Tag Archives: serving God

October 26; Second Fiddle

John 11:17-57; Mark 10:32-52; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 20:17-28

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, “Wow. This is totally opposite of the wisdom of the day?” That’s what happened to me today.

We in the 21st Century are told to look out for number one, to tell ourselves we are strong and powerful and capable and perfect just the way we are. And we are teaching our children to believe they are those things, too.

On the surface that might sound like wisdom. But in God’s economy, it’s foolishness. In the passages we read today, God explains His economy and you might not like what He says:

“The last will be first.”

“Whoever wants to become great, must be a slave to all.”

(I don’t see those slogans on many t-shirts these days)

I went to my cousin’s funeral yesterday, and heard the account of a servant, a woman who was a selfless friend, whose house was always open and throw-together meals were commonplace (and she often used her gold-trimmed china for impromptu entertaining). She could sit for hours with a hurting neighbor without thought for her own comfort.

She’d taught music for nearly 60 years, and especially loved teaching young children how to play the violin. We heard of incidents when Beth Joy would go out of her way to take a student home after lessons, or drive them to performances, or how she would provide violins for children who couldn’t afford one.

But what impressed me most about my cousin was something I hadn’t realized. I knew she played in two large symphony orchestras, one in Ohio then one in Charlotte, NC when she and her husband moved there. But what I didn’t realize is that for over 40 years, Beth Joy played second violin.

As a musician myself, that speaks to me. And I was reminded of it today as I read what Jesus said to His disciples about “number one.”

The great orchestral conductor, Leonard Bernstein when asked what the most difficult instrument was to play said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem, and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

Beth Joy played second fiddle with enthusiasm. She was the harmony in the life of her family, friends, and students. Why? Because she was a tireless servant of her Lord, Jesus Christ. At 80 years of age, she was still teaching children how to play the violin up to six weeks before she died.

I am challenged today to enthusiastically play the position of second fiddle for Jesus’ sake and for His glory. One thing people kept saying yesterday was that Beth always pointed people to her Savior. It was never about her. It was always about Jesus.

What a privilege it is to play second fiddle in God’s economy, His orchestra called the Church. It’s not about me. It is always about Jesus.

October 21; Use It All

Luke 14:25-17:19

The guy was losing his job. He knew he was in big trouble. He was too weak to do manual labor, and too proud to beg. So he came up with a plan to make himself look good to people who were in positions to help him.

Whenever I read this parable in Luke 14, I am struck by the boss’ reaction to what the man did. It cost the boss money. But he commended the man for his ingenuity. I guess it’s true that evil really does see good in evil.

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (verse 9)

I think I’ve shared that I have recently realized 99% of my relationships here on this island are with people from my church. I am blessed by them and treasure their friendships. It’s a blessing to serve God with them.

But God has been dealing with me about stepping out of my comfort zone and beginning to rub shoulders with people who don’t go to my church, may not go to any church.

Jesus said that if He can’t trust us with what we have, how can He trust us with more? Today I am wondering what kind of steward I am with the treasure that is mine through my Savior’s blood. Am I as creative in the way I serve my Master as the man in the parable was in serving his?

But I am also wondering what kind of impact I have on people who need Jesus, using the material blessing which are mine. Is my house open to my neighbors? I don’t even know most of their names. Is my car transportation for an unchurched friend? I can’t think of any unchurched person I consider my friend.

Jesus said we should use it all “so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I’m certainly not going to take any of my possessions with me. Why am I hoarding them?

If the world is so good at networking, at community, at charity, why aren’t I even better? What they offer is perishing. What I have is eternal. Jesus told us that where are hearts are, our treasures are.

I pray that I will be the kind of steward of God’s blessings who gives all I have. I want to step outside the walls of my church and make friends of people who need what I have. I want to use the material things that are mine to bless others for Jesus’ sake.

I want you to want that, too. I think God wants it of all of us.

 

October 4; Getting Ahead of Maturity

Matthew 9:1-17, 12:1-8; Mark 2:1-28; Luke 5:17-39, 6:1-5

So John the Baptist’s disciples fasted, but they were aware that Jesus’ disciples did not. They wanted to know why. I’ve always loved Jesus’ response:

“Because I’m here.”

But then He goes on and gives examples of garment patches and wineskins. And to be honest, I’ve sat here today trying to make the connection between the Bridegroom, clothes, and wine. I pulled out my old friend Matthew Henry, and wasn’t disappointed.

Henry reminded me Jesus’ ministry was brand-spankin’ new. (that wasn’t a direct quote of the Puritan theologian if you hadn’t guessed 🙂 )  Christianity wasn’t even a thing. Jesus had to grow his disciples before they could be useful.

You don’t put a new patch on old clothes, or new wine in old wine skins, any more than you put new believers into ministry. Jesus is telling us the maturing process is crucial. His disciples needed to spend time with the Bridegroom before the Bridegroom sent them on their way.

I know you’re probably tired of hearing that I’m on the Nominating Committee at church. But as we fill our various committees, these passages of Scripture are timely. There is something for all of us to be doing in ministry, no matter how long we’ve walked with the Lord. But I pray we won’t jump ahead of maturity, by inviting someone to serve where they are not yet spiritually prepared.

Because in Jesus’ example, that results in disaster.

September 28; How Old Is Too Old?

Luke 1

Elizabeth was barren. She and her husband, Zechariah, longed for children. But year after year after year Elizabeth did not conceive. Some who have studied her life believe she could have been as old as 80 when the angel appeared to Zechariah and promised they would have a baby boy. The only thing I know for sure is that she was “well along in years,” (vs 18) and the angel told Mary that Elizabeth was going to have a child “in her old age.” (vs 36)

So, when most women her age were bouncing their great-grandchildren on their knees, Elizabeth very well could have been experiencing morning sickness and swollen ankles. But her pregnancy was a miracle, a long awaited miracle, and I believe Elizabeth probably loved every minute of it.

God asked Elizabeth to give birth to and raise one of the most recognizable, significant men in the Bible. John the Baptist would herald in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus! In fact, John announced Jesus’ arrival even while he was still in Elizabeth’s womb!

Yes, Elizabeth was old. Really old. But God had a job for her to do, and she did it seemingly without whining about it. I think there’s a lesson here.

Let’s not let age determine your faithfulness to serving God in whatever way He asks. When He lays an opportunity at our doorstep, when He nudges our hearts, let’s not sit back and think, “I’m too old.” If God wants us to serve Him, He’ll give us exactly what we need to serve Him.

After all, like the angel told Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” Even using us who have been around the sun a few dozen times. How old is too old? I’m thinking there’s no such thing.

September 17; Hold Your Horses

Ezra 8:15-10:44

Ezra had the go-ahead from the king, and from God to gather the Jews and head home. Ezra immediately organized the people, but when he discovered there were no priests or Levites among them, he waited. He sent for the spiritual leaders, and didn’t move until they were present.

But Ezra didn’t move out the minute the priest got there, either. He led the Israelites in a time of fasting and prayer. They humbled themselves and asked God for a safe journey for all of them, men, women, and children.

Have you ever found yourself moving ahead of God, of jumping into service without really praying about it, of beginning a ministry before you humbly give it to God?

Hold your horses!

I think Ezra’s example is a good one for all of us excited about doing God’s will.

He knew upfront that God was in it. But Ezra still prayed. He surrounded himself with Godly people and they prayed. He humbled himself. He gave the journey to God, asked God to protect him, and to bless their efforts.

And God brought them all safely home. Sounds like a recipe for a successful ministry to me.

 

September 10; Marvelous

Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5-6

Many times in Scripture God challenges our motivation. Why is it we do what we do for Him? Why do we worship?

“Is it really for me,” God asks, “or for you?”

Zechariah shares that God is going to return to Jerusalem, His people will enjoy prosperity once again. Then He says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 6:6)

We can’t deny that God has blessed His Church in America for centuries. We sit comfortably in our cushioned chairs with air-conditioning and state of the art technology, coffee in hand. We feel pretty blessed to be living in a land where we can go to church without fear. Many Christians in other parts of the world don’t share that reality. We are truly blessed.

It seems marvelous to us. But what is God’s take on it?

God makes it clear He’s not interested in the show. He is only interested in our hearts. Do we get out of bed every Sunday to worship God in Truth? Or do we go to church because it makes us feel good? Is our motivation for giving, or volunteering, or visiting shut-ins, our own self-esteem, or have we emptied ourselves and allowed God to use us for His glory?

I’m reminded there are some who are doing things in Jesus’ name, who don’t really know Him. In the end, those people will join the unrepentant sinners in an ugly eternity separated from God.

Let’s not take our blessings for granted. But let’s also not forget why and Who we worship. I pray that our motivation for life, and worship will be to please God out of grateful hearts for what Jesus did for us. Period. I pray that what seems marvelous to us, will be truly and gloriously marvelous to God.

August 31; Every Day

Ezekiel 44-46

I can’t read about the rules God gave Israel for worship and sacrifices for sin without thinking about all that blood. Especially when I understand none of that blood could do what Jesus did when He shed His own blood on the cross. I hope I never read passages like these in Ezekiel without stopping to thank God for His Son.

But God laid something else on my heart this morning. The sacrifices I read about here in Ezekiel occurred every day. Every day bulls and goats and lambs were laid on the altar of sacrifice. Every day.

There are things I do every day. Shower, eat, brush teeth, get dressed, read my Bible. But then I pretty much spend the rest of the day doing what I want to do – or not doing what I don’t want to do. I’m retired. What can I say?

This morning God is asking me what kinds of sacrifices I make in my worship of and service to Him. Not sacrifices to gain His forgiveness or approval, but sacrifices in response to the sacrifice Jesus paid for me.

Maybe I should get in the habit of laying my day on the altar, and let God have it. Maybe I should give my day to God, then be sensitive and obedient when He nudges me toward serving Him. Maybe I shouldn’t spend my day doing what I want to do, but doing what He wants me to do.

Every day.