Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Train Your Child To Be Great

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:25-28

The room was full of family. All of them were singing the old lady's praises. She grew up in poverty. Lived simply all her life and was now about to meet her maker. Everyone in the room talked about how she fed them, loved them, and did whatever it took to raise them. They said she had literally given away her own clothing to help others. She was drawing near to the end of her life, but her family was filled with joy. She had served them without any thought of herself all her life and now they were glad to spend whatever time they had left serving her.

Psychologists say that today 80 percent of parents teach children that the priority in life is personal achievement and happiness.  That means those are the priorities for 80% of parents. So there are at least two generations who are doomed to fail.

They will fail because those are not the priorities that bring true success. As a matter of fact, if you want to find personal happiness, making personal achievement and personal happiness your priorities is exactly what you should not do. It dooms you to failure, because the only way to live a great life and have a great eternity is to make servanthood your priority. When self is the priority, there is never any true peace and happiness. When servanthood is the priority, not only does the servant find peace and joy, but the world sees peace and joy.

This has to be one of those areas of life where we, Christians, are radically different than the world.  It has to be because it's what Jesus said and did. The world needs to see the value of the difference and uniqueness of the Gospel. The Gospel is about Jesus. Jesus didn't come to achieve or to be happy. Jesus came to serve and give his life a ransom for many. And, Jesus was full of joy. When we preach Jesus as the only way and don't show who Jesus is, we gut our witness. When we preach Jesus and show it by serving, we give credence to our testimony. 

If you're an 80 percenter, what would it take for you to reprioritize your life? What would it take for you to reprioritize your parenting, your grandparenting?  Start by changing your message. Stop preaching personal achievement and personal happiness and start preaching personal servanthood. Then show your children how to serve others. But, what if you don't want to? What if you don't want to serve? Well . . .

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.