Archive for September, 2010

28
Sep
10

serving well

When comparing the culture of the world to the culture of the kingdom, Jesus gave this command in Matthew 20:26: “But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”

We hear a lot about servanthood but what does it really look like? What does it really mean to serve well?

For me, the answer to that question is found in thinking about an individual who faithfully serves their spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, tending to their needs motivated by the lifelong love they have shared. The answer is seen in the parents who, day in and day out, deal with the difficulties of a Down’s Syndrome child, yet remain joyful and hopeful. The answer is demonstrated in the individual committed to the cause of serving the poor, the disenfranchised when no one else is around or cares, and yet they press on. It is seen in the person who is so committed to the church of Jesus Christ that they attend faithfully, work diligently, invite unchurched people relentlessly and give sacrificially because they believe in the mission handed down by the Savior. (Just a thought: What would your church look like if everyone participated in these activities the way you do? Would your church thrive, just exist or have to close the doors?)

So often, like everything else in our society, we make serving about us. We want to do something to assuage our guilt, to make us feel better about ourselves. That is not, nor should it ever be, the motivation for serving. Serving well goes way beyond a onetime act of kindness like holding a door, carrying a bag of groceries, or, if we really go the extra mile, shoveling someone’s walk (just a reminder, it is coming) or cutting their grass. I think it is going to the next level of commitment; committing not to a onetime act, but sacrificing (that’s a word we don’t use too often anymore) space on our agenda to actually make a long-term commitment to an individual or group. I’m talking about being willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of others. Paul put it this way: “So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” (2 Corinthians 12:15) I am very thankful that Jesus held nothing back but, rather, gave everything he had for me. Aren’t you?

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21
Sep
10

encouragement

I read recently that “being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people.” We’ve all heard it said that Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle were counter-cultural, but that is over the top! The ideology being suggested is radical. It certainly does not fit within the materialism of western consumer culture where the object of attention (and affection when we get right down to it) is the individual. This radical way of life requires an emotional and spiritual health foreign to those who have been influenced by the dogma of self-gratification espoused by so many in our culture.

Even for those of us who are Christ-followers this requires constant recalibration in our lives. Ask yourself this question: “How much of my prayer time today was focused on me and my needs and how much was focused on others?” While it is absolutely true that we are taught throughout Scripture that we are to make our needs known to God, expecting him to take action on our part, it is equally true that we are told to make the Kingdom our top priority in all that we do, including our prayer life. Just look at the model prayer Jesus gives us in Matthew 6:9-13 where we are told to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done.” It was the prophet Samuel who made it clear that his failure to pray for the people of God would constitute a sin before God on his part (1 Samuel 12:23). That can be tough sometimes. There are times I would rather be mad at people rather than taking the time to see them as God sees them and make myself available to serve the purpose of God in their lives, which begins with praying for them, not against them.

In essence, this is the key to good relationships and being an encourager. To be an encourager means that I am for people. It means I am on their side and want the very best for them. It means I want to see them excel at everything they endeavor to do. It means I do get upset when I see them squander God-given opportunities but, instead of taking that frustration out on them, I pray lovingly and compassionately that God will give them wisdom and discernment so they might more fully understand God’s plan for them and walk in it. It means I become a mature member of the body of Christ, laying aside my own agenda to become a part of what God is doing around me.

14
Sep
10

obey

I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning and this is what he had to say: “You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will only think yourself into further wandering thoughts and more confusion. If there is something in your life upon which God has put His pressure, then obey Him in that matter. Bring all your ‘arguments and . . . every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ regarding the matter, and everything will become as clear as daylight to you (2 Corinthians 10:5).” He went on to summarize his thoughts this way: “Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.”

Sounds easy enough, right? Well… maybe, maybe not.

Mother Theresa was asked one time about how she dealt with seasons of silence in her life when she felt like God just wasn’t speaking to her. She said it had become her policy that whenever she was not hearing from God she would simply go back to the last thing he said and keep doing that.

Again, in theory, that sounds pretty simple. It is in practice where we can get sidetracked. The reason for this is, of course, our ADD lifestyles. We want everything bigger, better, faster and brighter and, oh, by the way, we want it now. That includes a word from the Lord. Yet the Scripture tells us very clearly in Isaiah 40:31 that “those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength.” In other words, to be obedient means to keep on doing what God last told us to do until he tells us the next thing to do. Nothing flashy. Nothing profound. Just be faithful!

07
Sep
10

bhag

Did you think the title was a typo? Never heard of a BHAG before? It is an acronym for a “big, hairy, audacious goal”. The term was first proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1996 article entitled Building Your Company’s Vision. A BHAG encourages companies to define visionary goals that are more strategic and emotionally compelling. In the article, the authors define a BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) as a form of vision statement “…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.”

That sounds exciting doesn’t it? But it can also be more than a little intimidating. In fact, it can be downright terrifying! Let me illustrate this way. Do you remember your Dad encouraging you to do something like jumping into the pool for the very first time? You trusted your Dad to catch you, but your fear of jumping into the water overrode your trust. Then after much coaxing and assuring, you finally gave in and took the plunge and everything was fine. That was the first of many BHAGs that you would face in your life.

What about spiritual BHAGs? Those that pertain to following God’s will and plan for your life. I’m talking about: building a big boat because it was going to do something it had never done before – rain (Noah); leaving your home to go to an unknown place (Abraham); marching into a king’s palace and demanding that he let a whole nation go free (Moses); facing down a skilled warrior, who just happened to be a giant, with a slingshot (David); attacking a whole garrison of enemy soldiers with just your armor bearer (Jonathan); getting out of the boat during a storm and walking on the water (Peter).

I know this is a list of your run-of-the-mill Bible stories that we love to sing about and hear talked about in a sermon or Bible study, but when was the last time you were challenged to do something big for God? How did you feel? Unsure? Intimidated? Scared to death? Welcome to the club! God is always calling us to step out by faith and do things we have never done before. What we do might not ever be recorded in history or even noticed by very many people, but it is noticed in Heaven and it is the only way our faith will ever grow. And, just like our father catching us when we jumped into the pool, God is always there to catch us when we are obedient to him!

What’s the next BHAG in your life?