Saturday, February 23, 2013

REAL Service to God

Phillippians 2:7-9 says "[Christ] emptied Himselftaking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a manHe humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of deatheven death on a cross For this reason alsoGod highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name..." (NASB)

When people serve in a church, they rarely ask for a position where nobody can see what they do.  Usually, they want to be "in charge" of something.  I don't really see a problem with that, because someone has to head the committee or the study group, or ministry.  What I want to focus on is that God calls us in those places to have the heart of a true servant.  I believe that God wishes our motive to be to give glory to Him and not ourselves.

That is the very slippery slope we face as God's servant - the moment we start to listen to the compliments and attach importance to them, the temptation is to start attaching importance to yourself.  This changes the focus of your service a little at a time so that in the end you are not working for God's glory, but for your own - and all that implies.

We must always remember that it is God that called us to serve Him, and He puts us where He wants us to serve.  Okay, I hear the objection out there that goes something like, "but you don't understand!  These people are so unreasonable!  How can this be what God wants?  How can I serve these heartless and unreasonable individuals?"  I know that particular line of reasoning too well, I have uttered those words myself on multiple occasions.  However, the Lord called these words to my memory: 

"You have heard that it was said, AN eye for an eye, and A tooth for A tooth.  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.  Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."
--Matthew 5:38-42 (NASB)

This particular passage was spoken by the Lord Himself as he taught people from the mountain.  He went on to embody every word He said here, including dying to pay for the wrongdoing of the entire world.  With this realization God allowed me to have came a question:  How can I do any less than He?  Any REAL servant of God knows the answer to that, no matter how young they are in the faith.  And with that answer comes a further revelation:  God has given us His grace to endure whatever He has called us to.

Remember those harsh, unreasonable people you were called by God to serve?  God knew all about that when He called you to serve Him there.  And he promises this:  1 Corinthians 10:13 - "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (NASB)  That way of escape is His grace.  Like that saint of old, our brother Job, there is nothing that you are going through that God hasn't already approved for the sake of your perfection.

Servant, you are in His hands.  He sees you and knows where you are and what you are going through.  Trust Him for the outcome.  I must tell you truthfully that it may not look like a good ending.  Remember, out Lord was executed most painfully.  However out of that death came life for many!  And we, as His servants must learn the lesson of how to die to ourselves, whatever the implications of that, to bring life to many.  There is a very long list of names, beginning with Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, and includes 11 of the 12 disciples, men like John Huss, burned at the stake for translating the divine Word of God into the common language, Jim Elliot, martyred at the hands of the men of the tribe he had gone to the Amazon to reach (who were later saved by Jim's own testimony and death), right down to you and me.  

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us this in Chapter 11:  "Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;  and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill- treated  (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground."

Our Lord never promised that our lives would be rosy.  He DID promise that if we would be faithful to Him, it would be WORTH IT.  Serve Him with the grace that He provides, looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith as our great example of what it means to be a Servant of God.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reach Out - or just "outreach?"

Okay, it's been a little over two months since my last post here - my life went crazy busy and I suppose I could have handled it better, but what  happened happened, and here we are.

I've been thinking recently about the concept of Christian Outreach.  The original definition I learned about it was that this was specifically to reach the unsaved with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Though that is a basic definition, it cannot be divorced from the concept of reaching out to meet peoples' needs.  The scriptures say this:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
(James 2:15-17 NASB)

What good are your words if you aren't demonstrating your care by meeting peoples' needs?  I've often heard it said that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Sadly, I have been in that high-minded group of people that said, "brother, sister, be warmed and be filled" without doing one thing in the warming or filling of my brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again.  What that makes me, friends, is a very big hypocrite, God forgive me.

Many of us sit in our pews in Church, Sunday after blessed Sunday, all warm and fed, deliberately insulating ourselves from those who desperately need our help.  We comfortably invite people to "come to church with us" so that the Pastor or the Deacons can do all the work.  This is not following the example of our Lord Jesus.  Jesus did not teach in the Temple, but instead went to where the people were or where they could gather.  John the Baptist, for what it is worth, practiced the very same strategy; he went out to where he could meet peoples' needs.

We must have a greater vision of what "outreach" means.  Think of how YOU became a Christian (assuming that has happened for you).  Jesus came to you and met you on the ground of your need and dealt once and for all with your greatest need.  I do not think that He did so with the intent that you can "sit back and rest" because now you are "going to Heaven" or some such other nonsense.  (Yes, I do believe in Heaven, before all the modern-day Pharisees come for my head.  I do not believe it was the main point, and neither should any real Christian.)  I read in scriptures that He saved us - and then called us with "a holy calling" (I Tim. 2:9), which then talks about how we were not saved for our own works, but to HIS!  I once heard a song put it this way, and it made me think:  "If we are the body, why aren't His Hands reaching?  Why aren't His words healing?"  I believe it is because we have grown comfortable and have insulated ourselves so that we do not have to face the needy.

People, we need to REPENT.  That means we need to CHANGE OUR MIND about what we are doing and do the exact opposite.  Instead of sitting in our collective pews, let us rise up and actually HELP.  Because if I hear of one more needy one being lost to the church because someone said, "Welcome brother, Jesus loves you," when they really should have asked, "brother, when was the last time you have eaten" and immediately bought him food, YOU will be solely responsible for driving souls away from the Lord by your own hypocrisy.  No wonder we collectively have a bad reputation these days.

Now if you're sitting there like me, feeling like an real idiot at how you could have let this happen to you, be encouraged.  It means that God in His mercy, has called this to our attention so that we can change it for our benefit and His glory.  I don't know just how yet, but I'll be doing a lot more meeting of needs than I used to with the limited resources I have.  Leave a comment below and let me know you're going to join me in the quest to really REACH OUT instead of just "outreach."

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)