|Serve Humbly For God's Glory|
|The Mastery Of Servitudes||43||Who Knows?||50|
|"I Am Among You As One Who Serves"||44||That Answer Can't Possibly Be Right!||51|
|Loving Labor||45||The "Bear Lady"||53|
|To Serve Unheralded||47||Discussion Questions||55|
|Humble Servanthood Instead Of Fierce Competition||49|
The Mastery Of Servitudes
Last Supper accounts are given to us in all the Gospels. One enduring story is told in Matthew and Luke about a temporary regression in the disciples' spiritual development. In the thirteenth chapter of John, another story appears. Splicing them together, we see the whole picture. After listening to a childish disagreement among His disciples as to who should have the most elevated position in the Kingdom of God, Jesus took off His sandals and put on a towel and gave them a divine example to follow. In one evening, He turned the caste system upside down by becoming a Master of Servitude!
Shock prevailed in the Upper Room when the Master became a servant and instructed them to do the same. Disobedience would have carried the day except for Jesus's stern but loving rebuke of Peter. Compare Peter's reaction in Verse 8 with his second reaction in Verse 9 following a life-changing encounter with the Living Christ. The self-reservation in Verse 8 ("You'll never wash my feet") is replaced by the total commitment in Verse 9 ("not only my feet but also my head and my hands"). I often hear criticism of these disciples for their lack of insight into divine character, but put yourself in their place. Can you imagine God waiting tables and washing feet? Can you imagine you doing it?
Jesus said: "When a disciple is fully taught, he will he like his teacher". Every day that I live in this world, I have to ask myself the challenging question: "Am I like Jesus?" Am I in this world to get or to give, to be served or to serve? Am I in this world to make a profit at the expense of others or to sell everything and follow Him? Am I in this world to make a name for myself or to exhault His name? Am I in this world to find a safe haven or to risk everything for His kingdom? Have I taken off my shoes and put on my towel and waded into life unreservedly? Have I accepted the challenge of service and discovered the secret of The Cross? Am I a disciple?
"Dear God, shatter my status quo and give me the spirit of a servant and the courage of the Christ."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To be a disciple is to be comfortable in the inner circle of Jesus!
– Loretta Jenkins –
"I Am Among You As One Who Serves"
Jesus told His disciples: "I am among you as one who serves". (Luke 22:27) I first learned this lesson in the ninth month of my third pregnancy. My husband was pastoring his first church in Midland, Texas. I was "great with child" and toddling around after two other pre-schoolers.
The ladies of the church planned a mother-daughter banquet as an evangelism outreach, and I was elected chairman of the committee because of my elevated status as pastor's wife. My grumbling began. Why me, Lord? My back hurts. My body's cumbersome. My sinuses are infected. Others are more physically equipped to do this job. Some of my best lessons have come out of complaining. Old Testament characters come alive in similar experiences. Here I was a kindred spirit with the children of Israel. Nevertheless, God tapped me on the shoulder and looked me in the eye and said: "You're the one". No matter how illogical it seemed to me at the time, He was right.
Obviously, someone had been in prayer because a large group of ladies arrived. A wonderful meal was prepared; but, as I had suspected, there were few servers. I was elected. As I served when I wanted to sit, God taught me a powerful lesson which has clung to me through the years. With every glass of tea I poured, I felt His hand in mine. In every friendly word I spoke, I felt His smile warm on my shoulder. When the night was over, I knew that I had walked with Jesus on the common road.
That little church grew and thrived in our 2½ years of ministry, but today it is no more. Who's to say what other lives were touched that night by my small service? I only know mine was, and it will never be the same again.
"Dear God, help me not to neglect the ministry of small things. Blessings break through everywhere. "
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Serving God satisfies the soul. Serving self shrivels it.
– Loretta Jenkins-
Labor Day is the only holiday on, which we celebrate something by ignoring it. On Thanksgiving we give thanks and eat turkey. On Christmas we celebrate Christ's birth and exchange gifts. On Memorial Day we memorialize our fallen soldiers. On Mother's Day and Father's Day we honor moms and dads. On Labor Day we take the posture of Jerome Jerome who said, "Work fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours".
Have you noticed that most of the work that is done to keep the world going is done anonymously? I woke up this morning and my digital clock was blinking off and on. The power had gone off during the night; but somebody, somewhere turned it back on. Yesterday there was a break in the water line that supplies our house. I know because the water was brownish in color indicating dirt in the line. A few hours later the water was clear again. Somebody somewhere repaired the line. I don't know who these people are who took care of those problems, but I am thankful for them.
It is equally true that most of the work that is done to keep the church going is done anonymously. Paul Henderson was communion steward at his church for over 20 years. Month after month, year after year, people came to partake of the Holy Sacrament and never gave a thought about who had lovingly prepared it. Do you know who prepares The Lord's Supper at your church?
The world knows who the Apostle Paul is. His letters are read in the New Testament every week in almost every language. Quite often Paul will mention the name of some obscure person or even provide a list of names as in 2 Timothy 4. In our reading, we hurry past these names, much as we ignore the credits at the end of a movie. Yet these names were important to Paul; they were his supporting cast. In 1 Corinthians 16:8 Paul says: "I will stay in Ephesus till Pentecost…" Where will he be staying in Ephesus, at the Holiday Inn? Whose home will he be a guest in? Who is providing hospitality to this great Apostle as he writes his letter to Corinth and preaches the Gospel in Ephesus? We can't say for sure, but I vote for that person whose name we barely notice in the first verse of the first chapter, "Sosthenes".
In the New Testament only a few names are recorded of those who were laboring in the Church as it was being born. We can be sure that many more were behind the scenes helping things along. It is that way today, and perhaps you are one of the "behind the scenes" persons. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonian Christians "to respect those who labor among you… Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work." (1 Thessalonians 5:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23)
It may be that the Church historic has rallied behind the voice of the preachers, been inspired and encouraged by the musicians, but it has made its way these twenty centuries on the shoulders of the laborers. Look around the place where you worship and wonder about the things that are done there. Who opens up on Sunday morning?
"Heavenly Father, give me a servant's heart, that all I do will be done for a smile from Jesus."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not take for granted the little things done for Christ in His church.
– William Jenkins –
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To Serve Unheralded
Last night I saw the stars spangled upon the black velvet of space. Yesterday I saw castles of clouds floating in the sky. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands."
Today the earth was bursting with color. I saw red berries shining in the sun. I saw green leaves waltzing with the wind. I saw a flower, tiny and delicate, beautifully blue, growing in the mud. It seemed so out of place there.
It had no reward in that place, except to be what it was where it was.
I may have been the only person ever to see it, so it gave me all its beauty and all its blue.
If a careless shoe were to crush it underfoot, it would bear no grudge against the world.
It would rise as best it could to receive the warmth of the sun and smile at the sky.
Perhaps it knows its Creator.
In an old cemetery overgrown with brush and weeds, there are forgotten graves within an acre of forgotten sacred ground. No one ever visits; only the wild hogs, squirrels, or deer occasionally pass through, disinterested in the lives laid to rest underneath their feet.
I was taken to this forgotten place by an elderly gentleman who stumbled across it while hunting. All of the headstones are fallen over and illegible save one. It stands straight and proud marking the resting place of an unheralded Methodist circuit rider. This inscription is carved on the stone:
Sacred to the memory of the Reverend William O'Conner Itinerant Missionary of The Methodist Episcopal Church From Ohio who died October 10, 1843
A December entry in the minutes of the Fourth Session of the Texas Annual Conference simply notes: "…and the first death occurred when William O'Conner passed away." I wonder who were you, William O'Conner?
"Dear Lord, teach my heart to be like that flower and that circuit rider who served You well, unnoticed and unknown to all except You."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will measure my worth only by my value to God.
– William Jenkins –
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Humble Servanthood Instead Of Fierce Competition
Parent's day for marching band is always delightful. The band director has the parents hold their son's or daughter's instrument and practice a couple of "sets." This is a lot of fun. Since I had the pleasure of being the parent on the field for the past two years, my wife finally took her turn. I will refrain from making remarks about how my son's sousaphone (a bloated tuba) is taller than my wife. Proudly, this tuba totin' momma marched the pattern, walking ten steps forward, and sixteen steps angling back. It was a moment to remember and forever captured on videotape.
After the mayhem on the field, the band director asked the students and parents to sit together on the field and philosophized with us. Although they are preparing for competition, the only competition is with themselves. He believes the band can only compete against itself in an attempt to improve and do its best. We agree.
We live in an age where competition is bitter and fierce. Everyone is looking for an edge or an angle by which they may accomplish more than others. To come out on top is the world's goal. Sometimes we can really get caught up in this pursuit. We will forsake everything for an advantage to come out first. I once read of a "successful" CEO who commented that, in order to get ahead, one might have to get a new family. He then admitted, "that's what I did." His pursuit of power and becoming the best cost from his family. He just traded them in for another.
It is time to rethink our values in competition. Being the best or being first is not worth the price, if it costs us our integrity or hurts another along the way. Jesus was a radical teacher who taught us to regard others as more important than ourselves. The apostle Paul added that we are to look to the interests of others and not just our own interests. You can never reach the top without helping others along the way. It is the doorman who ushers everyone else into the building who will truly be honored. Jesus also said, "The last shall be first." Those who are truly humble will be the real winners. A competitive spirit is good when we realize that we are our own competition.
"Merciful God, forgive me for thinking I am more important than others. Forgive me, also, for trying to improve my station in life without improving my relationship with You. You have made me who I am and I am most grateful to be Your humble servant. May I become better than I am without feeling more important than someone else. Humble me, Lord, that I may exalt You! In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I may not be better than someone else, but I can be a better me!
– Thomas Duckworth –
Life is filled with small activities. Most days they turn out to be small in consequence. They are necessary but seldom noticed. Then there are days when the delight of The Divine breaks through and destinies of men and history are shaped. It was such a time when Mordecai said to Ester: "Who know but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther replied, "I will go… and if I perish, I perish." Thus an orphan girl became a savior. It was one of God's best surprises.
Have you ever wondered how God is able to make such marvelous events come to pass by using such small vessels? Throughout the scriptures examples abound. As Queen Esther stood trembling in the presence of King Ahasuerus, I wonder if the small, dark-eyed Jewess knew her meager supply of courage would deliver a nation from annihilation. Did David know that protecting sheep would equip him to kill a giant and disperse the Philistine army? Did Daniel know that his small obedience in prayer would close the mouths of lions? Did Moses' frail arm tremble as he raised his rod to part a sea for a path to the new life of a nation? Did the little boy know that his small lunch would feed 5,000 people when he offered it on the Mount of Beatitudes? Could Peter, the disciple cowering in the shadows on Crucifixion Eve, contemplate baptizing 3,000 souls on the day of Pentecost? Did Paul have the faintest suspicion that the letters he wrote would inspire you and me twenty centuries later?
Consider 1 Corinthians 1:27: "God has chosen foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and weak things of the world to confound the mighty." Small things are God's tools. A handful of dirt created the first man. A baby brought salvation. One book can shape a nation. One word can turn aside a mob. One vote can defeat a dictator. One shot can fell an assassin. One prayer can get the attention of God. One life – well, the possibilities are endless. Let it be yours. The answer to life's most puzzling problem may not come from the name in the headlines. It may come from you. Who knows?
"Dear God, help me to be ready at all times to do Your will. Give me the courage to carry through."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God has a plan for my life. I will trust in Him.
– Loretta Jenkins –
That Answer Can't Possibly Be Right!
The little newspaper quiz asked, "What part of the world produces the most food per square mile?" I first thought of the rich farmlands of the American Midwest. The Amazonian rain forest, the pineapple farms of Hawaii, a rice-growing region in Southeastern Asia, or somewhere highly specialized such as a catfish farm in Mississippi? Not So. According to them the region that produces the most food per square mile is the ocean around Antarctica. It got me thinking again about God and his design of our world.
God uses places we would overlook.
With all the universe to choose from, he picked a barn in an obscure back-country Roman province as the birthplace for his son.
God uses things we think would not be valuable.
The jawbone of a donkey became an avenging weapon in Samson's hands and he killed a thousand men (Judges 15). Donkey jawbones are not in the Pentagon's budget, but God is the creator of creativity who can do anything with anything; he does as He chooses.
He had a donkey talk to Balaam (Numbers 22), ravens bring bread and meat to Elijah (1 Kings 17), and a dove with a fresh olive leaf in its beak brings hope to Noah (Genesis 8:6-12).
Jesus' disciples looked at the five thousand hungry men and calculated that they would need a pile of food the size of a house to feed them. The five loaves and two fish they had were worthless to meet the need, they thought until Jesus took them, blessed them, and fed the throng (Mark 6:30-44). Later he fed four thousand with five loaves (Mark 8:1-21). What was thought to be insignificant became, in the hands of faith, worthy and sufficient.
The cross, as cruel an instrument of slow death as ever devised by sadistic men, was used to make possible life – life to the full (John 10:10) – for all who will believe. The weapon of the executioner has become our symbol of life. That is remarkably odd to the natural mind, but not in the reconstructing plan and power of our sovereign Lord.
God uses people we think could not be useful.
Would you have chosen a prostitute for a trusted task? God advanced the work of his kingdom on earth through the Old Testament harlot, Rahab, who became a woman of faith listed with Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and others in the "Honor Roll of Saints" (Hebrews 11).
If you were on the search committee to find someone to inspire the Israelites to leave Egypt would you have chosen a man who fled the land after committing murder? Would you choose a shepherd hiding in a foreign land to defy the Egyptian armies? Would you choose a man who has difficulty talking (Genesis 4:10) to confront the king of Egypt? God chose Moses.
If you were selecting someone to introduce the world beyond Jerusalem to Christianity would you have picked the most feared persecutor of Christians? But Saul the terrorist-became Paul the evangelist; the man who stood and watched as Stephen was beaten to death with rocks wrote the definitive essay on love (1 Corinthians 13).
"Dear God, my resources seem weak and ordinary, my gifts so meager, my commitment is often shallow, my determination weak, and my self-control limited. Do I have anything you can use? If so, take it. If I can be part of your cause, I will. I want to praise you through word and deed. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus said, "With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
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1 Peter 4:7-11
The "Bear Lady"
I am privileged to know a 'young' woman in my church named Crickett. I say 'young' because, although Crickett is 86 years old, she is one of the most 'young at heart' persons I have ever met. And even in a body that is sometimes frail, God gives her the strength to accomplish amazing things. When the weather is nice, she thinks nothing of walking the 7 blocks to church for prayer meeting or Sunday School. She plants and maintains a beautiful garden of all kinds of ground flowers and two tubs of water lilies. She always has an 'iron in the fire' and is constantly 'on the go.' When she was younger, while working as a janitor in a school, her coworkers named her 'Crickett' because, instead of talking, she was always hopping off to do the next job. Her smile and laughter encourages everyone she meets.
This is somewhat remarkable because she has gone through some difficult times in her life. In an abusive relationship as a young wife, she struggled with depression and the feelings that come from that kind of suffering. Over the years, she has had to rely upon God and his strength; and, in spite of the valleys she has gone through, she is not bitter about the struggles, but thankful for the many blessings she has received. She is one of the most thankful people I know, and one of the most loving. I remember her saying, "I wish everybody could just love each other. I love everybody." She often thinks about how God loves her and that causes her to love others as God loves them.
In addition to being thankful for her blessings, Crickett is a blessing to others in a special way. God has given her a special gift that she uses to show God's love in a concrete way. She is an accomplished seamstress, not of clothes, but 'teddy bears'. Her business and ministry is making stuffed animals, and she has, on more than one occasion, been called "The Bear Lady". She receives orders for bears from all over the country. Former President George H. Bush even has one. Often, people bring old fur coats to her and she transforms them into cute 'teddy bears' or whatever animals they fancy. In spite of poor eyesight and occasional aches and pains, she is able to make about 2 bears a day. She always considers her talent God's gift and she desires to use that gift for others. If someone cannot afford a bear, she makes sure that they get one. She gives them as birthday gifts. I have seen many children's eyes light up after receiving one of "Crickett's Critters." And she gives silky, 'snow white lambs' to her many friends and acquaintances who are sick. Often she is prompted by the Spirit to send a card or bear to encourage someone that the Spirit has laid upon her heart.
Crickett loves to laugh and she finds joy in the Lord each day. She shows what it means to serve God, by serving others. God has given each of us gifts and talents to use, not for our benefit, but to build up the Body of Christ and to show God's love to the world. Crickett's life is a testimony that God can fill us with his love for others, inspire us to
serve others, and that, no matter where we are in life, He can give us strength to "glorify Him in all things through Jesus Christ."
"Father, cultivate in me that kind of constant love for others which you showed to me through Jesus Christ."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will use my God-given gifts in glad service to those around me.
– Martin Adamson –
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From reading the account of Jesus' actions in "The Upper Room" (John 13: 3-17), would you conclude that you (as a follower of Jesus) are in this world 'to get' or 'to give', 'to be served' or 'to serve', 'to make a profit at the expense of others' or 'to give generously to relieve the needs of others', 'to make a name for yourself or 'to exhault His name', 'to find a safe haven' or 'to risk everything for His Kingdom'? As a Christian, do you sometimes find it difficult to take 'the towel and the basin' (i.e., to assume the place of a humble servant)? Why or why not?
Have you ever fallen into the 'trap of self-pity' when you have felt that you were 'overworked' in your local church (and you felt that others were not assuming their 'fair load' of responsibility)? When you served willingly and lovingly in the 'ministry of small things', did you find unexpected blessings as a result of your faithfulness?
Have you noticed that most of the work that is done to keep the world 'going' is done anonymously? Have you recently expressed appreciation to those persons who work 'silently' and 'anonymously' in your local church ('preparing the Communion', 'scrubbing the floors', 'mowing the lawns', 'attending the nursery', 'typing the bulletin', etc., etc.)? What would a 'word of encouragement and appreciation' from you mean to those 'obscure servants' in your local church who faithfully 'attend' to their simple (but important) responsibilities, week after week? Was it important to the well-known church leader – the Apostle Paul – to give appropriate recognition and appreciation to the obscure and 'behind-the-scenes' persons in the local churches where he preached and taught? (Note 2 Timothy 4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Share the name of, and tell something about, the heroic character and ministry of an unheralded and forgotten saint (servant) of God from your past life, whom you greatly loved and who strongly influenced you to follow Christ.
Why is it vitally important for you to 'measure' your own worth, not by the applause of fellow humans or by your professional achievements or wealth, but by your value to Almighty God (your Creator and Redeemer)?
In an age where there is fierce and bitter competition, what should the Christian's attitude be towards his peers? (Note Philippians 2:1-8)
Does it give you great encouragement to know that God has a plan for your life, and that God is able, through your obedience and cooperation, to accomplish more through your life (for the 'glory of God') than you can even imagine? (Note
Ephesians 3:20-21) Can you cite illustrations from the Bible (or from 'Church History') which demonstrate the fact that God often uses 'small things' or 'insignificant things' to accomplish great miracles? (Note Judges 15; Numbers 22; Genesis 8:6-12; Mark 6:30-44; Mark 8:1-21; 1 Samuel 17:49; Exodus 14:16, Exodus 14:21-22)
Cite examples of times in Biblical history (or in contemporary life) when God chose 'unlikely' people (i.e., obscure or weak or 'ordinary' people) to accomplish important tasks or to influence important decisions which helped change the course of history. (Note Hebrews 11:31)
Even though your talents may be small, your formal education may be limited, your physical strength may be 'spent', your resources may be small, and your 'vision' may be blurred, do you believe God has a 'place' for you in His "Master Plan'? Do you believe that, with God all things are possible? (Matthew 19:26)
Give Scriptural evidence that God has given each of us gifts and talents to use, not for our benefit, but to build up the 'Body of Christ' and to show God's love to the world.