Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 October 2016

He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.  Hebrews 3, verse 2.

Moses was God’s servant.   When Moses was a tiny baby, floating in the reed ark in the Nile, Jesus knew him.   When Moses murdered the Egyptian and fled in hypocritical fear, Jesus knew him.   When Moses stood in front of God’s presence and doubted himself and this God, Jesus knew him.   When Moses was an old man dying on top of Mount Nebo and looking into the Promised Land he was told he would never enter, Jesus knew him.  And when Moses, along with Elijah, appeared to Jesus, Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration, Jesus knew him.

You get the picture.   Jesus knew Moses.

And Moses, try as he did otherwise, knew Jesus.   He may not have known Jesus as the man incarnate, yet Moses knew Him as the three in one.  As Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 in the great Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”   Moses saw the Three in One personally, as God, as three persons in One.  He knew Jesus was God’s person abiding with Israel as it struggled with its newfound identity.   He knew Jesus as his deliverer and mediator when he stood in God’s presence and pleaded for his rebellious people.   He knew Jesus when He spoke comfort into Moses’ doubting heart.   And, after death, He knew Jesus as Lord, friend, man, and brother, talking with Him on that mountain in the desert where Jesus revealed a taste of His glory to a hungry world.

Through it all, Moses was God’s servant.   Just as Jesus was God’s servant.   Just as you and I are God’s servants.   Noodle that thought for a minute.  You and I have things in common with Moses and Jesus, the two greatest figures of antiquity, the deliverers of millions, the founders of Western civilization, and one of whom is God Immanuel the Savior of all mankind.  It isn’t just similarities, chance behaviors or traits we have in common with figures in history; you could say that about anyone.    No, we have a brotherhood, a familial bond with Jesus and Moses that goes beyond our shared humanity.   By God’s grace, He considers us to be His servants, doing His good and loving will in a world that needs to know Him.

I don’t know about you but I’ll admit that my independent American nature doesn’t like being told the best I can be is a servant.   I’m no slave…and yet I am one.  God forgive, then, my stupid head and ignorant heart.

Just this morning at the gym, I spent 10 minutes alone in the sauna.   I often do this at the end of my workout, and today I spent my time praying.   Going in, I decided I would only pray thanks to God for things that crossed my mind.   That and I wouldn’t pray for the same thing twice; it would only be new things that came to me during the prayers.   10 minutes doesn’t seem like that long of a time, but in reality it was.   Yet the longer I prayed, the harder – and easier – it became to pray for things.   By the end of it, I was praying for even simple things I’d taken for granted, things like dry floors and warm showers and clean clothes and even the air I breathed.

When I was done, I was left full.   I felt both satisfied and tired; can you imagine the thrilling exhaustion of praying for days-straight the way Nehemiah did before rebuilding the Jerusalem walls?   As I was walking out, I prayed again:   where would You have me serve today, Lord?   The God who appointed Moses to lead Israel out of slavery and into a new birth of liberty is the same God who sent His Son to deliver all of humanity out of slavery to sin and into the true birth of real liberty.   He is the same God who was with them in their most glorious and most trying moments.  And He is the same God who lives in the fires of the sun, the renewal of springtime, and the simple miracle of a newborn child.  God speaks to us in many ways, but in all those ways He calls to us to serve Him by using our lives and our talents in His purposes here on the Third Rock.  When we do this, we’re channeling our brothers Moses and Jesus, who were also God’s faithful servants:   servants we can know here and now.

For more reading:   Hebrews 3:5, Numbers 12:7, Deuteronomy 34:5-7, Joshua1:1-2, Psalm 105:26, Deuteronomy 6:4.

Lord God, I am Your servant today.   Thank You for blessing me this way.  Uphold me to do Your bidding as we will today, in service to You and Your good Kingdom.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 23 September 2015

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, 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, verses 42-45.

The disciples are pissed off, so Jesus throws down and reminds them of why He came and how they should now act because of Him. As you noodle that thought, don’t lose sight of the immensely profound thing that Jesus just said and did.

Along that thought path, let’s talk work. My project is exactly one week out from go-live.   If you don’t work in business IT projects, that means the new codes and changes we have worked four years to implement go into live business production one week from today. Tensions at the client are enormously high, and my team is struggling hard to get through last minute issues, side-bar white noise, and the sniping that comes with being this close to implementing large-scale changes.   Yesterday, most of us on the team put in a 17 hour work day.

Know what? Jesus could be speaking to my team instead of the Twelve Apostles.  He could be reminding those of us in Minnesota to remember that, in all ways and at all times and especially in times of stress and duress, to serve is to serve Him.   Every thought in our heads and every action of every minute should be spent serving others in ways large and small.

Tell me:   how’s that working out for you?   Does it go against your grain to have someone remind you that you should have the heart of a servant when, sometimes, you want the heart of Conan the Barbarian?   Even if the someone telling you is Jesus, God Immanuel, King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

You know the answer. We’re fatally, brutally flawed and sinful creatures.   Left to our own devices, we would make constant war on each other.   Thank God that He is playing a long-ball game called “life” and that He is endlessly merciful to creatures who don’t deserve it.

If you want to get past moments of stress, remember to serve.   If you want to have your demands heard and addressed, remember first to serve.   If you want to be served, serve others first.   If we truly want to change the world, let’s do it first by doing it for others just like Jesus. In doing so, we’ll find it’s deeply profound and worthwhile.

Jesus confronts the conventional and reminds us that He didn’t create us for conventionality.   He lived and created us to be unconventional, to address hate with love, to address demands with confidence, to address stress with calmness.   Jesus isn’t giving the Apostles (or us) some cheesy pep talk.   Instead, He is empowering humanity with the tools to address mankind’s deepest need for fulfillment and satisfaction. In doing so, He reminds us that love is more powerful than anything else, and that if we use that love as a willing servant does, then we can overcome anything.   Even a software go-live.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your servant example and for Your patient mercy.   Teach me yet again to serve You by serving others in wherever I find myself this day.

Read Mark 10, verses 46-52.

Daily Proverbial, from Ruth, 14 March 2014

When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!  “Who are you?” he asked.  “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”  Ruth 3, verses 7 – 9.

So much to unpack here.

Don’t be mistaken:   it wasn’t a party on the threshing floor.   ‘Eating and drinking’ does not equate a Snoop Dogg kind of party. It would have been mostly men working there, mostly young men, farmers or farmers’ sons.  After a hard day of beating grain from stalks, then collecting, sifting, sorting, and bagging it, they would have been dirty and tired; some things about farm work never change.   Anyway, they ate a farmer’s dinner and had a farmer’s drink of beer or wine.   But it wasn’t a party.   It was a typical night.

Spread the garment over me; what a beautiful picture of being covered in God’s grace.  On that threshing floor, those same young men were, well, young men and both virile and familiar with taking pleasures from women as they saw fit.  Yet Ruth goes confidently, faithfully but humbly to Boaz and asks for both his protection and his devotion in this simple symbol.  When we pray to God even today, don’t we ask for the same thing?   And He gives it.  Just as Ruth understood Boaz would honor and protect her, we can always know that God will honor and protect us, even when He does things we don’t expect or even want.

Finally, let’s talk ‘servant.’   It wasn’t that Ruth was wanting to become Boaz’s slave, and it wasn’t as if she was signaling her intention to wait on him constantly.   She was submitting herself to another person in humility.   She, who had already lost one husband, known privation, and lived in sad desperation, found hope in humble submission.  Ruth wasn’t signing up to become Boaz’s slave:   she was submitting herself to her husband’s love.   In my opinion, no word in Scripture is more misunderstood than “submit.”   It’s not slavery or compulsion:   it’s an act of giving and devotion.   That’s what Ruth did.   Boaz understood this and didn’t press his advantage.   As we’ll soon see, he did the right thing.

So should we.

Father, thank you for being our guardian-redeemer

 

Read Ruth 3.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 30 August 2013

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1, verse 12.

Please permit me to skip ahead a few verses to commemorate a milestone for someone special to me.

Today is my wife, Kimberly’s, final day on her job.   She has spent the last few years working as a director at a private pre-school in North Texas.  Years ago, she dreamed and planned to work in a position like this one, so when the opportunity presented itself, she quickly rose up to apply.  Every job has it’s challenges, and every job is demanding, but I don’t know how many people looked closely behind the scenes to see just what she has done to serve in the position that, for her, successfully concludes today.

Kim is leaving her job to begin a new phase of her – and our – life.   By this time next week, she will be overseas, in Romania, working at a mission there run by a friend of ours.   She’ll only be gone for a little under two weeks, but what she’ll do in that time remains unknown.   The reason?   She’s simply going overseas to serve.   Serve in whatever capacity the mission there needs at the moment.   Washing dishes, working with kids, talking with students, cleaning a street, reading, a good cry, hugs for those who need them, anything:   her only goal is to serve.

After her return, she’ll be helping me to publicize my new book.   We’ll be doing book signings in Indiana, Texas, and possibly Colorado.   In-between that, she’s volunteering at a local MOPS group, and doing background work on the vineyard we’re looking to open in 2015.  Hopefully, she’ll stop herself enough to take a breath, relax, and revel in where she is.

All this is possible because of God.  That, of itself, is a miracle.   Even more amazing to me right now, though, is that someone, especially my Hunnie, would do it.   It’s not that she couldn’t; I can think of nobody more eminently qualified.   No, the amazing thing is that she would; in a world of “me first,” it’s so rare.  In every job she’s ever had, she’s made it into much more than she found it.   It was that way at the pre-school, at the avionics company where she worked prior, in the church office where she worked before, and in our home.   Along the way, she had to persevere.   It’s no coincidence that Romans 5 is Kim’s favorite Scripture because she has learned to trust the real hope of Jesus through suffering, perseverance and the best character I know.

At the conclusion of her life my stunning wife will receive a crown of glory from the Lord of Lords for living a life of service.   Service as a nanny, mom, wife, worker, companion, follower, and friend of God.  All of her life she has worked for a moment such as this, and thanks be to Jesus that He made it arrive here and now.  Her crown is coming some day, but I applaud her with everything I am today.

From the bottom of my flawed and sometimes selfish heart, all I can say to my wife is that I love and admire you.  I’m thankful for all you’ve done in your work, and so proud to stand by your side while you exit your current job with your head held high.  The long hours, tedious days, early mornings, and sometimes endless downloading of frustrations are all worthwhile because you’ve served so honorably and so well.   You’re going off on your first mission, and for all of us it is a change.   But it’s a good change, and a wonderful gift of honor to be the partner, lover, husband, and best friend to such a selfless servant of Christ.

Thank you, my Hunnie, for all you have done, for providing for us, for setting an example that all of us can aspire to, and for serving Jesus faithfully, with dignity and energy, and with courageous perseverance.  Thank you for enriching the lives of all of us around you, and especially all those kids at the school.  Godspeed your trip next week, and I can’t wait until you get back home to see where God leads us tomorrow.

Lord, thank you for this wonderful woman in my life.   Keep and guide her safely on this journey, and bring her home safely to serve You as You’ll have us in the exciting years to come.