Category Archives: Servanthood

Losing the Crown, Finding Jesus

“You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” (John 5:29)

This red letter passage paints a picture of people who are very diligent in their efforts to live righteously.  I see them approaching scriptural reading like they’re doing a doctoral study, devoting much time, memorizing large swatches of it, pondering and debating, seeking to learn.

Yet when Jesus comes, they miss him.  It’s so crazy.  It’s like when you’re looking for something all over the house,and someone says, “There it is, right there,” and you barely look, and insist, “Naw, that’s not it,” and keep searching.

It’s stupefying that the Jews couldn’t see the very thing they were looking for.  How did this happen?  Jesus gave this answer, “How can you believe if you accept glory from one another, yet do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” 

The Jews wanted the wrong kind of glory.  They wanted to look good, and feel good about themselves.  And this blinded them, because their eyes were on one another and themselves, instead of God.  

How can we avoid the same mistake? How do we seek the glory that comes from God?  I love this verse in Romans, “A man is a Jew because he is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise does not come from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:29)

We seek the right kind of glory when we make the daily decision to circumcise our hearts to God.  We don’t try to figure out how we can straddle the world and our faith.  We completely devote ourselves to him.  

How can we tell if we’re seeking glory from men or from God?  By looking at our inner fuel tank.  Self glorification depletes us.  It never works for long.  We have to keep finding ways to give ourselves props.  We get tired, discouraged and burned out.

I see this when I look at myself.  I journaled what I was feeling at the beginning of this week: “Why try?  It’s going to fail.  It’s useless.”

I’m haven’t been completely down.  I just have this sense of gloom and doom that manifests from time to time. It’s kind of like the hitchhiking ghosts at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyworld.  You’re going along, and all of a sudden you see there’s a ghoul riding with you.  And it’s not endearing like the picture below!

But I think one reason I’m gloomy and depleted is because I’m trying to get everything to measure up to my own expectations.  And then it’s about me.  I’m just like the Jews.  I’m having these great devotional times every day.  But I’m missing it. 

I’m wrestling with life, instead of finding the life that’s in Jesus.

You know, when we’re completely devoted to God, we have the mindset of a doting servant.  It makes our hearts happy to give ourselves to him in service, because he is everything.  It’s not about us, and our efforts. 

It’s about his glory.

It’s so crazy.  We miss the jaw-dropping splendor of God, because we’re too busy trying to put our own sparkle on. 

Our job is to put God’s sparkle on.  Period.  The only way we are to shine is as God’s creation, and as Christ shines through us.

And I have one more thing to say about having a heart that’s devoted to God.  The literal translation of the word, “inwardly” in Romans 2:29 is “secretly.”  We’re to be devoted to God in a hidden way, not in a way to be seen by others.  It’s a special intimacy, just between God and us.

That’s not that we’re to keep our mouth closed about our faith.  The Bible is clear that we must speak out the truth, and be bold.  

But it has to start with something that feels like a private worship closet experience, free from distractions and temptations, so we can SEE Jesus better. 

We find Jesus when we take our eyes off of ourselves.

Here’s my prayer for today:  Father, I am your servant.  I go to the hidden place and worship, where it’s just me bowing at your feet. I take off every bit of the crown I’ve been creating for myself.  Instead, I want my actions to polish your beautiful crown.  Let all my joy be in loving you and serving you.  Let me hear Christ’s voice, and not the other loud insistant voices.  Let me find the power of the resurrection life that can transform the impossible situations.  Let me have hope, instead of gloom and doom. Thank you for every way you have blessed me, guided me, and taught me all through my life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Servanthood, Surrender

Being a Positive Influence

Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?

Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the Lord’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols. May the Lord cut off from the nation of Israel every last man who has done this and yet brings an offering to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Mal 2:10-12

This section of Malachi deals with the condemnation of the Jews who intermarried with women of other nations.  Ezra and Nehemiah chronicle how this was happening:

After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. Ezra 9:1

Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Neh 13:23

It shows us that it is important to keep ourselves away from negative influences.

Ken has been really big on this lately.  He’s been listening to lessons by David Bercot, who espouses that Christians should maintain a strict purity of life.  Bercot says we need to be very vigilant against letting the world corrupt us through the media, etc, and monitor what we watch and listen to.  He says we even need to be vigilant against not letting worldly Christians corrupt us.

And then yesterday when Mike was preaching, he read, “bad company corrupts good character” in I Corinthians 15:33.  He said that we shouldn’t be best friends or spend much time with those whose lives aren’t centered around the resurrection of Christ.  I must confess, that sounded a little extreme to me, but I understand where he is coming from.  We don’t mean to, but we really do become like those we hang around with.

So maybe we’re not guilty of being married to someone who worships other gods, but what kind of detestable practices do we tolerate?  How often do we look the other way?

Ken and I were listening to Proverbs when we were driving up to Atlanta this past weekend, and we heard this convicting verse: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”  Prov. 25:26

Do we give way before the wicked?  What do we do when our friends and coworkers cuss, lie, gossip, make sexual innuendos, and so forth?  Do we try to separate ourselves?  Or have we become so inured that we just carry on, or even join in?

Do we really think we can be keep ourselves from being polluted?  I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we can see that we ARE affected by proximity to the world, be it through the people we’re around, or the things we allow ourselves to engage in.  Either we are tempted by it, or our hearts are hardened to it, and it doesn’t seem as bad anymore.

And, like a virus, our  pollution becomes contagious.  “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”  II Cor 5:6  We can’t fool ourselves.  Others Christians will do what we do, and they will be affected by it as well.

That brings me to one of the most convicting parts of this passage in Malachi:  “why do we betray one another?”   As it says, we are all children of the same Father, and when we cohabit with the world, we betray our sisters and brothers because we are not helping them have a pure holy life, with a hunger only for God.  Instead, we’re helping them to have a hunger for other things.  I have been realizing more and more how necessary it is that we feed our heart with good things, and not with junk that clogs our spiritual arteries and diminishes the flow of our love for God.

In the end, I don’t know how to sort all of this out.  We don’t want to become monks or Amish.  But I do think we need to be much more cognizant of how the world affects us, and how we affect others as we engage in the things we do.

I am going to close with a little story from this weekend.  Ken and I went to see our family and go to my granddaughter’s birthday party.  As we helped my daughter get ready for the party, my husband decided to scrub at some of my daughter’s walls, which had been scribbled on by the kids.  He knew that she was embarrassed to have the birthday guests see the walls, but hadn’t been able to clean them.  So my husband got a cloth and some cleaner, and applied a lot of painstaking elbow grease.  After awhile, my son saw him scrubbing, and got a cloth and helped too.  And they were able to get the walls clean, and it looked so much better!

My daughter told me later that it reminded her of Jesus, and how he washed his disciples’ feet.  Her dad washed the things that were dirty and embarrassing, that no one else wanted to work on.  And then his good deeds influenced her brother to wash as well.

Good deeds are contagious.  Bad ones are too.  Let’s make it our goal to live a holy life and be a positive influence, not be a negative one!

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. II Cor 7:1

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

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Filed under Holiness, Malachi, Righteousness, Servanthood, Uncategorized

The Path to a Tender Heart


While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Mark 14:3-9

What an interesting place for this story.  Jesus just finished discussing all of the terrible things that would happen in the future.  And then a woman poured expensive perfume all over him.  The talk of ugliness is juxtaposed with an act of beauty.

I think the two are related.  But the first thing all of this makes me wonder is why Jesus said there had to be so many hard times.  Why does the path to his glorious return have to be paved with trials?

I guess the real question here is why do we have to go through so many trials and disappointments?  I’ve been reading a great book lately, “Grand Weaver” by Ravi Zacharias.  In in Zacharias shows us eloquently how God has a design behind each one of our lives, and that we can trust the process.  This is one of my favorite passages so far:

“…at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender.  Nobody escapes.  Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be made tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well.”

Reading this really impacted my life.  Because it made me see that I harden my heart when things hurt me, instead of letting the circumstances soften my heart.

On Dec. 22, 1998, my mother passed away unexpectedly.

My mom.  She loved to take videos of her loved ones.

My mom. She loved to take videos of her loved ones.

Ever since that time, I won’t let myself think of my mom, or that time.  I close myself off.

And I never could understand why my mother had to die.  Other people might say they found something good in their tragedy.  Not me.  I just want my mom back, want her to see how beautifully her grandchildren are growing, want her to experience milestones with me.  I’ve never stopped missing her.  I couldn’t see what good there could be in her not being here.

But now I can see something else.  I can see that there is benefit in experiencing emotional pain. The pain that I carry around in my heart helps me to treasure the relationships I have more.  It compels me to reach out and touch others in distress.  It makes me feel compassionate towards others in their troubles.

It helps me understand the cross more.

God has a plan for all of us to create more tender hearts in all of us.

That is why the story of the woman above is more meaningful.  I can’t help but think that the woman would not have been so generous unless her heart had been made tender by heartbreak in the past.  Her life had been a journey up to that point, and her inner pain welled up and caused her to pour herself out in sacrificial giving to Jesus.

The word Jesus used to describe the woman’s act is kalós, which means “attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy).”

The beautiful act of service performed by this woman would inspire others through the ages to perform beautiful acts of service as well.

And that is what I want to leave you with this Thanksgiving week.  I charge you to serve in gratitude, because you have Jesus, a place of succor, when you are poor in spirit.

Has life been painful?  Don’t shut yourself off to the pain.  Experience it, weep over it, and then let it well up in you and compel you to reach out to others, and pour yourself out on their behalf.

There is ugliness in the world, but it can create beauty.

And that is God’s design.

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Filed under Compassion, Mark, Servanthood, Things I Am Learning

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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Filed under Having the Right Heart, Mark, Servanthood

Dust Kicker for the Undeserving

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

This is a challenging passage.  It says we must be last.  It’s like going to the VERY end of the line, EVERY TIME.  And it’s especially challenging because it uses the word pantos — ALL — twice.  We are to be the last of ALL, putting ourselves after every being on this planet.  We are to be the servant of ALL, of everyone who exists.

And to help us understand this, Jesus gets a little child.  Now we know that children are special.  But the kids haven’t earned their place yet.  They aren’t wise yet.  They don’t have the rights of an adult.

And yet Jesus gives them preference.  He says we should readily welcome  them with warmth and eagerness.  The Greek voice used here stresses a high level of self-involvement.  It’s like greeting someone with open arms, hugging them, and immersing ourselves in their cares and concerns.

I love what one commentary said about this passage.  It said that Jesus was lifting up “whoever shows respect, and performs the least office of love and kindness to the meanest believer, comparable to a little child.” (Gill)  Because the wording of the verse is actually, “Whoever welcomes a little child such as this.”.

Ah.  Here’s the heart of the passage.  It’s not about being nice to children, it’s about giving to the least, the lowest of the low.  It’s about serving the person you think is beneath you, the one don’t like, the one who gets on your nerves, the one you think doesn’t deserve it.

And that is challenging to me, because there is a person in my life right now who is hard to be involved with. And I need to dive into their life and sincerely support them.

I need to be a dust kicker to the undeserving.  And of course, we are all undeserving.  That’s why we do it, because Jesus cared about the least of these — ME!

Being the last means dying to self.  I have been working on this since I wrote the blog about dying more to produce more.  I am practicing dying more.  But I’m not doing it out of insecure compulsion.  I’m practicing giving cheerfully to others late at night., making that phone call instead of putting it off, responding to the frustrating message with love.

I am just trying, just approaching living out the verse, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”  Phil 3:10

It says earlier in Philippians that Christ made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.  Christ was a dust kicker to the undeserving.

Let’s follow Him!



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Filed under Humility, Mark, Servanthood