Christianity 201

December 31, 2019

A Quiet Servant

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. — Isaiah 58:10-11 NASB

As the year ends, one thing I’m looking forward to in 2020 is the release of the new Max Lucado book, Jesus: The God Who Knows Your Name. Reading an advance copy of it has reminded me why he is such a popular, gifted writer. What follows is a short excerpt from what is his is currently newest book, How Happiness Happens. Clicking the header below will take you to a site where you may learn more and purchase the book.

Service With A Smile

…I’ve seen thousands like him. Quiet servants. The supporting cast of the kingdom of God. They seek to do what is right. They show up. Open doors. Cook dinners. Visit the sick. You seldom see them in front of an audience. That’s the last place most of them want to be. They don’t stand behind a pulpit; they make sure the pulpit is there. They don’t wear a microphone but make certain it’s turned on.

They embody this verse:

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. — Galatians 5:13

These words appear toward the end of a document on liberation. For five chapters the apostle Paul proclaimed, “You are free! Free from sin. Free from guilt. Free from rules. Free from regulations. The yoke of slavery is off, and the liberation has begun.”

Our freedom, however, is not an excuse for us to do whatever we want. Just the opposite.

    Because we are free, we can serve.

We voluntarily indenture ourselves to others. In a society that seeks to be served, we seek opportunities to serve others.

Andrew was such a servant. He was the brother of Peter. He came from the same town as James and John. Yet when we discuss the inner circle of Peter, James, and John, we don’t mention Andrew. His name never appears at the top of the list of leaders. He lived in the shadow of the others. In the group photo he stood at the side, hands in pockets. Then again, he probably held the camera.

Quiet, however, does not mean complacent. Just because Andrew avoided the limelight, that doesn’t mean he lacked fire. He led his brother Peter to Jesus. Peter went on to preach the first sermon. Peter led the Jerusalem church. Peter took the Gospel to Gentiles. He wrote epistles that we still read. He defended the apostle Paul. Anyone who appreciates Paul’s epistles owes a debt of gratitude to Peter. And anyone who has benefited from the rocklike faith of Peter owes a debt to the servant spirit of Andrew.

And it was the servant spirit of Mary that led God to select her to be the mother of Jesus. She wasn’t a scholar or a sophisticated socialite. She was simple. Plain. A peasant. She blended into the crowd. She hailed from Nazareth, a dusty village in an oppressed district in Galilee.

In the social strata of her day, Mary occupied the lowest step. As a Jew she answered to the Romans. As a female she was subservient to males. As a young girl she was second to older women. She was poor, so she was beneath the upper class.

Mary was extraordinarily ordinary. Yet this virtue set her apart:

I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!
— Luke 1:38 NCV

When God wants to bring Christ into the world, He looks for servants. No diploma required. No bloodline specified. Bank accounts are not a factor. Place of birth doesn’t matter. Let all unassuming people of the world be reminded: God can use you.

____

Jesus came to serve.

In one of His appearances to His followers, they were on the Sea of Galilee when they heard Him call out from the shore. When He told them where to find fish, they realized it was Jesus. Peter plunged into the water and swam to shore. The other disciples grabbed their oars and paddled. When they reached the beach, they saw the most extraordinary sight. Jesus was cooking! He told them,

Come and eat breakfast.John 21:12

Shouldn’t the roles be reversed? Jesus had just ripped the gates of hell off their hinges. He’d disemboweled the devil. He’d made a deposit of grace that forever offsets our debt of sin. He’d sentenced the demons to death row and set free every sinner since Adam. He, the unrivaled Commander of the Universe, wore the apron?

Even more, He has yet to remove it. He promises a feast in Heaven at which

He will gird Himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. — Luke 12:37

Can you imagine the sight? Row after row of food-laden tables. The redeemed of the ages celebrating and singing, and someone asks, “Has anyone seen Jesus?”

“Yes,” another replies. “He’s on the other side of the banquet room serving ice tea.”

Christ Himself was like God in everything. But He did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. But He gave up His place with God and made Himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant. — Philippians 2:6-7 NCV

He was content with the humblest of titles. He was content to be called a servant.

December 12, 2019

Did Elizabeth and Mary Earn their Special Place in the Christmas Story? Do We Earn Our Place in God’s Story?

by Clarke Dixon

God was up to something big at Christmas. Elizabeth and Mary were chosen to participate in very important ways. Why were they chosen?

We might write a sermon on how they earned their special place in the Christmas story. Elizabeth has a fine resumé:

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. Luke 1:5-6 (NRSV)

Elizabeth is a descendant of Aaron, so has a good family lineage. She is righteous and blameless according to the Old Covenant law. She is also married to a priest, which as anyone married to a pastor will know, means she must be a saint. Elizabeth is a very good woman. She ticks all the boxes for being top of the list for earning God’s favour.

What about Mary? Mary does not get the same build-up from Luke in his Gospel account as Elizabeth, but we can point to her humble character and her willingness to follow God’s lead:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 (NRSV)

We might therefore write a sermon about both Elizabeth and Mary earning their special place in the Christmas story and encourage everyone to earn divine favour. But I won’t. Why? The message “we are good, therefore God was good,” was not a sermon Elizabeth or Mary would preach.

Consider Elizabeth’s response when she conceived:

“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” Luke 1:25 (NRSV)

Notice what she did not say; “being good has paid off. I was good, so God was good.” Elizabeth does not put the spotlight of her own goodness, she highlights God’s goodness. Notice further her response when Mary comes to visit:

She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb! 43 And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? Luke 1:42-43 (NET)

Elizabeth’s attitude is not, “I have earned this privilege,” but “who am I that I should have such a privilege?”

Let us also consider what Mary has to say:

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)

Mary praises God, not herself. She does not say “he looked on the goodness of his servant,” but “he looked on the lowliness of his servant.” Throughout the song, God is spoken of as doing great things for others, especially the “lowly” and the “hungry.” He acts according to His promise, and not according to Mary’s perfection. In this song, Mary sees herself as being an example, not of perfect obedience and righteousness, but of weakness. In this song God does something special, not because people are perfect and deserve better, but because people have needs and God is good.

Neither Elizabeth nor Mary get overly religious. We are being very religious when we think that our own goodness leads directly to the experience of God’s goodness. When we experience blessing, we think it is because we earned it. When we don’t experience blessing, we think we have failed to earn it. Mere religion puts the focus on us, and what we do or don’t do. Truth is more important than religion. Truth is, God is good. His goodness to us does not flow from the building up of our merit, but the outpouring of His love. Our goodness follows from the goodness of God, it does not lead to it.

Religion has a nasty habit of putting the spotlight on us. We humans have a nasty habit of enjoying that spotlight. Christmas puts the spotlight on God. God has done something amazing, regardless of the goodness of the people involved. Neither Elizabeth nor Mary focus on their own goodness, or their lack thereof. Both point instead, to the goodness of God. Christmas causes us to stop thinking of ourselves for a moment, of how good we are, and instead to focus on God, how good He is.

A spirit of entitlement comes from one’s religiosity. “I am so good, therefore God must be good to me.” Elizabeth and Mary don’t say that.  A spirit of humility comes from one’s grasp of reality.  “God is so good! Who am I to receive a blessing?” Elizabeth and Mary do say that. Do we, through our goodness, earn a place in the story of God? A spirit of truth will bring our focus where Elizabeth and Mary’s was; on the goodness of God. God makes us a place for us in His story because God is good.


Listen to the sermon on which this article is based. Look for the December 8th message.


Clarke Dixon appears here most Thursdays and is the pastor of a church in a town located about an hour east of Toronto, Canada. Click here for his WordPress blog.

 

February 9, 2016

On Being a True Servant

Today we’re paying a first-time visit to a writer whose blog was bookmarked in my computer, but I don’t believe we’ve ever featured here. Tanya Nemley blogs at God Speaks I Listen and you may click the title below to read this at its source, complete with graphics.

Are You a Servant of God?

John 12:26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

I decided to write about the subject of being a servant of Jesus Christ. Why… you might ask? Because I feel that I need and maybe we all need to remember why we remain on the earth after our salvation experience. To put it simply…we are now working for God!

A servant is a…helper, follower and supporter of an important person, one who performs duties for a person in charge, a personal attendant, worker, hired help, steward, hireling, underling, an assistant.

We are not to be the one in charge but a servant to the one in charge. We are not supposed to out there making a big name for ourselves but making a name for the one we serve. Our whole Christian walk is not about us and what we can get out of God. It’s about what God can get out of us. This is for our benefit in our eternal life with Him. Some may ask… why don’t we just go to heaven after we get saved? We are servants after salvation and we assist in leading others to Jesus.

Mark 10:44-45 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

There is a word in the above scripture verse that really quickened me down in my spirit and that word is “even”. Even Jesus who is the Son of Almighty God served. He knew His place and duty down here on earth. He knew He had a job to do for Father God. We all have a job to do for God.

The older I get and the more I pray and study God’s word I am coming to realize my purpose for my existence and reason for my earthly stay. Excuse me for putting it this way…I want to work my butt off for God! Now that I know who I am and what my whole life is about I KNOW what I need and want to do. My life is dedicated to serving my husband, my 6 kids, my parents, family, friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

I need people to see Jesus in my life and the only way to show them is to do what He did:

John 13: 12-15 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

servant heartBeing a good servant means being keenly aware of the one that you are serving. Without knowing who’s in charge one might begin to take control of things. They might take over authority. They could abuse power that they don’t really have. Worse yet they may get puffed up and accept credit for any successes.

Paul makes it clear who he is as he makes these statements several times in the bible…” Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”.

John the Baptist made this statement:

Act 13:25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

See people will try to follow you because John said “who do you suppose that I am.” He knew that they what they were thinking about him and that they might want to follow him. But John was a Worker and was trying to complete his job here on earth. He could have taken a little credit here and told these men to come and join his group but instead he told them of the master… his employer. He humbled himself by saying he was unworthy to even tie His employers shoes. What a servant John was!

Jesus mother Mary said this:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:18

What a woman of God! There was no doubt that she knew what she was!

The bible says we must be a servant and the Holy Spirit will help us accomplish this task all day every day. God WILL honor you us serving. We will be rewarded too.

Don’t follow anyone who is looking for praise and adoration, but stick around with those with a humble and giving spirit. You don’t even need a lot of discernment for this…you will just know the difference between who wants to be served and who is serving.

I’m seeing a vision right now: I see Jesus high and lifted up and there is a very long line of people standing in front of Him.   They have servant’s outfits on with a towel on one arm and the other behind their back. They are saying…. “What can I do for you my Lord?” Jesus says something to each one and they leave Him. I asked Jesus what did He say to them and He said He told them to obey the word. He said He has told everyone what to do already. He said everyone was born with gifts and talents and then when we accept Him as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit has been leading us from day one. We must obey God.

Checklist for our job as a servant of God:

  1. We all have a gifts and talents naturally given to us by God. Think about yours.
  2. The bible gives us clear instruction in what we are to do for the kingdom. If we don’t know what to do start by finding out what the bible says we should do.
  3. Walk with God so you will find it much easier to hear Gods voice when He by way of the Holy Spirit gives you direct orders for His divine purpose or mission.
  4. Make sure you are always prepared and ready to serve. Know your word, have tracks and bibles available, have your testimony ready and be prepared to share it, have a sharp eye for those divine appointments…in other words look for opportunities kingdom work.
  5. Make sure your house is in order. Have you ever seen a beautician with her hair looking busted and she wants to do your hair? We represent the King of Kings. You don’t need a Louis Vuitton handbag to witness to someone but a clean, humble, willing and dedicated heart.
  6. Be willing to do dirty work. God may not start you at the top. He may want to see if you’ll be faithful with smaller task until He sees that He can trust you.
  7. Let love be your motivation in all that you do for Him. Have love for Him and love for others.

Looking back over the past day, week, month year(s) can you really say what you’ve done for the Lord? Maybe a little, a lot or nothing at all. We need to take our Christianity seriously. Being a servant is what a Christian is and who a Christian is. I pray this blog today will cause one to ponder and make adjustment if necessary. God bless you!

 

October 30, 2015

Serving Others

Acts 9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Today’s devotional was found at the multi-author website The Domain for Truth, and the author of this piece is Jim Lee. Click the title below to read this at source, and then take a minute to browse other articles there.

Dorcas: Serving Others and the Resurrection

Have you ever met someone in your church who was a huge servant?  They did everything out of selfless love and generosity.  They did it to serve the LORD.  Ultimately it was for an audience of One.  They were very humble about their ministry.  Yet everyone knew about their service to the Lord despite how they quietly served.  Sometimes one only find out the extent of their service to the church after they had passed away.  So when such a servant departs, it is a great loss to the church.  Yet they also leave behind a great example of service to the Lord.

In Acts 9:36-43 we see such a woman who was an example of such a saint.  Her name was Dorcas, she followed Christ’s example of how to humbly serve the LORD for heavenly rewards and not for earthly recognition.  She reached out to widows and served others in love.  According to verse 39 she helped the widows by making them tunics and garments.   She also spent them “with them.”  Widows can be easily forgotten by others.  But not Dorcas who remembered the widows and thus she obeyed God’s command to honor and care for the widows (1 Timothy 5:3).

Then one day she got sick and died.  The people who knew her and her service to the Lord were heartbroken.  Look at verses 37-39 and what it says.  Notice how Scripture states that Dorcas’ body was not buried right away.  Which would be unusual if they were familiar with Jewish customs.  Did the disciples and her friends expect and hope that God would use Peter to bring about a miracle?  The LORD graciously answered their prayers as we see in verse 40-41.  As a result people come to know the Lord.  But then again even when Dorcas was alive the Lord was already using her testimony.

While this story has the unusual twist that God brought her back to life through Peter, we too must consider our service to God in light of the future resurrection that is promised to believers.  Are you motivated to serve God and those in your community out of loving obedience to Christ?  Does the thought of one day meeting your Savior face-to-face make you want to love others in a way that pleases Him?

Reflection and Discussion

  • Do you know anyone that is like Dorcas in your life?  Consider how their example can encourage you to serve the Lord and love others within the church.
  • Are their widows in your church that you have shown love and care for?  Who are the people within the church that perhaps God has placed in your heart to minister to?  Consider the possibility that it might be of another generation or background.  What are some possible ways you can be of service to them?
  • Serving the Lord in a community might not always be easy.  How does the Gospel help us desire to serve Him?  Specifically, what about Jesus would make us want to serve God and love others?  Similarly what about the Resurrection?

 

 

October 23, 2012

Building Your Platform — Without God

As a blogger I often see articles about “building your online platform.” Perhaps you know people who have dedicated themselves to building an offline platform as well. Like the tower-builders at Babel, they long to “make a name” for themselves. So I was attracted to this article at SermonIndex.net which begins with a verse many of you know by heart, but adds an extra verse of fuller context.  To read this article at source, click here.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” (Zechariah 4:6-7)

There is a busyness that we are all prone to in the work of the Lord. Though there is nothing wrong with being used of God and sharing His truths with others there is a pit of self-promotion that we can fall into.

We can act like it’s by our own strength, power and influence that we will make ourselves successful.

There can be a feverishness of activity in someone wanting to build themselves a a platform so they can promote their messages for God. Yet God’s calling and purpose could be 100 miles away from this person’s present activities.

It can seem from our perspective to have a voice in Christianity world seems impossible. Unless we have a radio show, tv program and best selling book with endorsements. Yet God says “What are you, mighty mountain?” (Zechariah 4:7). God is able to raise up any leader overnight for the entire nation to hear. With God anything is possible as we trust Him.

Sadly the Church takes it cue from worldly business methods much faster then it sits at the feet of Jesus and hears the quiet promptings of the Spirit. I do not believe it is wrong to do simple steps that are practical in building a platform. Yet the dangers are great when we are fixated on these things.

It is God who gives us a platform. His sovereignty even sets up circumstances for us to be used in His plan. God is concerned with primarily with His Church and has had an eternal purpose in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:9).

There is a great rest that can happen when we can trust Him for a platform and simply say to the Lord we are:

“only servants…” (1 Corinthians 3:5)

Servants are only mindful of what their masters want. That is a great test to see if you are a servant of the Lord is if you are preoccupied with what God wants not what you desire. May God keep us in His will as we desire to be used of Him to spread His Good News. Here are some practical points in summation:

1. We are only servants.

2. It is not by our strength but by God’s Spirit

3. It is God’s message, not ours.

4. Busyness does not mean success.

5. God’s ways do not always match up with worldly methods.

6. God has an eternal plan, we can trust Him in that.

7. God raises up leaders in the body of Christ.

Consider this prayer to the Lord today we seek to be useful for Him in His work:

Lord, we are so thankful for the great salvation that you have given us. We only want to show our appreciation for your love to us by doing a work for you. Please us me for your glory so that I can bring your Good News to others and share your truths. Lord please empty me of myself so I can be usable and mouldable in your hands. I accept it is your will if you will give me a platform to speak for you. Amen.

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.  Ps. 75: 6, 7 ESV