Practical Proverbial, from 2 Timothy, 12 March 2019

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.   2 Timothy 1:3 (NIV).

Ministry is a family business.   I know more than a few ministers whose parents and even grandparents were also ministers.   Me, I’m not a pastor, minister, reverend, or called servant of Christ.   Except for the desire He puts on my heart to help others and write these words, I’m not much of any kind of minister at all.   I’ve simply never felt that kind of a calling.   Nobody in my ancestry ever did, either.  Yet I know many ministers whose family history is service to God.   Multiple generations going into ministry; spouses, children and siblings all working in various kinds of ministry.   They put their all into it, usually for many hours of low-paying but Godly, satisfying work.

So I thank God, as my ancestors did, that there are men and women who feel God’s personal call into ministry.   They are formal, recognized servants of His Word.  They do a tough job so others don’t have to.  They actually do spend long periods of time, usually daily, in communication with the Lord.   Sometimes it’s formal, private, on-your-knees kind of prayer; sometimes it looks more like self-talk   But it’s the kind of activity that even we of this skeptical age would call “constantly remembering us in their prayers.”  That’s a big deal, you know.   Prayer isn’t just a wish list or some psychological panacea designed to make you feel better.  It’s a vital tool in the arsenal of a Christian warrior.   It’s involving God Almighty in everything for which we pray.   Pastors aren’t bystanders in the daily battles of life:   they’re warriors, leading from the front (as all good leaders must).

Our society favors those who work in a family business.   Farmers, military officers, politicians, stockbrokers, academics, factory workers, even athletes:   some of the most famous names in these fields come from families where multiple generations live, earn and serve in the same field.  It should be no surprise that Godly ministry favors the same dynamic.   Nobody in my family has ever gone into called ministry, though I do have an uncle who worked in prison ministry for many years and he’s the strongest believer I know.  Some of my best friends are pastors; it might surprise you to learn I’ve even partied with them…on multiple occasions.   Pastors are people too.  I thank God for them in my prayers because, long ago and over and over again, they’ve thanked Him for me in theirs.

For further reading:   2 Timothy 4.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for calling women and men to serve you in ministry.   Uphold them, strengthen them, give them courage and health and wisdom.

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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.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 6 October 2015

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10, verses 51-52.

Before moving on, there’s something else to be said about these two verses that I feel compelled to share.   It’s the heart of them. It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Duh!

No, really, I mean it. There’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to make Jesus love him any more; there’s nothing Bartimaeus could do to be worthy of Jesus’ gift of sight, or even the gift of sharing the same airspace with Jesus Christ for just a few minutes.   It isn’t about Bartimaeus receiving his sight in this fantastic miracle of love.   In fact, it isn’t about Bartimaeus at all. If you or I were in the story, it wouldn’t be about us either.

It’s about Jesus loving Bartimaeus and doing something for him. It’s what Jesus did and not what Bartimaeus did.

If you’re like me, you spend more of your time wondering about you’re angle, about what all this means to you, about how you should think or respond or whatever.   Lost in the shuffle of all that selfishness is that monumental statement “what do you want me to do for you” that Jesus spoke to this blind stranger. The creator of the universe, the man with whom Adam and Abraham and Moses all personally interacted, the advocate of Job, the fire in the burning bush and the whisper of life in every living being on the planet walks up to a perfect stranger in a crowd and asks him how He, the Savior, can serve.

It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus.

Just yesterday, a co-worker and I were talking about how we had led our project with a service attitude.   Not to be beaten-down servants, or to be cowards in the face of weaker people:   we were talking about how proud we were to be on a team where our attitude has been to serve.   To do our best for other people while subordinating ourselves to their goals.   We talked about how this is the true attitude of a Believer, how it’s impossible to be a follower of Jesus without this attitude.   It’s impossible because it’s what Jesus modeled for us.

And because He did it – because He rendered for us the ultimate service of dying in our place, as our punishment – there is nothing standing between us and the majesty of God.   I couldn’t do that; the Apostle Paul couldn’t do that; you couldn’t do that; neither could Bartimaeus, my co-worker, Billy Graham, any Catholic pope, Joyce Meyer or Donald Trump on a good hair day.   Only Jesus could die for us; only Jesus could redeem us.   Only Jesus could show us that all of life is about the supreme gift of love that He is and gave for us and still gives us every day.

Bartimaeus saw that.   He got his sight and immediately followed the first thing he saw, and the first thing he saw was the Savior who served him in his deepest need.   It’s not about Bartimaeus.   It’s not about you.   It’s not about me.   It’s about Jesus and all was, and is, and is to come.

Lord, let all my life be my service to You.   It’s not about me.   It’s about You.

Read Mark 11, 1-3.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 24 September 2015

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, verse 45.

We are happiest when we loser ourselves in a cause.   My dad didn’t give me much advice in life; he wasn’t one to make profound observations on life.   That’s not to say he didn’t say things I remember because he did.   I simply don’t remember him specifically spelling out many things explicitly for me to remember.   Dad was more of the kind to expect my sister and I to learn simply by watching and listening.

Yet one of the things I do remember him saying to me was said when I was a young airman in the Air Force. He told me “Lose yourself in a cause.   You’ll find yourself.”   I remember it for it’s marked difference between his usual observations, and for the fact that it’s spot-on correct.   It’s also something Jesus could have said and, in a way, it’s a derivative of verse 45.

We are hard-wired by Christ to be happiest when we are immersed in serving others.   Serving in the military, serving in church, serving Thanksgiving dinner, serving wherever life takes you:   we as people are happiest when we subordinate ourselves to do things for others.   When we do this, we are living to our fullest potential.

Jesus pointed to the example of His service to the world as the model for our behavior. He lived, taught, died, and would live again as the penultimate lesson on how we should live our lives.   Everything Jesus did was some kind of act of service.   Water into wine in Cana?   Serving the wedding.   Calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee?   Serving the terrified Disciples. Observations on divorce, adultery, anger, and a hundred other topics?   Service to humanity by imparting God’s wisdom.   And dying on the cross?   The ultimate service.

It’s ultimate because it is a ransom for many.   It’s the only ransom that could be paid for our sins.   You or I couldn’t do it; neither could the Pope, Mother Theresa, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham or Donald Trump. Only Jesus could pay the true price for the guilt and punishment that our trillions of sins require.

Yet notice Jesus doesn’t say “ransom for all.”   It’s true:   Jesus’ death and resurrection is the price paid for the redemption of all mankind.   All humankind is given this benefit because of what Christ did, because of God’s grace.   Yet not all of humankind will claim that benefit.   Will those who live this life in disbelief of that miracle benefit from it; will they live eternally with Christ in heaven? It’s a tough answer to hear but you know the answer is “no.”   It’s not me saying that:   it’s Scripture.   I prefer to not play God and judge what He does or does not. It’s enough for me to take Him at His word and believe that, when Jesus says “No one comes to the Father except through Me,” He means it.

And if you want to go to the Father, you must first die to self and live to serve.

Lord, refashion my heart, my thinking, my every action to want to serve You by serving others.

Read Mark 10, verses 46-52.

 

Daily Proverbial, from James, 18 October 2013

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2, verses 15-17

If you believe in Jesus, do something about it.   Not because you have to.   Not because you’re afraid of what He might think.   Not because you’re afraid of Him because He’s God.  Not because you feel obligated.   Not because someone else tells you.   Because you get to. If you believe in Jesus, do something with it.

Start a blog.  Pay it forward next time you go to Burger King.  Help your neighbor in with the groceries.   Stop talking back.   Call your parents to chat.  Listen to your teenage son.  Pay someone else’s bills.   Help the cranky old man clean out his garage.  Reconcile with your estranged sibling.   Volunteer for the Red Cross.  Serve.  If you believe in Jesus, do something with it.

Don’t sit there on your butt and wait.  Don’t procrastinate.   Don’t equivocate.   Don’t ruminate.  Don’t delay.   If you believe in Jesus, do something with it.

And because you believe in Jesus, your doing something is an opportunity to share Him.   It’s how He rolls.  We do it through listening, kind words, undeserved mercy, unexpected actions, caring.  It’s not just you doing the nice things, but good for you for doing them.   No, it’s Jesus working through you.   It’s Jesus looking through your eyes, reaching out with your touch.   It’s you being Him to someone else, doing what He would do for them.

Not because we have to.   It’s because we get to, because we can.   Because He is.   Without doing something about what we say we believe, our faith is useless.   Dead.   Without doing something about it, what we say we believe about Jesus is hypocrisy, just words; talk without walk.   Don’t go off half-cocked thinking that these good things will get you into heaven because they won’t.  Everything we need to go to heaven was already done by the Jesus we say we believe in.   Instead, let’s let our actions come from our hearts, remembering that we don’t have to carry the burden of doing something to earn our salvation.   Instead, we get to go beyond that, sharing the fact that He’s done the heavy lifting so we don’t have to.   So we get to do things in this life because we get to feel good about how we feel inside.  Because He loves us first.  We get to share Jesus.  Do something with it.

Lord, show me today where You want me to do something with my love for You.  I want to serve You.

 

Where can you serve Jesus in your part of the world today?

Are you willing to do this?

What can you do to help someone else where you are right now?