Normalmente escribo en Español pero tuve la oportunidad de compartir esta eseñanza con las Muejres de la Iglesia Garden Ranch, quien apoya nuestra plantación y quise compartirlo tambien en inglés. Puedes leer el artículo en español aquí.
I mostly write in Spanish, but had the opportunity to share this at the Ladies Fall Retreat of our Sending Church, Garden Ranch Baptist Church and wanted to share it with you all.
About seven years ago I left my job to be at home with Peniel, and because more income was needed I decided to teach myself how to bake and decorate cakes. After a few tries with not the best results, I finally nailed the recipes and started dreaming about my cake shop “Peace of Cake”; as a token of her motivation my mom made for me a kitchen set, including my apron. That’s the reason I only use it for baking, and I have used it a lot and on it I managed to make a lot of improvement on my decorating skills.
Of course, when we moved, it made it into the moving boxes and to Colorado. Since then I’ve used it a few times; even Peniel has, very proudly. But the truth is that this apron has been hiding in my kitchen for more than a year now, until this week. I even have a bigger kitchen, and extra space to store my decorating stuff. But right now, all of that is sitting in a box in the basement. Why? Because I have found a lot of reason or excuses for me not to bake. Can you think of any reasons?
The same way it happens with my baking it also happens to us in our Christian Life; by grace we have been given gifts, we have been equipped to serve in different areas to build up the Body of Christ, the Church. (Ephesians 4) But we also find reasons, and more than reasons, I’ll say excuses for not doing what we are supposed to do. Baking for me is kind of a hobby that if it is done well could be an income source; but ministry is a gift from God distributed to us by the Holy Spirit, according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4) What gift has God given you? What does ministry look like to you? It could be: Helping? Serving? Teaching? Encouraging? Contributing? Leading? Being Merciful? Wisdom? Or how about an Ark builder? Or God’s Ambassador? Or even Being a Warrior?
Do you remember Gideon? I’m amazed at his calling conversation in Judges 6: “God has forsaken us” “how can I” “we are the weakest” “I am the least” After he realized he has been talking to the Lord’s Angel he obeys and completes his first task, tear down the Baal’s altar; and you may think that now he’ll do anything God asks him to do. Right? The Spirit of the Lord comes and clothes him, provides him the leadership to gather a huge army, and Gideon is still not ready to go, he needs more things. Have you been there? Sure, that God is calling you to do somethings, and you need more things? I have been there!
Can you guess which is the classic Bible story when we are talking about excuses? Moses! While I was studying to get ready I realized I’m a lot like Moses. Lets see his excuses: “Who am I” (Exodus 3:11) “What shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13) “They will not believe me” (Exodus 4:1) “I am not eloquent” (Exodus 4:10); and the last one in this story “Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13) Can you think of a time or times when you have made these your excuses? Specially that last one, please send someone else!
But how about Noah, his gift was building, we don’t know if it was his job, but definitely it was a gift; and what a task did he receive to use his gift! Build a huge ark and gather animals. But he got to it, and what an accomplishment he made, by God’s grace he and the work of his hands became the means of salvation and the start of a new generation; and even better, the foreshadow of God’s magnificent plan to save us through Jesus. Outsiders provided the excuses and reasons for Noah to stop, but he made a choice, not to listen to them. Why? What can strengthen us so that we don’t listen to the excuses and keep moving to accomplish our calling, or task, keep moving to use our gifts?
Genesis 6:8 give us a great hint: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. We don’t have all the details but apparently Noah understood the wickedness that sin has brought to the world and that something needed to be done, and trusted God and His plans and decided to play his part no matter what it took, he put his gifts to work, he felt compelled by God’s grace to be part of the redemption plan.
You have found grace in the eyes of the Lord as well; Noah had a sense of what that meant, but us as John 1:17 says we have been given grace and truth by Jesus Christ. Today we have the whole story and the implications of that grace, we have the Gospel, we have seen God’s mercies in all their splendor. We have sin, we have forgotten him, disobeyed him, lived for our own desires; and He has sent his only Son to save us, to redeem us; not because we did anything to earn it, we have been saved by Grace alone.
We have been set free, because Jesus didn’t found excuses to take our place in the cross and save us; instead he choosed to show us what Love is. “he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human, form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.”
We have been served by Jesus, we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit, and now we should use our gifts to fulfill God’s will. Now the question is: Do you know your gift? Are you using it to all its potential? Or are you doing like me, hiding your apron? The same excuses I have for not baking are the same ones I have when I chose not to use my gifts to fulfill God’s will, when I chose to not work on my ministry. And when I hold back to fulfilling my ministry I need strength and I can find that in Galatians 5:13-14:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
One of my excuses is I don’t have time, but this verse say, “you were called to freedom” A free person can choose what they want to do and when to do it. If you are in jail you have a schedule to follow and you cannot make any changes to it, but as a free person we have multiples opportunity in our day to change our schedules and to decide or not to use our gifts and “do ministry”. The truth is that I do have time to bake, but I’ll need to stop doing other things, what things you may need to stop doing to have the time to join God in His work?
Another one is there’s other people that can do that, but the exhortation here is through love serve one another. Yes, your gift and ministry is not necessarily unique to you, but there is no one that can do it as you do. The Bible exhorts us to serve one another; there is someone out there that needs my service, the same way I needed Jesus service. As part of the body of Christ, the church, I need to do my part, God wants to give us part in his plan like he did with Noah, Gideon, Moses and others. There is someone out there that needs your service, because the others that have similar gifts to you won’t be able to reach them.
This one is the most common: I’m not good enough, but love doesn’t have performance levels, the commandment is “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If you are drowning in a pool or the beach, and the lifeguard on call is a novice that has been working officially for two days. Are you going to tell him to reach for a better lifeguard, because he doesn’t have enough experience? No, you just need to be saved! You’re not going to ask for credentials and diplomas on an emergency, you just need help. Our neighbors that don’t know what Jesus has done for them, are drowning they don’t need the most experienced person, or the best at whatever to serve them and show them God’s love; they need you. Our brothers and sisters in their moments of need; won’t judge how well you do your job, they just need to be built up through you.
After some tries you may think is too much work and the reward is not good enough. We are advised “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh”, because as Romans 8:8 says “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We should use our freedom to live in the Spirit on verse 24 says: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we have understood the grace we have already received, the freedom we are enjoying, we will want to use our freedom wisely because we didn’t deserve any rewards and God gave us the best gift of all a restored relationship with him.
I’m planning to bake soon; there is a reason bigger than my excuses to put this apron on again. By grace I have a baby daughter, who is turning one, and for my love to her I’ll bake and decorated hopefully a tasteful and beautiful cake. Let the grace that has been given to us by Jesus, and our love for God and others, strengthen us to take our aprons and serve. All of us have gifts and opportunities let’s pray that God opens our spiritual eyes to see them and obey in serving as he did to serve us.