Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Very Different Approaches to Serving

By Charlotte Lowrie

Serving—some call it one of the essential Christian disciplines. It is a discipline, but, for me, serving is a high privilege. Jesus set the example for serving in virtually everything that He did while on earth. But perhaps the best known and most quoted example is from John 13. In this passage, Jesus and his disciples share their last meal together. During the meal, Jesus quietly leaves the table, fills a basin with water, ties a towel around His waist, and washes and dries the disciples’ feet.

When all of the dusty feet were washed and dried, Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Clearly, Peter, who objected to the Lord washing his feet, didn’t understand. For Peter, washing the guests' feet was a job for the servants—far too demeaning a service for the Teacher.

So Jesus explained. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet. I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:12-15 NIV)

Choose an Approach

Recently I had several opportunities to serve. I was excited. It didn’t matter what the service was, I was anxious to serve, and I jumped in with both feet. But while serving, I realized there are two very different approaches to serving.

One approach to serving is motivated from a natural desire to be helpful and to give to others. Another approach to serving is as if we are serving the Lord Himself.

Obviously, there is a significant difference between the two approaches.

The innate desire to be helpful is instinctive for many people. In this approach, we offer our time, compassion, and help to those who are in need. But this approach falls short of the standard that Jesus set for us. Paul describes this approach in Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ that you are serving.”

Serving as if we are serving the Lord Himself not only helps others, but, most important, it brings the light of the Lord into the lives of those we serve. Rather than serving in our limited human compassion, we bring the Lord to others via His work through us. And that changes everything.

Lead or Follow?

But the second approach is harder for several reasons. To serve in this way, we have to be in fellowship with the Lord moment by moment, committing the work to Him and seeking His inspiration and revelation.

It’s also more challenging because we have to give up on assuming that we “know how” to do the task. And this is a biggie! Whether our service is a project for the church, bathing a sick family member, or bringing food to a family, we take pride in thinking that we know how to do the work. And because we know how, we can jump in and do the task quickly and efficiently.

But in the process of hunkering down and getting the work done, we crowd out the Lord. In short, we lead rather than follow the Lord. The result of our service is a practical, lackluster exercise in “doing good.”

Sure the work gets done, but the experience is empty of divine richness and rightness.

Last week, I barreled through the service opportunities as if I were trying to prove myself to the Lord, or worse, as if I were adding a few “good works” to some mental score card.

But the Lord already knows what I can do under my own power. He wanted to show me what He could do through me under His power. And there is no score card—there is only minute-by-minute following Him. I also realized that if I don’t bring the Lord with me in the service, how will others see Him? Jesus told us to let our light shine. And dedicating our service to Him allows His light to burn brightly to those we serve.

This point is critically important because time is short. Whether you realize that your life is as brief as a noon-time shadow, or you sense the nearness of His second coming, our work is to bring His light to all of those whom we serve. Paul emphasized this in Colossians 4:5: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Jesus concluded His explanation to the disciples by saying, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)

Not only will you be blessed, but those whom you serve will also be blessed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What Could We Do If We Didn’t Think We Can’t?

By Charlotte Lowrie

A friend was telling us that she has no luck growing plants. Knowing this, she takes her plants to the preschool where she works, and the children water the plants for her. She described how the children keep pouring in water until the plants are flooded. Regardless of the drenching, the plants thrive under the children’s care.

It occurred to me that the plants thrive because the children don’t know yet that they can’t grow plants. How much more could we do for the Lord if we didn’t ‘know’ (or think) that we can’t?

And with that, here are a few recent thoughts on living every day for Christ.

· You get to keep what you give away. Has the Lord blessed you? Then give away blessings. Has the Lord healed you? Then give away healing. Has the Lord taught you? Then teach others. Everything He has given you, give away to others--never counting the cost.

· The Lord takes care of you even when you’re not looking.

· Get over the shock about evil deeds and acts. Satan is evil. Evil is as ugly as it gets regardless of how prettily it is disguised. The Lord didn’t mince words about satan. The everyday struggle against evil is a life-and-death battle of epic proportions.

· Recent conversation. Question: Why can’t my faith move mountains? Answer: Have you tried to move mountains? And if you tried, would you believe that you could?

· Have you counted up the works of the Lord in your life lately? If you look only at individual works, you’ll learn only individual lessons. But if you look at the whole of it, you’ll realize the big messages that the Lord is speaking in your life.

· Speak of the Lord with boldness. Be strong, be forceful. After all, the stakes ARE life or death.

· Get out of your personal box. You are bigger than your circumstances, bigger than your career, bigger than your problems, and bigger than your finances. You are bigger because God is bigger.

· Look beyond immediate needs and problems. Get a vivid vision of God's Kingdom and what He needs you to do in that Kingdom.

· Humility is not self-deprecation. Humility is genuine when our sins sicken us as they sicken the Father.

· Every single day, claim the promises, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, and claim the power that comes from serving our risen Savior!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Live the Victory on the Other Side of the Cross

By Charlotte Lowrie

Only last month, we marked Easter—a celebration of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. If you spent any time pondering the cross, or considering the burden that Jesus took on his shoulders for our sins, then the only response can be humility and profound gratitude. Time spent at the foot of the cross is humbling.

But the foot of the cross isn’t where Jesus wanted us to stay.

He expected us to get past our sorrow, to move beyond our own sense of unworthiness, and to fully realize the victory and power that His resurrection gives us.

It’s on the other side of the cross, in the shadow of His gloriously empty grave, that Jesus expected us to prevail over all earthly darkness with the divine power that can come only from a risen Savior!

No, You are Not 'Only Human'

‘Yeah, well,’ you say, ‘that was Jesus, and He is God. I’m only human.’ Oh so wrong. If you are a Christian, you are supernaturally human. If you don’t believe me, then believe what Jesus said in John 14:12-14 (NIV):

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Now think about what Jesus did while he walked the earth. He healed the sick, He performed miracles, and He wrought mighty signs, and wonders. And always, He healed all of humanity that fell within His shadow. And He expects that we will do this and even more.

To that end, He sent the Holy Spirit. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26).

As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit now. And the Spirit is a mighty thing. As Bill Johnson points out in his powerful book, When Heaven Invades Earth, “There is no economy class Holy Spirit. He only comes fully equipped. He is loaded, full of power and glory. And He wants to be seen as He is, in us.” (Emphasis mine.)

If you spend any time thinking about what living on “the other side of the cross” means, it just doesn’t jibe with our comfortable routine of church-on-Sunday and mid-week Bible study.

Doing the Work of the Kingdom

The point of the cross and the resurrection was to give us His power. Jesus expected us to see beyond our own lives. He expected us to see, and to sign up to do the work of His Kingdom. What is that work? The work is to bring the light of Christ into the darkest places of our neighborhoods, communities, and cities.

He lived, died, and rose again to provide the power. It’s up to us to believe it and use it.

We are humbled by the cross, but
Live His Victory.