Monday, May 21, 2007

Serving Others Doesn't Come Easy

I am reading through the Gospel of Mark this week, and as usual, God is speaking to me about an area of my life that needs improvement. This week it is about serving and loving others. Chapter 10 recounts the story of James and John and their request to sit at the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. Jesus asks them if they really understand what they are asking. They answer him saying yes, they understand and are willing. At this point Jesus calls all the disciples together and says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) This is the reoccurring theme running through my reading this week.

I was about to write I want to serve in ministry but what I meant to say is I want to work in ministry. I am beginning to see the difference. Until I am willing to serve others, I am not ready to work in ministry.

Here’s the rub. I spent a career in the military as a noncommissioned officer. I retired with 3 up and 2 down. I didn’t serve anyone. Instead, I had others serving me. At that time I wouldn’t have used the term “serve” but “command.” I had upwards of 40 plus soldiers reporting to me at any one time and I only reported to one person. Now, eight years later, I am supposed to turn this completely around and serve the 40 plus. Now don’t hear what I didn’t say. I am in complete agreement with this, and I hope that I present this attitude in my current position. But just the same, it is an adjustment to my natural way of doing things. Ah, but isn’t that the point? I am not to act as one of this world, but as one of God’s children who belongs to another world.

Things to continue pondering…

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Reflection on “Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: James”

Two things from this article spoke to me. The first was the section, "The Calls to Patient Endurance and Sharing." I have always wondered at the meaning of James 4:17 which says, “So then, if you know the good you ought to do and don’t do it, you sin.” I got the gist of the meaning, but now that I have had time to reflect on it I understand it’s meaning in a fuller measure.

Davids writes in his article, “Thus sharing is not an optional part of Christian discipleship; persons who withhold the sharing of their goods with the poor show that they have not been grasped by the faith at all, though they may know all of its propositions (2:18-19).” And then later he writes, “Now in 4:17 charity is the difference between living in sin and proper behavior.”[1] Now I get it. When Peter writes if you don’t do it, you sin he is referring to how we show our works by taking care of the needs of others. In other words, if I know of a need and have the ability to meet that need and don’t do it, I am sinning. I am sinning because I am not exhibiting my faith by meeting that specific need. I may have the resources to meet that need, but instead I am worried about my financial well being and keep the resources to myself. In essence, I am saying I do not trust in God.

The second thing was in the application of James in today’s ministry. David writes, “People who adopt a lifestyle of worldly values while mouthing the orthodox confessions are only deceiving themselves.”[2] The thought that occurred to me was how we spend so much time and energy planning for the future. Only today my wife and I were discussing our retirement plans. James says in 4:15-16, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” We need to be wise stewards of our money, but not worry about it so much. Instead we need to trust God and live our lives in a way that brings glory and honor to Him. We need to be single-minded, not double-minded trying to live in this world on one hand while claiming to have faith in God on the other. “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (4:4b) “Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (4:8b, 10)

Thanks to God for His Word.

[1] Peter H. Davids, "Controlling the Tongue and the Wallet: Discipleship in James." In Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans), 236.
[2] Ibid., 244.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My Daily Prayer

Over the past few weeks, God has been working in me and teaching me through His Word like I have never experienced before. I have a hunger for His Word that cannot be satisfied. I am reading and digesting books by the score. My passion for prayer has been rekindled. My time with Him has become the dominate activity of my day and I praise God for all of this as I can feel His presence growing ever stronger in me.

This last week, I have spent much of my time reading about the regeneration we experience as we come to know our Lord. I have also been reading about the power of prayer as seen by E.M. Bounds. These thoughts were on my mind as I read the third chapter of Colossians this morning. I have probably read through it a dozen times or more over the years; but this morning it took me an hour to get through these 25 verses. I read it as a prayer to God to continue my regeneration as I mature in His love.

I have taken the liberty of writing out the 3rd chapter in such a way as to make it my daily prayer, and I want to share it with you so that it may be a blessing to you as well.
Since I have been raised with Christ, set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I also will appear with him in glory.
Since I have been raised with Christ, set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand with You, God. Set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in You. When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to my earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, Your wrath is coming. I used to walk in these ways, in the life I once lived. But now I must also rid myself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from my lips. Do not lie to others, since I have taken off my old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of you, its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as your chosen one, holy and dearly loved, clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with others and forgive others if I have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the You forgave me. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in my heart, since as a member of one body I was called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell in me richly as I teach and admonish others with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to You with gratitude in my heart. And whatever I do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to You the Father through him

Love my wife and do not be harsh with her. Do not embitter my children, or they will become discouraged

Obey my earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on me and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever I do, work at it with all my heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since I know that I will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ I am serving. Those who do wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
Col 3:1-25 (TNIV)
The remarkable thing about God’s Word is how it speaks to us concerning the present circumstances in our lives. We may have read a particular passage a dozen times, but because of something going on in our life at this particular time, it can speak right to the heart of the matter. God’s Word applies to us everyday.

My prayer is if you are not spending time with God through His Word, that you would begin to do so. And if you are already doing so, take a little extra time and allow the Holy Spirit to bless you even more. I know for me, it has changed my life, and will continue to do so.

Blessings to you!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Resurrected Life

Jesus’ life, from front cover to back cover, including the dust jacket, is a life shaped by the Jesus Creed. He learned the Shema from his father and mother; he amended it for his followers in the shape of the Jesus Creed. Most importantly, he lived it. We are called to participate in that very life, for is it that resurrected life that can form our lives.
-p. 292, The Jesus Creed, by Scot McKnight.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

When I Mention the Word "Vocation"

When I mention the word “vocation”, what comes to mind? Your job. Your career. I know that’s the way I would have answered. But today in my morning quiet time, I ran across this word twice. I am reading Scot McKnight’s book, “The Jesus Creed,” and finishing a second book by Lewis Sperry Chafer, “He that is Spiritual.” In both books the word, “vocation” came up.

In McKnight’s book, it came up during a discussion of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. “Every vocation is tested by God.” McKnight goes on to use the word two more times in the next two sentences. He uses it in describing the vocation of believers, and the vocation of Jesus. Chafer quotes scripture in which the word comes up. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1 KJV) When I read the second reference to this word, I stopped and wrote it down with the intention of looking it up.

Here are some of the definitions I found:

1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.
2. A particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.

These were the definitions I expected to find. In other words, this is what I always thought of when I read the word “vocation”. But here are a couple of other definitions:

1. a divine call to God's service or to the Christian life.
2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.

Now this got me to thinking. The first definition begged the question, do I consider my calling a vocation? In other words, do I take my calling as serious as my job? I think many of us should stop and ponder that. The second definition made me stop and question how I look at my calling. Do I consider my calling as a response to a summons from God? Or, even further, do I look at my calling as a certain kind of work? Or do I just look at my calling as something I do on Sundays, and live my life the rest of the week as most of the world does? Things that make you go hmm…

I will spend the rest of the day pondering these things and taking a serious look at how I view my calling. My prayer is this has the same effect on you.

Note: These definitions are from website: