The Discipline of Service
"Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe."- Bernard of Clairvaux
This week I began by asking God for divine appointments- that He would open my eyes to people's needs and show me how to love and serve them as He would have me to. When I am intentional about this prayer it seems as though the opportunities become endless. It becomes such an awesome adventure when you literally began to look for reasons to go out of your way to help someone else with no expectation of anything in return. But it hardly starts off that way, especially for me. It never fails... somewhere along the way God reveals some ugly place in my heart, so i simply just ask for Him to wipe away those smudges and use me in my incompleteness. That's why this journey is such a blessing, because we began to identify with Him and come to know His heart even more as He molds us to be more like Him.
Like the man in this picture, I too find myself in this begging position from time to time... asking God to take my heart and make it pure before Him. I read about humility in the word and desire to be humble, but you can not seek it and find it. Rather it is only found in an authentic lifestyle of servanthood. I feel like i'm offering up all I have, which isn't much, and He gladly takes it... shines His glory on it, and with His mercy turns it in to something I could never have imagined. Wow... God is so so so so good.
I love what Foster says about true service vs. self-righteous service..." Self-righteous service comes through human effort. True service comes from a relationship with the divine ONE deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Self- righteous service is impressed with the 'big deal' and requires external rewards. True service rests contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either... the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient. Self-righteous service is highly concerned with results whereas true service is free of he need to calculate them. It can serve enemies as freely as friends, but self-righteous service picks and chooses who to serve. Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims, but true service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.... it is a life-style. And lastly self- righteous service fractures community because it can potentially put others in "debt" and manipulate them... but true service BUILDS community- it draws, binds, heals and builds."
After reading this I realized how many times I was a self-righteous servant for "the lord." One of the things I love about studying these spiritual disciplines is that it is constantly keeping your heart in check. I may have "tried" to act these biblical principles out before... but it was simply coming from my own human efforts and for my own benefit rather than glorifying the kingdom as my heart was aligned with His heart for the world submitting to His will... and modeled after His character and nature. It's not even that you are enlightened with the truth or have more knowledge of it that REALLY alters your lifestyle. It's that you come to KNOW HIM.... as a Father... and when you do- that's what changes EVERYTHING. You now how the complete FREEDOM to give it all and the DESIRE to do so!!!
So last week I had the wonderful opportunity to serve my family and some other friends who had stayed out our house throughout the week. It was such a joy to make a good healthy dinner most nights and see tummy's filled with goodness and happy faces! Even though it was a small thing, I got so much pleasure out of being used by the Lord that way!
Also last week my dad was working on a wall behind our house. It is a huge job for one man, especially one in is mid to late 60's! But God knew what He was doing and laid it on the hearts some of our friends and neighbors to come over and help. They got the wall finished in no time and had fun living in REAL community while doing it! Isn't serving each other what it's all about? Not the hokey pokey? Haha. Anyway... it's such a beautiful thing to see people serving people to give God all the glory and honor!
Another opportunity God gave me was to drive my sweet dear friend to her doctors appointment a few hours away. I was so blessed to be able to spend some quality time with her as well as meet people along the way that we ended up also being blessed by!!! We had the best time spreading God's joy throughout the state of Arkansas that day and honestly felt like we walked away more blessed than anyone!!!
Here's something we tend to forget or not talk about too much, and probably because it's such a hard pill to swallow. But Foster paints a beautiful picture of the heart of Jesus in this excerpt:
"Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others' feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least. Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness....."
WOW. I hardly know where to go from here. THE KING of the universe... who could've sat on a throne of gold on earth with a gold sceptor and a gold crown, basically says "I'm not here to be fancy, i'm here to fellowship.... i'm not here to have many servants, but to serve....i'm not here to care about gold for it's only worthy of paving our streets in heaven." OH MY. It's kinda hard to fathom a man like this.
For it is the discipline of service that brings humility into our lives. "If we want humility, he counsels us to '... condescend to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow-creatures, cover their frailties, love their excellencies, encourage their virtues, relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, compassionate their distress, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their malice, be a servant of servants, and condescend to do the lowest offices to the lowest of mankind.' -Foster
"To do specific acts of service is not the same thing as living the discipline of service, " says Foster... so here are several "services" he mentions in his book that you may come across as you continue to walk out your own personal journey with Christ...
-the service of hiddenness: serving without acknowledgement is a rebuke to the flesh and a can deal a fatal death blow to pride, also can inspire the one on the receiving end who can thank no one person to a deeper devotion; this can also send ripples of joy and celebration through any community!!!!
-the service of small things: in the realm of the spirit we soon discover that the real issues are found in the tiny, insignificant corners of life, this service will put us at odds with our sloth and idlenss, "be faithful in the small".
- the service of guarding the reputation of others, or the service of "charity": not just holding our tongue but actually speaking LIFE over and about someone we may or may not necessarily agree with. Personally I've found it easier to encourage than condemn when we understand God has a heart of redemption rather than failure.
-the service of being served: it is definitely an act of submission and recognizes the "kingdom authority" over us. Jesus washed the disciples feet... if we refuse to be served we are pridefully failing to submit to the divinely appointed leadership in the kingdom of God.
-the service of common courtesy: the specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same- to acknowledge others and affirm their worth... this service is sorely needed in our increasingly computerized and depersonalized society.
-the service of hospitality: we limit our ability to give in this way a lot of times because of fear or we just make it too complicated. It's pretty easy to open up our homes and possessions to family, friends and even strangers... we just don't always freely take that pleasurable opportunity here in the western world. I can tell you that the poorest people in third world countries don't worry about their carpet being cleaned before you come over because it's dirt anyway. And they don't run out to wal-mart and buy the perfect foods... they fix you some tea and pull a mango off the tree. They find joy in simple being with you.
-the service of listening: the most important requirements for this are compassion and patience. To listen to others quiets and disciplines the mind to listen to God and creates an inward working upon the heart that transforms the affections, even the priorities, of life.
-the service of bearing the burdens of each other: We can learn to uphold the burdens and sorrows of others without being destroyed by them. Rather than dashing out to bear the burdens of the whole world, let us begin more humbly... in some small corner somewhere and learn. Jesus will be our teacher.
-the service of sharing the word of Life with one another: When we retreat to those beautiful moments of solitude and silence with the Lord, He speaks. Often times we hold back the words He has spoken, but there is a time and a place... and if those words bring forth life, vision, encouragement.... the other individuals need to hear what God has said. He is the one who has spoken it, now we are to put hands and feet to it. Like Jesus did. Let's be confident in what He's sharing with us to share with others.
I don't know about you, but to me it seems that if we just did these things... and began a lifestyle of service as a community of believers, the world might begin to see the church a little differently.
training for the half-marathon
Now.... on to THE RACE.
This weeks lesson of service sort of colorfully melts into the race that i've been training for physically and spiritually. Last friday I spent some time up at the pregnancy resource center with some incredible women!!! Initially I had hoped to be able to actually counsel women out of abortion and encourage them to choose life instead. Well... the first few weeks were watching videos and reading manuals. Then, as I was watching a video one day I began to pray for the girl in the room next to me who was being counseled. That was a big day! Not only did she choose life for her baby, but she found freedom in Christ as well!!!!
This past week I asked if there was any "busy work" i could do... and so I ended up cleaning toilets. I remember telling my YWAM students years ago that when they returned home they would want to jump into ministries and take all that they had learned on the field. We encourage them to be satisfied with even the dirtiest work because God will honor the servant heart... and besides all that it blesses Him to see you humbly serve in that way with a smile on your face all for Him.
Well... it was actually fun! It really didn't matter what I did anyway, i just wanted to serve that place and those people!!! Anyway... I had been asked by another volunteer if I was a runner. I told her I had sort of become one because God had told me to train for the half-marathon, but I didn't have the money for it so I decided not to run. At the very end of the day... one of the ladies handed me a check and said "you are supposed to run the race." WOW! This is crazy!!!!
God is so amazing and cool how He chooses to bless. He gets me every time!!!
So the next day I had a new motivation. I knew there was nothing left inside of me that was selfishly motivating me to run. I prayed before doing a small run in my neighborhood to get back in the groove of things... and before I knew it, i had run over 3 miles without stopping or getting tired! I'm going to try to get up to 7 this week, 9 next week, and 11 the next before the race. Please be praying for me... and if you'd like to support "Hands and Feet Project" I am running for them, so please just shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org ... Thanks!!!!
The life of the disciple Matthew
I love the story of Matthew... mainly because the Pharisees and scribes hated it. Jesus did not overlook anyone because of their choice of lifestyle... He only saw them for their potential to see themselves for who they were really created to be- sons and daughters. How many times have we passed by a homeless person, a drinker, a punk, a thief, a prisoner, a person addicted to something, a smoker... and thought "well they've chosen their bed so they deserve to lie in it." Wow... that sounds pretty harsh right? But if we're being honest, has that actually been something that's helped us justify the fact that it's just a little too uncomfortable to talk to that person because... well... we have nothing in common with them????
If we know who we are in Christ... and see our daily need for redemption, restoration, and repentance... then we have so much more than we ever could imagine in common with "them". Too often we place ourselves on a different "level" when we are saved finding it much easier to associate with like minded people, when now.... we are so full of hope and grace and love from being rescued ourselves that all we should desire to do is to take that hope to the streets!!!! Right??? And I've seen many people live this out and it's so amazing to see our church in action!
Well, that's what Jesus did anyway... and if he hadn't Matthew may had never been a disciple for Him and we may not even have come to know who Jesus is if it weren't for Matthew following in Jesus footsteps and accepting the Great Commission as a command and a joy! As soon as Matthew speaks with Jesus and is asked to follow he throws a big party to honor Him and the other disciples. That sounds like so much fun!!!! What's even more hilarious is how the pharisees and scribes stood outside and made judgmental notes about Jesus eating and drinking with sinners. I imagine Jesus peaking out the window explaining to the disciples and Matthew what was going on as they continued to enjoy the food and fellowship.
Jesus came to hang out with the sinners and the sick and to show them the freedom and healing they could have in and through Him. This is something the "religious" people didn't get, probably because they were more imprisoned to law than the relationship of Christ.
From the research of many scholars it looks as though Matthew traveled to many countries sharing the gospel of Christ as well as dying a martyr's death. What a life of abandonment to this world He led once Jesus confidently approached him in the midst of his sin and showed him his destiny as an adopted and beloved son.
I'm convinced that we are all so loved by God that we can't even fathom a tiny fraction of that. But as our eyes are more and more opened to this love we began to see ourselves as how he sees us and what he created us to be. We see ourselves as His adopted kids with the incredible opportunity to live FREELY and FULLY in His presence on this earth and into eternity. Some are blinded by legalism, some are blinded by earthly possessions, others are blinded by religion, or denomination, or pride, or abandonment, or anger... the list goes on and on. But if we could just take the word at face value... see Jesus as God in flesh who came down to physically touch our lives and breath life in us so we could live.... then might we also want to lay down ALL hinderances to know Him more??? It's not just about HOW we live... it's really about WHO are we living for. And when we decide who we are truly living for... the way in which we live is completely altered for the rest of our earthly existence.