As a little boy raised in the church, I was often confused by the words of certain songs. For instance, whenever the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” was sung, I thought we were singing about bringing in the “sheeps.” I always wondered where we would get these “sheeps” and why we wanted to bring them in anyway. Spiritual themes, whether spoken or sung, can easily confuse the simple mind of a child; and while I learned quite early that “sheeps” is not even a word, the topic of God’s will continued to be a point of confusion for a long time.
I remember another song we used to sing, usually after a missionary had told depressing stories about the hardships and toils of the mission field: “Jesus, use me / Oh, Lord, don’t refuse me / Surely there’s a work that I must do / And even though it’s humble, help my will to crumble / Though the cost be great, I’ll work for You.”
As wonderful as those words are in and of themselves, there was something about the combination of the lyrics, the music and the context that made me afraid of God’s will for my life. I thought He must have something simply dreadful for me to do. I just knew He was going to send me deep into the jungle where I would live in a mud hut, survive on a diet of grubs and wind up being eaten by cannibals.
We have a moral responsibility to engage the largest humanitarian crisis in history
The AIDS pandemic remains today as the largest humanitarian crisis in history, and the church has a moral responsibility to become engaged. Every church, whether large and affluent or small with little in the way of financial resources, can make a significant impact in its community. Here are five practical steps to launch an HIV/AIDS ministry, based on the acrostic START.
Seek support from the pastors, elders or deacons of your church. Church leadership must understand why it is important to begin this ministry. Without their support, the ministry probably won’t succeed. Inform the leadership team about the number of people infected and affected—locally and globally—and about the reasons the church is best positioned to care for people who are HIV-positive. Write a purpose statement that clearly explains the aim of this ministry and how it fits within the scope of the church’s overall vision.
Talk about scriptural foundations for this with the congregation. Human emotion is insufficient as a rationale for beginning an HIV/AIDS ministry. It must rest on a scriptural foundation.
As I waited upon God going into 2013, I received these words from the Lord. Some came in the form of impressions, others came as visions and some came as scriptures that God was breathing on for this season. Prophetic words are an invitation from the Lord. I sense these following 13 prophetic insights are to be decrees that we aggressively pursue for 2013. They are invitations for us to lay hold of.
1. Stagnant waters will be stirred in a fresh way. I saw pools of Bethesda stirring again and a fresh healing stir being released. God wants His people to lay hold of the divine healing anointing in a fresh way this year. I saw deep-seated, lingering disorders being healed, even down to the chromosome level. I saw stubborn areas within the soul and flesh being healed that people have battled with for years. In John 5:2-5, 9 Christ performs a healing on the Sabbath. Jesus never did anything by chance or accident. He was very purposeful in His intention. God is calling His people to access His healing and power from a place of rest. The Sabbath is more than just a day of rest. It’s a spiritual position of rest. In Christ we enter into the Sabbath. We receive because of the finished work Christ has done on the cross. Rather than begging God for what He has already done, we are simply to step in and receive the finished work. A new level and substance of faith is coming into the heart to receive the finished work. God is highlighting the spirit of faith and understanding the finished work of Christ. Living from the Sabbath position will be crucial in obtaining all God has for us.
Jeffrey squishes his car into a parking spot, grabs his bible and heads for the church.
He is on his Sunday-best behavior. He dropped his wife and kids off at the door before parking on the back 40 and slogging through the slush to get into the sanctuary. As he enters the church, his brain starts to switch off. He has walked into the presentation zone. Jeffrey wants to engage in church, and he works hard at it, but every Sunday, he fights a simple problem—his mind tries to turn off when he enters the building. He hasn’t figured out the cause, but perhaps with a bit of thought, we can change the environment so that he finds himself energized and focused instead.
What better time than a recession to pool your resources and minister to the needy?
It started with a bag of groceries to meet a serious need in our community. From there, our benevolence requests went from six a day to more than 40 a day, and 15 percent of our congregation were out of work. At the peak of the economic recession, our community was hurting and needed real assistance. In response, Saddleback Church launched a food pantry.
People came to our doors the first day we opened them. Today we have fed more than 80,000 people in south Orange County, Calif. Our Food Pantry provides fresh and nonperishable grocery items to families in the community. Pick-ups are available once every 30 days and walk-ins are welcome on select days and times every week.
Within two years, our pantry turned into The PEACE Center, where we also provide free legal aid, immigration help, tutoring clubs, ESL (English as a second language) classes, medical services and many more services.
And the most amazing part is that more than 1,600 people have given their lives to Jesus because of the work done through the center. People come not just with hungry stomachs but with hungry hearts as well.