Posts Tagged ‘ Servanthood ’

VerseD: Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1, ESV

We are not our own. Our lives belong to our Lord, so we must no longer seek our own pleasure and comfort. Instead, we are to share the Gospel and love on this fallen world for the glory of God.

Milk Does a Body Good

Get some good spiritual milk over at Proverbial Thought!

There are three main stages to the Christian walk:

  1. Acceptance and Growth
  2. Understanding and Growth
  3. Teaching and Growth

As we walk through this life, we should never stop growing. In this life, we will never achieve perfection, full Christ-likeness. This is one reason why Paul wrote, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)

We never stop growing, it is true. However, just as some things stay with us as we grow and age from infant to death, so there are things we need from the moment of salvation knowledge to the end of this life.Mugstache

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
1 Corinthians 3:2

We need our mothers milk when we are young. We cannot handle other foods, because our bodies are not ready for solid food.

We come to a saving knowledge of Christ through the presentation of the Gospel: We have sinned against God. We have willfully broken his laws, separated ourselves from Him; and we generally refuse to love others and Him the way we should. Therefore, God came to earth as a man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, to live a perfect life and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins to reconcile us to Himself. He rose from the grave three days later, giving us a hope of eternal life with Him.

This gets us excited, and we want to share this information with everyone. Unfortunately, too many people stay at this level of maturity for years.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
Hebrews 5:11-6:3

Repentance is good, and it is something that is needed throughout our walk with Christ. Too many congregations and even whole denominations have gotten stuck on repentance and forgiveness without moving forward on the individual level (“Get ’em saved!” if you will, without helping new converts grow in righteousness, as Paul said.)

Just as a child eventually grows to eating solid food, so we must grow to be able to discuss the deeper things of our faith, such as prayer, service, and even miracles. The biggest reason we do not see as many miracles today is not because they are no longer used by God. Rather it is because the Western Church largely has abandoned the rites and practices that help us grow deeper in our faith and that position us to be used by God in miraculous ways.

There have been strides as of late to correct this within the Church. This is evidenced by the rise in social reform, but it is only one way God wants us to grow. We must also focus on theological and spiritual needs within ourselves and for others.

The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:21

Something happens with most of us as we grow: we fall in love, and we procreate – we make babies! All of a sudden we have to help these little ones survive and then learn and grow into adulthood. This requires using all we have learned and experienced to help them, but sometimes we need help.

Likewise, as followers of Jesus Christ we are commanded to make more followers. We are told that we are to take the knowledge of salvation to bring others to new life. We are then to help them grow in their walk with Christ, as we should have been doing. And we need help, which is why we have priests and pastors and each other who meet each week for communal worship and learning.

A warning, though, is that, as Paul again said, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

This has happened multiple times throughout Church history, but it is certainly prevalent today. It used to be that most churches would start with the basic milk of doctrine: faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is no longer a requirement for some churches. In either event, the teachings can range from “Be a better person by thinking this way or doing these things,” to full on cult-ish ideas and practices that are at best morally and cognitively dangerous and at worst physically dangerous. All of these are spiritually bankrupt!

Therefore, we must remember the milk of our faith – believing in the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins; that we must grow to understand more of our walk with God and of who God is as well as love others through word and action; and that we must learn to teach others of this knowledge, understanding, and service in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 03/17/2013

Lucky day! You can head to Proverbial Thought for some wisdom!

It is my pleasure to wish you a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Eventually I will give a brief history of the man, as I have with Saint Valentine (including last month), but for now the focus (as usual) is on our amazing Lord and Savior!

As we journey through the Hard Knocks Life, I think this poem is rather apropos. It serves as a good reminder of how our lives can be hard but worthwhile.

You said You forgive
i said i believe
my actions should show
it is true in me
You issued a call
to come and follow
i said i am here
to make myself low
to share the Truth of
Who my Savior is
the Man also God
Your first Son Jesus
Who died on a cross
to ransom my life
so i offer mine
to proclaim the Christ
and unfailing love
to a fallen world
in need of the God
Who is our Savior

What Love Do You Have?

Today I offer part two of the devotional time from the recent trip to the Desperation Youth Conference. Again, it has been adapted for the blog.

This devotion is taken from 1 Kings 3.

Have you read that?

Good.

Seeking Wisdom

Many Bibles title that chapter “Solomon Asks for Wisdom” or something like that.

I now invite you to read the entire book of Proverbs. (You can also head over to Proverbial Thought for some excellent commentary!) If you do not read it all right now, I understand.

Solomon made the right choice. Wisdom is the ultimate thing you can get. If Proverbs 8 is compared to John 1, we understand that Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God.
Wisdom helps us understand what God is doing in our life: Wisdom guides us to God; Wisdom helps us understand when the Holy Spirit is working in us or God is working in our circumstances

The usual theme for this passage is Solomon’s wisdom shining through.
It is a good example. Imitate Solomon in this regard!
But this is not the theme of our lesson today.

These two women are prostitutes. This helps explain why they were living together, they both had children, and there are no fathers mentioned.
In a previous devotion we discussed crazy things: Things that happen to us, things that we hear about hapening to others, and things God calls us to do. Imagine being labeled a prostitute, kind of like being called a slut in school or the workplace. Everyone knows you have this reputation. Would you be willing to go before anybody, let alone a king, to fight for your rights if everyone thinks you are practically worthless?
These women going before Solomon would be like school bullies going before the principal saying one stole the other’s stolen lunch money. Society did not look very highly on them! This is a crazy or even silly situation (at face value).

The real point of this devotion, however, is this:
What is your most favorite thing or person?

Would you … could you give that thing or that person up? Would you be willing to let your worst enemy take it? Would you be willing to let your girlfriend/boyfriend go to another person? Would you give up your child?

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:37-39

One of my favorite definitions of hate is that it means you love something more than another thing.

And the Wisdom that leads us to God, is Christ Himself. If you claim to love Jesus Christ, are you willing to give up your life for Him? Do you love Him enough to give up your life?

Just like prostitute who cried out to let her baby live with the other woman if it would spare his life, are you willing to say “Lord Jesus, take my life and do with it as you will!”?

Will You Go Through Hell with Me?

Last week I started this mini-series with “Will You Go To Hell with Me?” It is not enough to know what the Bible says, we have to live it out. It is not enough to say “Jesus is Lord,” we have to show it. It is not enough to talk about love, we have to share it.

Part 2:

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Jude 17-23

Some of the people I mentioned last week fit the first couple verses’ warning. Some of these people are in conservative churches. Some are in liberal churches. Some in “mainline” churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etcetera) and Catholic churches have been around since before the vast majority of denominations and churches ever existed up through today. This is not a new thing, but the evidence seems to be pointing ever more toward us being close to the end. Either people are not showing love, or they are showing the wrong kind of love.

(On an interesting sidenote, Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end last year with Christ’s return, last week publicly repented of his sin of claiming to know the hour and day of said Return. Bravo, Mr. Camping, for owning up to your sins; and praise You, Father, for working in all things!)

People may be stupid, but, individually, people are also really smart. They frequently know when someone is not being real with them.

Here is a rebuke:

Stop offering to pray for people;
Stop telling people you feel for them;
Stop feeling sorry for them;
Stop giving money to them …

Unless you are willing to love them and walk with them in their pain.

At the Rock & Worship Roadshow, Jason Dunn of Hawk Nelson said (of the children from Compassion) “If you look at these pictures and feel guilty, then we ask you not to sponsor one of these children. The Apostle Paul told us that if we are not acting out of love, then everything we do is worthless. You should sponsor a child only because a love inside of you is compelling you to help them.”

This can be true for every other area in which we must show love for others.

The only way we Christians, we followers of Christ, can “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear” is if we climb into the fire with them. We show them we care by walking through their pain and sadness with them. We show them we care by experiencing their hurt, doubt, hatred, and fear with them.

They know when we are just saying “I want to help you,” because they see us not helping.

I am just as guilty of this as the next guy.

And those who are living it out probably will never read this, because they are picking up the slack for the rest of us. This means that our brothers and sisters living out their faith are just as much in need of our love and support! Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” includes Christians and non-Christians, family and strangers, friends and enemies.

Spread the Gospel by being Jesus’ hands and feet … and mouth and shoulder and shirt for runny noses and blanket and socks for cold feet and shoes for hurting feet and legs for the weary.

And do not think you are doing it by yourself and in your own power. There is no way we can climb into the flames to reach others and get back out with help. (Perhaps someday I will share a dream I had about this)

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Jude 24-25

Sold out?

How about we look at some stories (this is a rhetorical suggestion, for I am about to take you through some stories):

I shunned friends and co-workers to go to church on Sunday mornings. I sacrifice each week by giving about twenty to thirty per cent of my income to help the church function and grow. I help out with the children and youth, and I sometimes greet people at the door. Every so often I even help during offering and communion by passing items from row to row.

 

I was invited to a church building by some friends. The message amazed me, so I began believing in this person called Jesus Christ. There was a message about giving to those in need, and I knew the church needed some things I had. I gave them my new stereo, a bunch of my clothes, and whatever may have been needed and I had. My parents thought I had gone crazy!

 

I was living my life, doing what I wanted when I wanted how I wanted. When I was almost in an accident I realized I had forgotten God. I began letting some of my friends go, I ended a relationship, I lost my job, sold or gave away the majority of my possessions, and ended up following God’s call to a new place where I knew no one. I was homeless and without money most of the time, wondering where or if I might get something to eat each day. My family thought I had gone crazy. In truth, in some ways I had, for I believed some crazy things during that time. However, I truly discovered God.

 

I was living my life trying to get by. One day, someone came and told us about this man named Jesus. The story of this man was so amazing! I had to do something! I believed this message, and when I learned there was a family twelve miles away with a couple of pages from this book that talked about Jesus I decided every week to walk the twelve miles to get a chance to read these pages and talk with this family about Jesus.

 

I lived fearing for my life. The government has made it hard to provide for my family, and I followed all of the laws for fear of disappearing one day. Then someone told me about Jesus Christ. I allowed the Lord to change me. Today, I sit in a prison waiting to find out if I will be beaten or killed today or soon, and all because I told the leaders of my town about Jesus. Every opportunity I have I share this good news with the jailers and other inmates, and sometimes I am beaten for it.

Some of these stories are actually from my own past. The others are taken from others’ personal testimony. (I am not telling which are which, but if you know me you might be able to figure it out)

Who would you say is more sold out for Jesus?

Is this a trick question? Yes and no.

You see, I put these in an order that shows more levels of sacrifice. For some, each story may be their calling in life while the other stories are for other people. This is why it can be a trick question. But what if you are the person from the first story? Would you be willing to give up your car to someone in need? What if you are the person in the second story? Would you be willing to give up everything? Would you be willing to go out of your way and spend a lot of time out of your day to travel to hear the Word of God and learn more about Jesus? Are you willing to drop everything, share the Gospel with a stranger, and possibly be beaten, imprisoned, or killed?

As I grew, I found myself giving more to God and in different ways. Today, I feel like I am not doing enough, even though I am going to school to be better equipped to serve Him, and I work in an environment in which I am able to encourage other believers and share the Gospel with others (though, technically, I could lose my job for that second part).

That makes me wonder sometimes if I am truly sold out.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.             Mark 10:17-22

And:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”        Luke 19:1-8

Who was more sold out? The man who did everything required, or the man who acted out of pure love and desire for God?

Where are you?

When half-empty is a good thing

The Christmas season is called the most wonderful time of the year, the season of joy, and a time of love and giving.

Many people look at the figurative glass as half-full during this time of the year (unless, of course, they are standing in a line that stretches half-way around the Super Wal-Mart in which they have been shopping for that last gift).

As my pastor said this past Sunday (in the beginning of his message about Joseph, second only to Pharoah in Egypt, forgave and loved his brothers who sold him into slavery), for many people the Christmas season is not wonderful or joyful. The Christmas season for these people (I am sure some are reading this message) instead reminds them of broken marriages, lost spouses and/or children, being alone, or being close to death.

For these people, their glass looks half-empty.

Is half-empty always a bad thing, though?

When we have to take medicine that tastes disgusting, we would rather the cup be half-empty than half-full.

When someone puts food in front of us that we think tastes horrible (but we are being polite and eating it), we would prefer the plate be half-empty than half-full.

When riding on a city bus while feeling nauseous, other people are happy when the bus is half-empty rather than completely full!

In terms of our times of pain and longing, grief and loss, feeling like we are half-empty can be a good thing (though I know it does not feel like it).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5

We have a promise from our Lord that we will be with Him and comforted. The question remains, what do we have for now? It may seem selfish, but knowing we can receive comfort later does not always help in the meantime.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

God does comfort us in our times of need. He does not always do it immediately, and sometimes He waits until after our trials … sometimes for years.

However, we also have the promise that God will indeed comfort us so that we may comfort others in His name.

God can save us from troubles, but God often blesses us with the opportunity to help others by sharing His comfort and strength with them.

We could also say that God empties us through our troubles that we might be filled with Him to the point of overflowing.

Half-empty becomes good when we are re-filled with God.

I am not saying we need to get to a point of enjoying our pain and loss; that is masochism. Instead, we rejoice in our suffering, because we know that we are being used for God.

Christmas is a reminder that our God did not leave us alone to suffer. In his grace, He came to us, suffered with us, and suffered for us. He understands our pain and our loss and has overcome them. He alone can give us comfort and peace, but He also allows us to suffer that He may work through us to bring comfort and peace to others.