Posts Tagged ‘servants’

Luke 10:17-24 — Today, we move on to a new passage, Luke 10:17-24. We will spend a few days here as well.

Jesus spent a pretty extensive speech in the previous passage about what to expect and how to react to it when spreading the gospel message. Somewhere between Luke 10:1-16 and Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two are sent out to prepare the way for Jesus. At Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two return to Jesus. The disciples are excited. They had expelled demons by invoking Jesus’ name. They were on a spiritual high. They were pumped up.

You know this feeling. If you have ever participated in one of our church’s Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, you know this feeling. You have participated in a Holy Spirit move.

You know this feeling. You have been witness to someone accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

You know this feeling. You have just witnessed the most amazing church service where people let loose and praise the Lord like it’s nobody’s business while at the same time you see that their country is one that suffers from desperate poverty.

You know this feeling. We, as Christ followers, have often seen the power of the Holy Spirit move through us, seen Him act in others and in situations around us, that inspire wonder and awe on our part. When this happens, we feel special. This is how the returning 72 felt. They were walking in the clouds. They felt they had been witness to the power of God and they reveled in the moment. Everything Jesus had promised had played out right before their eyes. As humans, though, we can easily mess things up. Pride can sneak in. We can sometimes take pride in the accomplishments that we see in the name of the Lord and begin to take credit for what happens as if it were something that we had done. Notice that the disciples said, “the demons obey US…” Notice that. The disciples are claiming that the demons are obeying them, rather than the Holy Spirit who is working through them.

Jesus handles this situation with His usual grace and charm. He wanted them to know that they should be excited to see what God can do. They should be excited that their faith allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them. He wanted them to know, “see this is what you can do when you have an all-in kind of faith, that totally sold out to me kind of faith”. Jesus wanted them to know that it is this kind of faith that can conquer anything. So, Jesus celebrated the victories with them. However, He also used the victory as time for additional teaching. He warned them about taking personal pride or credit for that which is of God. The demons were driven out by the Holy Spirit acting through the disciples not because of any special thing about the disciples. Their only qualification was their willingness to be sent. He warned them to remember, basically, to give credit where credit is due, to God. We are the vessels and not the contents. Our names are registered in heaven simply through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and being willingly submitted to Him and whatever He sends us to do. There’s an old saying that “Jesus does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” We must remember that any power that we have has been granted to us not anything that we are ourselves. God uses so many different kinds of people in so many different kinds of ways, there is no common thing that we can learn to acquire the power of God. It is something that He grants us when we are submitted to Him.

We can easily become prideful for the successes that we see in the name of the Lord. The church I call my home, LifeSong Church, in Lyman, SC has been extremely successful over these 7 years of its existence. It has grown from a handful of people meeting in Pastor Jeff’s living room to now where we have 700-800 people on our campus each weekend. It would be easy for us to take pride in that. But as Pastor Jeff tells us as the staff that the success of our church has nothing to do with him as lead pastor or any of us as staff. The growth of our church is, he says, a testament to the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and not us. The only credit we should take is that we are willing and submitted to Him and earnestly wish to do His will. There is a reason that our church has grown so rapidly. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. Yes, we are to work hard and be witnesses and develop systems and processes to make our jobs easier and our work more fruitful, but that is simply the window dressing for what the Holy Spirit does all on His own. Don’t get me wrong, we must have all of our systems and processes in place so that we can indeed not have to think about mundane things and can consciously participate in the Holy Spirit’s move among us. Our systems and processes should be so well oiled that we don’t have to think about our systems and processes – they just work. That is so we can be fully engaged and watch what the Holy Spirit does and assist in any way that He calls us. We cannot take credit for what He does but we can be there as He does it. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

With the phenomenal growth of our church over the past 7 years, we can also easily take pride in the fact that “we get it and you don’t”. We can look at other churches in our area and see them struggling but yet we are growing and say we get it and you don’t. My church is better than your church. Sure, we can see that there is something special going on at LifeSong and be thankful that we happen to be at this place at this point in time with these people doing what God has called us to do at this place at this point in time, but it is not because we get it and you don’t. It is because God has chosen this church at this moment in time at this place with these people. Our only qualification is our willingness and our submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. What is happening at LifeSong is not about how cool our worship is, not about the cool names we give our ministries, not about how talented our leadership team is, not about how special we are as a team, but rather, about God Himself, about the power of the gospel message in its purest form. The only credit that we can take is being willing to serve Him, being willing to share the gospel in His Name, being willing to love as Jesus loved, being unpretentious about who can come to our church, remembering that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

Father, in heaven, I thank you for your providence in which you have guided and directed me to be at this church at this moment in time with these people doing the work that you have called us to do at this time in this place. Help me to always remember that you are the One who makes everything happen. I am just the vessel but you are the content. Help me to always remember that the credit for miracles that we see in the lives of people that cross our doors is not because we are the coolest church in the area or because we have the corner on the market of salvation, but rather it is because of the pure and simple power of you. It is because you through the Holy Spirit change people from the inside out not because of the snazzy building, or the cool music, and the awesome names of our ministries. It is you, Lord. It is you. Help me to remember that you are Lord and I am just your servant with a willing heart. Help me always to give the glory to you for you are the Sovereign Lord. Amen.

Luke 1:39-45 — Have you ever let jealousy ruin a precious moment in life? That could have been the reaction of Elizabeth in this situation but her humility is worth noting when she sees her relative, Mary.

In first century Palestine, a woman’s value was largely measured by the children she bore. Barrenness often lead to personal hardship and public shame. When she found out that she was going to have a baby, it was a long-awaited answer to years of prayer. She would no longer have to hear the whispers as she passed by others. She also knew that her future was secure through her coming son. She also knew from her husband’s encounter with the angel of the Lord that her son was going to be special. He was going to be the one that paved the way for the long-promised Messiah. It was news that just had her giddy with excitement and feelings of blessing. I am sure that we have all experienced those times where we know that we have been given a great blessing. It just makes you feel as though all your years of faithfulness to the Lord have been rewarded. It gives you a feeling that yeah, I really have done the right thing following Jesus all these years. It is a moment of joy and satisfaction. It gives you a moment of pause when you realize when there is a blessing that you know can only come from the Lord. Have you ever received a blessing that you know was only possible through the grace of God? It made you feel especially loved and favored by God. I am sure that Elizabeth felt this way too. There are times when we feel especially blessed. It is the sweet spot of all sweet spots when you realize that God gave you a blessing specifically. Not your neighbor. Not someone you hear and see about on stage at church. Not something you read in a devotional or see on a TV program. It is you that has been blessed. You!

Imagine then Elizabeth meeting Mary. This encounter is when you really realize that Elizabeth is a true woman of God. We read earlier in a previous passage that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous people in God’s eyes. Now, from the scene in this passage, we know it for sure. Have you ever had one of those situations where you had a story that everyone was in awe of but then someone chimes in that they have an even better story than that. Everyone listening then turns their attention to the “better story” and then you are left alone as everyone then follows the person with the better story. We have a modern day example of this from my favorite football team, Clemson. Cole Stoudt is a senior and has worked hard over the past four years and waited his turn to become the starting quarterback. His faithfulness to the Clemson program is astounding. It is a story worthy of praise. He certainly has a story to tell about faithfulness and hard work and believing in yourself. However, he just happened to have a freshman phenom quarterback to be recruited whose talents are far above his. Everyone makes over DeShaun Watson. He is the next four years of Clemson football. What about Cole? He is left behind. His faithfulness had been rewarded. But along comes someone with far greater talent. Cole could have pouted. However, he stuck around and became a man. He could have let jealousy destroy him. However, without Cole over the past three weeks, while Watson has been injured, he has been a steadying force. Jealousy could have derailed a team’s season.

In the same light, Elizabeth could have been jealous of Mary. She could have felt like the kid who had the less great story. She could have reacted the opposite of Cole Stoudt. She could have, in jealousy, been angry with Mary. Elizabeth’s story was a miracle. She was advanced in years and finally was pregnant. And not just pregnant, pregnant with a special child. She encounters Mary whose son they both knew was going to be greater than Elizabeth’s precious long-awaited child. She could have been one of those people who start vicious rumors about those who seem to be more blessed that we are. She could have rejected Mary in jealousy. But that is not what we see from Elizabeth. Amazingly, Elizabeth shows her true humility. The statements about her and Zechariah are true. They are righteous people humbly serving their Lord. Instead of jealousy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy that the mother of the Christ Child would come to visit her. Have you ever envied people who seem particularly singled out for special blessing? Are you jealous of those at church who have positions of authority over you? Instead of being petty and jealous, let’s us rejoice for those who have been blessed. Instead of talking gossip about those in authority over us, let us be humble and realize that those in authority over us have been given that position because God ordained it and we often don’t see their behind the scenes faithfulness to the Lord. Let us rejoice and take the Elizabeth approach and not the jealous approach. Elizabeth knew that her son would serve the Lord and serve the one in Mary’s womb. She was a servant of the Lord not the servant of her own ego. We all are here to serve Jesus. We are all here to tell the story of his great gift of salvation and of restoration. Let us serve the Lord together in the capacities that He has given us right now at this place at this moment in time. All of us are servants. We must serve and work in our positions that we hold no matter how high or how low as if we are working for the Lord. God has you right where He wants you right now because this is where He needs you in the position you hold. Let us be humble like Elizabeth and realize and submit to the Lord.

Father, help me to have an Elizabeth attitude about life. Help me to realize that you bless me daily and give me what I need not what somebody else needs. You personally know me and love me. I should not compare my blessings to others. You are doing a work in me that is unique to me. Help me to have a vertical mentality rather than a horizontal one. Help me to keep my eyes on you and how you sustain me personally rather than comparing myself to how you bless or don’t bless others. My relationship with you is vertical. You are my King and I am your servant. I need to remember that I serve to glorify you and not gain glory from others. Help me to be Elizabeth humble. Amen.

Romans 16:1-16 — Women. Women. Women. OK, guys, now that I have your attention. Let us as men and women read on. In this passage, we find a who’s who list of early Christians. This passage though it seems like just a list of greetings tell us several important things about the early Christian church that we must remember today.

This passage teaches us, first, that just because a Christian woman is submissive to her husband does not mean that she cannot play important roles in the church and its work. We will look at this point today. Tomorrow (Saturday), we will look at husbands and wives as Christian teammates. Finally on Sunday, we will look at the mobility of the early church and what it compels us to be today.

First, there is Phoebe. She is mentioned first in this passage, Paul’s greetings. Some biblical scholars conjecture that since she was mentioned first here that she was the one who delivered this letter, now called the Book of Romans, from Paul to the believers at Rome. She is noted as a deacon. In the first century, deacons were not the power brokers that they are in many Baptist churches today. Back then deacon was just the first step in service to the Lord. Deacons were those that we singled out for the heart for the Lord and service to other Christians. In the early church, they were the ones who took care of the practical day-to-day matters of the church. The fact that Phoebe was a deacon reminds us that women played an important role in the early church. In a time in history, when women has little or no power and few human rights, the fact that Pheobe is named as a deacon is especially striking. This kind of debunks the sometimes held belief that the Christian church has a sexist bent. Paul mentions Phoebe as being helpful to Paul so that means most likely that she helped his ministry’s financial needs. She was highly regarded in the church. She was a woman who helped the church grow and expand. Women were part of Jesus’ town to town entourage (Luke 8:1-3) who helped meet the needs of his ministry and did so from their own means. They were not prevented from helping the church because they were women. They were empowered by Jesus and later his church.

Sure, Paul tells us in many other places in the Bible that women should submit to their husbands (who are submitted to the Lord and loves his wife the way the Lord loved his church – he gave his life for it). However, that did not mean that they were not allowed to be active, useful, and important members of the church. Throughout the New Testament women are given great value by Jesus and by his church. What mattered to Jesus and it is apparent here is that they were believers and they wished to serve the Lord. Women, as you see, here plaid prominent roles in the church. This shows that a woman can be submissive to a truly Godly man in the matters of their home and as a couple outside it but it does not preclude women from great, great servants in the church. Women are celebrated by the church. Women are gifts to us men. They are the true treasures of God’s creation. They are beauty. They are that which makes our world worth living in. They are what make this world worth fighting for. Without women, the world would be a dirty, ugly, and harsh like the nature of men. Women are made to be home. They are our safe place in a harsh world. They are important in God’s plan and they should be important in God’s church.

Let us remember as Christian men, we are given the gift of a submissive wife. With the submission of our wives to us, we are given an even greater responsibility to her (and by extension to God-fearing women in general). We must be willing to die for our wives as Christ died for us. We are called to be sacrificial for our wives. We are called to put their needs before ours. As Christ covers us with his perfection, we are to cover and protect our wives and make sure that they can grow into the flowers that they are intended to be. We are not to keep them beaten down and locked away. We are to make sure that they can flourish just as Jesus makes sure that we are made right with God. As men, we should make sure that not only our wives are allowed to flourish but all Christian women. We should create an environment that these treasures, women, can flourish and use the special gifts that God gives specifically to women. This is our job, men. The way I see it, women will willingly submit to a man when she sees him living a God-fearing life and is demonstrating a Christ-like love toward her as a wife or a Christ-like respect to her as a woman in general. We don’t get submission by being a prick to our wives or women in general.

So, there you have it, women are important in God’s plan of redemption for the world just as we men are. They played important roles in the first century church and were extremely important to the rapid spread of the church. The Christian church is empowering of women because Jesus was empowering of women. Feminists bash the Bible because they read that women should be submissive. Yes, it says that, and, yes, we believe that. However, what the feminists don’t read on and see is that men have a higher calling that results in this submission. We are called to love our wives the way Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He went all out for it to the point of offering up his life so that we would be reconciled to God. We are to love our wives this way. How can a woman not submit to a husband that loves her this way? By implication too, we, men, should create an environment for all Christian women that they know that we will put our life on the line for them, that we will create an environment where they feel safe and can flourish. As men, we should empower women to become all they can be just as Jesus did. He gave them value. We should give them value. If they have talents that can benefit and further the church we should celebrate it and foster it not condemn it and hinder it. Women. Women. Women. They are God’s gift to us. Let us treat them that way. Let us help them become all they can be in God’s plan.