What’s You’re Vineyard?

I was speaking to a group of about 30 men Saturday night.  My talk was about Christian men and being a Real Servant.  One of the points I made was from Mathew 21:28-31.  This is the story of the two sons Jesus shared with some of the religious people of his day.  Here is the Message version of that story:

“Tell me what you think of this story:  A man had two sons.  He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’  “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’  Later on he thought better of it and went.  “The father gave the same command to the second son.  He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’  But he never went.  “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”  They said, “The first.”

This is a simple story about talking and doing.  It’s about listening and being obedient.  The first son was honest and said he did not want to go work, but later felt conviction and changed his mind.  The second son was probably not being honest.  Maybe he just wanted to look better than his brother.  However he never followed through on his promise to go and do the work.

Our vineyard is whatever God is calling us to do.  No matter how good your intentions, if you don’t do it or go, it’s all wasted.  Just because I feel good when I hear or see a story of someone making a difference doesn’t make me a servant with compassion.  Just because my heart breaks for the starving homeless children and families in this world doesn’t make me a person with compassion.  I can think about giving more, going on a mission trip, leading a small group, praying more for the people in my life, shining brighter in my workplace, helping a friend that is hurting, but just thinking about it or even saying I want to do something is not enough.  I need to actually do it.  I need to make that step and go to the vineyard to do the work God is calling me to do.

We don’t have to go and do some huge, great thing for God.  We just need to go do our work in the vineyard.  There will always be more people willing to do great things for God than there are people willing to do little things.  But those little things can help God accomplish great things.  Instead of waiting to do something big, be faithful in the little everyday things He is calling you to do.  The small meaningless things you are doing everyday is preparing you for the plan God has for you.  Loving God means obeying God by doing what He says.

Which son are you?

Empowering Others

One of the phrases that I often pray is this “God pour into me, so that I can pour into others.”  I believe one of the things God calls us to do is to take what He has given us and give it to others.  Many times this comes through the experiences of life, the good ones and the bad ones.  God also gives gifts to His children that we can use to pour into others.  Finally he gives us skills and abilities that are unique to us, again in order to pour into others and make a difference for God in this world.  If we are open to God using us as His instruments, our influence will grow and our tribe will increase.  If we remain humble and meek, we will accelerate how God uses us to pour into others.

In 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 the Message Bible says this “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

God promises to comfort us in our troubles, then asks us to share that comfort with others.  Remember, we can’t give away what we don’t possess.  We are to pass on what God gives to us.  We don’t receive only for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.  God calls us to empower others with the power that He gave us.  Here are some practical ways that we can pour into others:

  1. Help someone keep their commitments to God and other people (Accountability)
  2. Speak words of encouragement and support (Affirmation)
  3. Evaluate their progress and offer an objective perspective of their situation (Assessment)
  4. Offer words of wise counsel and direction (Advice)
  5. Share words of caution, rebuke, or correction as needed (Admonishment)
  6. Point them to resources that can help them reach their goals (Assets)
  7. Love them unconditionally, regardless of their past or current situation (Acceptance)
  8. Coach them on how to go put into practice what they have learned (Application)

God always gives us what we need to lead.  Our own baggage and insecurities often keep us from taking the step to pour into others.  It is easy to make excuses about not being ready or being too busy.  These excuses most often stem from our core fears.  Fear of failure, fear of not knowing the right answers and looking dumb, fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood.  In 2 Timothy 1:7-8 it says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  These three tools help us pour into others:

  • Love – The relational ingredient that enables us to attract and connect with others.
  • Power – The courage and competence to get the job done.
  • Sound Mind – The perspective and wisdom to grasp a vision and take the right steps.

God gave us everything we need to accomplish the job.  He empowers us before He ever expects from us.  He gives before He demands.  We receive His competence before we receive His commands.  So start asking God to pour into you, so that you can pour into others.

Your Calling

Last week I made the comment that “Your calling is often connected to what troubles you deeply and how you have been hurt in the past.” Here is what I mean by that.

In the book of Nehemiah, in the first chapter it talks about Nehemiah asking about how the Jews that had returned to rebuild Jerusalem were doing. When they reported that things were not going well and that it looked like the city was not making any progress, this was his response: “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-heaven.”

For William Wilberforce it was slavery. He devoted most of his life to seeing it ended in England. For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it was the injustice that oppressed and persecuted African-Americans.

If you want to discover your calling, start praying about what troubles you deeply. What do you cry about? What makes your heart break? If it is helping the poor, then spend some time around those in poverty. If it is helping single moms, then start meeting with some single moms. If it is divorce, then get involved with some people that have been hurt through divorce. Allow your heart to be moved and shaped into action.

Larry Crabb said this – “The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things.”

Nehemiah was passionate about the persecution of his Jewish brothers and had a vision for rebuilding a city. When God gives you a burden, it is usually an indication this could be your calling. If you have a burden for something, do what Nehemiah did. First he fasted and prayed and wept. He spent time with God, but he also dove into it. He put together plans, checklist and material that it would take to accomplish the goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He prepared himself so that when an opportunity came along to make a difference he was ready.

As you pray about what is troubling to you start to research how you can get involved. Talk to others that have a similar burden. Check out organizations that are working on whatever issue you are drawn to. For example it may be human trafficking that has been troubling you. There are some great organizations that are passionate about this cause. Go to their website, send some emails, make some phone calls. Start praying for those organizations. Here is one you can check out International Justice Mission

Maybe you don’t have a burden. That’s OK, I am sure you have some hurts from your past. Another way you can discover your calling is to examine where you have been. I believe there is purpose in your past. Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” When your pain threshold was tested and your endurance was stretched to the breaking point, that is where God works to bring good. Things like Divorce, abuse, death, alcoholism, cancer, depression, job loss, bankruptcy, eating disorders, miscarriages, abortion, affairs, marriage struggles all bring great pain and great opportunity. The great opportunity is that these things can bring about great change in us if we work with God to heal and become healthy. Once we are on our way to recovery, we can then begin to help others that are not as far along as we are.

The great ministry opportunity comes because now you understand the pain someone else is going through. You can listen with empathy and know what is helpful and what is not helpful. You know how to pray for that person, encourage that person and come alongside them through their dark time.

Max Lucado said this “God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at age thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it’s in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. So does God.” We are God’s instruments, his desire is for us to be in good enough shape to help someone else that is bent or broken. He does the work, but he uses us as his instruments.

So to find your calling look to what troubles you deeply or how you have been hurt in the past. Start by praying, fasting, and planning. Taking action is the key, when God opens the door we need the courage to take a step of faith, to take a risk and pursue your calling.

The reason you and I exist is to first have a relationship with God and then to make a difference in other peoples lives. To do that we first must work on ourselves and get as healthy as we can. But don’t wait until you “have it all together” or you will never actually do anything meaningful. God is calling you to himself and to a ministry.

On Mission

Proverbs 22:9 says “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”

Serving & helping others helps us to grow spiritually, improves our relationships and blesses us. If that is true, why don’t we serve others more often? Why aren’t we more generous with our time & resources?

Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Biloxi MS shortly after hurricane Katrina hit. I was with a team of 40 people that worked together for a week to help everyone we could. My main job was to find work for our volunteers to do. I would walk from home to home asking how we could help. I got leads from the local church we were staying at as well. We worked hard everyday until it was too dark to work. Some groups worked into the night. WE got up early ready to make a difference; we cleaned up yards, cut up trees, built fences, repaired walls, floors, roofs, doors and even put up a mailbox. We touched many lives that week, we grew in our faith, developed new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We were exhausted, but we all felt blessed more than we could express. Since then I have gone back several times and even gone to the Middle East on mission trips.

On my way back home from that trip I kept thinking; why do we need to go on a mission trip to help and serve people. What would happen if we took that mentality of helping and serving people in need home with us? Could we take the same attitude of serving we had on that trip and apply it in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities we live in?

Most of us don’t serve others as often as we would like to because we are too busy. We miss opportunities because we are so caught up in our daily schedules and habits. When we stop long enough to go on a mission trip our focus changes. We take our eyes of ourselves and our comfort and put it on other people that are hurting and in need of help. We feel amazing, useful, we feel like our life has meaning & purpose.

What if every day could be like that? What if we all would approach this next week like we were on a mission trip? A trip that would take you to your workplace, your family and friends, your neighborhood, your grocery store, your bank, your church, your small group.

How could you serve the people you come into contact with this week? Maybe it’s just a smile and taking the time to listen to someone. It could be doing a random act of kindness like paying for someone’s meal. Maybe it’s playing longer with your kids or doing the dishes every night. Maybe it’s volunteering at your church. Get creative, look for opportunities to serve people and watch your attitude change. I promise you that the more you serve and volunteer the more you will grow spiritually, the better your relationships will get and the more you will feel blessed.

Serve On!

Serving Saturday

This weekend Some friends helped me move a lady and her three little children. It was a little rough on our backs, but the reward of helping someone in need was great. I love being the church to our community in practical ways. After we got her moved into her new place, we prayed for her and her family. I also invited her the NewPointe and she said she would be there. Here are a few pictures of our experience. A big thanks to Erich for letting us use his trailer.

Small Group Serving Story

On Monday night the guys from my small group joined together to help an elderly lady move from New Philadelphia to Dundee. I love getting out in the community and serving with the people in my small group. Over the last several years the groups I have been involved in have helped many people move and have also done other serving projects together.

These times of serving are usually an adventure. Nothing ever goes as planned, but the guys are always up to the task. On Monday night we ran into a water leak on the outside of the house we were moving out of. We also had to catch two cats to take along. John Troyer got that job! John also spent time talking with the lady and getting to know her.

Joel Stone was along to help with his dad Keith and Joel ended up driving her car to the new place. The car was not in very good condition and it even stalled a few times. Joel did a great job of getting her to the new place in one piece.

I just want to thank the guys that gave up an evening to go and help this lady move. She told me that this was the first time since she moved to Ohio that anyone helped her without wanted anything in return. After getting her moved into her new mobile home we prayed for her and blessed her new home.

That small act of kindness will have ripple effects we will never know about. When was the last time you helped someone without expecting anything in return? How is your family or small group making a difference in your neighborhood or community? You have to look for opportunities to bless and help people. It is so easy to forget about the elderly, the single parents, the handicapped and the sick. The local church, made up of small groups of people can really make a difference through small acts of kindness. There are over 120 small group at NewPointe Communty Church. Can you imagine what would happen if all those groups were intentional about helping and serving the people in our communities? Groups of people out touching lives every week!

Thanks again to John Troyer, Keith Stone, Joel Stone, Ryan Yoss, Daryl Kurtz, Greg Barnett and Phil Alleshire. They provided vehicles and labor that got this lady moved in one night.

Serve On!

Customer Service

Last week I had a great customer service experience at a local retailer. I recently have lost some weight, actually my wife and I have lost over 50 pounds together. As a result many of our clothes do not fit. We have been slowly buying clothes to replace the bigger ones.

On Thursday I realized that I had a wedding to officiate on Saturday and the three suits I own were all much to large for me. On Friday my wife and I went looking for a suit. We checked several big retailers and didn’t like what we found and didn’t get much help.

We ended up at Robert’s men store in New Philadelphia. When we walked in we were immediately greeted by the owner. I told him my situation and he said no problem, we can have a suit tailored for you by the morning. He asked me what I liked and then showed me several suits. I needed one that I could wear to both weddings and funerals. I decided on a great looking black suit and he measured me up.

He did not pressure me to buy a shirt and tie like some places do. I got the suit the next morning and had a great wedding on Saturday afternoon. Congratulations to Phillip Coletti and Heather Yoder.

The reason I call that a great customer service experience is that it was a pleasant experience and made me want to go back when I need other clothes. The salesman asked me questions, found out what I liked and then delivered quick service. I have also dealt with them in the past and have had many such experiences. That keeps me coming back.

It should be the same way at church. Churches should make sure that they are giving a great first impression and great “customer service”. The win for a Sunday morning service at my church (NewPointe Community Church) is for people to want to come back. We believe that if they keep coming back they will be changed and impacted by God.

That is why it is so important that everything is done with excellence and we pay attention to all the details. Things like clean bathrooms, friendly helpful people, quick check in of children, the smell of fresh coffee and help finding a seat for your family are all critical. Churches should be the best at customer service, because we have the best product in the world. We need to remove all the distractions so that people will come back. The more they come back the more they will grow in their intimacy with God, the more opportunity they will have to experience community and the more they can influence the world around them.

Habitat For Humanity

Today I participated in my first Blitz Build for Habitat. I am currently serving on the board of director for Tuscarawas Valley Habitat for Humanity. We are currently building a house in Midvale, OH. The house got started about three weeks ago and today we wanted to get the walls up and get it under roof (Blitz Build). It was a nasty, rainy day, but we got most of the work done. We had around 20 great volunteers from the local community that came out and helped get the house up. We worked for about 7 hours. We got the black paper on the roof, all the windows and doors are in and it is ready to hook up the electric (We still need a plumber).

This was a good experience for me. I helped out with several parts, but the most interesting was helping up on the roof. I learned that if you show me how to do something I can do it, but if you try to tell me I struggle to catch on.

Isn’t life like that sometimes? When we have a good example and can observe the right way to do life it really helps us, especially growing up. We learn about how to have healthy or unhealthy relationships, how to handle money, how to work, how to give, how to set priorities, how to show love, how to eat right. It goes on and on and it can be helpful or destructive depending on the example you have.

When someone tries to tell us how to do it correctly or differently later in life, it becomes much more difficult, because we have this filter we hear and see everything through. That filter may not be accurate, but it is what we have learned from observing others. Changing the behavior we have always known can be difficult, but not impossible. You can find a new example, read and study that area and then make the changes you need to make.

At the end of the day I was tired, muddy and truly blessed.


My last post about loneliness led me to the thought of being single. Many people equate being single to being lonely. Our society is filled with many people that are single. Some have never married, others are divorced, others have lost their spouse. For whatever reason we have a large population of single people. I have noticed that many singles are attracted to the local church. It may be because they are looking for healing of the hurts of divorce or loss. It may be they are searching for community and friendships. It may be to look for a spouse.

I am not single, so I don’t know what a single person is going through. I do however know what the Apostle Paul and Jesus said about being single. Paul said is 1 Corinthians 7: 1, 8, 25-26 “It is good for a man not to marry…Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am…Now about virgins:…I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.”

In these four verses Paul is addressing questions that the Corithian church had about marriage. They were asking if it was good or better to be married. That culture was filled with sexual tempatation, much like our culture today. Whether you are married or single those temptations are just as big. In that type of an environment Paul was saying that is is good to be single and to be content in the situation where God has placed you, wether married or single. He made it clear that both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. One is not morally better than the other, and both are valuable to accomplishing God’s purposes.

Paul talked about the benefits of serving God in a deeper way by being single and being able to give God more of your time. Paul was in fact single himself. People that are married must also meet the needs of their spouse and family, which makes it difficult to serve God or go into mission work.

Jesus also talked about this subject. In Matthew 19:12 he said “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

I believe He is implying here that there are some who are so disciplined and motivated that they choose singleness so that they may better give undistracted service to the Lord and other people. Jesus did not make this mandatory, but optional. Not everyone can live such a disciplined life. It is important to note that the church and the world owe much to those who have deliberately chosen this course. Many single men and women have given their lives to serving and reaching the lost. As a result the Good News about Jesus has been spread across the world. I have met some of these folks and am amazed at their heart and passion to reach the lost.

Others have done this for a portion of their lives and were able to be content in that situation and that stage of life. If you find yourself single, that does not mean you must be lonely. God can use your singleness to build His kingdom. You can use your gifts and abilities to serve God and people. You can get involved in a small group and build friendships. You can volunteer and serve in new and exciting ways. You can look to God to meet your needs of acceptance, significance and security. God may be calling you to something bigger, something that can last for eternity.

The end of Romans 12:2 says that “God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect.” Because His will is good and perfect, it should be accepted, adapted to, and embraced. Whatever your situation is, God can use you.

Story Update

Here is an addition to the story about the family we helped move last Friday. They mentioned they would like some cats for the kids and to help with mice outside. Jennifer Troyer is in my small group and she is a volunteer leader at the Cat’s N Us group in Dover.

John & Jennifer and their children met with this family and helped them adopt 3 cats from the shelter. Our group is also looking at other ways we can be a blessing to this family.

Here are some pictures: