there yet — as it became clear that we were supposed to do that, our decision was, "We still want to be a blessing." How we conclude or whether we conclude these responsibilities, we just wanna be a blessing.
And I said it so often, that at times I hoped it wasn't sounding like a rehearsed sort of thing. I hoped that me saying, "I just want to be a blessing," hadn't lost its meaning. And I'm telling you that it hasn't. I still, I just wanna be a blessing.
As we go forward and set our sights — right now, setting our sights toward Virginia, the Harrisonburg area — we just wanna be a blessing. And so I'm reaching out to people up there: Hey, can we come in and start a conversation and pray together and see what God wants to do? It seems like there's some interest in microchurch in the Harrisonburg area. So we're gonna pull in: "Who wants to join us?" We just want to be a blessing. Not coming to ply our wares. Is that how you say it? Not coming to sell something, but coming to be a blessing. To bring a blessing, to bring encouragement from Sarasota to give it to Virginia. And then from there heading over to Holmes County, Ohio, where there seems to be interest. There seems to be some interest there. We just wanna bring a blessing from Harrisonburg to Holmes County and to Indiana and to Wisconsin and to Washington and Oregon and wherever we land. Kansas, Leavenworth to just bring a blessing to people.
My encouragement to you today is that if you orient your life with gratitude, that "I want to take the blessings that have been given me" — whether it's just energy and strength, or a mind that can figure out things, or simply a smile to give to people — I wanna encourage you that if you can orient your thinking with gratitude to go and be a blessing to people, it will fill you with such deep and rich blessing.
Now in our case, it's met our needs and the people who we said that we wanted to bless have turned around and they are blessing us, giving us opportunity to continue to work remotely while we do this mission. Man, that is a huge blessing. For as long as it works, we won't hold anyone hostage. But if it works, then they're giving us opportunity to pursue the mission while still being a blessing to what's happening back in Sarasota.
Bayshore? We're going to continue to be a blessing, however we can, as long as there's a need.
We know that nothing beats onsite presence. Which is why we're going to be on site and to be present in some places that we're supposed to be and encourage microchurches.
And now X242 is giving the go ahead, giving the sign of blessing saying, yes, we wanna support what you're doing. Blessing us back.
And so we feel like we've blessed, but now we receive blessing in return. And honestly — honestly, genuinely, sincerely — the desire to be a blessing wasn't because we knew that we would get blessed back. It was because we had already been blessed. We had opportunity to bless someone, and so we blessed them.
And in the end, some people I'm sure have not blessed us. Some people who blessed us initially, then grumbled about it. It doesn't always work in your favor. You will always have enemies. Jesus promised that people would treat you like they treated him, if you follow him. There will always be people who grumble about you and complain about you. Always.
When you bless others, you don't always just receive blessing in return. But when you take the blessings you've received and use them to bless others, you will end up blessing others who take that blessing and bless you back. It's just how God's Spirit moves in people who are obedient to him, who are responsive to him.
So my encouragement to you today. Most of us aren't called to do what Wendy and I are called to do, to go out and encourage and plant microchurches. Or to clean toilets and Airbnbs or to clean ice cream machines or, to lead worship at Bayshore Church.
Not everyone is called to bless in the same ways. You have received blessing, that God says: Whatever you do, do it with all your heart. Whatever you do, serve those that you get to. Bless them openly, richly, generously, bless them. Give what you've received as a blessing. Give it to them as a blessing. Go not to be rewarded with their blessings, not to get paid. Go to be a blessing to them, to bless them richly with whatever you've been given.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for humans."
"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus."
Go be a blessing. Go be a blessing. God will take care of you. It won't always look like you wanted it to, but God will take care of you.
And so this is my encouragement today. Go be a blessing. Just go live that way. Be a blessing today. Whether you face hardship or ease, go be a blessing. Fill your heart with the peace of Jesus and let it overflow as love and joy and peace to everyone you meet. Go be a blessing.
It's a joy to encourage you. If God puts it in your heart to pray for us, pray that there's a work of God there in Virginia, and pray toward the next destination, Ohio. Just start praying that God would start to open up doors for an effective ministry. And I will be praying that you â€” as you decide to use today as an opportunity to be a blessing â€” I pray that your ministry is fruitful and effective in the name of Jesus.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message..." (Colossians 4:2-3).