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A Debt To Be Paid

June 17th, 2014
“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt you owe each other.” Romans 13:8 MSG.

Financial debt is not advisable; relational debt is not avoidable.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a debt to be paid.”

In today’s culture, debt has become a way of life. Debt results from your buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care. You are repeatedly told that the world’s economy depends upon it, all to persuade you of the impossibility of living without debt. But you can, and you should. The world’s economy relies upon an increasing rate of consumption. To business, you are a consumer; the more you consume, the happier “they “ are, whoever that is.

The evil genius of credit cards has made resistance nearly impossible. Marketing persuades you to believe you always need more, and better, and newer, and bigger, therefore more expensive. Actually, your needs are not more; your wants are. In today’s culture, debt has become a way of life. Increasing consumption supplies neither security nor satisfaction; it provides only a growing balance of personal indebtedness. Debt is never satisfying. Debt breeds more debt.

I grew up in a modest, but comfortable home. We never had too much, but we never seemed to have too little. I was taught that all you have and what you earn comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. James 1:17-18 NLT. Therefore, the first portion is given back to God as a tithe, in recognition of His benevolence and obedience for His continued blessing. Malachi 3:8-12 NKJV. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, not ownership. 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

From my Dad’s advice, I learned that if I never spend all that I earn, I would always have a little extra when needed. That became a rule of stewardship and personal economy that I still follow today. Most importantly, that Godly advice works. Life is simpler; worries are less; financial freedom is greater. And in that restraint, you learn some practical measure of when enough is enough.

Financial debt is not advisable. Relational debt is not avoidable. “Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt you owe each other.” Romans 13:8 MSG. This verse has always seemed an unusual pairing to me – financial debt and a loving lifestyle. I believe they are mutually exclusive. You are told to avoid debt; you are taught to fulfill love. Here’s how they both relate and differ. Both are obligations to which you bind yourself by free choice.

Financial debt is about satisfying you and your wants. Relational debt is about serving others and their needs. The greater your financial debts, the more preoccupied you become with yourself and the less thought and means you have left for others. Financial debt concerns you with paying your bills, satisfying your wants, and absorbing your extra. Relational debt redirects you toward giving instead of getting, meeting others’ needs before your wants, and returning the good you have received.

Just as debt engenders more debt, love will engender more love. God’s Word is always the best counsel, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 NAS. God’s way is always the best way. You have a debt to be paid.

Today, my prayer for you is to understand that debt will cause you to sacrifice the ultimate for the immediate.

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The Grace of Serving

June 9th, 2014

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”  Mark 10.45 NKJV.

You are truly a servant when not offended to be treated as one.

Today, my thoughts and comments are about, “the grace of serving.”

Who comes to your mind as having a servant heart? My Mom was like that. I observed her joyfully exercise this practical, spiritual gift of serving throughout her lifetime. For some serving is a God-given gift in their nature. For most of us, serving must become a purposeful development of Godly character and intentional practice. Jesus is your perfect example.

And you and I are called to be like Jesus. Now that is a most staggering goal but there is help. “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” 1 John 3.2 NIV. But that is then, and this is now. I would describe this as a process, a progressive work of the Holy Spirit that is life-long. None of us is a finished product in this life time. It doesn’t happen naturally, nor very quickly either.  

There are days when being even a little more like Jesus seems a pretty big task. His goal is clear: “Until we all . . become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 NIV. People often have fairly strange ideas of what that might look like. I find that most spiritual things are a lot more practical and simple than you might make them. When people make spiritual development mystical and complex, they can easily excuse themselves from responsibility to even begin the journey.

Here’s where you begin. Commit yourself to find opportunities to serve others, like Jesus did. “Just as the Son did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 NIV. Jesus didn’t have to serve; He chose to serve. Philippians 2:5-9 NKJV. Serving is a family trait. You choose to serve. You become more like Jesus when you know that serving pleases Jesus most. Pleasing Him is this simple, ”. . through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 NKJV. Serving requires grace, and all grace begins with God.

The disciples were shocked when Jesus knelt to wash their feet. See John 13:12-15. Such a thing was culturally unthinkable, cross-grain to their pride of self and station. They had a lot to learn, and it would be a hard lesson for them. They were looking to be heads of state in His new government. Mark 10:35-41 NIV. Servants of God care more for others than themselves.  

Jesus turned the world system upside down so in His Kingdom it would be right side up. Those insisting on being served are the lesser important in His Kingdom. Jesus said those with a humble and caring heart who choose to wrap a servant’s towel around their waist and joyfully give themselves to serve are the great ones. See Luke 22:24-27 NIV. There comes a nobility with a serving heart. Those who serve are not demeaned; in God’s eyes, they are elevated.

My dear friend and spiritual father, Campbell, wisely said, “Allen, if you want to know how well you are doing as a servant, notice your reaction when someone treats you like one.” That is a good and practical measure of your progress, or lack thereof. A strong dose of servanthood is beneficial, producing serving as a lifestyle, rather than an occasional occurrence. When you enjoy serving, you develop a servant-heart and become more like Jesus.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will feel the joy of opportunities to serve God and others.

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Qualified To Serve

August 9th, 2013

For he who serves Christ . . is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Romans 14:18 NKJV

Humility prepares you to serve; pride prevents you.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “qualified to serve.”

Serving is an art, not a task – elevating, not demeaning. Serving benefits others, while making you better. Serving well has rewards, some are external to others, and many are internal to yourself – such as, personal satisfaction, practical usefulness, and character development. However, the purest motive for serving is simply because it honors God, reflects His nature, and serves His purpose. Serving is just the right thing to do, an expression of love for another and evidence of a redeemed nature.

Admittedly, serving does not seem to come natural to any of us and therefore, we have mixed feelings and misconceptions about serving. Our fallen, and self-centered, nature prefers being served rather than being the one serving. Read Luke 22:24-27 NKJV. By His own teaching and example, Jesus set the standard high; “I am among you as the One who serves.” Luke 22:27 NKJV. In the Kingdom of God, serving is not relegated to the under-qualified; rather, serving is reserved for those who are well qualified.

Even ungodly Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, knew there were qualifications for the best servants. Upon conquering Jerusalem, his instructions were to bring to Babylon the best and brightest: “Bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – young men . . showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s place.” Daniel 1:3-4 NIV. Consider the king’s high standards for those who would serve: recognized potential, practical knowledge, native intelligence, and proven abilities. Would God expect any less of those who serve Him? “Servants . . whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men . . for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:22-24 KJV.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Christ-followers in Rome, most or all of which were servants literally, even slaves, in Roman households, “For the Kingdom of God is . . righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things [righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit] is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Romans 14:18 NKJV. Serving Christ. Acceptable to God. Approved by men. Those are quite the accolades, and could be said of you? And the result? “My Father will honor anyone who serves Me.” John 12:26 TEV.

Practically, how do you “serve” Christ? Jesus is clear, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these . . you did it for Me . . whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” Matthew 25:40/45 NIV. I have often quoted the wise counsel of my friend, Campbell, “If you want to know how you are doing as a servant, watch how you react when someone treats you like one.” Humility prepares you to serve; pride prevents you.

My prayer for you today is that you treasure humility and practice serving.

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Successfully Serving

October 10th, 2012

“I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:29 NLT.

Serving is simply letting God touch a person’s life through your hands and heart.

My thoughts and comments today are about serving successfully.”

Serving is no easy task. That may help explain why so few people ever experience the joy of serving. A serving lifestyle takes so much sacrifice and hard work, and sometimes receives so little appreciation. Jesus was clear about His mission and modeled the only way to serve successfully. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NIV.

Serving is a practical sacrifice for others’ benefit and God’s glory. My friend, Des, has often reminded me and others that, “It isn’t ministry unless it costs you something.” Doing the right thing doesn’t come at a cheap price. Serving is costly – costing time, effort, expense, caring, and the willingness to be second, rather than first. That may not be how you wish it were but is so basic, even obvious, when you understand serving; there is a cost to be paid but incredible blessings result to those being served, and amply repay the one who joyfully serves. A servant has Jesus’ own promise of reward. “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water . . because he is My disciple . . he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 NIV.

Serving restores your heart to God’s original design. Listen to Paul’s words, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT. Serving restores your spiritual DNA when you embrace faith in the Savior. What would serving look like? “Through love, serve one another . . in honor, giving preference to one another . . let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out for the interests of others.” Galatians 5:13/Romans 12:10/Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV. Selfless serving was unnatural to your old nature, but altogether normal for your redeemed life. “There must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy, and true.” Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT.

Serving successfully is only through Christ’s power and enabling. My friend, Campbell, taught me this practical truth, “If you want to know how you well are doing as a servant, just notice your reaction when someone treats you like one.” A servant does not look for notice nor require applause; they just want to be helpful and effective. Serving is simply letting God touch a person’s life through your hands and heart. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything coming from ourselves . . but from God who also made us adequate as servants . .” See 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 NASV.

Paul discovered his own inadequacy to love and serve at all times, and in his dependence also found the solution; “I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:29 NLT. If you depend on anything less than God, you will fail as a servant. If you look for others’ approval and appreciation you will grow discouraged at times. A servant’s heart is content just to please the Master who called us. You too will need, and can depend upon, Christ’s mighty power to work within you, creating a heart to serve and a release of joy.

My prayer for you today is that you find serving to be joyous, not grievous.

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Right Side Up

August 27th, 2012

If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NIV

Discover how God made life to work and cooperate with that.

My thoughts and comments today are about “right side up.”

Have you ever heard someone described as, “not knowing which way is up?” I hope it isn’t you. That is not particularly complimentary. You know; it’s about people who get a lot of things wrong. But the reality is that a host of people – maybe any one of us at some point – are confused about how life is meant to work. Here’s the reality. Life does not often work the way you want it to; life works exactly the way God designed it to work. Briefly, you might be able to manipulate a situation or a person to your advantage, but that is not effective for long. Life has a way of regaining its symmetry or balance as God ordained it. It’s better for you, and those around you, when you discover how God made life to work and cooperate with that.

Jesus’ disciples seemed to always be maneuvering for personal advantage, rushing to be first to request “sitting at Your right and at Your left.” See Mark 10:35-42 NIV. Or on more than one occasion, they argued about who among them would be “considered the greatest.” See Mark 9:33-35 NIV. They thought they knew how things should work from the way things appeared to work in the society around them. Their theory was that those who are first get the most; those who are last get the least. We are so much like them, aren’t we? People always seem busy keeping score, vying for place and importance.

Jesus really confused their assumptions. He talked about a time when, “many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” See Mark 10:32 NIV. How confusing is that? Jesus seemed to be always turning things upside down. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NIV. Eventually, after the Feast of Pentecost and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit His followers were described this way: “These who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Acts 17:6 NKJV. What really was happening was that Jesus and His true followers were actually turning their world right side up – a world as it should be!

Here is how Jesus taught that life should work, “You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them.” That was a world upside down. Here is the Kingdom of God setting things right side up. “But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant . . for even I came not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 NLT. Serving and sacrifice typify people whose lives are right side up. How do you measure up to that standard?

Here is the matter simply stated, “For you have been called to live in freedom . . to serve one another in love. For the whole Law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14 NLT. Living to bless others and for a cause bigger than yourself is the only way to true happiness. Paul commended the house of Stephanas, who “have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV. Through their intentional practice of serving, their selfless lifestyle of sacrifice for others had become habitual, an inseparable part of who they were in Christ. Would to God that would be said of more of us today.

My prayer for you today is that you know when things are as they should be.

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