Archives for posts with tag: love

Called to Serve

“There are some doctrines in the Bible that can be difficult to truly understand. Being a servant is not one of them.”

Christ lived the life of a servant to give us an example of what our service should look like. If you’ve ever loved anyone or anything, you know that serving it is the natural response to that love. Jesus, God himself in the flesh, came to earth to serve. He hid his glory beneath the frailty of our flesh and met our needs. “Christ set the example of service because our service to God is manifested in our service to each other. He not only provided our sacrifice, he served people while he was on earth, especially the unlovely and the outcasts. He fed, healed, taught, forgave, and washed feet, even the feet of Judas.“ He did not require pomp or fawning. He didn’t seek out the most powerful or noteworthy who might help his cause. He is God; he doesn’t need our help. He came to serve because of his great love for people who didn’t know or love him.

There are lots of reasons we serve. Those who have broken the law are described as “serving their time” in jail. Certain careers, like policemen or firemen, are categorized as public service. The reputation of a restaurant can be made or broken by the quality of its servers. You can serve for a paycheck or for the attention or favor that service might give you. But when the goal of your serving is what you will receive, your service becomes self-serving. The kind of serving Jesus modeled was selfless service to people that he chose to love, many of whom were rejected by their society.

“While the world disparages servanthood, God requires it. Jesus said that our ‘greatness’ comes only from serving (Mat 20:26, Mat 23:33), and that he will judge the way we serve him by the way we serve others. Serving those he loves is like serving him.”

I find it easy to serve people I love or people who are pleasant and kind. But it is another story when I’m called to serve the arrogant, the difficult, or the demanding. My pride starts to get in the way when those I serve treat me like their servant. The gap there is remembering whom I actually serve.

My service to others may be as simple as letting them go in front of me in line, or as time consuming as listening to their story. My service may be choosing a kind response to their rude or selfish behavior. It may be investing what comes easily to me in the life of someone who needs it. It will always be choosing to share all that God has given me with the people that God so desperately loves. They deserve my service, not because they’ve earned it, but because I love the God who loves them. God loved us and sent his son (I John 4:10). When we choose to behave as his children, our love for him requires that we love and serve those he loves.
“There is an important purpose for training classes and internship programs. Serving under those from whom we need to learn gives us information and experience we can’t learn from a book. Serving God’s people allows us to see and know the ways of God. The way we serve God indicates the truth about our character and becomes our testimony. The odd thing about God’s economy is that our humble service gives us honor.”

“May what we learn in our service teach us the things of God. May we have opportunity to share those things of God with a world that so desperately needs to be served. May God grant us the thrill of a life lived in mutual agreement with our master who seeks eternal relationship with us.”

Quoted portions come from my book “He Wants You to Know” available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Advertisements

Called to Obey

My three year old son, clad in his dinosaur pajamas, demanded his way. I gave him my best “mother” stare, and repeated, “No.” He turned and pointed back behind down the hall and said, “Then you go to my room!” That was where his time outs frequently occurred, and he responded to my refusal to obey him in the same way I typically responded to his defiance. I felt no compulsion to obey him; he had no authority over me.

Sometimes we obey out of fear, like in Nazi Germany. Sometimes we obey out of respect, like in a courtroom. But sometimes we obey because we completely understand that there are people whose experience and knowledge we need to trust. When we know and respect the people who ask for our obedience, it is easier for us to trust them and comply. When my car or my computer break down, I take them to people I trust to fix them, because I know next to nothing about cars or computers. I do not argue with their suggestions or try to give them “pointers”. I hired them because I trust them and recognize that my knowledge and experience is insufficient.

Obedience has gotten a bad connotation in our society. We like to pretend that we’re in charge of our world, and that we don’t answer to anyone. But the problem is obedience is required when we deal with things beyond our control or outside our experience and knowledge. It would be ludicrous for me to hire someone that I knew was incompetent. It would be just as ludicrous to ignore the counsel of someone I knew that was as expert.

We may willingly give obedience to those we respect, especially when we need their help. When what I believe about God allows me to follow him and know him and eventually love him, what happens when he asks something of me that I do not want to do? Does what I believe and know about God when I need his help match my response when he asks me for something that is hard or painful? If he takes too long to answer my prayer or gives me an answer I don’t like, does that give me permission to ignore his answer? Can I obey him when it’s easy and disobey when it’s not? Will I rely on what I believe and know, or will I pretend that I’m in charge?

God is God, and I am not. The longer I follow God, the more I know about God, the more I will understand that he has all authority and power. I have disobeyed him and suffered the consequences of my ill informed, immature choices. God doesn’t require our obedience so he can be in charge; he requires our obedience because his way is perfect and his laws are for our good. (Psalm 63) He loves us enough to pay attention to us and require us to do what is in our best interest. Our obedience doesn’t make him anymore powerful than he already is, but our obedience will allow us to be so much more than we can make of ourselves.

Obedience is not optional. Disobedience results in punishment and loss of blessing. Adam and Eve were banished from Eden; Lot’s wife turned to salt; Saul lost his kingdom; the rich man in Jesus’ parable went to hell; we are no different. We will obey, or we will suffer the consequences of disobedience. May our belief lead us to follow the one who has all authority, and may we follow him in obedience, trusting that what he asks of us will be for our ultimate good.

Called to Love: Bluebird or Dog?

Sometimes we don’t seem to have enough words. I love chocolate, French onion dip, and tomatoes. I love my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. I love my home and my church. I love sunsets, the sound of waves on the shore, and the utter silence of walking in falling snow. I love beautiful music and the sound of a baby laughing. The love I have for each of those is totally different than the love I have for the others, but English only gives us one word to express all those concepts.

Every morning when I wake up, I get a cup of coffee, put out mealworms for the bluebirds, and settle down on the couch with my dog and my Bible. I love watching the bluebirds. They bring me joy, but they don’t know me. I haven’t named them; I can’t even tell them apart. They watch me warily through the window as they come and go from the feeder. If I move too suddenly or in their direction, they quickly fly away. They’re not grateful that I feed them; they just know where to go to find what they want. I provide; they take…no relationship, just routine.

My dog brings me joy as well. But the big difference is that I have a relationship with my dog. He is eager to follow me to the coffee machine and couch. He will settle himself in such a way that he can feel my touch as he falls back to sleep. He celebrates (by dancing!) each time I return home. He chooses to be with me. He responds to my call and my command. He knows my routine, and he is a precious part of my life and our family. My home is not complete without him. His presence brings me joy. You may not think he is the smartest or the most beautiful dog (though I would disagree!), but I love him utterly, not because of what he looks like or what he can do, but because he is mine. He doesn’t make my life easier; he is part of what makes the struggles of my days worth the effort.

The theme of the Ten Commandments and of Jesus’ teaching is that we are to love. Jesus made clear that the laws weren’t the goal….the relationship was. Jesus said that the entire law could be summed up with the word love. But I fear that too often we settle for “bluebird love” when what God wants is “dog love”. We may perch on the outskirts of religion in order to get just enough to survive another day. We show up when we need God’s provision, but we don’t allow ourselves to get close enough to know his love. We keep one eye on what we want and one eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get too close, and we fly quickly away if we sense his presence. We see him as a threat.

What God wants for us and from us is “dog” love. It is the desire of his heart to dwell with his people and share their lives. He came to us because he wants us to come to him. He wants us to understand that he will provide all that we need. He delights in us and wants us to find that same delight in him. He wants us to know his voice and find fullness and peace in his presence. And once we have, he wants us to share that love with others.

It is so much easier to do the right thing than it is to love. That requires so much more personal investment. I can guarantee an outcome or a finished product with far less risk and effort than a relationship requires. I can write a check or show my support and be done. I finish a checklist of requirements and obligations and never put my heart on the line. When God calls us to love him and others, what he wants is for us to stop going through the motions and just trying to survive; he wants us to love with everything in us: heart, soul, strength and mind.

In I Corinthians 13 Paul succinctly stated that behavior without love is worthless. God doesn’t ask us to behave in a way that looks like love. He doesn’t want us to go through the motions or check off a list to show that we’ve completed the demands of love. He wants us to believe and follow and know him until his presence is where we choose to be. He wants us to love him back and let the love he has for us spill over into the lives of those in our path.

God loved us before we knew him, and God’s love is higher, wider, deeper and more profound that any love we’ve experienced on this earth. Our deep down, “dog” love will put us in relationship that “bluebird” love will never know. Don’t cheat yourself. God loves you. The only two things he requires is that you love him and love others, not out of obligation or fear of hell, but because that relationship is what you were created for. Loving God won’t necessarily make your life easier; loving him and his people will make your life worth the struggle of this life.

Luke 10:27 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

What About God?

Annual pageants in churches around the world bring to life the names and roles of the people in the Christmas story. We know that Mary and Joseph chose obedience; the angels chose praise; the shepherds and wise men chose wonder. What did God chose in this story? What does this story teach us about God?

One of the first things that strikes me in this story is that God chooses to see the potential in his people, rather than the frailty of his people. The world saw Mary as an immature teenager; God saw the godly mother she would become. Joseph was a broken hearted man who had to have believed his fiancé betrayed him; God saw a man who would love and protect the Son of God as he grew up. The world saw shepherds as unimportant; God saw their capacity for joy and invited them to celebrate. The Wise Men were honored for their education; God saw men who needed a personal introduction to the savior of the world.

A second thing that I see in this story is that no detail is too unimportant for God to handle. There has never been a time when God rocked back on his heels, and said, “I never saw that coming!” He handles the details before he leads us forward. Elizabeth was pregnant just before Mary, so I suspect that is where Mary learned about pregnancy and birth. All the rooms in Bethlehem were full; what was it that made the innkeeper offer them his stable, rather than just turn them away? The wise men brought gifts fit for a king, but hardly appropriate for a baby. I wonder if the value of those gifts supported the holy family as they fled to Egypt and hid from Herod for a couple of years?

A third thing I see about God here is that no matter the circumstances, no matter the status or mood of the individual, God comes to us. He comes to people like shepherds who are not looking for him. He comes to people like the Wise Men who have to leave where they are to seek him. He comes in ways we don’t expect. He may show up in a stable, on the Damascus Road, or walking on water. He comes to people who don’t love him back, who don’t acknowledge or appreciate the sacrifice he makes for them. He loved, healed, taught, and fed people who never understood who he really was, who never realized they were face to face with God.

The God of the universe intentionally left the glory of heaven to appear in the humility of a stable, covered with the frailty of human flesh. All of this demonstrates his incredible love for such an undeserving people. He didn’t just want to protect us from the punishment of hell; he wants to provide the salvation that will allow us to spend eternity with him. All he asks of us is that we believe he is who he says he is, and that we trust his love enough to obey his plan.

May you be awed and humbled by the incredible love of this holy God, especially during Christmas. May your response to him be to seek his presence, and may you find joy and peace as we celebrate this incredible interruption in history.

Imagine the pain of loving two people who refuse to love each other. Love is one thing on this earth that is not subject to economics or basic math. We don’t have a limited amount of love that we need to dole out responsibly; we have as much of it as we chose to give away. I remember being afraid the night before my second son was born. My fear was that I’d never be able to love my second son as much as I loved my first. It was literally love at first sight. What I learned was that my younger son made our family more complete. I would always love them differently, but I would always love each of them with my whole being.

I do not understand why the parable is entitled “The Prodigal Son”. While I do see far too much of myself in each of the sons, the focus of the story is on the Father. This story is the best picture Jesus gives us of his heavenly father.

It is the story of a Father who desperately loved two very different boys, both of whom rejected him. One of those boys left the physical presence of his father; the other refused relationship with his father. That father anxiously awaited the return of his sons: one from a “far country”, the other from the field. Perhaps the most incredible line in this story is “When he was a long way off…” Oh how the father must have grieved the absence of a son who had rejected him, who did not deserve his love or the respect of this family, yet he still scanned the horizon constantly, hoping against hope that his son would return. How many nights did that father look at the empty chair at his dinner table and feel fresh grief at the son’s foolish, selfish choices? What family celebrations were incomplete without this precious son’s presence? How many nights did that father fall asleep praying for that son’s safety and protection? How many tears did he shed begging God to bring him back home? This young man didn’t deserve his father’s love when he left, and he didn’t deserve it when he returned. But the Father “runs” to meet that son and doesn’t even let that son finish his well rehearsed speech before forgiving him and restoring him into full fellowship with the family. He was awfully quick to locate the sandals and robe and ring….wonder if he’d kept them handy, just in case. And then he threw a huge party to celebrate the return of a son who still doesn’t deserve his love. But sadly, he’s still missing a son. He went to the field to ask the older son to come inside and make the family celebration complete, but was refused. How often during the party did that father look at the door, hoping to see his older son rejoining the family? The Father shows no pride in this story, but he chooses to love boys whose pride separates him from them. He doesn’t insist on proof of change as a prerequisite of his love; he just wants both boys to come home.

God values each of us individually, and loves us freely and unconditionally. Where did you go when you were a “long way off” from God? May we never separate ourselves from the one who loves us, who desires fellowship with us, and who never stops watching for us to return to him…no matter where we’ve been or how we’ve treated him.