Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 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 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

There is no peace

Imagine a soldier returning from war. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among men and women who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying event. Even in the safety of home, the mind struggles to reconcile peace. The smallest thing can trigger an event. A loud or sudden sound. The sight of a certain vehicle. A word or phrase. On one hand, the mind knows that they are safe, but it plays tricks and wreaks havoc when least expected.

The world is, in a way, experiencing PTSD. The truth really is out there. Peace can be found. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they all know that. But a part of them refuses to accept it. It doesn’t look like they think it should. It doesn’t sound like they think it should sound. They’ve become shellshocked, accustomed to things no one should ever become accustomed to. In some ways, it is easier to remain at war.

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Luke 12:51 (NIV)

We’d all like to think that Jesus’ birth should have been the advent of eternal global peace. But that’s not why he came. He came to bring peace to those who would accept it. But, while some accept his peace, others find division.

Jesus’ message was revolutionary. Be last to be first. Serve if you want to lead. If someone strikes one cheek, offer the other. It goes against everything our humanity longs for—importance, status, acceptance.

Like soldiers returning to life after war where peace is a foreign concept, the world has grown so used to its carnal ways that anything else is completely foreign. And they fight against it.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 1:5 (NIV)

Unless there is a revelation of the truth of Jesus’ words, there will always be a fight against them. Human nature cannot be reconciled with spiritual rebirth.

Jesus didn’t come to start a war, but he knew that not everyone would be willing to receive him. But while we work to spread his Good News, he left something with us.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27 (NIV)

Read: 1 Samuel 4-6, Luke 12:35-59

Why wait?

There are many reasons we wait in life. There’s a line. We’re not ready. We’re not prepared. We don’t have the right supplies or equipment. Maybe we’re anxious or afraid or shy. Maybe it isn’t the right time. Whatever the reason, we wait. A lot. Even when we shouldn’t.

Timothy may have be one who had a tendency to wait because Paul gave him this instruction:

Preach the word of God. Be persistent whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

2 Timothy 4:2 (NLT)

I think we’d all like to wait for a favourable time, the right time. And often, waiting for the right time becomes a grand excuse to never really accomplish anything—especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

Paul told Timothy to be persistent whether the time is favorable or not.

PERSIST: To continue steadily and firmly in the pursuit of any business or course commenced.

When Jesus commissioned the disciples to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, he didn’t qualify his statement with a time or place. He told them to go. He told them what they could do if they did and then he was gone.

So what are our excuses for waiting to share the Good News? Maybe we’re waiting to be alone with a certain person. Maybe we don’t think we know enough. Perhaps we wait until we’re comfortable.

If you’re not alone, go for it. Maybe someone else needs to hear what you have to say. If you’ve been saved and know Jesus, you know enough. Get your Bible out and read. If you want to be comfortable, good luck. The message of the cross is uncomfortable.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

2 Timothy 4:5 (NLT)

As the body of Christ, we can no longer afford to wait for the favourable time—because there isn’t one. We’ve been given a message. We’ve been given a commission. We’ve been given power and authority. So what are we waiting for?

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 27-28, 2 Timothy 4

 

No thanks

Everyone likes a little (or a lot of) recognition. It’s nice to be appreciated for the work you do. And we should show appreciation to other who do a good work. There is, however a difference in enjoying appreciation for the work you do and requiring appreciation in order to do it.

Jesus addresses this with his disciples.

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, he doesn’t just sit down and eat. He must first prepare his master’s meal and serve him his supper before eating his own. And the servant is not even thanked, because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, “We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.”

Luke 17:7-10 (NLT)

I’ve seen volunteers quit because they feel they aren’t shown enough appreciation. I’ve seen people turn up their noses at menial work because no one would ever see them do it—and if no one ever saw them do it, they would never be congratulated for it. One must then question the reasons for why we do what we do when it comes to service.

I don’t know about you, but in my Bible, Jesus tells all believers to go into the world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). He tells us to honour our fathers and mothers and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19). He tells us that we should do for others what we want them to do for us (Luke 6:31). These are just a few of the things Jesus instructed his followers to do. But in none of these guidelines have I found the provision for appreciation.

There is nothing that might stipulate that we should only do these things if proper gratitude is shown. In fact, we are told that if you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too (Matthew 5:39).

Christian service can be a thankless job, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to Jesus’ teachings. The entire point of his ministry was to reach those who could not or would not show gratitude.

This lesson is twofold. First, don’t quit just because you aren’t being thanked often enough. You will never know how far your reach is until your race is complete. By quitting early, you may miss out on touching the one life that could have changed the world. Our service has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus. Second, show gratitude. Make it a point to thank the people who do the lowliest of jobs in the church. Maybe even help them out. There is no such thing as stooping in the Kingdom of God. Pastors can clean the toilets and janitors can share the Gospel.

We are all there to serve. Period. We can all be servants. We can all be encouragers. And we can all do it together and be happy about.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 27-29, Luke 17:1-19

A promise kept

I’ve often heard that God can do whatever He wants. He can do anything. There is nothing He cannot do. I will never dispute the omnipotence of God. There is no one or nothing more able than He. But there are a few things that God truly is incapable of.

God cannot lie. It is not in His nature to do so. If He is Truth, there can be no falsehood in Him at all. God cannot hate. Again, if He is Love, there is room for nothing else. So, if God has made a promise, He is unable to break it. It must come to pass.

Israel, as much as they seemed to love wandering in the wilderness or being enslaved by other nations, had a promise from God. They would have their own land. Good land. Prosperous land. And, nearly a half century after they left their bondage in Egypt, they got their land. Every tribe had received their inheritance. They were able to drive their enemies from the land and finally live in peace.

Could they have done this on their own? Most certainly not! They were a fickle nation—impatient with a tendency to be easily swayed away from God even though they were a massive living, breathing, eating, walking miracle. Could God have just pulled them out of Egypt and plopped them in the Promised Land? Probably. But would they have been able to enjoy the land? Would they have had peace within their borders? Would they have learned to trust God?

If you give a kid everything they want without making them work for any of it, what do you get? A spoiled brat! Like Veruca Salt wanting the golden egg now, a kid who has never has to work for a reward isn’t good for much of anything. They’re a bad egg.

But teach a kid to work for reward and they have the opportunity to become successful, valuable members in society. Perhaps this is the same principle God was using in leading Israel from Egypt. Had they made it to Canaan in the two weeks it should have taken them, I doubt they would have been able to take the land. The scouts Moses sent ahead were proof of that.

Instead, it took an entire generation to retrain a nation for victory. God had to wait until the unbelief died off and only the faithful remained. It took 40 years of training and teaching for Israel to finally be ready to take hold of their Promise.

So when it seems as though you’re being led through the wilderness, perhaps it is God trying to train and teach you to take the promise. God doesn’t need a nation of spoiled brats, He needs an army of strong servants.

All of the good promises that the Lord had given Israel came true.

Joshua 21:45 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 21-22, Luke 6:1-26

The secrets of the Kingdom

Do you ever feel as though, the more time you spend in the presence of God, the more you understand and want to experience the presence of God? But as soon as you stop taking the time, that feeling goes away and you forget what it’s like to truly experience God.

Jesus spoke to His disciples about this very thing.

Then he explained to them, “You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them…

Matthew 13:11-12 (NLT)

This is why continual study of the Word of God and regular church attendance is so important. The more you get, the more you will yet receive. But as soon as you close your fist, the gravy train ends and all that you had will be lost. Our faith, our relationship with God is a process, not a single event.

My dear friends, you have always obeyed God when I was with you. It is even more important that you obey now while I am away from you. Keep working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:12-13 (NCV)

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 41, Matthew 13:1-32

Basics

Getting back to the basics is a phrase I’ve often heard in church. But is it biblical? Is it right? Should we always be getting back to the basics?

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become more mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.

Hebrews 6:1 (NLT)

At what point am I mature enough as a Christian to move beyond the basics? I should not be content to stick with the simple teachings of the Christian faith. Otherwise, what’s the point of my faith at all? If it’s not increasing, it’s diminishing. A diminished faith will soon become a non-existent faith.

You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And so, God willing, we move forward to further understanding.

Hebrews 6:2-3 (NLT)

There I have it. After receiving the teaching that brought about my realisation of my need for salvation, it’s time mature. It is time for me to learn – to crave – the deeper teachings of Jesus. It is time for me to work to increase my faith and not to let it diminish to nothing. It is time for me to put into practice those teachings and to be able to bring others into a spiritual maturity. It is time for me to make my faith my own rather than expecting the faith of others to carry me through.

It’s time for me to grow up.