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Daily Distinctives, May 7, 2015 (Getting Side-tracked)

May 7, 2015

Daily Reading:

[Act 6:3 NKJV]
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of [good] reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

[Act 6:4 NKJV]
“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

[Act 6:5 NKJV]
And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

Daily Distinctive:

Sometimes in ministry you just have to hit the reset button and get back on focus. That has been the case for me the past couple of weeks. It has been tough to say the least, but such is life for the man who desires to serve the LORD with all of his being. Of course I am a sinner. I am definitely not trying to come off as “holier than thou.”¬†The reality is that I struggle to conform to Christ. If I were a Star Wars character Yoda would say about me, “The flesh is strong in this one.” But, like Paul, my desire is to live righteously. And like Paul I rival as the chief of sinners. From an “under the sun” perspective, you might say, “Nick your not so bad; I mean your not as bad as others I know.” But by what standard? ¬†I have a very real view of who I am. In psychological terms I could say that I am reaching the pinnacle of self-actualization. I realize that I am a sinner in need of a Savior, and I have no doubt that I have been saved by Grace through faith. I also recognize that the LORD is working in me and I am striving to put my flesh under house arrest, but I know that ultimately my sanctification will sentence my sin to death finally. Even now as I write this I struggle with trying not to come off as some sanctimonious fool. The reality is that I have nothing to prove to anyone but the LORD knows me and my hearts intent. The LORD is working in me and changing me daily. He is conforming me to His image. And so regardless of the enemy’s attacks and attempts to condemn, I stand sure in who I am in Christ. I am confident, not proud; I am called, not aimless; I am His; and no others.

Still, as the leader of my home I have to make all kinds of decisions and my family, being my first ministry, often dictates what decisions I make. Again, it is not easy being in ministry. But it is even more difficult to effectively minister; whether it be in the church or in the home when you have lost focus on the basic principles of ministry.

And so the selected verses for my devotional today have helped me to reset my navigation, so to speak. I feel that I have lost focus to some degree and want to please the LORD and be effective in my ministry. This will require me to get back on the right track. If you are in a similar place then perhaps my devotional today will be a blessing to you as well.

[Act 6:3 NKJV]
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of [good] reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

What we see here requires us to examine the passages above this verse. In context we see that the disciples were becoming inundated by other things that were competing for their time and attention to their specific ministries. It is important to note that these were not just menial tasks they were performing, but rather, necessary. And so what were they doing? We read in verses 1 & 2…

[Act 6:1 NKJV]
Now in those days, when [the number of] the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

[Act 6:2 NKJV]
Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.

And so apparently the Apostles were being summoned to handle issues that were arising with the growth of the church. As I read this I was immediately drawn to the account of Moses and his father-in-law in Exodus 18. Moses had a similar issue on a much larger scale. He was being stretched so thin that he was not a benefit to anyone else or himself, much less his own time with the LORD. So, let’s take a look at this account…

[Exo 18:13 NKJV]
And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

[Exo 18:14 NKJV]
So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What [is] this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

[Exo 18:15 NKJV]
And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.

[Exo 18:16 NKJV]
“When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

[Exo 18:17 NKJV]
So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do [is] not good.

[Exo 18:18 NKJV]
“Both you and these people who [are] with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing [is] too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.

[Exo 18:19 NKJV]
“Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.

[Exo 18:20 NKJV]
“And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.

[Exo 18:21 NKJV]
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them [to be] rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

[Exo 18:22 NKJV]
“And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be [that] every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear [the burden] with you.

[Exo 18:23 NKJV]
“If you do this thing, and God [so] commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

[Exo 18:24 NKJV]
So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

[Exo 18:25 NKJV]
And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

[Exo 18:26 NKJV]
So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

[Act 6:3 NKJV]
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of [good] reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;

And so in a like manner, with regard to our passage today, the Apostles were being called away from their callings to handle business, albeit important business, that should have been taken care of by others. This boils down to roles and functions within the church. It is not that the Apostles were above handling the problem, nor was the problem beneath them. It was just not prudent for them to focus their attention outside of their role and function within the body. We learn in Scripture that there are certain gifts given to each saved believer for the profit of the body¬†(1 Corinthians 12:7). It is not a matter of one role being more important than another, as each role is given by God as a function of edification for the entire church. It just so happens that the Apostles were being pulled away from their duties and functions to attend to matters that belonged to another. It would be like saying, “Okay hands….we need you to come over and look at this problem.” Well, hands can see, to some degree, for example we can read by Brail. We can feel with our hands and get an idea of the shape and texture of something and discern what an object is based on tactile response. But ideally when you need to look at something you send the eyes not the hands. The Apostles had an equally important function that was being shelved to deal with other problems. And so what was the function of the Apostles? Look at the next verse…

[Act 6:4 NKJV]
“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

For me, this is the area that I have allowed myself to be sidetracked on. Being a leader in my home for my family requires much of my time and attention. Add to this the fact that I am a small business owner with the same 24 hour day as anyone else. Something has to give. Sadly, I have allowed my time in prayer and ministry of the WORD to wain in order that I might handle other matters of importance.

Now some will say, “Well Nick, your family is your first ministry.” And I agree wholeheartedly. However, much like the church there are roles and functions within the family where our unique giftedness must be applied. As the leader of my home I must be able to delegate in order that my role of praying and ministry of the WORD can be faithfully delivered. When I evaluate my roles in the home I find that I am responsible for the spiritual well-being of all of my family members, ensuring that they are fed the WORD of God, praying for them every day throughout the day, delivering godly counsel, setting the example, discipline when necessary, meeting the emotional and relational needs of my bride, helping out when I am needed, and on top of all of that I must earn a living to support the needs of family of our size. That is a lot of responsibility! Under each of those categories (and that was not an exhaustive list by the way), there are facets that require additional time and attention. The trouble is, I can’t do it all. And especially when I am juggling things to the neglect of my own devotional time and times of prayer with the LORD.

And so what I find is the need to delegate. My wife, who is my partner in this “first ministry” is a really good mother and homemaker. She handles the daily operations of the home, manages our banking, and is a full-time short order cook! With nine of us in our home I am amazed that she still finds time to exercise, and go to church! And of course we have several able-bodied children, a majority of them are teenagers now, who are more than capable of playing a supporting role in our family ministry. But if I am failing to do my primary role which is to give myself continually to prayer and to the ministry of the WORD, what I find is that all the other things quickly fall apart.

The hardest thing for me personally, is when I am pulled in other directions, and my time spent doing what I have been called by the LORD to do is brought to question by those competing for my time. My pastor wisely stated that there has to be what is called, “planned neglect.” In other words, we have to plan to neglect our families, our work, our fun time, etc… for time with the LORD in prayer and devotion. On the same token we have to balance our time so that we are not neglecting other important facets of our lives over others. Still our primary roles rightfully deserve their fair share of our time and attention, and as with the case of my role as the leader of my family, to neglect my time with the LORD would cause all other facets of my life to suffer. How does a man spend necessary time with the LORD and still manage his home, his business, and find time to exercise and just relax occasionally? The million dollar question I would think! But the answer is simple, the Bible gives us the answer quite succinctly in Matthew 6:33, which says…

[Mat 6:33 NKJV]
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

What I have noticed in my own life is that when I spend time in the WORD and in communion with Jesus, all other things fall into their right perspective. Of course others may not see or understand why I do what I do. It does not change the fact that when I am in the WORD and walking in the Spirit everyone around me stands to benefit. What they view as competition for time and attention is actually serving them as the LORD is conforming me into His image. By being in the WORD of God I am better prepared to minister to the needs of ancillary things such as: family, work, exercise, play, relaxation, etc… Where I run into the challenge is in balancing these things. Usually by the end of the day I am exhausted from work, family, etc… and so I delight in my evening quiet time. The family is fast asleep, my clients are fast asleep, the world, for the most part, is oblivious to me and does not compete for my time. It is during these sweet hours that I find joyful communion with the LORD.

I have shared this before, but I think it bears repeating. It does not matter the time of day that you dedicate to devotions. God wants your best. Some argue that the morning is the best time, it is the first fruits of your day. They will say, “Nick, you just need to get up earlier and do your devotions.” That is cool, I get what they are saying, but I have found that me personally, my best time is when I have shut down the previous days business and can truly focus on the LORD in devotion. And so before I sleep I spend a few hours in the WORD and in prayer. I look at it as preparation for the day to come. Others say it is left overs from the exhausted day. But I don’t feel that way. It is a sacred time for me. When I wake up the next day, after a solid nights rest, I find that I reflect on my devotional from the evening before throughout my day. I see the application played out before me. It is what works best for me because it is when I am at my best. And so from that perspective it truly is the first fruits of my increase. That evening hour when I am in devotion is time I could spend self-serving, watching a movie or doing something else. My wife and kids are already snoring away oblivious to my existence. I am not robbing my time from them. But it is in those sweet hours that I find the LORD speaks to me through His WORD. It is truly a blessing! This is why you might find the Daily Distinctive appears to be a day behind.

But back to the devotional….

[Act 6:5 NKJV]
And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,

When people are reasonable and logic prevails it seems that forward progress can be made. Here we see that what the Apostles said pleased the whole multitude. Now I don’t know about you, but for me this is miraculous in and of itself. To have a whole multitude pleased…amazing! It is hard enough to get a few people to agree on a matter, much less an entire multitude. But seriously, there was wisdom in what the Apostles pointed out. And with this wisdom comes application. As a leader of His home, His business, and His ministry, I must be a faithful steward. This requires me to be a responsible manager of the things the LORD has given me. It will require me to delegate based upon the gifts of those I serve, namely, my family as it pertains to my first ministry.

Here we see that they chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas. For me it would be, Erin, Emily, Noah, Jacob, Isabelle, Nikko, and Jennin (Demi is still too little to be included for the most part but her time will come). And so I have learned quite a bit from this little devotional as it cements some of the things that I have known for quite some time. We all have roles, like them or not. We are all very necessary in the ministry that God has given us. Of course, He could do it without us, but the fact is that He has brought us together to strengthen, edify, and profit one another in the lives that He has called us to live. When we step outside of our roles or get off balance, the best way to bring things back to some semblance of order is to focus on the primary calling that we have been given from God. For me, it is to give myself continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Daily Muse:

What do you do when logic and practical wisdom falls flat? What I mean is, it seems so obvious to me that if everyone was purposeful in their roles and functions that things would simply fall into place. But it never seems to work that way practically. I think it has a lot to do with our laziness as people, or selfishness for that matter. For example, If I were to opt to veg out behind the television and watch a movie while neglecting the needs of my family, I would be dropping the ball with regard to my role as a husband and father. I think that balance is so key. Sometimes, most times really, our roles require self-sacrifice. But what if it is merely a perspective thing. What if our roles became our passion and not our obligation. Can you see how something as silly as watching a movie would compare to the joy of bath time with the little ones, or superficial conversation about things that really don’t matter with your teenagers, or even intimate, deep conversation with your spouse? Oh…I have so much to learn!

Daily Prayer:

LORD, thank You for helping me to refocus. I take my hand off the plow for a minute and chaos erupts all around me. I ask LORD that You would bring us back to center. I am thankful for the lessons You teach me, and even when they hurt, I rejoice in the fact that You are using these trials to make me a better leader in my family, my career, and most importantly in the ministry You have called me to. I praise You for all that You are doing. Today is the National Day of Prayer, and many people will gather today in Your name to pray for our nation. My prayer is that You would start a revival in me, and that it would become contagious in my family, in our church, in our community, in our state, in our country and to all the world.  If a roaring inferno can be set ablaze by a small spark, let me be that spark! I love You Jesus and I thank You for restoring me and my focus. To You be the glory!   -Amen

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