The Heart of a Servant

“That piety which sanctifies us, and which is a true devotion to God, consists in doing all His will precisely at the time, in the situation and under the circumstances, in which He has placed us.  Perfect devotedness requires, not only that we do the will of God, but that we do it with love.  God would have us serve Him with delight.  It is our hearts that He asks of us.”  Francois De La Mothe Fenelon

As I prepared for my first Sunday School lesson on spiritual gifts, I began studying what the gifts are not.  They are not fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control, goodness, faithfulness. These qualities are also gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they are given to and expected of every Christian.  The spiritual gifts are varied, and assigned to specific individuals.

The fruit of the Spirit does, however, tell us the manner in which we are to use our gifts.  Remember how the apostle Paul said:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

If we exercise our gifts in ways that are impatient, unloving, rude or unkind, they become worthless.  We must not only have the hands of a servant, we must have the heart of a servant.  This is harder to achieve, but much more satisfying than just going through the motions in order to “do our duty.”

How can we develop the heart of a servant?  I know I can’t do it on my own.  It comes only through surrender to God.  It comes only imperfectly on this side of eternity.  I’m praying today for a servant’s heart.  What about you?

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Who Do You Serve? #2

“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward;  you are serving the Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24

I talked in a previous post about how we sometimes dislike serving because of what we are expected to do;  we also often fail to serve because of “who” is doing the asking.  Maybe it’s the parent who mistreated you as a child — now they’re elderly and need your help.  Maybe it’s the unappreciative and critical boss — quick to call on you to fix a problem, but slow with words of praise.  Maybe it’s the needy friend who never seems to have time for you, but expects you to instantly jump to her aid when she calls.  Maybe you don’t even like serving the needy–I mean, why weren’t they more responsible in the first place?

It’s a fact.  Serving others often means serving those we don’t particularly like or admire.  Serving means helping those who are undeserving and even critical.  Are we really called to do this?

Well, the short answer is yes.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”  Matthew 5:46

The reasoning is this: first of all, we’re not really serving those unlovable people in our lives, we’re serving God.  We shouldn’t expect a “reward” for our service in the here and now.  That comes later, and it will be amazingly indescribable:  eternity with the One who created us.   Secondly, those undeserving wretches you don’t want to serve — well the Bible tells us,  ” such were some of you.”  1 Corinthians 7:11.  The only difference is:

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  1 Corinthians 11

Jesus didn’t save us because we were worthy.  He served us and saved us out of love, compassion and mercy.  He wants us to follow His example.  So, go in peace and serve the Lord!

 

 

What Would I Do?

“If time, money and human resources were unlimited and you could start a new ministry next month, what would be its focus?   We’re not talking details … rather, what would it generally address?”

This is one of the questions I ask people as part of the spiritual gifts assessments we’re doing at St. Paul’s, and I think it’s a good one for all of us to ponder.  Answering this question honestly will tell you where your true passions for service lie.  What ministry did God give you a special heart and desire to accomplish?

In my own case, it would definitely be something educational, but educational in a way that helped people to grow spiritually.  Maybe a “school of religion”  that offered classes to ordinary Christians about prayer, spiritual disciplines, spiritual gifts and the like.  I’m attracted to equipping ministries which are defined as:

Equipping Ministries: The heart of these ministries is maturing believers in the area of their gifts, ministry, training and leadership.  It serves a variety of life stage and affinity-based groups for growth, accountability and service.

Your passions may lead you in a very different direction.  Maybe you’re interested in caring for others, evangelism, or offering hospitality.  Maybe you’re interest is in the worship service itself, or in supporting other ministries in different ways.  Whatever your passion, when you find it, and then do it, you’ll feel God’s pleasure.  He made us to serve.  What kinds of service attract you?  I really would like to hear from our other authors and our readers.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them in every one.”  1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

My Temple

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Pregnancy has changed many things for me, specifically in regards to what I put in my body. Of course, the usual suspects, alcohol and cigarettes, had to be immediately removed. But other things became very important as well. I find myself constantly researching the specifics of what to do to stay healthy during pregnancy. How much calcium do I need, how much iron?? Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables? Are the medicines that I take or the products that I am using safe for my new little baby?

How funny it is that this comes so easily when I have a little human inside of me. Isn’t this something I should have been doing for myself as well? Instead of measuring my health by numbers on the scale, shouldn’t I have been focused on what nutrients my body was taking in? And while I would never think of subjecting my baby to the harmful affects of cigarette smoke, why was I willing to subject my own body to this? It occurs to me that if we could only love our own bodies like we love those of our children we would certainly be better off.

It may help us to remember that our bodies are not our own. We were created in his image and it is our duty to care for and protect that which he has made. Easier said than done for sure, but it is certainly something I think is worth working on. It is my goal to try to consider my own health moving forward in the same way that I do when carrying my new little life. So stay healthy ladies!!!

 

Live and Learn

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

Sometimes we use the fact that we are not “gifted” in a particular way as an excuse.  We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t bother to witness, offer acts of service, or show mercy because it isn’t our “gift.”  This is wrong and not Biblical.  Our individual gifts will be our serving “sweet spot” — they will show us where to concentrate our efforts.  That doesn’t mean we can never do things that are outside of our natural comfort zone. Living the Christian life means learning and growing.

One way to do this is observe those with a particular spiritual gift and imitate them.  I have several friends with the gift of hospitality.  I may never be able to match their effectiveness and joy in opening my home to others;  but I can watch and learn.  I can take note of how they try to make their guests comfortable and welcome and I can try to incorporate some of those things into my own life.  I can take some steps in the direction of becoming a more hospitable person.

I have another friend who once talked to be about how she had taken care of her mother when she became elderly and ill.  She said she came to realize that God gave her that opportunity so she could learn to be a better servant.  She has the gift of mercy.  I don’t, but when I faced the same situation with my mother, her words encouraged me and helped me to see unpleasant tasks as an opportunity instead of a chore.

My husband has the gift of teaching.  I don’t.  But I have learned some of his techniques by many years of sitting in his classes.  When I need to step up and lead a Sunday School class, I do not have his poise and natural style of delivery, but I do have the gift of knowledge, and I can work to impart that to others.  In the same way, my husband does not have a natural gift of encouragement, but he has seen me send cards and notes and give hugs, and he reminds himself that sometimes these things are good to do even if it’s not his natural inclination.

In the verse above, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to imitate his life, just as he is trying to imitate Christ.  We too should find godly people within our church and strive to imitate them.  Remember the story of the little boy with the small number of loaves and fishes?  Jesus used his small gift to feed 5000!  Give your willing gift, however small, to Christ and he will multiply it and use it to bless others.

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

This probably should have been one of my first posts, so I apologize, while reminding my friends and all readers that I have never been a linear thinker.  If you would like to know exactly what the spiritual gifts are, and where they are listed in the Bible, this will help you out.  You can look up the passages and do more research on your own if you’re so inclined.

It might be worthwhile to note (and I did mention this is a previous post) that most Lutherans believe that certain gifts have “ceased.”  Since we have the complete Holy Scriptures, we no longer need prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues.  These gifts were given in order to speak forth or authenticate God’s Word and his messengers.

Romans 12

  1. Encouragement

  2. Giving

  3. Leadership

  4. Mercy

  5. Prophecy

  6. Service

  7. Teaching

1 Corinthians 12

  1. Administration

  2. Discernment

  3. Healing

  4. Interpretation of Tongues

  5. Tongues

  6. Prophecy

  7. Wisdom

  8. Apostle

  9. Faith

  10. Helps

  11. Knowledge

  12. Miracles

  13. Teaching

Ephesians 4

  1. Apostle

  2. Pastor

  3. Teaching

  4. Evangelism

  5. Prophecy

1 Peter 4

  1. Serving

  2. Teaching

 

One In Mission

I found this newer hymn in With One Voice.  It was written in 1985 by Rusty Edwards, a Lutheran pastor, and expresses a modern vision of the unity and gifting of the church.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same LORD. 6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12 4-5

Listen and enjoy.