Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Value of Simple Service

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  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 10:41-44

Jesus’ goal was not just that his disciples would obey his teachings.  He came to teach them how to have the right heart.

And what was his heart?  To serve.

How far we have to go to get there!

His service was pure and organic, not calculated.  He just cared about others and found joy in giving.

Compared to this my heart is a complexity of mixed motives.

So today it’s good to remember to simplify, to do good deeds just for the sake of doing them.  It’s good to be in the moment and love to serve without the distraction of any other agenda.

Consider these verses  —

  • Command those who are rich in this present world. . .   to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  I Tim 6:18
  • (A widow should be well known for)  good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. I Tim 5:10
  • Then (the older women) can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  Titus 2:5
  • Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”  John 13:14

These verses advocate acts that can seem mundane and ordinary.  Yet it is obvious that doing them has great value to God.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own affairs and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  I Thes 4:11

“A quiet life?  But I want to accomplish things!” my ambitious self insists.

And I’m all for accomplishing great things for God.  I’m all for seeking and saving the lost, etc.

But I wonder if, as women, we need to give ourselves permission to live a more simple life.

And realize that great things ARE being accomplished, even in the mundane things, the housework, the homework, the child raising, the loving of our husbands.

God is being glorified.  The power of that can never be underestimated.  This is the purpose of our existence.   “For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.”  Romans 11:36

God’s will is being furthered.  I believe every good deed has a ripple effect, and as we perform good deeds they provide momentum, and a framework God can use in crafting His will.

Christ is being shaped in us.  When we leave the bustle of our ambition and slow down, we experience gratification; we see infinite worth in each person, each deed.  Everything comes together.  We realize that THIS is who we ARE.

And then we are at peace, at least for a little while, feeling as one with the heart of Jesus.

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Glory Hungry or Grace Hungry?

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”  Mark 10:35-37

Following Jesus is not for personal gain. Sure, this seems obvious.  On a deeper level, though, it’s a good reminder for me.

Because I have to admit that I want to look good, and Christian stuff — doing things for others, being loving and loving, etc — these all make me look good.  I can be wise.  I can have the answers.  I can be respected.

Ugh!  How ugly it is that I would want glory for MYSELF through following Christ!  I relate to Simon the sorcerer only too well.  “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability. . . “  (Acts 8:18-19a)  He too wanted to follow Jesus for personal gain.

I have to learn to be okay with messing up, to accept that I am just a fallible person, so I’m not needy for glory.

A couple of weeks ago Ken and I got with a young married couple.  They shared about an incident, a series of mistakes they made in how they treated one another at a party.  As they told the story, they started laughing at how foolish they’d been.  That led Ken to share a similar story about us.  Did I laugh at my foolishness as he related what happened?  No, I got hurt and mad.

Can I learn to laugh at myself more, laugh at my failures?

Can I be more like Paul in II Cor 12:10?   “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Can I actually delight in weaknesses, even thank God for them?

Jesus said in this II Cor. passage,  “My grace is all you need.”  I’ve got to get this through my head!  God’s grace is THE ONLY THING I NEED.  I don’t need to get my security from looking good.  I need to get it from him.

Going on with today’s reading from Mark 10 —

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 

God’s not interested in giving me personal glory I crave.  Nope, instead, he gives me the cup of trials.

And what have I been in my trials?  A ball of irritability, thinking grumpy negative thoughts, wanting to smash something.

So it was perfectly appropriate that Carol shared with me last night this passage from “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young —

“THANK ME for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time. Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart.”

I not only need to “find pleasure” in my weaknesses, I need to thank God and find joy in my trials.

Fooey!  I don’t like to remember James 1 —

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

You know, in church for the past few weeks, we’ve been studying out discipling relationships.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that we are to help Christ to be formed in one another.  (Gal 4:19, Matt 28:18-20)

And I am realizing more and more that the only way Christ will be formed is through humility.

I humble myself.  I admit I’m weak.  I admit I don’t know how to do it.

He lifts me up and makes me what I need to be.

I don’t, I CAN’T, seek glory for myself.

Only He can give it to me.

Then it’s all grace.  And that grace meets my every need.

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Following Jesus — Full of Surprises (and We Don’t Like It!)

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.  Mark 10:32

If you go after Jesus, he’s going to surprise you.

Jesus was always amazing his disciples.  He wasn’t what they expected.   He took time for children.  He ate with sinners.  He refuted the Pharisees.  He washed feet.  He said it was hard for a rich man to enter heaven.  He was arrested.

The apostles walked with Jesus every day for three years and just when they thought they had him figured out, he’d blow their minds.

So why is it that I think I can live a calm predictable Christian life like I somehow have Jesus figured out?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isa 55:8

I love this blog by Tom Jones.   In it, Tom talks about how he was praying to God in the morning about something.  He wrote, “​By that night, G​od’s answer was already coming in. (Don’t worry if things don’t happen that quickly for you. They usually don’t for me either.) But in this case his answer was as shocking as it was clear. It absolutely could not have been any more different from what I would have expected or guessed. How could this happen? 48 years of following Jesus, and he is still totally surprising me. ”

Tom has been following God for many years, and he still got astonished.

I think God gives out wisdom like manna.  It’s only good for a little while and then it expires.

Gathering Manna Exodus 16:14-31

Gathering Manna Exodus 16:14-31

Of course, I’m exaggerating.  We do gain wisdom over time.  But we never completely get a handle on God.  Just when we think we’ve got His number, He turns around and does the unexpected.

We need to ask for wisdom like we ask for our daily bread.  It’s not something we have a sufficiency of.  Moment by moment it needs to supplemented.

But back to Mark 10:32, let’s try to get a feeling here for what the disciples’ astonishment looked like when Jesus set out for Jerusalem.

It sort of reminds me of how I am when I’m on vacation sightseeing with my family.  They call me the bulldozer because I plow forward, with them reluctantly trailing behind me, saying, “Mom, slow down, we’re tired.”  But I just keep on going because I have a plan of things we’re going to see and do.

The family following after me on vacation

The family following after me on vacation

Jesus was the same way.  He was plowing forward.  He was determined.  He had an agenda and he was going to fulfill it.  And as he went, the disciples trudged after him, flabbergasted,  saying to one another, “What?  We’re going where?  Jerusalem?  I can’t believe it!”  They shook their heads.  “That place is going to be nothing but trouble.  Why would he want to go there?”

And a feeling of doom settled over the group.  You know that feeling?  Like bad things are SURE to happen?

But Jesus wasn’t fazed, any more than he was when he slept during a raging storm.

jesus sleeping

You know why?  Because Jesus knew that while it might FEEL like battles would be lost, he would win the war.  And that’s what he told his apostles —

Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.  Mark 10:33-34

Jesus was going to rise.  Good would triumph.

And the same is true for us —

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.  II Cor 2:14

We need to remember this no matter what we’re going through.  After all Jesus died for us.  The deepening conviction that he did should be our anchor in every storm.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair . . . We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus . . . II Cor 4:10

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? . . .  we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:32, 37

Because we’re going to need that anchor.  There are going to be a lot of surprises in following Jesus.

Just like the disciples, we don’t expect that he will lead us to a scary place.

A place where we’re called to a greater level of commitment.  All of a sudden we realize we’ve got to take it higher, and do stuff like confess sin, fast, ask strangers to church.  And every time we start to get comfortable with doing those things, Jesus stretches us more.  (Go door knocking?  Yikes!)

A place of grueling emotional battles, apparent defeats and discouragements.

A place where the shadow of doom overtakes us.

But we can be unfazed.

Because it’s guaranteed.  Good will triumph.  We’re going to win the war.

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The Blessings in Finishing Last

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  Mark 10:31

I so badly want to be first.  I want to be the Super Me, good at everything.

I realized this especially as I went on a short vacation this past weekend and spent time with family.

I wanted so much to serve everyone, say meaningful things to them, let them know how special they are.

I wanted so much to transform each moment into something golden, to savor the time.

But the reality was that I had several physical challenges.  I was tired.  I had a sore throat.  Some of the time my IBS was acting up.

How could I be Super Me when I was just trying to stay engaged, when the zing of energy and inspiration wasn’t there?

So I stayed in constant interaction with God.  Hour by hour, situation by situation, I laid my requests before God and responded to His promptings.  And He gave me direction.  He helped me to play with my granddaughter even when I longed to veg on the couch. He helped me to get out of bed and pray in the morning before everyone got up, to give and help when I was tired, to take the initiative, to say encouraging words.

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I guess I wasn’t Super Me at all.  I was Christ living through me.

And now I realize something really cool.  My plan is to do all kinds of awesome things for God and become an increasingly spiritual great person.

God’s plan is that I go through challenges that make me feel weak, even to the point where I can’t do the things I want to do, and I rely on Him more.

So at some point I will cross the finish line and receive eternal life.  But I’m not going to sprint all the way there with my wonderful deeds.

Nope.  I’m going to wallow towards the goal through the swamp of my challenges, pulling one foot out of the mud, and then another.

feet in mud

Not first, but last.

How do I make peace with being in the swamp when everything in me screams that I’m failing if I’m not running full tilt?

How do I like myself when I don’t even FEEL like running?

Because it isn’t that I don’t like being stuck in the swamp, it’s that I don’t like the version of me who gets stuck in the swamp.

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  Romans 12:3

I need to be honest with myself.   I’m not Super Me.  I’m just a regular person with strengths and weaknesses.

And I don’t like the weaknesses.  I don’t like feeling useless and unproductive.

Coming home from vacation, I realized that I wanted it to be a succession of perfect memories

Instead I captured only glimpses, the peace on the beach with the wind blowing and the waves breaking cool against my legs, the beauty of sunflowers in the field, the laughter in my heart as my granddaughter tells me she’s having the time of her life.

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Maybe I am the same way.  I only experience  glimpses of the Super Me in my ordinary human life.

And that has to be enough.

Even before I went on vacation, I wasn’t feeling good.  I was super tired and foggy headed.  My IBS acted up.   Each day was one long series of pushing through.

And then, late in a listless afternoon, I listened to beautiful music.

It was amazing.  I had a deep sense of meaning and connection.  My heart felt restored.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,”  Isa 30:15

I remembered that quietness can be just as meaningful as activity.

You know, it occurs to me that when Jesus said the first would be last, that didn’t mean that the people who are last won’t receive as many blessings as those who are first.  They ALL receive 100 fold, now and in the life to come!

I think if I’m not running on all cylinders, it’s a sign that I’m not doing things right, that I’m not in sync with God.

But I’m realizing that I can find God just as much in being last, as I can in being first.

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Filed under Diary, Humility, Mark, Peace, Self Worth

The Best Gift: A Network of Commitment

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.”  Mark 10:29-20

Family is great.  Most of us don’t have to leave our homes and families to follow Jesus.  In fact, following Jesus can make us better wives, sisters and daughters.  We serve our loved ones and intentionally make time for them.

But there are times when family can be an obstacle.  In our ministry right now we have more than one campus student who went home for the summer and faced family members who told them they couldn’t go to the church of their choice.  We have someone who regularly attends church except when her family is in town.

How do have wisdom about all this?

Here’s what I think the bottom line is.  Christ’s body is interdependent.  If each person doesn’t make it a priority, it can’t function effectively.

As each and every part does its job, (Christ) makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  Eph 4:16

It reminds me of rowing.

rowing2

What if some didn’t show up to row?  What if someone slacked off?  It’s hard if everyone isn’t pulling their weight.

In the same way, it’s hard when everyone doesn’t pull their weight in the ministry.  It’s hard when someone doesn’t show up to church.  It’s hard when they don’t take the commitment seriously.  Because those who are working and coming to everything, who are rowing as hard as they can, start feeling tired and discouraged.

Plus the ministry isn’t as effective.  To work, a body needs all its parts, not just some of them.

injured cat

There has to be a commitment to put Jesus before family, and that also means putting church before family.

But as Jesus points out here, it isn’t a negative thing.  It turns out to be the best thing ever.  Again, I’m not telling people to dis mom, dad or hubby.  I’m saying when you put things in the right order there are many blessings.

I have been reading this awesome article by Fred Faller on what it means to be righteous.  He talks about how God wants us to be in a state, “where all the people will be faithful to the care and protection to one another,” where, “Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm.”  Isa 32:2

God has a plan to surround us with an army of nurturers and encouragers who will love us as He loves us.

I like what Joyce Landorf Heatherly writes in her book, Balcony People, referring to our memories of affirmations,  “All around the sphere of clear air in our conscious mind runs a balcony filled with people who are not merely sitting there, but practically hanging over the rail, cheering us on.”

This is what the body of Christ is to be.  We cheer one another on, build each other up.

But if we don’t treat our sisters and brothers like they are important, the plan fails.

A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain.  John 12:24

wheat field

We have to “die” for one another, sacrifice for one another, commit to one another, for the plan to work.

And then God will give us one hundred fold.  A harvest of relationships that reflect His goodness.  Relational blessings that will last into the life to come.

(Note:  This blog is about a principle, but it takes wisdom.  Get advice in sticky family situations.  I am not condemning anyone, just giving food for thought.)

 

 

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Remember the Lord

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel . . . “

What have we left?  Why did we do it?

We see our friends living the high life, going on extravagant vacations, buying fancy cars and houses.  We see them on the weekend, packing every minute with recreation, doing elaborate home fix up projects.  We see them taking high powered prestigious jobs.  We see their kids doing activities that cost as much monthly as a mortgage payment.

And we look at our lives, austere by comparison, and ask, “Why did we give up all that?”

Not to say that we don’t have some of those things at times.  But we’ve given up the pursuit of all that as a lifestyle.

And as Jesus says the reason is for HIM, and for the good news.

Are we still doing it for Jesus?

Here’s DeWayne, who just got baptized.

dewayne baptism2

When people shared about DeWayne, they talked about how he had fallen in love with Jesus.  That is what made him change.  And you could see the change.  You could see him more engaged, more joyful.

Do we remember every day to be motivated by our love for Jesus?

Because I can just go through the motions and forget how amazing Jesus is, how he has the answers, how I love the way he lived, how I am inspired by his heart of mercy and righteousness.

You know, when I shared the first part of this blog with Ken, he laughed, because it doesn’t really sound like we give that much up.  We still have so much.  But the early apostles really DID give everything up.  They left their homes, their families, their livelihoods.

Why?  When Jesus asked them, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:68-69

For the apostles, Jesus was what they’d been looking for all their lives.  It was worth EVERYTHING to them just to be able to be around him, watch him and learn from him.

And that should be true for me as well, but, strange as it may seem, I lose track of it in the midst of Bible study, church attendance and Christian deeds.

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.  John 5:39-40

I lose that heart pounding excitement, that exhilaration of following someone GOOD and TRUE and LOVING.

I need to remember this:

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.  Phil 3:11

Knowing Christ eclipses all else.   How is it I get so caught up in Christian pursuits that I forget that he has to be at the center of each one of them?  That he gives the vibrancy to our walk?

I’ve been working on a thankful list for months.  So far I’ve thought of 900 GREAT things God has given me!

But I don’t think Jesus is on this written list.  Sure, I thank God for Jesus in prayer.  But why not WRITE down my thanks for Him as I count my blessings?

So that’s what I’m doing today.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing me how to love and how to live.  Thank you for caring for the lowliest individual.  Thank you for being righteous.  Thank you for being with me always.  Thank you for choosing me.

thank you Jesus

Do you know what happens when I do this?  Jesus gets bigger.

And it occurs to me that if our minds are consumed with worry, stress,  resentment, etc, maybe it’s because we haven’t remembered enough how amazing our Lord Christ is, how he cares, how nothing is impossible for him, and so on.

There’s this great scene at the end of the musical “Upside Down,” where Peter is desolate because the authorities have threatened to kill his wife, Abby, if he doesn’t denounce his faith.    But Abby sings an epic song, “Remember the Lord,” saying that it’s her faith too, she’s ready to die for Christ.  She reminds Peter over and over how awesome Jesus is.  And finally, Peter remembers, and joins her in triumphant song.

In essence, Abby is saying, “I’m willing to DIE, because I REMEMBER Jesus.

So back to the question, “Why do we do it?”

Because we remember Jesus.  We remember who he is.  We remember what he’s done for us.

We remember him and he is magnified and everything else is minimized.

And then it is worth it, whatever we’re going through, whatever we give up.

To whom should we go?  We can only go to Jesus.  He has the words of eternal life.  He is manna to our souls.

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