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Check your availability for God, speaker exhorts faculty, students

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Even seminary students may not be available for God,” said Nebraska pastor Tony Lambert in a special chapel service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Lambert, NOBTS alumnus and trustee, said students may think they are totally available because they are in seminary, but they may be actually holding on tightly to their own dreams and future ministry plans rather than God’s purposes for their lives.

In an Oct. 10 chapel service that concluded a 24-hour period of prayer and fasting among NOBTS’s trustees, faculty staff and students, Lambert pointed out other ways ministers suffer from a lack of availability for God.

“[Instead of] being totally open to what God wants us to do] we are too professional,” said Lambert, pastor of Westside Church, Omaha. “We can’t fall on our knees at the altar. We can’t confess our sins to our staff members. We’re so administratively bound and structured that we can’t be led by the Spirit.”

Lambert noted, “To be totally available to God is not to do the things that are easy and convenient, but to follow all God’s commandments. Too often, we are more concerned about protecting what we have rather than taking on the kingdom of darkness,” he said. Conversely, he said that “being available and denying self is imperative to spiritual progress.”

Christians are exhorted to deny themselves and take up the cross, he continued. “Yet we have a distorted view of the cross. We see it as a shameful place for criminals or as a place for suffering. If the cross was just for suffering, then Jesus could have been saved from the cross by calling out to the angels,” Lambert pointed out. Rather, he said, the cross is a place of death.

“The impulse of a selfless person is to die to self,” he reminded. “Quite clearly, we must learn to die to ourselves. A dead man has no rights, no privileges.”

Using John 12:24 as part of his message, Lambert reminded that unless a kernel of grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. This passage offers three outcomes, he said:

— The seed remains on the plant. Rather than focusing on eternal purposes, many live for the temporary. “Many are following the blaze of glory, going for the gusto and living in the here and now.”

— Unless the kernel dies, it remains alone. “No one may know how you are struggling with your church, your marriage, … and you may become cold, hard and useless.”

— If the seed dies, it produces new life with endless eternal value. “Are you really available or do you have it all mapped out?” he asked the seminary community. “Have you said, ‘Jesus, I will do whatever you want. I will pastor Mt. Hiccup Baptist Church all my life if that is where you want me to be’?”

He affirmed, “It will be the greatest place if that is where God desires you to be.”

Lambert explained that the greatest thing in his life has been to die to himself. After the unlikely but obedient move of a Louisiana pastor to Nebraska, he said God has allowed him to do more in ministry than he would have ever imagined.

In the John 12 passage, Jesus had been doing many miracles and pouring his life into his disciples. Then, in John 12:23, Jesus acknowledged that his hour had come to be glorified. Up to this point, Jesus’ hour was always in the future, Lambert said.

“I believe that for some people in this room, this is your hour,” Lambert said, explaining that he did not mean the hour of salvation or the surrender to the call. “The hour right now is to follow God’s purpose.”

To re-ignite their original excitement and abandon to serving the Lord, Lambert suggested that each person remember their “Beth-el,” named for Jacob’s ladder experience when he saw angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. Through Jacob’s dream, God clearly spoke to him and took hold of his heart and radically changed his life forever.

“My ‘Beth-el’ reminds me that I never could have dreamed what God would do in my life,” Lambert said, even though his Beth-el was in one of the deadest churches he knew. In a little country church in Mississippi, God spoke to him and changed his life forever, he said.

“Go back to your Beth-el,” Lambert challenged, “where God rearranged your world, where you offered him the world and said you would be available for anything.

“You can make a choice today that will impact the rest of your life and eternity.”

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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