NOTE: See Monday’s note.
We’ve talked this week about how our service to others should be the natural outflow of our love for God. May this song be our prayer.
NOTE: See Monday’s note.
Today’s post will be brief yet short. 😉 We’ve been talking this week about serving God and serving others. Hebrews 10:23-24 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
So…What can you do today to serve someone else? What encouragement do you have for your fellow readers with regard to Hebrews 10:24?
NOTE: See Monday’s note…
If you were to go out on the street and ask some random people if they were going to Heaven when they die, I can pretty much guarantee that most of the answers would be along the lines of “I hope so. I’m a good person and I give to charity/volunteer.” Giving to charity and volunteering are very in style these days. Celebrities are very public about the good things they do for others. And if you were to ask a group of volunteers why they do it, at least one of the answers would be “because it makes me feel good.”
It’s true – when we do nice things for others, it makes us feel good about ourselves. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I truly hope that the kids I’m working with this week are proud of themselves for giving up a week of their summer vacations to serve people in a community who could use some help. But there’s something else I hope for them even more.
As this week progresses, I hope the kids (and you and me) realize more and more that it isn’t the people around them they’re serving. They’re serving God. It’s a simple concept for us as Christians, but I think sometimes we forget that at the heart of everything we do, we are to bring glory to God.
Our motivation for serving others should not be to make anyone – us or them – feel good. That may be a byproduct of our service, but if that’s the only reason we’re serving, something’s wrong. As followers of Christ, our service to others should flow naturally out of our love for Him. Everything we do and say should be done and said in a way that points others to Christ and not to ourselves. We were created for God’s glory. We serve others for the same reason.
How do you serve others? What do you enjoy most about what you do?
NOTE: I’m chaperoning a high school service project this week. In light of that: 1) I’ll be posting remotely and will have limited access to comments. I’ll approve as much as I can, but I can’t make any promises that something won’t go wrong. Please don’t let that stop you from commenting, though – all comments will be approved ASAP. 2) Please pray for our safety and unity and that the peace of God would reign in our lives this week. And finally, 3) because I’ll be doing service projects all week, there will be a definite theme to this week’s posts… 😉
Work. It’s a four letter word. Both literally, and, for some people, figuratively. It pulls us out of bed in the morning when we’d rather stay snuggled under the blankets. It keeps us inside on those perfect summer days. It makes us tired and stressed. It takes up an entire third of our day, if not more.
But here’s the surprising thing about work…are you ready for it? Hold onto your coffee: Work is a privilege. No really, it is. Let me prove it to you:
Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” From Day 8, we have been working. And until chapter 3 of Genesis, we can assume that work was fulfilling and, dare I say it, a pleasure. The Garden, and everything in it were created at a level of perfection that only God could achieve and that we won’t experience until the new Heaven and the new Earth are a reality. And in the midst of that perfection, God put Adam to work. Work, for Adam, was not a punishment. Until the Fall, work was a privilege.
In the book of Ruth, we see our heroine working in the fields owned by her future husband. His instructions to his men regarding her were as follows: “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:15-16) Boaz could have easily told the men to just give her some grain and let her go on her way. Instead, he allowed Ruth the privilege of work. He made it as easy for her as possible, but she still had to bend down and pick up the stalks of wheat that were left for her.
Without the privilege of work, there is no satisfaction in pleasure. Without work, the Bible says, we don’t have the right to even eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Without work, we miss fulfilling a part of who we were made to be. The Psalmist prayed, “Establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)
So this week, instead of moaning about having to get up and work again, be grateful that God, in His wisdom, put us to work. Then do the task in front of you, remembering that “it is the Lord Christ you are serving”. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Why do you think God gave us work? What was (or is) your favorite job?
NOTE: This is a re-post from a blog I had a couple of years ago, but it still holds true today, so I thought I’d share it.
I was struck by a great irony today. I was talking to God about my tendency to not be a very trusting person. He’s been asking me to trust Him lately, and while my spiritual desire is to do just that, my humanity leans toward worry and fear instead. I caught myself praying the words of the father in Mark 9:24 – “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”
Do you see the irony there? In order to make that request, I have to trust God enough to believe that He will, in fact, help me to trust Him. That just blows my mind. The act of placing our faith in God requires an act of faith. And where does that faith come from? Well, from God, of course. In His great grace, He gives us just enough faith to take the step of putting our faith in Him. In his goodness, He helps us believe when every part of us is gripped in unbelief. In His love He draws us to Himself so that we cling to Him, our Help and our Protection. Over and over again, God makes the first move. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. And it’s all for His glory!
What other ironies do you see in your walk with God? Why are you thankful for your faith today?
Forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. (Romans 12:19) ~Philip Yancey, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”
When I started reading Philip Yancey’s book about grace, I never even considered the possibility that he’d spend a third of the book talking about forgiveness. But when I thought about it, I realized that without forgiveness, there is no grace and without grace, there is no forgiveness. Grace, by definition requires forgiveness.
In thinking about the grace I’ve been given by God through Christ’s death, I submit the following:
I’ve understood for years that through Jesus’ death on the cross, my sins are forgiven. Justice has been served on my behalf. But I always understood it in an abstract way and forgiveness, it turns out, can never be abstract.
On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” I always thought He was referring to the people who demanded his crucifixion, the people who put Him on the cross and the people who mocked Him as He hung there. He was, but I now realize He was referring to me too. In that moment, with those words, every sinner – not just those who stood below the cross or cowered in a corner somewhere in Jerusalem – was forgiven. I will never read that passage the same way again.
In light of the forgiveness we have been given, therefore, what right do we have to withhold forgiveness from a fellow sinner? The friend who betrayed us? The child who rejected us? The man who stole our innocence?
It’s hard. And in some cases, “hard” is too weak a word. We want to see them suffer. We want them to repent. We want to hold onto the anger that has kept us strong and stoic for so many years. In choosing to forgive, we may be forced to revisit the pain. But in choosing not to forgive, don’t we revisit that pain everyday anyway?
But when we choose to forgive – when we choose to extend grace – we are freed from the bonds of past hurts. We are freed to move forward in peace. And who knows that our forgiveness may lead that person to repentance? We can not afford to wait until it is the other way around. God didn’t.
Why do you think it’s so hard for us to forgive? What have you learned recently about forgiveness?
I’m not a big fan of numbers. Numbers mean math, and math and I have never really gotten along. It’s not like we haven’t tried, we’re just not compatible. Numbers are so concrete, specific, inflexible. I’m just not like that. I like options (but not making decisions…hmm…). I like gray areas. I like to “think outside the box”.
The relationship just has not worked out well for either of us. I’d love to walk away and make a clean break of it, but unfortunately, it’s not an option. Even when it comes to ministry.
Like it or not, those of us who are in any sort of ministry live in the world of numbers. How many people came to services this weekend? How many kids accepted Christ at VBS last week? How many readers and comments does my blog get? Did the numbers go up or down compared to the last time we checked?
It’s a vicious cycle, this numbers game we play. Sometimes, it’s a necessary evil. We need to adjust for increases and decreases in attendance, giving, or discipleship. But more often than not, it’s just evil.
Numbers, while very straightforward, can be deceiving, and they can easily distract us from the purpose of ministry. They can give false hope or they can bring discouragement. We can get so focused on what the numbers seem to be saying that we forget the reason we went into ministry in the first place – God called us there.
A few years ago, the church was fascinated by the Prayer of Jabez:
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:10)
This prayer turned up everywhere – on coffee mugs, in sermons, in books, on blankets. Christians the world over prayed this prayer as an antidote to everything from their failing ministries to their lack of a bigger house. But I think too many people missed the point of the prayer. They saw that God had answered the prayer for Jabez and they assumed that He would answer it for them too. They didn’t give a whole lot of thought to why God may have answered it for Jabez.
I think the reason Jabez got the answer he was looking for was because God knew he could handle it. God increased his territory because Jabez was honorable (see v. 9) and he wouldn’t waste the blessing or grow proud from it. God knew Jabez’s heart. And He knows your heart and mine. He knows how we will handle success. He knows how we will handle an increase in numbers. And until He thinks we’re ready to handle it well (and give Him the glory) we, and our ministries will stay where they are.
So what do we do in the meantime?
I think if we take these three steps honestly – without an ulterior motive – we’ll find that God will, in fact bless us. But even more than that, I think we’ll find that those numbers we’ve been chasing after will become less and less important until they no longer even matter. And then, I think we’ll be right where God wants us.
Have you struggled with the numbers game? What suggestions do you have for recognizing God’s blessing in your life and your work?