Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When Serving Seems Wasted

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:45

     Not long ago I saw a post on social media. It brought back a lot of great memories. I remember how they were when they showed up at our church, and I remember how our people served them. It was like watching 1 John 3:18 played out, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." I remember watching as they become part, got excited about Jesus, and began to serve others rather than just being served themselves. It was one of those stories that you sit around and say, "God, you're good. You're right. You used your people to restore these people."
     The post also renewed the pain. See, after all that, they went back. All that work. All that prayer. All that service. It all bore fruit. They were transformed. They moved from being desperately in need to meeting needs in the name of Christ. And then they went back. They began to drift in devotion to the church family. They began to drift in devotion to God. Another crisis came and they stopped serving others, devoting all their attention to themselves. People reaching out again, serving, praying, encouraging, but it got harder. It got harder because they never responded. It also got harder because even the greatest servants are still human. And, after awhile, it's hard to keep serving people who seem to take and take and never give.
     The post reminded me of one of the greatest challenges of servanthood. It's the one that happens when you've served and served and it seems your service, your love, and your caring was wasted. I saw their post, and I was angry. I wasn't angry at God. I was angry at them. I was resentful that our church had done so much for them and they had responded like they had.
     So, I sat down to write this. I sat down to remind myself about the only pure motive for servanthood. We're told that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. We're told that people don't respond to the Gospel anymore until they have seen it in our lives, and that we are to build relationships with them - we are to serve them.
     We are to serve them, but it's not our service that saves. Only the Gospel saves. We are to love, but it's not our love that saves. It's only the love of Christ fulfilled on the Cross and believed upon after hearing this same good news. We are to serve and to love. We should hope and pray that others see the love of Christ in our love and our service. But, never delude yourself into thinking that those you serve owe you. They owe you nothing, but you owe Him everything.
     Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. We should never serve someone so they will serve us, even if that service is becoming a believer and part of our church. I think there may even be some twisted pseudo-Christian ethic deep inside us that thinks that people "should" believe in Jesus because "we" have been so loving to them. Yes we want them to believe. But, we must guard against any thought that we had anything to do with their belief. 
     Everything we do we do for His glory, not ours. People only truly believe when they believe in the only true love - the love God expressed pristinely in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People are only saved because of His love, not ours. So, the only motivation that works for the child of God is the love of God. We must serve others because He first loved us and so we love Him. All other motivations will be revealed in resentment or discouragement. Why? Because most of the people we serve and preach to will not believe in Him. The road to destruction is broad and many are on it. The road to eternal life is narrow and few there are who find it.
     So, if you have ever wondered if your service has been in vain, check your motive. Did you serve so they would join your church, or even so they would profess faith in Christ? Did you become their friend so they would become yours? Or, did you serve because you are a sinner loved and saved by a gracious God?
     Your purpose is to serve, not to be served. To love, whether they believe or not. Your purpose is to love the one who loved you first. Any other motivation that the love of Christ, will result in your downfall. You will become jaded at best, resentful at worst. And, if you quit serving you will become small in the kingdom, for the greatest in the kingdom are those who serve.
     When your service seems wasted, remember Christ. They took all His love and put Him on the cross. Still He loved them, and He will empower you to love them as well. Keep your love for Him front and center. Every time you give a cup of water, give it to Him.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Police Jury Election, The Tax Renewal For The Animal Shelter & Christian Stewardship

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

     Everything belongs to God, including you. When you believe in God through Jesus, His Son, you surrender the control of your self. You confess that He is Lord of Your life, and joyfully give yourself to His word and His ways. His Word begins to inform and shape your opinions, your desires, and your direction. Before you believed in Jesus, you thought you owned your cars, your house, and even yourself. Now you know you don't. Rather than being an owner of everything, you've recognized that you're just a steward, a caretaker of everything in your life. There's great peace in knowing that God has and will provide all you need, and all you have to do is take care of it for Him.
     What does stewardship have to do with local politics and an animal shelter? Well, a great deal. Most of us will vote for the police juryman we believe stands the best chance of fixing our roads. We want an official who will take care of our tax money, and we should. But, these aren't really our roads, and that's not really our tax money. It's all God's. We should elect someone who will also be a good steward of all within his realm of responsibility. 
     What about the animal shelter tax? Well, the animals belong to God, too. So, if you have animals, and you're a follower of God, you're supposed to take care of them. The shelter is a place for those animals whose keepers have failed in their stewardship.  So, will those realities impact your vote?
     As a follower of Christ, you have a responsibility to take care of the environment because it belongs to God. It's easy in a world of radical environmentalism to forget that it's the believer's responsibility to take care of the world. The Bible doesn't dismiss environmentalism. It defines it. That responsibility extends to the animal kingdom as well. In a world where many people seem to love animals more than humans, it's easy to forget that. Don't.
     Look, animals aren't humans. They're not eternal. God didn't create them in His image, nor did He breathe the breath of life into them. They are given to mankind to have, use, even consume, but not in an irresponsible manner. The Bible says God created animals, takes joy in them, and uses them for His glory. While they have no soul, they reason and have emotion of a sort.
     So, a person who takes God's ownership of all things seriously, and His Word seriously, will treat animals humanely. "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." (Prov. 12:10) If all people would do that, we wouldn't need an animal shelter. There would be no indiscriminate breeding, no starved livestock, and no abandoned pets.
     That doesn't mean we would never kill an animal. God gave many animals for food. It means that when you kill an animal for food, you do so humanely. It also means that when stray animals must be destroyed, it is to be done humanely. That's what an animal shelter does when it cannot place the animals with someone who will take care of them.
     Now, He did not send His Son into the world to save the earth or the animals. He sent His Son to save human beings. When He returns, he will redeem the world from the curse of sin, but at the end of the age He will also destroy the existing heavens and the earth and create a new Heaven and earth in which redeemed men, women, boys, and girls will live with Him. Until then, followers of Christ should take good care of the earth, all it contains, and those who dwell on it as they go about demonstrating the Love of Christ and preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dixie League: Savior Or Satan

     It is Spring so two things are in the air - pollen and baseball. In the past that meant three practices and two games a week. Now it can mean a lot more. No one likes to lose, but sometimes we get so obsessed with winning that we will make our kids do whatever it takes to win.
     For Christians whose kids are involved in ball, being faithful to God, church and playing ball can be a challenge. Many will attend church less until the season is over. Some will just check out all together. If you've decided that you can substitute ball for church and still be a faithful follower of Christ, we disagree and this article isn't for you. But, if you're trying to help your kids take advantage of a great team sport and still be faithful to God and church, read on.
     Baseball isn't Satan. It won't turn you or your kids into win-crazed sports junkies. It also isn't the Savior. Sports won't save your kids. You still have to parent and they still need Jesus. If your goal is to live your life on mission for God, the ball field provides you a great mission field. The challenge is to remain committed to Christ and His church, while playing ball. How can you love your kids, help them enjoy a great team sport, and have some great family time while glorifying God and making Him known?

#1 - See the mission field at the ballpark. Life on mission means the mission field is wherever you go. So, build relationships with parents and coaches. Look for spiritual and physical needs and meet them. Pray with your children for the team, the opponent, and for your coaches. Ask God to show you doors of ministry in those people's lives. Display the love of Christ by serving, coaching, and caring rather than criticizing and cussing the kids, the coaches, and the umps. Share the Gospel and invite people from the field to your church.

#2 - Make God's glory your goal, not making it to all-stars. We've all either seen or been that parent. You know the one; the parent, grandparent, or coach who loses it. We know how poor a witness that is. When God's glory is your priority, you're much less likely to lose it at the ballpark. You will love the kids, support the coach and be a witness to the sufficiency of Christ whether you win or lose. Remember that you aren't going to glorify Christ if you act the fool at the ballpark.

#3 - Enjoy the experience. Whether your kid starts or not, whether your team wins or loses, when the ball field is your mission field, you'll never lose. Every moment is an opportunity to enjoy the life God has given you, enjoy the game, enjoy the people, and display the joy of the Lord.

#4 - Preach the Gospel with your priorities. Some professing Christians will have no problem practicing and playing while their church meets. Will you or will your priorities reflect the priority of worship and the body of Christ? If you're a coach, don't set practices on Wednesdays and don't play on Sundays. If you're a parent, let your kids and their coaches know you won't practice or play when your church is meeting. Don't do it with a holier than thou attitude. Just humbly make your kids and their coaches aware of what's important to you. 

Imagine how great the season can be when you live it on mission for God.

Photo Credit: Wildernice/Original uploader was en:User:Barry Bonds at en.wikipedia