One of the most difficult decisions I ever made in my life was the choice to become a minister. I had grown up in the home of a pastor. I knew firsthand what kind of demands such a life would make. In fact, during the course of my developmental years I often wavered between becoming a police officer and a lawyer (people from both those professions are now groaning over the fact that the other was even a choice). I really didn’t want to have anything to do with being a preacher. Again, first-hand I made note that my father, as a pastor, belonged to the entire congregation. I had to share my daddy with everyone, while my friends only had to share theirs if they had siblings.

So, when God began to call me into His service, I answered with, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Father. But you don’t want me to be a pastor, do you?” As it turns out, I wouldn’t give anything for my years of service in the ministry. As the old hymn proclaims, “I serve a Risen Savior!” and that makes serving as a pastor more than worthwhile. You see, God provides the message, the protection, and the provision for me as I serve Him with my heart, soul, and body. That is something that kept the prophets of old serving as well, I am convinced.

Interestingly enough, the satisfaction of service to God does not have to be relegated to “professional Christians” like your pastor, or the missionaries who live overseas. No, His blessings are extended to any and everyone who will commit their lives to His service—and He will provide for you as you serve Him daily, too!

He who comes in the name of the Lord is blessed.  — Psalm 118:26a


An old favorite chorus written by Bill  and Gloria Gaither in the late 1960s says this:

I will serve Thee because I love Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.

The sentiment is nice and it reminds us that we have been given eternal life for the purpose of serving God. We serve Him here in this life by serving others—by being hands and feet for Jesus—and by sharing His message and the life that it brings with others. It’s what we were originally created for—serving and honoring God.

If you’ll allow me to get nit-picky for just a moment though, I will admit that as much as I like the chorus, it’s not entirely accurate for the Christian. We don’t serve Him because we love Him—we just serve Him. Granted, I do love God, and that love inspires me to be more diligent in my service to Him and to others in His name. Even so, even when I’m not so loving toward God, I serve Him. Not out of duty, or out of coercion. Not out of a sense of self-righteous pride or the need to earn more goodness points on my scorecard to heaven. I serve God because He is God and my service is due Him. I serve my fellow man, not because they deserve it, but by doing so I serve Him.

Perhaps we can change the words to the old chorus—not to take away anything from the Gaithers, but to say what we as Christ-followers should truly say:

“I will serve Thee because You are Thee; You have given life to me. I was nothing before You found me; You have given life to me.”

 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” —Joshua 24:14-15

It is only a moment until we turn the last page on 2017 and place its volume squarely on the shelves. Maybe it will be a year whose memories stay in their place most of the time, or maybe we will want to take it down to remember some of the events from time to time. At any rate, with the passage of time, we must now look back onto all the events—good and bad—from this year. Some of the memories will make us laugh, others will bring a tear to the eye, while even others will find us screaming to ourselves, “Why!” Why did I do that, say that, or did that other thing have to happen?

Let us also make 2017 a year to build on. Learn from mistakes, and do better. Bolster successes and strive to make them the commonplace of our next years. But most of all find the thankful moments that made this year what it has been. Thank God for the friends you have made. Thank Him for the reminders of salvation that you encountered, and determine that you will be more grateful, kind, and generous in the future.

And speaking of the future, don’t forget that as we close and shelve the books for 2017, we have an entirely new and fresh 2018 just waiting to be written. What will you write on the pages of your year? No doubt it will be something grand!

 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’.”  —Jesus, Matthew 25:21

I was twelve years old when God placed a particular call on my life. A junior high student in Kemp, Texas, I put aside my grandiose plans of being either a homicide detective or a cracker-jack lawyer and surrendered to be a minister of the Gospel. From that humble (and humbling) moment God has led me on an interesting story that turns pages almost as often as a good novel switches chapters.

One of the most exhilarating chapters of my story set my boots on foreign soil. It was the turn of my call from minister to missionary that crossed my path with my Blushing Bride. And then we got to experience the adventure of sink or swim cultural immersion in the former soviet state of Ukraine. My heart for missions expanded during those short years, and one of my constant prayers is that I can continue to keep my spiritual eyes focused on the big picture that God has: seeing all nations of the world have an opportunity to trust His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son.

That same calling that put me in service of the church, then drafted me for international service, eventually brought me back to American soil to continue my ministry. Included in that ministry has been the heart-wrenching, hope-finding journey to adoption—a mission field in itself. This week I pray, while a real-life missionary fills my pulpit, that I will keep my eyes opened to Gospel opportunities while we are again in a foreign land for the express purpose of meeting and receiving our new baby, Esther Noelle Potter.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  — Philippians 3:14

Usually, teachers ask students to write a “What I Did Last Summer” essay at the beginning of the new school year. Well, here we are at the end of another school year and we have the whole summer laying before us. Let’s start our essay for next fall: “What will I do this summer?”

Here are some suggestions that might be helpful:

  • I will attend church regularly, just like I do the rest of the year.
  • When I take my family vacation, I will find time to worship God, especially if we’re gone over a weekend.
  • I will participate in some kind of mission activity (like Mission Spectacular in Chicago or St. Louis on June 3).
  • I will help with Vacation Bible School.
  • I will bring a friend to church with me.
  • I will get plenty of rest because I know that it is healthy.
  • I will get plenty of exercise because my body needs it.
  • I will find ways to be Christ-like to my friends, family, and neighbors.
  • I will attend (or sponsor) a summer camp for children.
  • I will actively look for a mission trip to grow in my faith.
  • I will start working in one of the on-going ministry efforts of my local church.

Fill your summer with wonderful things to do now and tell about later. Make this the best “What I Did Last Summer” essay you’ve ever written.

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  —Psalm 86:12

I worked my part of my way through college and seminary as a sales associate at Kmart. I started with the company as an after-school worker in as a high school junior. One of the things I learned on that job were that the successful stores had one of two kinds of managers: those who you knew because of the impression they gave knew what they were doing and you were willing to do whatever they asked you to do, and those who, when they asked you to do something, got down on the floor and did it with you. At one point, a local store manager said that the in-store snack bar/café needed a thorough cleaning. When he asked me to use a couple of hours after closing to get on my hands and knees to scrub the floors by hand, he handed me one of two scrub brushes and proceeded to use the other himself.

Living the Christian life is like that. People need to know that we either have already gone through what we are asking them to go through, or that, although we’ve been there before, we are willing to get our hands and knees dirty while we serve with them.

The Christian life is not lived in isolation, but in community, and sometimes community gets messy. When it gets messy, we roll up our sleeves and serve. As Chuck Swindoll once observed, we need to “improve our serve.”

  “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  –Jesus  (John 13:14)