[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #140 ---- 9/18/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 23:49:14 +0000
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

(A letter of Encouragement to People in 
Vocational and Lay Ministry)

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #140 ---- 9/18/00

TITLE:  "The Key To Effective Service"



My Dear Partner and Friend:

How I want to bless you today!  I know you think it isn't possible, but
you bless me every day ---- by simply being one of hundreds of recipients
of my weekly exercises in writing.  I can't thank you enough for your
kindness is letting my letters come to you.  When I think of all the
letters you must receive each week, I'm awed that you continue to receive
them.

Thank you!

Last week's letter brought an inordinate number of responses.  Several
blessed me especially, such as this one:

"You are so faithful in writing and e-mailing "Shoulder to Shoulder"
every Monday AM. Thank you!

"Today's message is so very insightful, one that I needed to read.  Keep
following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, my brother. What you have
shared is 'right on', and so much applies to right where I am in the
situation I find myself. God is slowly getting our attention. 

"To be honest, nothing would please me more than to go to another church.
In so many respects, it is painful to remain, yet God has not opened any
other door so far.  A hard prayer to pray is:"Lord, I want to be where
You want me to be, and not where I want to be." 

"One of our deacons shared last night how [at one time] he wanted to move
. . . simply because of a difficult family relationship. The job in
another city did not work out. Within a few months, the relationship
improved
considerable and he and his family moved into a new house! I sat there
and thought: That sounds a little like me! 

"I am praying about sharing today's Shoulder to Shoulder with the Deacon
Council. So much of it relates to us. I know the Lord will guide.

"God bless you abundantly! You may never know this said of heaven how God
is using you for His glory. Keep pressing on!  You are encouraging us to
keep on keeping on ... even if it is the way of brokenness."

This brothers comments were a real blessing to me.  Frankly, I genuinely
believe I'm the one that is blessed the most by writing these letters
(some 150 of them now) ---- in fact, doubly blessed.  First in the
writing of them, and second in knowing that virtually every week at least
one co laborer has been encouraged.  

I seldom felt that way in my preaching as a pastor.  There were many
Sundays when I walked away from the church building wondering not only if
the sermon did anybody any good, but also wondering why I was doing all
this in the first place.

Maybe you've been there.

At any rate, this brother's final comment is intriguing.  Would you
believe that I preached yesterday morning on that very subject?

A week ago I preached on "The Worst Sins a Christian Can Commit".  Have
you ever considered that?  What could possibly be the worst sin in which
a Christian could engage?

My answer was simple ---- Sins against the Holy Spirit.  While I may
write about that at a later time, I identified three specific sins
against the Holy Spirit ---- Grieving the Spirit, Quenching the Spirit,
and Blaspheming the Spirit (even though many of us have always thought
that was a sin only an unbeliever could commit).

So yesterday, my follow-up message was on the key to serving God without
sinning against the Holy Spirit in the ways I mentioned earlier.

Let me share some of those thoughts with you today.



THE KEY TO EFFECTIVE SERVICE:

It is my contention that Brokenness is the absolute key to effective
service.  The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it is
true.

One day Jesus was out ministering to people in their need, and some guys
came along and told Phillip they wanted to see Jesus. (John 12:20-26) 
Phillip told Andrew, and apparently together they brought these men to
Jesus and told Him what they had requested.

His response was stunning; it didn't even seem to fit the request ----
"The hour is come for the Son of man to be glorified . . . Unless a grain
of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone."  After
developing that analogy a bit, he concludes by saying, "If anyone serves
me, he must Follow me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. .
."

What Jesus was saying was both simple and yet profound ----- apart from
dying to self like the grain of wheat, you can neither see Jesus nor
serve Jesus effectively.

Watchman Nee in his book "The Release of the Spirit" says, "anyone who
serves God will discover sooner or later that the great hindrance to his
work is not others, but himself.  He will discover that his soul and his
spirit are not in harmony, for both are tending toward opposite
directions."

Paul said something of the same thing in Romans 7:18-23 when he declared
that the things he knew he should and wanted to do, he couldn't; and the
things he shouldn't do, he did.  There is that ongoing conflict we all
face, like Paul, when it comes to the Desiring on the one hand and the
Doing on the other.

The only way the Desiring can become the Doing is through brokenness.

Like the comic character Pogo, we, too, will soon discover that "We have
found the enemy, and the enemy is we."

Roy Hession, in his book "Calvary Road" said, "it's always self who gets
irritable and envious and resentful and critical and worried.  It is self
who is hard and unyielding in its attitude to others.  It is self who is
shy and self-conscious and reserved.  As long as self is in control, God
can do little with us."

Even though this truth is illustrated time and again in scripture, it is
one of the least taught and most intensely resisted truth in the Bible.

Gideon's light would not have shown if the pitcher had not been broken. 
The fit vessel would have never been created if the potter had not broken
the clay.  Job would have never known holiness if God had not broken him
by taking away everything but Himself.

The fallow ground of Hosea 10 would have never produced crops without it
being broken up.  The people of God would have never returned to the
fountains of living water if the cisterns had not been broken.  Jericho
was conquered because the walls were broken.  Jacob the supplanter became
Israel the Prince with God because he was broken at the hand of God's
angel.

The wild horse of James 3:3 would have been useless if the Master had not
broken it.  The seed would have been only a seed if it had not been
buried and broken.  The thousands would have remained hungry if Jesus had
not broken the little boy's lunch.

And, Mary's alabaster would have never anointed the feet of Jesus if the
box had not been broken.



THE REQUIREMENT OF BROKENNESS:

It's simple ---- if we are going to effectively serve God, we Must be
broken.  Until you are broken before Him, all you have is what man can do
for God.  When brokenness comes, it then becomes what God can do through
a servant.

Study the lives of virtually every great preacher or missionary, and
you'll find that prior to their greatness there was a time when they were
broken before God.  I've heard with my own ears the testimonies of men
like Duncan Campbell, Stephen Olford, and Billy Graham ---- how their
lives and ministries were dry, desolate, and fruitless.

And then one day God took them to the crucible.  When they came out, they
were different men.

Finney, Spurgeon, Whitfield, G. Campbell Morgan, ---- the list goes on. 
Even contemporaries such as Jim Bakker, Charles Stanley, and others have
felt the Mighty Hand of God on them, bringing them to the end of
everything ---- success, reputation, sometimes even family ---- where
they were fully broken into nothingness in order that the life and
ministry of Jesus would be released.

Which would you rather have, my friend? ---- what you can do for Him, or
what He can do through you?

I've had both ---- painful as it is, I'd choose the latter any day.  The
comparison reveals no contest.



THE REASONS FOR BROKENNESS:

You can probably think of many.  However, let me quickly mention the
following.

1.  God said so ---- reason enough!  If there were no other reason, that
one is sufficient.  You see, friend, what was marred in the garden in the
fall still has its residual effect on us, and it must be dealt with.  It
must be made again, "as seemeth fit to the potter".

2.  God's holiness cannot use unfit vessels.  Romans 8:6-8 tells us,
after reminding us that the mind set on the flesh is death while the mind
set on the Spirit is life and peace, that those who are in the flesh
cannot please God.  God's holiness cannot, because of His very nature and
ours, use vessels that are unfit and uncooperative.  It isn't that He
won't because of contentiousness; he can't because of His character.

3.  The true source of effective ministry must be revealed.  God Himself.
 Paul tells us in II Corinthians 7:4 that "we have this treasure in clay
pots that the excellency of the power will be of God and not of man." 
You see, it's not the box ---- it's the alabaster that ministers.  We
spend far too much time admiring, polishing, preserving, and showing off
the box, while the healing and aroma are still locked inside.  It will
never be released apart from being broken.

So it is with your ministry.

4.  True service must be realized and demonstrated, and it can only
happen through a surrendered servant spirit that comes only through
brokenness.  Otherwise all you have is a cheap performance mentality that
focuses the attention on itself and consequently fails to release genuine
selfless ministry.

5.  Our human inadequacy for a divine task.  Again, referring to Romans
8:6-8, where did any of us ever get the idea that our humanity was
adequate for spiritual life?

That's the miracle of the Cross ---- Jesus puts something to death, and
life comes out of it.  All of nature shouts that truth out loudly, and
yet we walk by, seemingly oblivious to such a fact.  Like Paul, we must
be willing to say, "In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing."



THE RESULTS OF BROKENNESS:

When brokenness is brought upon us, there are many things that happen.  I
mention only these:

1.  All human inadequacies are exposed, crucified, and disqualified.  And
that, my friend, is a liberating thing.  When you realize that all you
are at your best is not sufficient, and the humiliation of exposure has
taken place, there is no pride left that wants to hide the fact.

2.  A liberating transparency and honesty become part of you.  Because
God knows, you know, you know God knows, and you don't care if others
know, you are set free to just be you.  No more pretending, no more
trying to be a new "savior" or even The Savior's helper, no more trying
to crank out a new idea to prove your worth or gain someone's approval.

I'll ever forget little Stace.  He was about eight or nine years of age
that day when he walked to the alter during ministry time and took the
pastor by the hand.  When Jim asked him why he had come, he gazed into
Jim's eyes with the most genuine and child like honesty and said, . . . .

"I Quit!"

That's the sum and substance of our required response to God's breaking
process.

Go ahead, friend ---- just say it . . . . . . "I Quit!"

3.  God's total capabilities are revealed, released, and realized.  As
Roy Hession said in his book, "It is God taking center stage while man
takes the background".  When brokenness brings us to the end of ourselves
and the beginning of Him in us, we tend to stand around with our mouths
open a lot more.

As my friend Jim Hylton says, "nobody acts like Jesus quite like Jesus."

4.  Revived Life begins to flow.  We become an enigma to some, a mystery
to others, and a blessing to still others.  We are unexplainable.  And,
that's what I've always prayed for ---- for me, for my family, and for
any church I ever pastored ---- to be unexplainable apart from God.

When true life begins to flow, others are affected ---- they are either
puzzled, restored, or offended.  But anything life touches is affected. 
When the brokenness of the cross is completed in the grave, then
resurrection is on the way.

And when resurrection life breaks out of the tomb and leave an empty
hole, all Heaven breaks loose and shows up down here on earth for all to
see ---- and receive, if they will.

5.  Needs are met in massive proportion.  The days of "teaspoon medicine"
are over.  Now it comes in buckets ---- in barrels!

Why is it so hard for us to admit that brokenness is the real key to the
kind of ministry that will touch hundreds and thousands at a time instead
of just a handful?

For those who claim to care for others but are not willing to embrace
brokenness, their true heart has been exposed.  They are more interested
in honor than in humility.  They cherish popularity more than they do
purity.  They crave spotlights more than they do servanthood.

I praise God that He is so merciful that He will bless some of their
efforts; but just think of what He could do through them if they were
broken!

Think of what He could do through you and me!



IN CONCLUSION:

I have two more aspects of brokenness (The Rules of Brokenness and the
Route to Brokenness) which I will share with you in next week's letter. 
In the meantime, let me encourage you to go the way of brokenness.

Back in the mid 1980's I was conducting a series of meetings in churches
around the Seattle area.  I had been invited to speak at a regional
pastors' luncheon with about 50 or 60 pastors attending.  

I can't remember the subject, but apparently I talked at least a bit
about brokenness, for a short while later a young pastor cornered me and
asked a simple question:

"Is there any way to experience revival and effectiveness apart from
brokenness?"

My answer, as you might guess, was "No, there is no way."

His response ---- "Oh, . . . . I was afraid you'd say that."

By His grace, God met that young man where he was, and his life was
changed.  His ministry as pastor of a multi-cultural inner city church
exploded and he later went on to be the language catalytic missionary for
an entire region, pouring out his servant heart wherever he could as the
compassion of Jesus was released to flow up and down the streets and
highways of that territory.  The last time I saw him he was sharing his
testimony before a national convention of some 18,000 delegates about how
God had touched him and changed his ministry.

Well, friend . . . . it's nearly Midnight and this has been an incredibly
long week ---- and day.

Thanks so much for letting me share my heart with you.  I love you, even
though I may not know you.  Isn't that an incredible phenomenon!

But, it's true.

From the bottom of my heart I wish for you a ministry that is so fruitful
you won't even have time to stand around and see what's happened.  You'll
just have to keep on moving and serving.

It can happen . . . . . through brokenness.

In His Bond of Mercy and Grace,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright September, 2000.  All rights reserved.

We would love to hear from you ---- prayer requests, insights, etc.  Feel
free to drop us a note at <lifeunlimited@...>.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.  Write <lifeunlimited@...>.  We can send
you a digest containing a brief statement about each previous letter.

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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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