Read this message transcript from the "The First 5" message series
Harold Bullock: When I was a little guy, about five years old, I remember getting to help Dad fix the car. My dad was a big guy. He wasn't really tall, but he was big. He was broad and, being a five-year-old, I really admired him. Fixing the car, boy that was wonderful. I had no idea what to do, but the hood was up and I went out to help Dad. He was working on the car and I was having the best time, but he was getting dirty and I wasn't, so I sort of rubbed my hand through some grease. That exasperated him, but helping Dad, it was great! He could do anything. He not only could work on the car, but the old house that we had bought had running water in the kitchen, but he actually plumbed in the bathroom and everything else in the house. He could just do all kinds of things.
I later on figured out one of the reasons he could do all kinds of things was because the money was short and he had to. It was really a privilege to work with Dad. By the time I got to be 14, expenses had gone up. He had a good job, but he was making cabinets in his off hours to make more money. At 14, working with Dad wasn't that much fun; it was more of a duty. I had to help with the cabinetry and help deliver it and set it up. I learned a lot, but it was more of a duty, it wasn't the fun it used to be. When I was 18, I was able to work in the same paper plant that he was. It was a pretty good size place, employed a couple of thousand people. And I got to learn about the respect other people had for him. It was really good for me. Of course, Dad is with the Lord now. He was a guy, which means he had his own problems. He wasn't perfect, but working with Dad was, starting out such a privilege, later a duty, and then, looking back... how much it helped me. Later on, we had to rebuild a couple of old houses and what I'd learned from him, because there was no money, turned out to be really handy. I was blessed in it. I had no idea at the time.
This is the way it is with our Father in Heaven. We, who are Christ followers, are His children and heirs, and we are going to be blessed. I'd like to talk to you about working with Dad today. The last of our “First Five”. We've been looking at some key steps you need to take if you really want to grow with the Lord. I'm Harold Bullock, I'm the senior pastor here. If you're new here, welcome.
As we move forward with Jesus Christ, if you are a Christ follower, then this I think is going to be important to you. If you are not yet a Christ follower, this will give you a look into the relationship that we have with our Father, the Lord. We Christ followers, we're God's children and heirs. Now we're His adopted children. I was a natural child of my father. An adopted child can be just as loved. We've rebelled against God, and because of Christ Jesus' death for us, He accepts us when we decide to trust Him, because His Son's death was infinitely able to pay for our sins. He accepts us and He welcomes us into His family. We've become His adopted children.
Romans 8:16 says this: "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we're God's children." Whenever you yield your life to Christ, something happens on the inside, you begin to know this. If we're His children, then we're His heirs. What the Bible says is, everything that Christ Jesus won by His obedience to the Father and His death and resurrection, we get to share in. One of the songs we sing has a phrase in it that says, "Why should I gain from His reward? I don't know the answer." Actually, there is nothing in me that deserves sharing in His reward, but I will, because of the Father's kindness in adopting me as His child. We're heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. So Paul writes, "I consider our present sufferings," and he was in prison at the time, "are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Good things are coming toward us. We're God's children, we're His heirs.
At the same time, it's really interesting, as a Christ follower, I'm also His servant. That's just a real shift. What we tend to do is, we tend to pick a verse out of the Bible we really like, and we tend to focus everything on that, but the Bible says a whole lot about us and about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is multifaceted. There are different sides to it. They all fit together, but it's multifaceted. I'm not only a child, but I'm a servant of the Lord. Scripture says that I've been bought by Him. I am adopted, but He purchased me out of all the mess that humanity has made for itself by its rebellion. I Corinthians 6:19-20, "You are not your own. You were bought with a price." That's a hard word for an American. We don't belong to anybody but us. Well that's true, unless you yield your life to Christ. Then you're bought by the Father, by the Son's blood, and elevated to a privilege the rest of the world will never know... but you don't belong to you. You belong to Him.
Like a slave, we have been bought. And, as His servant, I have a duty. Tinkering around with Dad was fun, tinkering on the car and running my hand through the grease (which disgusted my mother). That was fun, but about 14 you have some things you want to do. You've got friends, you've got places to go, things to do, and helping Dad is more of a duty. My father let me know that. I was in no position to challenge him. Here's a verse out of the Scripture that's just, it's rather amazing, because it is so frank and almost cold. Jesus talks to the disciples about just how much we deserve before God. They wanted Him to increase their faith, and He wants them to understand, you can trust God, but understand this: if you're going to trust God, you can't trust Him because you deserve something.
He tells this little parable to get this across to us, but it's about our duty: "Which one of you, having a slave" --and this is a slave, a bought slave, it's not a hired servant, a slave--"plowing or tending the sheep, will say to him when he comes in from the field (he's been out plowing all day, he's dirty), ‘Come in at once and sit down to eat”’? You know, when the servant comes in from the field at the end of the day, do you say, "Come on in, I've got dinner ready for you"? "Instead, will he not tell him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, get ready, and serve me while I eat and drink. Later you can eat and drink.'" Of course, the custom was at the time, the servants ate after everybody, after they got their work done and everybody else had eaten. So, He says, which one are you? Are you going to reverse this? No. “Does he thank that slave because he did what was commanded? In this society, no one thanked the slaves. In this same way, when you have done all that you are commanded, everything, you should say, ‘We are good for nothing slaves, we have only done our duty.’"
Now, that goes right along with the Father who has adopted and loved us, whose heir we are. We have only done our duty. Wow. That also is very hard for an American. Really, human beings like to be appreciated, and after we do a little bit for God, we feel like He ought to appreciate it. The reason we feel that way is we have little idea of what it cost, that we would be bought out of the mess. We are loved--deeply, deeply loved. We also have a duty as His slaves. This situation, you've worked all day, you come in, you still have to fix dinner, and then wait on the table, and then you get to eat. This situation where you've done everything that was commanded and then there's more to do, actually happened to the apostles.
At one point, Jesus sent them out on a grueling missionary trip. They took the assignment and went, trusting God tremendously. God did wonderful things through them. Some of them had some very hard times. They all came back together finally, and Jesus said to them, "Look guys, you're just worn out. Let's go on a retreat. Let's go away and rest a bit." Where they were was a large crowd of people they had been ministering to, so they climbed into a boat and sailed across the big lake, the Sea of Galilee, to the other side. When they got there, what they found was not a retreat, but more crowds of people. They're already worn out. So, what do you do? Well you follow Jesus. He ministers to people. Whenever you've done everything, it's really hard whenever God says, "Oh yeah, and there's more I have for you." But you know, the loved son and daughter rises to please the Father. Actually, this is a part of life. If you're a little bit older, you have discovered this. You've worked so hard, it's been so rough, and there's still more!
C.S. Lewis, a famous author, Christian philosopher, he writes in a book called The Horse and His Boy, in the Chronicles of Narnia series, he writes about a young guy and a young girl. They meet, the young guy is fleeing from the nation he's in, running to the north. He's been taken as a slave and he's escaping. He runs into this girl and she's also escaping. They travel together. They discover that an attack is being readied against the nation north of them, the one they were headed toward. So, they run even harder for days, trying to get there ahead of the army that is just behind them.
After they've run for days, and are headed toward some kind of a compound up ahead, a lion comes out of the bush and almost takes the girl. The boy runs to face it and for some reason the lion runs off. They are just beat to death. They get into the compound and this is what the boy says. He looks up at this tall old fellow standing there, he says, "Are you the king that we need to see? Are you King Lune?" The old man says, "No, I'm just a hermit. You're in my compound here. You'll be safe." He says, "And now my son, waste no time on questions, but obey. If you run now, without a moment’s rest, you will be in time to warn King Lune." Shasta's heart, that's the boy, fainted at these words. For he felt he had no strength left.
He writhed inside at what seemed to be cruelty and the unfairness of this new demand. He had not yet, this is the statement, “He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to be set to do another, and harder, and better one. But all he said out loud was, ‘Where's the king?’” Now it's very often, whenever you've pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed, there's still more. But the Father is not trying to kill you; He's wanting you to learn.
Years ago, there's a famous commercial. Super Bowl players win the Super Bowl, "Where are you going now? What are you going to do now?" "We're going to Disney World!" That commercial played for a while and it became famous. Actually, in the kingdom of God, whenever you've really worked hard and you have really, really pushed, and you have finally come through, you often get a bigger assignment, not Disney World. This was hard for me to learn, but God gives you more. You remember that story about the guys in scripture who, they get like ten monetary funds to manage, one guy does, another gets five, another gets two. The master who's designated these funds to them goes away, comes back, and the guy who had five, I'm sorry I said five, it's five, two, and one. Guy who had five now has ten, twice the amount. The guy who had two has four. The master is extremely pleased. He says, "You're going to share my joy. I'll tell you what," to the guy who has ten he says, "I'm going to put you over ten cities." To the guy who has four he says, "You'll have four." Wow. Understand friend, ten cities is not Disney World. It's one thing to manage investments; it's another thing to run cities. They just got gigantic promotions and a thousand more headaches.
Does God do this to destroy you? No, no, no. You and I have been given some tremendous things by God. God wants you to grasp just how much He can do through you. We've been given that duty. We've been given ability too, out of His desire to bless others. God gives us abilities; we have different abilities to help other people. As we use them, we display God's kindness. He gives me the ability, I help you. It's God helping you through me. You have an ability, you help me. It's God helping me through you. He's honored. I'm a conduit. You and I are conduits of God's grace to people, God's favor, through the abilities He's given. He's also given us direction: his servants have a direction.
Ephesians 4:12 says our responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work (that is, leadership does this), and to build up the church, the body of Christ. As a leader in the congregation, I'm supposed to be helping you to grow and develop, and the other leaders are, so that you, God's people, can do His work. You're intended to do the work of God and build up the church. God gives us the ability, He gives us direction. We serve Him personally; there are things He tells us individually to do. We also team together to serve Him, meeting the needs of people and honoring Him. Here at Hope, there are a number of places to serve. A lot of you, I think most of you, may be already serving. You find a place where you're needed, and that fits you. Some places in our teams require background, some Christian background. Others, you can step right into.
So, you pick a place and you begin to join Daddy in what He's doing. You get to be a part of His work. As you serve, you'll sense God working through you. It's not all the time, but over and over and over again, you'll sense God working through you. I'm not saying it's going to be bliss, because it's work... but there's joy in it. It'll give you joy. You'll have an experience, the joy of having to work with the Daddy, and as you take part, you form relationships, you learn more about congregational life, you be able to become part of the information flow. A lot of our communication in church life flows through the ministries of the church. As you're involved with them, you know a lot of things that are happening. We don't talk about them on Sunday morning, because you didn't come here for that, but there's a channel of information. Sometimes, when people step back from serving, they feel isolated, feel sort of like they're no longer in the flow, and it's because the communication flows through the ministries. You become a part of that flow.
Right now, I'm going to mention this, a specific need that has come up. In our nursery, we're changing our nursery service paradigm. So, those of you who've been around, listen up. If you're new here, you can listen too. We actually use our gifts. We try to serve in ways that, really, you enjoy it. As we use our gifts to build up the body of Christ, we all do our part to get things done. Some of you have gifting in working with children. You have understanding and you love them. Others of you, children are sort of like very fragile glass things that you are not sure you want to touch. But over the long haul, we'd love to have people who have the knack, have the gift from the Lord, of working with the kids, whether it's in our nursery or sunshine factory or kid’s ministries.
On Sunday morning, we need twenty volunteers for each nursery service. We actually already have ten for each one, and what we've done to supply the others, we've rotated member service through the nursery in the past. We're going to be trying to change our paradigm right now. When we shifted to two services, we discovered that a lot of people serve on Sunday morning teams, and as they serve in the nursery rotation, they miss the worship service, because they do both. We don't want you to have to miss the service. You've had a great attitude about it, and as your pastor, I appreciate it, but we're trying to replace the nursery rotation. Moving forward, with the new paradigm, we'd like to ask for ten more workers for each service who would volunteer to go ahead and be a part of the nursery through the rest of the spring and on until August 1, and especially if you sense you have the gifting to do this.
With this new paradigm, you'll be committing to serve weekly, or it may be that some of you can serve every other week and we can work out a way to put that together. There's a card in your handout that you can mark availability on. This would be your regular Sunday morning service. You would not be serving in other ministries. If we can add ten more people for each service, then we'll have the number of volunteers we need. We try to maintain a high volunteer to kid ratio, so that the kids really are having a good experience. So, just to be clear, if you filled this role, you'd attend a worship service and then serve in the nursery. You might serve early and attend late, you might attend worship early or serve late, but would not be having to volunteer on another team.
If you volunteer, let me tell you the good news. You will not be supervising, you will not be in charge of snacks, you will not have to change dirty diapers. We already have people, the ones who are already there specialize in that, but you'd be playing with the kids. Just helping with the kids. Your card has options on it. If you take it out and take a look at it, you might not be able to serve every Sunday, but you might be available less often. If we can work it out, we might be able to work out combinations. We'd like to see if we're at the point where we can move to people operating more by their giftings.
If you are a parent of one of the children in the nursery, or whatever level of nursery, we ask you to also consider serving. You may not have the gift, but you have at least developed abilities. You're also producing the nursery. In the Old Testament, when God's people were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, one of the things they did is, families built the wall next to where they lived. You know what that meant, don't you? It was a strong wall. It protected from the outside raiders. So, as this is important to you, we ask you to consider this. Commitments will be from this February on through the end of July. You can also ask more questions before you finally sign up, if you want to, but if you could indicate this morning if you can serve, we'd appreciate you taking a look at it and evaluating.
Something else on this thing about serving, working with the Father, we have an example in the Bible. This is Mark 10:43. Jesus is talking to his disciples, who have been jockeying for positions in the group. He says, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant." He's talking about a hired servant. You've got to be a table waiter. Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave. This is the guy who has no privileges himself. The higher you move in leadership, the more your life is tied to the welfare of the people. Then he makes this statement: "For even the Son of man, even I, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many." Whenever He uses that word, “serve,” the verb that he uses in the ancient Greek language means wait on tables. You as a person cleaning up stuff, you as a person getting food. You're there to help things happen. So, you're a table waiter.
He says, "Even I. I didn't come to sit around and everybody serve me. I came to wait on tables." This is the Lord. Actually, He's reflecting the Father's heart. This is God Himself. Serving is at the very heart of God. It's like God Himself. Our whole world yearns to be served. God delights to serve. This is very upside down. His children have to learn the same heart. This actually so struck the apostles that they adopted a title of honor among themselves. So, Paul, as he writes, calls himself the slave of Christ. He uses the “bought” slave term, not the “table waiting” servant, but the “bought” slave term. Peter calls himself the slave of Christ. James, in his letter, introduces himself as the slave of Christ, and the brother of Him, but the slave of Him. Jude and John, in their letters, refer to themselves as the slave of Christ. This, in the Roman world, would be a derogatory term; but you see in the kingdom, which is upside down to the way the world thinks, in the kingdom...this is a title of honor.
When our Lord comes to serve, what greater position can you have than one who serves like Him? This is actually the path to leadership in the church. So, if you're interested in leading, you learn to serve first. Christ followers, by their actions, by what we do (you and I, if you're a Christ follower), by what you do-- not what you say, but what you do--you answer a key question. This is one of the biggest questions in all of life. Here's the question: Is God here for me? Is that why He's here? Or am I here for God? Is God here for me or am I here for God? If you think God is here for you, life is going to be very hard. Now He will, I promise you, if you're His child, He will show up, He'll bless. But that's not why He exists. Actually, we're here for Him.
I Thessalonians 1:9, Paul writes to a church and says, "People tell us how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living God." In our day, we talk a whole lot about believing in God, or believing in Christ. We do believe, but friend, we believe to the extent that we serve. If you really want to move forward with Christ, you'd really like to see your life grow, then you serve. Now, you have a lot of responsibilities to balance. So, find a place where you can serve, where it fits, and plug in. We serve. As Dad’s son or daughter, we get to be a part of His work. It's a delight, and who knows what things in the future He might be preparing us for through it?
These first five only work if you do them. As we've spoken on these matters, these really are some of just the bedrock things that you need to move forward with, these last five messages. So, I would challenge you today to step forward. There's probably one of them that God has really spoken to you about. Focus on that one, but understand our service with God is more like a pentathlon. You don't have to win every event in the pentathlon, but you have to do good in all of them if you want to win. As you do these things, God shows Himself more and more to you. As you do these things, life changes. As you do these things, doors open up you would have never dreamed before. Press forward with Him and trust Him.
I'd like to lead us in a prayer. Father, thank You for letting us know You. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to walk with You. For our friends here, who don't yet know what it means to follow Jesus Christ, we pray for clarity for them and help, so that they can know. For those of us who have decided to follow You, Lord Jesus, we pray for clarity. You know the battles we face. You know the pressures that we're under as the weeks move forward. In the middle of all that we have to do, Lord help us make these five things a part of our life and grant us the opportunity to work with You and Lord, grant us to be able to see God working through us. On this matter of the nursery, we thank You for all the years of volunteering. We ask you to show us if this new paradigm is right. We think it is, but You speak to hearts, let us know. We love You. Our trust is not in us. Our trust is in God, Who, even though we are here for Him, He's not here for us. The God who is the God who intends to bless, in Jesus' name we trust You. Amen.