Summer Vacation and Sharing the Gospel: Having fun and Overcoming Spiritual Shyness. 2 Timothy 1:3-12.

Shyness and Invitation

There is a song whose lyrics go something like this,

“Shyness is nice, and Shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life You’d like to… Coyness is nice, and Coyness can stop you from saying all the things in life you’d like to. So, if there’s something you’d like to try. If there’s something you’d like to try. Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”

Rather cute lyrics, to a lovely and funny and very interesting song.

…I love the people who are courageous enough to ask me…

But where are the people who are courageous enough to ask me?

Summer Vacation? It is that long awaited time and season of the year.

Spread all over the globe.

Spread all over God’s creation having their own special and unique kind of fun.

We are never shy about our having our fun. We want and need our family time.

Yep! We are never shy about having our fun. We earn our fun – are entitled to it!

“Shyness is nice, and Shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life You’d like to… Coyness is nice, and Coyness can stop you from saying all the things in life you’d like to. So, if there’s something you’d like to try. If there’s something you’d like to try. Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”

Rather cute lyrics, to a lovely and funny and interesting and intriguing song.

…I love the people who are courageous enough to ask me…

But where are the people who are courageous enough ……

To ask me about MY SOUL and the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

2 Timothy 1:3-12Amplified Bible

I thank God, whom I worship and serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayer’s night and day, and as I recall your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I remember your sincere and unqualified faith [the surrendering of your entire self to God in Christ with confident trust in His power, wisdom and goodness, a faith] which first lived in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am confident that it is in you as well. That is why I remind you to [a]fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or about me His prisoner, but with me take your share of suffering for the gospel [continue to preach regardless of the circumstances], in accordance with the power of God [for His power is invincible], for He delivered us and saved us and called us with a holy calling [a calling that leads to a consecrated life—a life set apart—a life of purpose], not because of our works [or because of any personal merit—we could do nothing to earn this], but because of His own purpose and grace [His amazing, undeserved favor] which was granted to us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago], 10 but now [that extraordinary purpose and grace] has been fully disclosed and realized by us through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who [through His incarnation and earthly ministry] abolished death [making it null and void] and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher [of this good news regarding salvation]. 12 This is why I suffer as I do. Still, I am not ashamed; for I know Him [and I am personally acquainted with Him] whom I have believed [with absolute trust and confidence in Him and in the truth of His deity], and I am persuaded [beyond any doubt] that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until [b]that day [when I stand before Him].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Personal Shyness can be excruciating debilitating at times.

It has definitely affected and impacted my life negatively over the years. How many times has shyness stopped me accepting the invitation of life, too many?

Some folks might find this hard to believe, but I can be embarrassingly shy. It takes me time to feel comfortable enough to be myself in new environments.

There is a very definite and palpable shyness about me.

I’m better than I used to be.

Or at least I like to believe I am ….

Or maybe I am still playing myself for the king’s fool ….

Doing better or doing worse?

Some days it is almost impossible for me to tell myself there is a difference.

I’m sure folks who see me in my day-to-day stuff find this hard to believe, but it is true all the same. It takes me time to feel comfortable in my own being, in new company, with my neighbors and new situations. Thank God though that, by His Grace alone, these days it rarely leads me to turn down the invitation.

There have been times when I have hidden myself from view, literally hidden my face, afraid to pop my head above the parapet for fear of being shot down.

My mother and my kindergarten teacher knew this and saw how different and silent I was towards my fellow students on my first days at elementary school.

She took us all to school on our first days, but I reacted differently from my siblings who just so easily ran and freely joined the other children. I did not,

I walked through the doors of my new classroom, swallowed hard and sat down in the corner utterly overwhelmed and bewildered by it all. I did in time adjust and found a level of comfort in the crowd, but it took time. It has been the same throughout my life. I do eventually become a part of the whole, but it takes time.

I do not seriously believe I am alone in these feelings; in fact, I know I am not.

We all experience shyness in some form or another, especially when invited and take the first steps into something new, particularly if is something that might be wonderful, but will definitely make them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.

By the way we are always uncomfortable, vulnerable, that is the nature of life.

Think about the first time and that last time you walked into a new community, a new neighborhood or a new school or new classroom you became a part of. It takes time to feel you belong and can be wholly yourself. I know it does for me.

For those about to go to college, away from home, for the first time, far away in another state or in another state – you are moving into the university’s dorms, about to move in with another human being who will be your roommate for the four years or even more – yes! shyness can be good – In the beginning of it all.

Shyness is a beautiful thing, so long as it does not stop or short circuit us from doing those things our hearts and our souls’ desire. It’s ok to feel the trembling excitement of shyness, but it can become unhealthy if it burdens, enslaves us.

The Irish Poet David Whyte writes that “Shyness is the sense of a great unknown, suddenly about to be known. It is the exquisite and vulnerable frontier between what we think is possible and what we think we deserve”.

This is an exciting feeling actually. Yes, there is fear there, but perhaps also an excited kind of anticipated joy too. It is not in and of itself a negative feeling.

To me these feelings are the essence of the spiritual journey, which is not a safety-first way of living and breathing by the way.

No, it compels us to deal with powerful feelings and discover new ways of being in the world. This can feel quite daunting at times but should not cause shame.

It is natural, healthy and necessary actually. To just brashly step into anything without any shyness can lead to problems not only for ourselves but others too.

These uncomfortable feelings are needed as we explore the great new mysteries life is offering us. This is the invitational nature of life and the Gospel of Jesus.

That said we are not alone in these feelings, no matter how alone we might feel, this is why it is so vital, so critical, to be a part of a community that journeys on through these adventures, inviting us onto the great unknown that is our lives.

2 Timothy 1:7-8 Amplified Bible

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or about me His prisoner, but with me take your share of suffering for the gospel [continue to preach regardless of the circumstances], in accordance with the power of God [for His power is invincible],

Timidity: https://www.blueletterbible.org/rsv/2ti/1/7/t_conc_1126007

Timidity: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1167/rsv/mgnt/0-1/

Spiritual shyness is that uncomfortable feeling or sense of anxiety that grips you and me when we have an opportunity to talk with someone about the Lord.

We have all been there, haven’t we?

The opportunity presents itself, even on vacation, but we choke under pressure.

We are on vacation to have fun, relax, decompress from all the stress of work.

We need to be with our family and our friends to quite simply: max out our fun!

Most everyone we encounter – campers etcetera, are there to do the very same!

We are the last ones who want or desire to interrupt our fun and someone else’s.

We do not want, nor do we desire to be a “killjoy” of someone else’s fun times.

We kind of tell God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit “its ok to take a break, find Shalom, take several Sabbath Days or weeks of rest from having to deal all of the time with all of our moaning, groaning, perpetual bent towards sinning.”

It is okay, God! Take Your Rest! Because that is exactly what we are going to do.

We take our rest! We seek or Shalom! and gave God permission to seek His Rest!

So, we then unexpectedly encounter that “stirring deep within our souls.”

Our hearts subtly, suddenly, become “strangely warmed” by a close encounter.

It is God who refused our “invitation” to go on His much-deserved vacation.

God is whispering into our pursuit of Shalom:

“HOW IS IT WITH YOUR SOUL?”

“HOW IS IT WITH “YOUR NEIGHBORS” SOUL?” sitting alone with their drink at the bar, with their feet propped up on the ottoman by the nice warm fire?

And we effectively – DO NOTHING to respond to the stirring within our souls.

Spiritual shyness afflicts all of us at times.

In these situations, we never quite get around to asking someone “the big question” about their soul or offering “the invitation” to come, seek Jesus.

Matthew 10:40-42Amplified Bible

The Reward of Service

40 “He who receives and welcomes you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives and welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous (honorable) man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones [these who are humble in rank or influence] even a cup of cold water to drink because he is my disciple, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”

Back in the early 1900s, Henry Ford purchased a large insurance policy for all his employees. A newspaper got wind of the story and publicized the details.

One of Ford’s close friends, who was an insurance salesman, read about it and became quite upset. He called Ford and asked why he hadn’t purchased a policy from his company. Henry Ford simply replied, “Because you never asked me.”

How many of our family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances could say to us, “I never believed in Jesus because you nor anyone else never dared asked me to?

“I never joined God’s family because you never invited me to.”

What is our vacationing God trying to communicate to us about our neighbor nursing their drink all alone at the bar or with both their feet up, by the fire?

Paul reminds us “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power.”

God is the One who can be on vacation and at the same time “tame” our fears about whatever it is we are fearful of or whatever it is we believe we are being shy about. With prayer and discipline, we can vacation as an effective witness.

“Shyness is nice, and Shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life You’d like to… Coyness is nice, and Coyness can stop you from saying all the things in life you’d like to. So, if there’s something you’d like to try. If there’s something you’d like to try. Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Here we are again, Lord, 

At thy Invitation, we are here again ……

With much timidity and with much trembling ……

on our knees, trying, pleading, seeking thy Face,
Crying mercy.
Mercy for our souls,
Mercy for one another,
Mercy for our churches,
Mercy for our nation,
mercy for our world.

Here we are again, at thy invitation,
Standing in your presence
in awe of you your holiness,
your otherness,
your mystery,
and your incarnation

With much Timidity and with much Trembling,

seeking Your Holiness,

seeking to be more like You

and less and less like our true and embarrassingly timid selves,

Acts 1:8 Amplified Bible

But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”

From my wholehearted timidity into and unto thy resurrection courage ……

Give “thy teeth” today unto, into my prayer and my affirmation of faith ……

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee.
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

https://translate.google.com/

Why should I be a Servant anyways? Because our Loving our God Means Submitting to God. Matthew 20:20-28

In a sermon I once asked an older congregation,

“What is the best way to teach children?”

And the congregation answered enthusiastically, “By example!”

In that sermon, I had quoted Albert Schweitzer, saying, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Rabbi Jesus taught by example what he expects from us. Facing the cross, he illustrated submission and leadership at the last supper with his disciples when he washed their feet and said they should now serve one another (John 13:3-17).

The concept of submission is often misunderstood.

It isn’t a matter of allowing others to walk all over us.

As Paul applies it to marriage in Ephesians 5, submitting means that both the husband and wife seek their partner’s well-being. It’s 100% not a hierarchy!

It’s not about authority but about being subject to one another, serving one another—doing so “out of reverence for Christ,” who gave his very life for us.

When Salome the mother of James and John asked for places of authority for her sons in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus explained that lording it over others is not the way of the kingdom. He urged them to follow his example: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Whom can you serve and build up, for Jesus’ sake, today?

Matthew 20:20-28 Amplified Bible

Preferred Treatment Asked

20 Then [Salome] the [a]mother of Zebedee’s children [James and John] came up to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down [in respect], asked a favor of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit [in positions of honor and authority] one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus replied, “You do not realize what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup [of suffering] that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink My cup [of suffering]; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the [other] ten heard this, they were resentful and angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave; 28 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 [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Let’s just go ahead and ask the question no one asks: Why Be a Servant at all?

I wonder how many of us are just as interested in Service.

My guess is that few are genuinely enthusiastic to learn more about Service, and a typical response would be,

“Why should I be a servant?

“What is so good about serving?”

“I don’t have time for it, and it’s not really my cup of tea.”

“Let those who enjoy serving and who have the time for it get involved in it.”

Well, do these responses come from someone more devoted to following Christ their Savior or do they come from one more devoted to following the world?

Perhaps it is not a “fair question” to ask in these divided times and seasons when churches are struggling as much as they are just to stay open and viable.

“Why be the church, anyway?” is a question I have seen asked so many times and in so many different ways – each way expressing more and more angrily.

I ask because we also live in a secular world where more people strive diligently for high positions of power and leadership, and for more fame and recognition.

We live in a world where few people want to be servants – after all where is the glory and the honor and the nice paycheck for the server in serving someone.

And if there are people who do serve, they serve only because of the prospect of personal gain – in terms of money, honor, power, prestige or recognition.

That is the way things are done in the world.

It is considered demeaning to serve others, and it is considered foolish to serve for nothing. But in our Gospel narrative, Christ requires us to take a very radical and vastly different view of service, and this can be seen in Matthew 20:20-28.

The passage begins with a personal request made by the mother of James and John, who were two of the twelve disciples of Jesus.

She came to ask Jesus to let her sons have the best positions in His kingdom – second only to Jesus Himself: One son to be His ‘right hand man,’ and the other son to be His ‘left hand man.’

I think we can all understand why she had made such a bold request from Jesus:

Does not every loving mother want only the absolute best for her precious sons?

However, the parallel passage in Mark 10:35-37 reveals that it was her sons who had engineered this request!

James and John were the ones vying to get the top positions for themselves. 

Perhaps what Jesus said to the disciples a little earlier had stirred up their ambitions – “Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)

Their minds were so captivated with this coming glory that they hardly paid any attention to what Jesus said in the two verses just before our passage: 

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him ….” 

All this talk about humiliation somehow did not register at all in their minds, as they were so preoccupied with the glory they wished for.

So, perhaps what James and John did was to get their mother to help them so that it might look more like her request than theirs.

She gladly followed their script closely, bowing down to Jesus and saying,

“Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” (v.21)

I want you to note the important phrase, ‘in Thy kingdom’ at the end of this verse. Whose kingdom is this? Christ’s kingdom.

These disciples mistakenly thought that the mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom was to be in the highest positions of honor.

If that were true, then Christ’s kingdom would be no different from the world’s kingdoms where authority and prestige and power matter most. 

This provides the background for what Christ said in vv.25-27,  

“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” 

Jesus shows the disciples how radically different it is to be great in His kingdom.

It is to be a servant.

This gives us the first reason why we ought to be servants: 

1. Being a Servant Is the Distinguishing Mark of Greatness in Christ’s Kingdom (vv.25-27) 

Since we who are saved are now in Christ’s kingdom, our thinking about greatness has to change radically.

We are not to be conformed to the world in our thinking anymore but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).

What the world esteems most like riches, fame and power are of no value to us.

They do not make us great at all.

What would make us great in Christ’s kingdom are the things that the world despises most, like humility, weakness, giving, submission and selfless service:

These are the things that matter most of all in Christ’s kingdom.

The world rewards those who put themselves at the top.

But the kingdom of Christ rewards those who put themselves at the bottom. 

In the ancient world, kings and princes were at the top-most rung of society while slaves were at the very bottom-most rung of society.

Christ tells us where we should be in v.27, “…whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” 

The word ‘servant’ that Christ used here is translated from the Greek word “doulos” which literally means ‘slave.’ 

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/mat/20/27/t_conc_949027

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1401/kjv/tr/0-1/

Now, I don’t think anyone here would like to be called a slave, because of its negative connotations of forced servitude and loss of personal rights.

But that is how Christ wants us to see ourselves – we are no better than others, because we are nothing more than lowly slaves!

We have to get used to thinking of ourselves this way and make it a point to begin each day reminding ourselves that we are not kings but slaves! 

Having this mind-set will change the way we relate to others.

It will make us more approachable and accommodating.

We will be more willing to see things from their point of view and not insist that everything must be done our way.

We will want to serve rather than to be served.

We will even go the extra mile to serve others.

When we see ourselves as nothing more than servants or slaves it becomes a lot easier for us to submit to others willingly. 

Whenever we write formal letters, we use certain conventional endings before signing off, e.g. ‘yours sincerely,’ and ‘yours truly.’

But do you know that these endings actually originated from much longer ones?

In letters that were written way back in the 1800s, the standard ending that was used was: “I beg to remain your most humble and truly obedient servant.” 

Over time this has become shortened to: “yours truly.” 

And so, the next time you write ‘yours truly,’ please remember how Christ wants you to regard yourself. 

One reason why nobody wants to be a slave is that slaves do not own anything.

They and everything they have belong to their master.

In the same way, the servant mind-set requires us to regard ourselves and everything we have as God’s property, which are to be used in His service.

In Luke 12:48 God’s Word says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” 

God has every right to expect much from us, because He has invested ever so much into our lives.

What has God invested in us?

He has invested Time, Talents, Treasures, and Opportunities in our lives.

God has entrusted these to us to be used for His glory. 

In the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 the Lord spoke about three servants who were entrusted with their master’s assets.

The first two servants doubled their talents by working hard, and so they were commended when the master returned.

But the third servant received a stern condemnation because he merely buried his talent and returned it intact to the master. 

This parable teaches us to be good stewards of all Christ has entrusted to us.

One day we will have to give an account to Him of how we used them.

Will you be like the servant who buried his talent in the ground?

Do you spend a lot of your time and money in your own leisure and activities, and things that are unnecessary?

How should you spend your time, talents and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an account for them?

How would you spend your time, talents and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an accounting of them?

How could you spend your time, talents, and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an account of them?

Will you put them to good use so that Jesus will say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”? 

One passage that reveals what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ is 

1 Corinthians 3:12-14 – “Now if any man builds upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” 

Brothers and Sisters, do you genuinely, sincerely, absolutely look forward to receiving a blessed reward from our Savior Lord Jesus Christ?

You must. 

All your efforts in serving Him now will be amply compensated when you receive your reward from Christ.

With this reward in view, let us be faithful in serving Him well.

We have just seen that being a servant is the distinguishing mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom.

Let us return now to our passage to see another reason why we ought to be servants.

This is found in verses 27,28 which says, 

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister…” 

Please take note of the words ‘even as.’

They tell us why we must be servants.

And it is plainly this – Our Lord Jesus Himself was a servant.

Thus, the second reason why we ought to be servants is: 

2. It Is the Disciples’ Means to Follow Christ’s Example (v.27-28a) 

Christ became a servant in His ministry on earth. 

Philippians 2:6-7 tells us that Jesus, 

“…being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” 

One passage that displays Christ as a servant is John 13:1-13.

This happened when the disciples had the Last Supper with Christ the day before His crucifixion.

In those days it was customary for the host to assign his lowest slave to wash the feet of his guests when they came into his house for a meal.

After walking in sandals on the streets their feet would be caked with mud and manure and would need a good washing.

But no one had done this.

The basin, water and towel were all there, but none of the disciples was willing to get up and use them. 

Then something quite unexpected happened. Jesus rose up, laid aside His garments; took a towel, girded Himself, then proceeded to wash their feet. 

This must have taken them all by surprise.

Perhaps they thought that Jesus would appoint one of them to do the work.

But now they were stunned as they saw Him doing it!

How can their Master be washing their filthy feet?

They should be the ones washing His feet!

But now with His outer garments laid aside, His body stooping down and His hands washing and wiping their feet, Jesus practically became their servant. 

Then He said to them in vv.14,15

– “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” 

Since Christ has given us such an example, how can we follow Him without being a servant?

Brothers and Sisters, being a servant is our means to follow Christ’s example.

It makes us more like Him. 

Here is a story about two wash basins.

One was a plain copper basin that Jesus used to wash His disciples’ feet, while the other was a beautiful gold basin Pontius Pilate used to wash his own hands.

Christ used one basin to carry out a responsibility that not His.

Pilate used the other basin to deny a responsibility that was his.

One basin shows us that Christ sought to serve, while the other basin revealed that Pilate ought to serve but refused.

Whose washbasin will you choose?

Christs or Pilate’s? 

If you want to follow Christ, then choose His wash basin and be a servant.

This is a very compelling reason why we ought to be servants.

But there is an even more compelling reason.

It is found at the end of v.28 – “…and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

This teaches us that being a servant… 

3. It Is the Divine Mode for Edifying Christ’s People (v.28b) 

Christ gave His life on the cross as a ransom for many, and the many here refers to us, the people He has saved from sin and eternal death.

But His ministry to us did not stop there.

Christ is still giving Himself for us through His unceasing intercession in Heaven, and through the work of the Holy Spirit on earth.

And the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on us so that we can build up the body of Christ by using them well.

Our service to God’s people is the mode by which He accomplishes this work.

Brothers and Sisters, every one of us has a role to play in this work of building the Body of Christ. But exactly how well have we all been fulfilling our role? 

During the time of the prophets Zechariah and Haggai the Israelites were spending too much time and effort building their own houses while the house of God was laid waste.

Some problems had come up during the Temple building project and the work was stopped for 15 years.

But people conveniently used this as an excuse to leave God’s work undone.

So, God sent His prophets to rebuke them, and also withheld many blessings from them. 

In our present time, the situation is still the same.

Many Christians spend much time and effort pursuing their own ambitions, while God’s work is left undone, or is left in the hands and hearts of a few who are struggling to do it all alone.

I have heard it said that 20% of the people do 90% of the work. 

Why is it that the rest of us are not serving in Life Church?

Maybe it’s because we always think that somebody else will do it.

Here is a clever poem that I found about this: 

“There’s a clever young fellow named Somebody Else. There is nothing this fellow can’t do. He’s busy from morning till very late, just substituting for you. You’re asked to do this or asked to do that. And what is your ready reply? “Get Somebody Else. He’ll do it much better than I.” So much to do in this weary old world; so much and the workers are few. And Somebody Else is weary and worn just substituting for you. Next time you’re asked to do something worthwhile, just give this ready reply; If Somebody Else can give time and support, well then, so can I.” 

Perhaps too many of us have been content to let Somebody Else do the work.

The problem with this is that there aren’t that many Somebody Elses out there.

And those there are, have grown weary and tired, and may even suffer from burnout soon.

Putting more money into the offering bags will not help.

The way to resolve this is that for every Lifer who wants what James and John wanted from Jesus, to remember their roles in Christ’s Kingdom, assume his or her role of service, however small it is, and be used by Christ to edify His people.

Is there in your church’s newspaper a subject heading “Where Can You Serve?”

Read it and I bet you will see there are many great and wonderful needs that can only be met if we are willing to give priority to serving the Lord and His people.

I predict that the article provides a list of ministries in the life of the Church, their needs and the person to contact to find out more about them.

Please ask the Lord to lead you to an area of service. 

If you feel any reluctance, please remember the 3 reasons why you should be a servant according to our passage of Scripture:

Being a Servant

(1) Is the distinguishing mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom;

(2) It is the disciples’ means to follow Christ’s example, and

(3) It is the divine mode for edifying Christ’s people. 

And after you decide to start serving, there are some guidelines you need on how to serve: 

Firstly, check your motives for serving.

Our passage shows how easy it is to have the wrong motives.

James and John were interested in glory, position and rank.

They wanted to be higher than anyone else.

And though their mother came to Jesus in worship, her real motive was to seek out the best places for her two sons. 

Our Love for Christ should always be our sole motivation for everything we do for Him.

Some serve the Lord to win the praises of men.

They like to be at the forefront where others can see how busy they are for the Lord.

When asked to pray, they will pray the longest and most impressive prayers.

Like Jehu in the Old Testament, they would say, 

“Come with me and see my zeal for God.” (2 Kings 10:16)

And they love to talk about what they have done for the Lord.

But once they no longer feel appreciated, they may just as likely go elsewhere to have their deflated egos uplifted again.

Brothers and Sisters, let us be careful not to be like that.

Every time we serve the Lord, we should ask ourselves, “Who am I doing this for? For the praises of the Lord or for the praises of me, myself and I?” 

There are many in churches who work quietly behind-the-scenes.

They are unsung heroes – serving the Lord faithfully and diligently in their own areas of service.

Those who prepare the elements for Lord’s Supper.

Those church secretaries who keep the pastor informed and the clerical work and the church organizational work in order and incoming and outgoing.

There are the Boards of Trustees responsible for the upkeep of the church.

I think of our church pianists and organists and choir directors, the sound folks who avail themselves not only for their church’s worship services but even for prayer meeting, baptism’s, consecrations, weddings, vigil and funeral services. 

You know, for the amount of time, effort, expertise and service that they put in, they would probably be paid quite well if they were doing it in the secular world.

But here they do it for nothing, or next to nothing. In fact, oftentimes, they would put in their own funds for any expenses incurred in their service and would not make any extra claims from the church.

I thank God for all the sacrifices they have made, and trust that they will be encouraged to continue to serve the Lord well. So let us serve because we want to please no one else but God. Let us serve because we love Him. 

The second guideline you need to observe about serving is to put others before self. Serving the Lord is always done together with others. 

The biblical pattern for service is teamwork.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul describes believers as being parts of a body, and each of us has a different role to play.

God has graciously bestowed specific gifts on each of us.

But none of us can function without the rest, and we need one another’s gifts to serve the Lord together. 

But there are potential problems in working closely together with others, especially when self gets in the way.

Some feel offended when their ideas are not used or when things are not done in their preferred way.

In our passage we notice that when the other ten disciples of Jesus saw what James and John were trying to do, they reacted, as v.24 says, “…they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” 

The spiritual attitude of these ten disciples was not any better than that of James and John.

In order to preserve good working relationships, we must always be humble, considerate, forbearing and forgiving towards our co-labourers with Christ.

We will find much greater joy in our service to God if we learn a little bit more about spiritual growth and maturity, to put others before self in our service. 

Another guideline that you need to observe is to be ready to serve whenever and wherever you can.

If it is something that you have never done before, be willing to learn how to do it. If you are approached to serve in some areas do not be so quick to say, ‘No thanks, but I can’t commit myself to it.’ 

If you count it a great honor to serve Christ, rearrange your other commitments to make way for it.

Servants must be both accountable, available whenever the master calls for them. 

Please make sure that you are available. Remember this: Availability is the greatest ability! 

A good servant is also alert to the needs of others.

In Psalm 123:2, the psalmist said, 

“Behold as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so, our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that He have mercy upon us.” 

When the master moves his finger in command, the servant simply obeys.

A good servant is one who has learned to subdue the defiant autonomy of self, to subject his ego and his will to the wishes of another. Whatever God says goes.

When God says, “Jump,” we and our wills should say, “How high, Lord?” 

However, there is a vast difference between doing what God wants you to do and doing all that you or others want you to do.

Don’t try to do everything, or else you will end up being too busy, doing things that God never intended you to do.

Sometimes you have to say ‘No,’ and encourage others who are doing nothing to help share the load. 

And now we come to the last guideline for service: 

Be willing to do whatever it takes to do whatever is needed.

Serving the Lord will not always be easy.

There will be times when you may have to endure hardship and suffering.

Some of the tasks that need to be done are tasks that nobody wants to do at all because they are unpleasant, tedious or boring.

You may have to beautify the church grounds outside under the hot sun, or clean and sweep and mop the floors and the toilets after VBS or camp or spend hours organizing and putting together bulletins and music slides for worship. 

Our Lord Jesus has set the example.

He had to give His own life to be a ransom for many.

Are you and I ready, willing, able, to submit our lives fully unto the Lord?

Perhaps our Lord would ask you the exact same question that He asked both James and John in v.22 – “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 

Well, both of them did suffer for their service as Christ’s apostles.

Recall, James became the first apostle to be martyred, and John had to endure the longest recorded time of persecution because he lived until deep into the first century time of the cruel Emperor Domitian.

Only God knows what you and I will have to endure in your service to Him.

When we ask ourselves for the same things James, John and their Mom did,

When we try to bargain with our God and our Savior Jesus for all the best,

Ask, “Why should I want to be a servant in these divided times and seasons?”

Please, Pray! let us always make it a point therefore to seek out God’s grace to endure any difficulties, so we may be able to glorify Him through your service. 

May the Lord speak to all of us and help us to be ever faithful servants.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

The Wesley Covenant Prayer

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

https://translate.google.com/

Selflessly Modeling Jesus’ Example: Learning how to see others, up to and including, Ourselves! Ephesians 5:1-2

I begin today’s devotional by asking each of us to reflect for a moment.

Are you a safe person?

I don’t mean are you likely to become violent… I mean… do you believe you are safe for other people to approach….and relate to? Do you relate to other people as a potential threat you need to defend against…. or as God’s gift to be opened?

What kind of space do you create for others?

Our Christian focus is on “being like Jesus,” on “imitating Jesus,” building better relationships… so this may be one of those most important questions.

This devotional is about building better relationships in every point of relating.

We are engaging the qualities that can help us develop better relationships with those “neighbors” we are just beginning to engage…as well as building better relationships with the family and friends who we have known for many years.

No matter what the state of our relational life is… we can all move further from self-isolation to His intimacy. We can all develop more meaningful connection.

It is incredibly, almost embarrassingly easy to say but it’s not ever so easy to do.

I hear the prophetic words of Isaiah’s Commission ringing through my soul.

Isaiah 6:8-10 Amplified.

Isaiah’s Commission

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
10 
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

We do not love ourselves as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We don’t love our neighbors as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We do not love God as naturally as we would all like to profess, we do.

We do not imitate or model our Savior Jesus Christ as we all profess, we do.

So, now we are looking at the one who embodied the very nature of God…that is Christ Jesus, our Savior…and how he loved in this world…how the love of God was reflected within the patterns of his life…which we can embrace as our own.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

Be Imitators of God

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

Ephesians 5:1-2The Message

Wake Up from Your Sleep

1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Watch what God does, and then you do it …… like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.

Observe how Christ loved us. … then model Love like that. (1 John 4:7-12)

And today… the pattern we are about to be engaging is how to see others up to and including ourselves. Learning to see others EXACTLY as Jesus saw them.

Because (shamefully?) the way we see people determines how we treat people.

Most of us may fall into a dangerous snare: presume that we see people with respect and treat them well…like Christ treated us but what about if they aren’t being kind to us? What if they are being just plain annoying… or offensive?

Or, what if I am the one who is being just plain annoying?

Or, what if I am the one who is consciously or unconsciously giving offense?

Or worse… if I don’t see what they can do or me…maybe I don’t see them at all.

So how does God see people?

What did Jesus see?

As the Biblical account of Matthew describes…

Matthew 9:36? When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew is telling us how Jesus saw the crowds.

How Jesus observed his neighbors – The crowds.

Not the select. Not the special. But the crowds which represent the common nature of people like you and I…and everyone else in this world.

We can assume such lives included the same annoying offensive attitudes and behaviors that are, even in our days and seasons, common among human life.

There is no sense that they held much that Jesus could get from them… as he seemed to have already understood how the hearts of humanity would turn on him when any sense of transactional desires for power were deemed done with.

He sees these common lives with compassion.

Compassion is not simply having pity for someone at a distance.

It’s a word that speaks of actual connection. The word used here… translated as compassion… speaks of exactly how another life is allowed to be taken in… and to affect us deep inside our hearts. It’s about bringing them in toward yourself.

It’s helpful to understand that it is not simply the opposite of seeing someone critically. It is not a matter of being blind to the problems in another person.

Seeing with compassion is about seeing more that simply seeing with critical eyes and souls. Seeing critically and seeing compassionately are not simply opposites but rather a matter of one being more fundamental than the other.

A parent may be deeply critical of their child’s behavior…but they are more defined as a parent than a judge… more given to restore than to condemn.

And this is what we see in Jesus.

Jesus said…

“I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” – John 12:47

Jesus doesn’t summarily dismiss the behavior of others… but he sees more than simply our behavior. He saw they were lost… they had wandered …gone astray… like sheep without a shepherd… leaving themselves harassed and helpless.

He didn’t come to simply pronounce the judgment we face…but to provide the grace, charity, forgiveness, to come home…. and be who they were meant to be.

We have a great example of how Jesus saw someone…and related differently… which we can read an account of in the Gospel narrative of Luke… 19:1-10 Msg.

Zacchaeus

19 1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

This encounter has long been a joy for me to imagine….and it captures how Jesus loved people in an “in your face” provocative and powerful way.

Jesus is once again nearing a city.

It’s the city of Jericho… which was no small town.

It was a town with plenty of merchant activity…and a choice spot for tax collectors.

Rome knew the best way to collect taxes was to employ some local Jews to do the work… which meant finding someone, or several someone’s willing to turn their hearts, souls and their backs on their own people and serve the oppressor.

And even worse…such tax collectors were known to use the opportunity to demand even more than Rome required…and to take for themselves…which made then hated by both their fellow Jews…and the Romans.

You can imagine the depth of hate the people felt towards one of their own both betraying his own people in service to the oppressor…and likewise, audaciously, cheating his own people out of sheer unadulterated greed.

A tax collector was the very definition of a moral outcast… the lost cause.

In fact, Jews of this time often use the phrase sinners and tax collectors… suggesting that the hated tax collectors were seen as a class of their own.

Jesus sees him… calls to him… invites himself over… and it becomes a complete reset for Zacchaeus.

In the end… a man came down from the tree in which he was hiding in shame.

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus?

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus… with compassion?

…. that allows us to model Jesus’ example and be “safe” and approachable?

The first thing we can learn from Jesus …is to….

1. Slow down… and maintain a margin for grace.

There’s a lot of people in this scene… and Jesus is just reaching his destination… so we can imagine for ourselves observing a biblical scene in which it’s time to first prioritize getting through the crowds and get a meal and some rest.

It’s the type of moment we only just want to get to what we immediately need.

But Jesus lived in what some call the pace of grace.

He never moved faster than the speed of love… and love requires slowing down.

We see how Jesus slowed down.

How slow?

Long enough to really see people.

How many of us know all too well that our professed busyness competes with how well we stop and care for others. We need to maintain a margin for grace.

As Carey Nieuwhof recently expressed, 

“You are …the most kind when you have the most margin.”

Many of us have probably felt the challenge of being so rushed we are not really present amidst various exchanges we may go through.

We have a sense of the challenge to maintain a margin for grace.

Despite those pushing him through, Jesus was able to stop and look up …and see him…and though on his way… he used the rhythm of a meal… a break for lunch.

Amidst sharing such a meal with “Zacchaeus”… there is the ability to listen to your heart and soul…not just your head. The Holy Spirit is able to help us see.

Our head might raise walls of busyness and fear and judgment…but if we slow down… the Holy Spirit will intercede and allow compassion…. space for another.

What we first see… is the outward… and we make a thousand calculations to help manage life … it’s easier for our minds to simply create categories …… and then associate them unconsciously… with clothing… context… behavior… social status… moral nature…all in about a grand total of less than one second.

That is what labels serve… like “tax collector.”

Everyone knew how to see a tax collector.

And the shameful truth is that most of us have similar ways of seeing those who we “categorize” as homeless…old… young…healthy or disabled or handicapped.

If we hope to connect with our neighbors as Jesus connected with his neighbors … then it means we will have to 1000% slow down to actually see the individual.

Jesus didn’t lose sense about his destination… but he also didn’t stop seeing people through the eyes of God alone, as being His children, along the way.

Slowing down to become available… means becoming both physically and emotionally available.

We all know that it’s possible to be physically and spiritually close to, with, someone and yet not really giving much thought to paying attention to them.

Try to talk to someone who’s engaged with their smartphone or TV… you really don’t have their full attention.

How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name anyway? We can only imagine.

But at the center… a man is seen.

But at the center … a Child of God is seen!

We live amidst how many 100’s of millions of people… of our neighbors, and there are so many millions more who will just wish someone could see them.

And I would venture to say

… there is a part of every one of us…that may not feel seen.

Here’s a question that can be hard for us to ask of ourselves … but so healthy.

Would the people who know you best say you’re largely available or distracted?

See others beneath the outward behavior… to the soul that bears God’s image.

Without anything else within our sights…we (shamefully?) tend to see people’s outward appearance and behavior…in relationship to how that does or doesn’t serve our own shamefully, embarrassingly fragile, sense of our self-esteem.

How easily we tend to see people outwardly.

We can tend to see people as merely annoying …as those with needs which should be avoided.

We tend to see people as potential sources of “micro-aggression” “triggering.”

We tend to see people as an “offensive” threat to our own fragile sense of value.

We can tend to see people as reflecting some radical element which we can rush in headlong and headstrong to judge … as a means to feel a sense of superiority.

Fortunately for us, our Living Savior Jesus saw infinitely more than “just a tax collector.” He saw through the eyes of His Father, a sheep without a shepherd.

He did not go to the home of a tax collector…. he was not just relating to a tax collector…but to one who was created by God, to be and live as a God’s child.

This is where Jesus confronts our religious nature.

By that I mean our (shamefully?) human ways of trying to be “religious.”

“Religion” sees people as the enemy…and rushes to condemn them as sinners. Jesus sees sin as the enemy…and wants to reclaim all God’s Children by grace.

How easily Jesus could have joined the common way of seeing Zacchaeus… as a betrayer… a traitor… labels that speak of what he does… as if it is who he is.

But Jesus intentionally looked and saw beneath the behavior that had come to define people’s lives…he saw then with great compassion and understanding.

What great compassion and even greater understanding? He never excused what they did by speaking of them as simply victims of someone’s else will…but he also understood they had given themselves to a system of destruction…and that they could choose to turn back…and through him… be reclaimed, restored.

That is what Zacchaeus appears to have found in Jesus.

Jesus saw what was beneath the grime of their sin and our own.

Jesus said … “Stop judging by mere appearances…” – John 7:21, 24

How can we learn to see people, like Jesus did, with only the grace of God… to see beyond and through what may elicit judgment… and develop compassion?

Many might presume that Jesus was failing the way of righteousness.

Many only chose to see that Zacchaeus was “only” a tax collector… living in a life of sin…and he needed to feel the shame of the community to help provide a clear message. In their minds, “What didn’t Jesus understand about that?”

As best as I can understand in this moment… Jesus wouldn’t have dismissed the obvious association of him being a sinner….and even of Zacchaeus being faced with the consequences of that decision …. but Jesus bore the power to see more.

Zacchaeus as “only just a sinner” was not his first nature… his original existence… not what he most fundamentally was created to be… nor what should be accepted as the most basic truth, fundamental claim over his life.

What Jesus saw were lives created to live in the love and will of the Father.

Psalm 139:13-16The Message

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

Sin was no one’s original nature… it was by nature a sheep gone astray… and making the decision to repent was to turn around back to the arms of God.

Savior Jesus doesn’t see people simply as sinners in the sense that sin is simply a behavior… seeking behavior modification. Sin is about identity… about what we ourselves are choosing to self-identify with and then choose to react upon.

We can (shamefully) (embarrassingly) tend to simply judge people only as good or only as bad… then rush in, condemn them to a state of value or lack of value.

Compassion sees the tragedy of sheep that have gone stray… needing to be found and led back. Jesus didn’t focus on the symptoms but rather of the cure.

The Love and Charity and forgiveness of Jesus represents the Father’s love for each and every single one of His children that have not come home. (John 10:16)

God is set on reclaiming lives, not rushing in headlong and headstrong to, like man is shamefully, embarrassingly apt to do – to condemn them. (John 8:1-11)

What the crowds could not see…and Praise God, what Jesus did…is that God was not even close to finished with Zacchaeus. And He is not finished with any of us.

If we are to build better relationships…we need to learn to see people like God does…and to treat them with compassion. This means we need to see what lies beneath and beyond how we may appear…and sees the sacred value of every life.

PART 2 – TOMORROW ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father God, you created our life, you gave the sacrifice, Jesus set the example, and you’ve given me your Word to light my path. Help me to imitate you with everything I do. Help my heart to be as forgiving, my words to be as loving, and my thoughts to be just as pure. Go with me as I follow your commands with the faith of a child – Your child. In your Son’s name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

https://translate.google.com/

One Reality of the Gospel Life: How to Be Selfless: An In-Depth Guide for us Selfish People. Galatians 3:6-8 Msg.

“You reap what you sow!”

May­be, you have heard this saying before. Parents, teachers, and others use it a lot. It comes from this passage written by the apostle Paul: “A man reaps what he sows”—and Paul himself drew it from other ancient wisdom (see Proverbs 22:8Hosea 10:12-13). Life’s circumstances too often prove the warning true.

Sow vast fields of Selfishness – Reap even greater harvests of Selfishness.

Matthew 9:35-38 Message:

35-38 Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Jesus sowed seeds of selflessness in his enormously compassionate response to the complex multitudinous needs of the people he had encountered throughout his circuit in the marketplaces and meeting places in these towns and villages.

He automatically gave to the people everything he had – he held nothing back from them in teaching them, reporting kingdom news to them, healing them of “their diseased bodies, healing them of their broken, bruised and hurt lives. So utterly confused and aimless they were, like sheep without their Shepherd.”

Next, Jesus sets up His disciples to gauge their responses to what they have just witnessed as Jesus, without even thinking twice about it, gave them everything.

“What a huge harvest!” He said to His disciples (and anyone else within hearing distance of Jesus’ words) “How few workers!” “On your knees! Pray for more harvest hands!” Can you just guess right here that Jesus was testing the reality of the quality of each disciple’s (and ours today) hearts and souls for service?

Can you see the Word of God sowing the seeds of a conflict here within these men? The of conflict within their hearts, souls and spirits of choosing between choosing between living almost exclusively for themselves with occasional circuits, and forays into the towns, villages, neighborhoods where help was desperately needed? Sowing the seeds of the Gospel wherever the ground was.

Jesus gave quite literally everything he had. The Disciples could only give of their limited selves, reluctantly of their meager and limited resources of what they believed they possessed – limited time, and time limited commitments.

Our great hope, Paul writes in Colossians, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Remember, Jesus was called Immanuel (“God with us”—see Isaiah 7:14; and Matthew 1:23). And eventually the Holy Spirit came to live in the hearts of all believers (Acts 2). This means God is ­sewing, recreating his image within us.

This calls for our cooperation. As the farmer must sow seeds, pull weeds, and fertilize and water his plantings to reap a harvest, so we must cooperate with the Spirit to grow the good fruit of Christlike living. Sowing to please the Spirit means our work is done out of love for God and our neighbors (Mark 12:30-31), love for one another (John 13:34-35), and even love for our enemies (Luke 6:35).

The Holy Spirit’s guarding, guiding, inspiring, sowing, sewing and weaving and working within us bears fruit that ­pleases God. We just need to learn how to sow and tend his crops. Spiritual self discipline practiced every day will grow a great harvest of good in us that will please our Lord. Are you ready to sow with God?

Galatians 6:7-8The Message

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God! —harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians: Our Selfishness destroys relationships!

It is the number one cause of conflict, arguments, divorce, and even war.

James 4:1 -3 Message says,

Get Serious

1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.

2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.

Every trouble starts because …..

“we are spoiled children of our self-centeredness.”

“We want what we want, when we want it, we want it all exactly right now!”

How very easy is it for our selfishness to subtly creep into our relationships?

How easy is it for our selfishness to suddenly thrust itself into relationships?

When you start a relationship, you work really hard at being unselfish.

But as time goes on, selfishness begins to creep in. We put more energy into building relationships than maintaining them.

If selfishness destroys relationships, then it is selflessness that makes them grow. What does selflessness mean? It means less of “me” and more of “you.”

It means thinking of others before you think of yourself and putting the other person’s needs before your own (Philippians 2:4).

Philippians 2:1-4 The Message

He Took on the Status of a Slave

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Selfishness brings out the worst in us.

Selflessness brings out the best in others.

It edifies, it builds faith and hope, trust and love in relationships.

In fact, if you start acting selfless in a relationship, it forces the other person to change, because you are no longer the same person anymore, and they have to learn how to adapt themselves to it and learn to relate to you in different way.

I worked many years serving the multitudinous needs of homeless veterans.

I’ve actually witnessed it many times — some of the most unlovable of people nobody in their “right and selfish minds” wants to be around, are transformed when someone exhibits both subtle and sudden and genuine kind and selfless behaviors toward them and gives them what they need, not what they deserve.

How to Be Selfless: An In-Depth Guide for Selfish People

When I think of selflessness, I can’t help but think of my parents’ example.

My father worked hard to support my family financially and never missed a day of work. My mom was a Registered Nurse for well over 40 years, she was always there for the hospitalized patients under her care. She was available to talk and support my sisters and I through our most insecure and awkward years of life.

Together, she and my dad strived to love us and be there in every high and low.

As you read this, I hope and fervently pray you too can likewise remember those in your life who have shown you this kind of selfless love, whether it be a family member, a friend, a mentor, or some stranger who simply decided to take a few moments to care for you. These moments, and these relationships, are ones that get etched in our memories; they are powerful and impactful in our lives. 

While we know this to be true, and may desire to be selfless ourselves, it can be easy likewise to draw a line in the sand that we are unwilling or afraid to cross. 

Luckily God knows this about us and has given us great examples in the Bible to teach us how to be selfless.

We will look briefly, specifically at the example of Jesus as he provides a guide for us on how to be less selfish. In this, Jesus will provide for us a total of 9 tips for how we can selflessly follow, model the example of Jesus in our own lives.

Be inviting

Being inviting means acknowledging the sacred worth of all, welcoming, validating, and including others in our life, heart, and friendship.

It is not always convenient, but it is a powerful display of selflessness that can have a profound impact on those around us.

Jesus shows us this through his example below.

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

Mark 10:46-52 NIV

Jesus was not afraid to stop what he was doing (potentially inconveniencing himself) to selflessly invite others into a connection and relationship with him.

Nor was he afraid at all to be different from the crowd.

Jesus had an unconditionally compassionate and loving heart to be inviting.

While others around Bartimaeus just wanted him to go back to his customary roadside stand and stand down and be quiet, Jesus had reacted very differently.

He did not tell Bartimaeus to be quiet.

He did not tell him to return to where he came from and stop shouting.

He did not communicate that Bartimaeus was not good enough or that he was behaving wrong.

Jesus was inviting. He was interested. He was giving. He saw past Bartimaeus’s behavior into his heart. He asked Bartimaeus: “What can I do for you?”

Be admitting

‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

In this narrative passage, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on, own, and weigh the wrongs in our heart before pointing out the “specks” in others.

This is a critical and an essential element of selflessness: to care more about how we are impacting another person than how they are impacting us.

Admitting our own mistakes, sins, and weaknesses is actually a very important part of loving other people.

When we confess ourselves to God, admit the truth about ourselves, we not only protect ourselves from being self-righteous and critical of other people, but we also can more adequately heal those around us of the “specks” in their heart.

Instead of, rather than be motivated by self-protection, self-righteousness, or self-interest, or survival of the strongest and the fittest and the richest, we can serve, help others because of the care we have for those God has put in our lives.

Be forgiving

Once we confess ourselves unto God and admit to those places where we need His mercy, we are way far better able to forgive others for their shortcomings.

Being forgiving is a form of giving charity to others; it is a way of our selflessly clearing a debt in a relationship. Forgiveness is not something that can be faked but must be arrived at genuinely and honestly. (Isaiah 1:16-20 The Message)

There are times in marriage and relationships where I am convinced others have wronged me. I feel that I won’t be satisfied until the injustice is pointed out and thoroughly and rigorously and vigorously and selfishly dealt with.

This mindset only drags things out, heightens the emotions between me and my friends, and certainly doesn’t help us to resolve our arguments or feel close.

God teaches me, and I fervently pray He teaches you, that when we can admit our own faults, we will be more able to forgive, show mercy, and feel blessed.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7 NIV

Matthew 5:7 Amplified: “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

God values and appreciates when we show mercy to those around us.

Mercy is something near and dear to God.

He decided to display his love to us through showing us mercy (Romans 5:8)

Since this is the way God loves us, we can model this love. We can love others in the same way, through showing them mercy and forgiveness the way Jesus did. 

Be available

A critically important part of modelling selflessness like Jesus, is our decision to acknowledge, value another enough to be available and to be interested in them.

Modelling Christ-like availability communicates that we value another greater than ourselves. It is our act of self-sacrifice and selflessness that places oneself aside to like Christ, to listen to, consider, feel for, and understand someone else.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’

John 5:2-3,5-6 NIV

Jesus often displayed his availability to others around him in a way that was shocking and ground-breaking. He unhesitatingly noticed people that others went out their way and ignored. He would touch people who were cast out.

In this passage, he interacted with and listened to the needs of a man who was paralyzed (and had no other friends – John 5:7). Jesus didn’t just speak to him but also took an interest in and helped him. Jesus was selfless in his availability to without hesitation, acknowledge to feel, talk, work with those around him. 

Be serving

Being serving is a great way to give selflessly in humility.

It is a critically essential way to prioritize those around us, acknowledging, dedicating our thoughts and emotions to the needs and desires of others.

And as Jesus shows us, if we have any power or authority in a relationship, we should use this position to serve.

Jesus told them, ‘In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called “friends of the people.” But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.’

Luke 22:25-27 NLT

Here, Jesus teaches us to not concern ourselves with our position, status, or performance. What matters is deciding to concern ourselves with serving the needs and desires of others. This is what it truly means to be a real friend. 

Selfless friendship is the best kind of friendship because it is not predicated on getting our needs met but acting independently of how the other person treats us. When we love and give to others, our fulfillment comes from modelling and experiencing, knowing that serving is pleasing in God’s eyes. (Proverbs 27:17)

Here are some ideas of ways and means we can choose to be serving today:

  • Ask someone around you if there is anything you can do for them.
  • Prioritize the needs of others as if you feel the need for it yourself.
  • Do chores around the house without someone asking you (my wife likes this one for me – especially when I do the dishes without her telling me twice).
  • Pick up groceries for a friend or neighbor.
  • Drop off a friend’s favorite meal.
  • Volunteer in your community.

Be admiring

Admiring, praising, and encouraging those around us is a way to be selfless.

When we do this, we are able to subtly shift the focus from ourselves (our envy, our malignant competitiveness, or insecurities) and instead focus on admiring and encouraging and inspiring someone else.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names

Philippians 2:3-9 NLT

In this scripture, Jesus’ example teaches me that my value and fulfillment do not come from my status, my success, or how I am seen by others.

Without moans, groans and complaints, Jesus gave up divine privileges, did not try to cling to status of any kind. Instead, he humbled himself, served others. 

When we follow and model Jesus’ example, we won’t focus on the admiration and praise we can earn for ourselves or receive for our own behalf, but we will subtly start looking for ways to share encouragement with others around us.

Jesus lowered himself, so that he could elevate others.

He set an example for us to follow.

In the end God made sure that Jesus knew his value and was himself fulfilled.

To model and practice being “admiring,” think of people you otherwise envy, compete with, or have difficulty loving.

  • Choose to think of ways you admire them (example: what are their strengths or how can you learn from them?)
  • Text them words of encouragement.
  • Think of ways you can make them greater.
  • What do you learn about Jesus’ humility towards God and how did that translate to how he lived while on Earth?
  • Like Jesus did, how can you empty yourself and live to serve and love others?
  • Who is your mentor? That someone you know who is innately selflessly humble that you can admire and learn and model Christ from?

Be empathetic

Empathy is our ability to sense, understand, and imagine what another person is thinking or feeling. It is the ability to put ourselves in the spot of another to prayerfully perceive and understand what they may think, feel, need, or desire.

God and Jesus demonstrate this in the scripture below from Hebrews chapter 4.

When we see and are grateful for the empathy Jesus displays for us, we are able to do the same for others.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

– Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV

God and Jesus see our thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. They are able to understand and act in empathy and unconditional love toward us. This empathy produces in us confidence and Shalom as we rely on the graciousness of God. 

In the same way, we can foster peace and confidence in others around us by practicing empathy ourselves.

When we model Christ in this way, we respond with gratitude for the empathy God always has for us, we are free, secure, confident to empathize with others.

This is the ripple effect of empathy. 

  • Pray about God’s love for you and how God and Jesus have empathized with you
  • Pray about a few other people in your life and what they are going through. Ask God to help them with some of the things you think they might need. Praying for others not only helps us empathize with them, it’s also a way to spiritually serve by asking God to enter into their neighborhood and to meet their needs. 

Be initiating

Jesus was a model leader, not just in his words or ability to move a crowd.

What really made Jesus a leader, and even attracted the crowds to him in the first place?

He would be the first to initiate giving to others who could not give back to him. 

He repeatedly asked the beneficiaries of his love to say nothing to anyone else.

Other times he would leave before the person could even find out who he was.

In this way Jesus initiated by giving without expecting any return.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV

Jesus died for us, knowing that many of us would not care and would rather choose to still live self-absorbed lives. But he did it anyway so that we could have the very real choice and very real chance to be free and live a new life.

When we see and believe this personally, it changes us. We become not only willing to live selflessly ourselves, but we desire to. We initiate giving unto others, not in any selfish expectation of any return, but really to thank God.

Try surprising your family, friends or a stranger with a gift, for no reason.

Be persevering

One way to examine the purity of our selflessness is to see whether or not we persevere in love even when it is difficult.

Oftentimes in my marriage, I am amazed and stunned by how it is that my wife continues to extend mercy to me and patiently encourages me along in change, even when I am being ridiculously stubborn, self-consumed, and unchanging.

I know her persevering love is rooted in her appreciation for God’s own persevering love, mercy, and patience in her life.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8 NIV

No matter how often we feel it is not true, the Bible calls us to live as though we are always in debt to those around us in our love.

God loves us enough to pay the price for our sins, if we choose to accept it. We can never adequately repay this debt, but we can continually remember to love one another because of how much we have been loved. (John 3:16-17)

God urges us to not treat his love with contempt, but to respond in gratitude (Romans 2:4), modelling, living our lives as if we still have a debt remaining in our relationships with those family, friends and neighbors who are around us.

This is what it means to persevere in selflessness, even when impossibly hard.

  • Pray about someone you get tired of loving.
  • In the moments that it is difficult to love and reflect on how God loved you.
  • Decide to love those around you out of a love for God, not just based on your feelings toward the person.

We Reap what we Sow ….

We sow selfishness – we reap selfishness

We sow selflessness – we reap God in Christ Jesus in our neighborhoods.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Almighty and Charitable God,

we praise and thank you for making us children of God,

not through our own power and piety

but through our baptism into crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

We turn daily to you,

and in that turning we find peace, courage and purpose.

Make your whole church a witness

to the great good news of Christ’s resurrection.

God, our Savior, hear our prayer.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

https://translate.google.com/

Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood Selfless Service inside a Selfie World.

How many selfies do you think you take a day?

“Selfie” was a word of 2013.

Oxford Dictionaries named “Selfie” the word of 2013.

It was defined as “a photo of yourself that you take, typically with a smartphone or webcam, and usually put on social media.”

Since then, we also got the word “Selfitis,” meaning “an obsessive-compulsive desire to take photos of oneself and post them on social media.”

June 21 is the national selfie day.

In 2022, the national selfie day happened on Tuesday. In 2023, the national selfie day will occur on Wednesday.

How many selfies do you think are taken in any given day?

How many selfies are taken a day?

According to Photutorial’s data, 92 million selfies will be taken daily across all devices in 2022. This number coincides with the fact that 2.3 billion photos are taken every day, 4% of which are selfies.

4% of all photos taken are selfies.

People take 2.3 billion photos daily, equating to 1.72 trillion annually in 2022.

In 2021, the number of photos taken was significantly lower due to pandemic restrictions–1.2 trillion.

Connect yourself to this link and the “selfie” numbers are just staggering.

https://photutorial.com/selfie-statistics/#:~:text=92%20million%20selfies%20are%20taken,adults%20have%20taken%20a%20selfie.

The Guiness Book of World Records currently recognizes the most self-portrait photographs (selfies) taken in three minutes as being 168 and was achieved by James Smith (USA) aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship on 22 January 2018.

Our children are growing up in what has been dubbed “the selfie generation.”

Most photos kids take these days are of themselves.

The accessibility of digital cameras, the ease of taking self-portraits, and the rise of social media have all led to the popularity of “selfies,” the modern-day term for digital self-portraits.

Personally, I take my idea of “plenty” of selfies with the intention of sharing my life with my wife and our social media friends who are also people of faith.

When we take a selfie and post it, we let the world know what we are up to.

However, as many sociologists have noticed, the word selfie has taken on a meaning that goes far beyond the object of the camera lens. It’s not just in photos that children are often the focus — it can extend into their lives.

The selfie culture turns people’s focus onto themselves

— how they look, how many “likes” and “loves” and “hugs” they get on social media, what kind of clothing they wear, how much fun they all have, and so on.

However, what started out as a harmless, fun activity has now been linked to growing rates of depression — and certainly an increase in narcissism.

The great irony, of course, is focusing on ourselves doesn’t always equate to the idea “selfies make us happier; rather they can also serve to robs us of our joy.

Our worldview can become biased and divided, deeply prejudiced and skewed.

The challenge for parents today is teaching our children to take the focus off themselves and turn the camera around so they can see the diversity of others.

We need to teach ourselves and our children how to see the people around them.

First and foremost, this includes their friends, their siblings, their parents, and their teachers, those in the neighborhood with authority over them – the police.

But it extends beyond to the people they encounter in daily life: the bus driver, the janitor, the widow, the orphan, the homeless person on the street corner, people of all races and ethnicities, our world cultures and diverse nationalities.

Only when our children begin to see in others’ their God-Given intrinsic value and human ‘suffering’ can they begin to understand how they can help others.

When we take a selfie and post it, we let the world know what ‘joy’ we’re up to.

Whether we’ve just tried the new coffee shop on the corner, or decided to dye our hair red, the selfie shows who we are, what we are doing to the online world.

Selfies gives us a great view into the intensity of our “joyful” virtual existence.

However, “joyful virtual existences” are not the whole of God’s story in God’s neighborhood. His neighborhood is a good deal more “diverse,” and “ugly.”

The intensity of that “Virtual Reality of that “Selfie?”

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display …. indescribable!

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display … beyond impactful!

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display … highly dangerous!

Those are the “Selfies” we seldom see on social media – they are censored or come with the poignant warning – “may not be suitable for young audiences.”

I always had the thought “Selfies” are a lot like the Bible should be in our lives.

The Bible should be showing us who we are, what we ourselves are to be doing.

Consider taking this “Selfie” and spreading it all over social media ……

Matthew 5:13-16Amplified Bible

Disciples and the World

13 “You are the [a]salt of the earth; but if the salt has [b]lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery].

14 “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

OK, how many of us get really excited when we see that media ad with a person holding up a bag of potato chips or a box of crackers, saying “reduced sodium”?

Well, probably not too many of us – potato chips are considered “junk food.”

Because salt is delicious.

Salt is needed for many essential functions within our bodies – being our hearts and their need to keep beating and us alive plus our muscles and our kidneys.

It’s why chips and crackers, French fries and pizza and many other things taste good. Salt exists to make food better. That is one of its God-given purposes.

In this passage Jesus says

we are “the salt of the earth” . . . and “the light and also “the critically essential internal balances which keeps our bodies working in God’s much necessary and healthy harmony and our hearts beating so we can remain alive” of the world.”

He doesn’t say we “can be” or “should be” these things.

He says we already are, by way of our new identity in him. Jesus expects us to bless people, to build them up, and to do what we can to help meet their needs.

He expects us to use our words and our actions to stick out in this unhealthy, unbalanced, biased, divided dark world, pointing people to the kingdom of God.

This isn’t limited to formal ministry in the church.

The ways we treat our spouses, talk to our coworkers, and use our resources or engage with social media are all examples of how we are called to be salt and light. Every single sphere of life presents us with salt and light opportunities.

If we walk in step with Christ, putting his desires ahead of our own, we are like a welcome seasoning, a source of critically needed, critically essential balance to enhance the taste of food, or like a beacon of light shining in this dark world.

WHAT SELFIES TEACH US ABOUT OURSELVES, OUR ENGAGING GOD’S WORD

The Bible shows us who we really are. If we need a self-esteem boost, the Bible shows us our great worth to God. (1 Cor 6:20)

If we are afraid, the Bible shows us that we are bold. (Proverbs 28:1)

If we feel we can’t make it, the Bible shows us we can. (Phil 4:13)

Just like a selfie, the Bible shows us who we are.

We are Selfless Servants of God – Selflessly Sent into God’s Neighborhood.

Mark 10:35-45 Amplified

35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He replied to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit [with You], one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory [Your majesty and splendor in Your kingdom].” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism [of suffering and death] with which I am baptized?” 39 And they replied to Him, “We are able.” Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared [by My Father].”

41 Hearing this, the [other] ten became indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their powerful men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 43 But this is not how it is among you; instead, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first and most important among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a [a]ransom for many.”

We might not do a very good job, or take that “quality selfie,” “separating our selfish selves, from our selfless selves” or by our “selfie we’re worth much, are bold, or we can make it, but our feelings don’t matter. What matters is what is true, and the truth is found in God’s word. God’s word shows us who we are.

Our best “selfie” both with and against God’s greatest “selfie” taken together with our engagement of God’s Word in His Neighborhood also shows us what we truly look like to ourselves against who we are serving, what we are doing and how well we are projecting ourselves, projecting our ‘selfies” plus God.

Reading the Bible can open your eyes to habits that you and I need to get rid of, or things in my life and your life that need to change. We should be constantly striving for “selfies” to be more like “selfies of God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit.”

So, when we take a “selfie” of an attitude or moral or an ethic in our life that doesn’t line up with the Bible, we truly need to address that habit or attitude.

A Selfless Call

The more we think of ourselves, the less we think of others, and the more self-centered we become.

Jesus tells us the GREATEST commandment is “Love the Lord our God, with all of thy heart, and with all of thy soul and all of thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to “love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Which means we “Love ourselves better, best, greatest – 100% LAST!”

Again, our default affection is for ourselves.

We love ourselves and care for our bodies by eating and sleeping. We rarely ignore our own needs. Jesus says to think of our neighbors with the same affection. We must care for them, give to them, and seek to meet their needs.

Paul, through the authority given to him by God, explains Jesus’ command further. Not only do we need to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we also need to value them more than ourselves. He says this in Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.

A Selfless Savior

How do we get past such self-centered thinking and lifestyles as we see (or post) selfie after selfie on our screens each day?

The ongoing self-glorification on social media may not have directly caused you to stumble into the sin of selfishness today.

But the social acceptability of this self-worship feeds our tendency to make light of such sin in our world today.

When we feed our minds constantly with thoughts of ourselves, we easily disregard others, justify our own sin.

Paul continues in Philippians 2 with this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v.5-8)

To love our neighbors, think of them above ourselves as the Lord commands us to in Philippians 2:3-4, we must have the mind of Christ—a humble mind.

The way to fight the sin of selfishness is to ask God to renew our minds so that they become like Christ’s.

With “perfect joy,” in perfect selflessness, he regarded the greatest need of every human—forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God—and the will of his Father as infinitely more important than his own glory, even to the point of laying down his life for us at the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Turn Your Camera Around

Hebrews 12:3 Amplified Bible

Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We must turn the selfie lens away from our faces—away from our needs and wants—onto others, and onto Christ. We must not grow weary and lose heart, pray that he will humble us enough to care for our neighbors above ourselves.

When turn our cameras around, our “selfies” point of fixation changes, we will start using our resources differently by uniting, inviting others into our homes, giving more than we receive, helping others succeed, admiring others’ beauty, and doing more GOD activities for the sake of lost souls, not just lost “likes”.

Humility will never be our default attitude on our own, but it is Christ’s.

Hebrews 4:14-16Amplified Bible

14 Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].

Let us discipline ourselves to study and ponder the Word of God muchly, keep running boldly to his throne of grace in our time of need and ask for help. We need help from the only one who is perfectly selfless, and he promises to give it.

So, the next time you raise a “selfie stick or two or three” snap a selfie or pick up your Bible let it be a reminder of how important the word of God is. God’s Word is living, powerful, can change our thoughts, actions if we let it. Challenge yourself today to go deeper into God’s word and let His words transform you.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord, as Your Children, we humbly pray that you would renew our selfhood as the People of God – we are not to be the remains of a goal-less club rather, the Body of Christ, the Church- the Bride of Christ, the King who is over all things.

Father God, through your power and through your people,

Let your kingdom come.

Help us to show the world the true “selfie” of your Church: by faithfulness to the Master; by love for him and his creations; by participating in his work of global mission and servant ministry giving flavor to the world, in his humility.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,

Let your kingdom come.

We ask you to give us the privilege, through your grace, of regaining our role as renewers of our world, as the people who serve our neighbors, our community, heal our society, who improve our surroundings, who improve circumstances.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

Give us the discipline to read and study and ponder your Word. Give us the power to obey your will for our lives, for each other, for others, in acceptance, that understanding comes by a spirit of obedience to you, and that the source of life is your salt and your light, your heartbeat, your blood which gives to us life.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

Let us learn to make neighbors and how to love them. Let us expect great and miraculous things from you. Let us always learn; let us persevere through the process of extending and inheriting God’s kingdom; let us be called ‘repairers of the breach’ and ‘restorers of streets of our towns and cities to be lived in.’  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

https://translate.google.com/

Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood: Heavenly Economics. Proverbs 11:24-28.

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
    the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
    those who help others are helped.”

There’s a profound lie in our society today that tells us that if we get more, we will be happier. If we had more friends, we would be happier. If we had a better car, we would be happier. If we got those new shoes everyone else seems to have besides us, we’d be happier. We see it all around us. So many people are wearing themselves out pursuing “things” in a vain effort to make themselves happier.

About those two quotes above, (Actually from Proverbs 11:24-25 Message) God gives us a different perspective here in those verses. Basically, He’s saying that if we are primarily focused on serving only ourselves and keeping us happy and getting more “things” for ourselves that our world will be indescribably small.

When your focus is on yourself, your world will be small. And the reality is, the more you focus on yourself the unhappier you will be. God wants to use you. He wants to do big things through you and use you to bless the people around you.

However, in a worldly economic sense, if your main focus is on yourself, your world will be indescribably, impossibly, intolerably small.

Instead, in a heavenly economic sense, if you choose to invest your time in the people around you, in your “economic sphere of influence,” focusing on others, meeting the needs of those around you, you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll be more fulfilled, more heavenly rich and more earthly and worldly poor. You will know you are blessed being used by God to help those around you in a big way.

Proverbs 11:24-28 Amplified Bible

24 
There is the one who [generously] scatters [abroad], and yet increases all the more;
And there is the one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want and poverty.
25 
The generous man [is a source of blessing and] shall be prosperous and enriched,
And he who waters will himself be watered [reaping the generosity he has sown].
26 
The people curse him who holds back grain [when the public needs it],
But a blessing [from God and man] is upon the head of him who sells it.
27 
He who diligently seeks good seeks favor and grace,
But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.
28 
He who leans on and trusts in and is confident in his riches will fall,
But the righteous [who trust in God’s provision] will flourish like a green leaf.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

In the mindset of this world, our economics is often about quickly making the greatest profit at the expense of others. It is based mainly on selfish greed and an unwholesome “me first, you last” attitude. Though it is sometimes called “the pursuit of happiness,” it will never satisfy our deepest needs and longings.

However, are we also aware that there is also something we might choose to call “heavenly economics.” It gives free rein to investing in generosity, in love, and in goodwill. It turns the selfish, vicious cycle of greed upon its head, and flashes of heavenly sunshine beam through, showers upon showers of blessings on us.

We can hear clear echoes of contrast between worldly economics and heavenly economics from deep within our ancient text from Proverbs 11:24-28 today.

In a Heavenly economic system, Generous people forgive debts, as they have been forgiven, ripples of love and service spread outward. That’s an example of God’s amazing grace amid worldly economics, building up treasure in heaven.

Maybe you have seen the old movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

It’s a story about George Bailey, whose savings and loan business lends out money at low interest so that low-income people can buy a home. But then something goes wrong: one day George’s uncle loses track of a bundle of money on the way to the bank, and that puts George in danger of going bankrupt.

In the end, George is rescued by the townspeople, who give him all the cash he needs because he always served from the heart and treated them with goodwill.

God’s Gospel in a nutshell:

Jesus’ Selfless Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood!

Matthew 27:38-44Amplified Bible

38 At the same time two robbers were crucified with Jesus, one on the right and one on the left. 39 Those who passed by were hurling abuse at Him and jeering at Him, wagging their heads [in scorn and ridicule], 40 and they said [tauntingly], “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself [from death]! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, 42 “He saved others [from death]; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him and acknowledge Him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him also began to insult Him in the same way.

They gathered by the hundreds, if not the thousands, watched Jesus dying on the cross. They could see Him suffering but could not understand His actions.

They expected that He would want to do anything to escape the pain and agony.

These observers assumed that Jesus was exactly like other people.

Like themselves.

Only interested in His own personal pleasures and well-being.

That, if He could, if he wanted what everybody else would want – long life, He would have freed himself, escaped the cross, saved Himself from certain death.

To them, the fact that He hung on a cross proved that He was an utter fraud and failure, precisely because, from their perspective, He would not save Himself.

How wrong they were!

He could have saved Himself. Before going to the cross, He had asked the Father to “remove this cup from Me” (knowing that all things were possible for Him). But, in the end, He knew that the cross was the Father’s will (Mark 14:35-36).

So, hanging there, totally vulnerable, in indescribable agony, dying, Jesus was demonstrating why He came to earth. He was showing us that He was totally selfless, willing to obey the Father, regardless of the consequences or cost.

He was not the least bit motivated by self-interest, pride, or self-preservation. He came to give UP His life, not to save it. To serve, not to be served. To die.

He achieved victory and success because for the JOY which was before Him, He freely died for each of us that we might be forgiven of our sins. He represented something totally new, totally heavenly:

Total absolute selflessness, total absolute sacrifice and total absolute service.

Completely, utterly seeking first, the Kingdom of God, quite literally, quite graphically, even to the point of death – only to be raised, to be resurrected!

His accusers represented the opposite:

Pure self-interest.

By their “economic” standards, He could only be successful by saving Himself.

In that exact moment, their “utter selfishness” was all they could understand.

In the world today, many are like those accusers.

Living for self.

Surviving for self.

Self – Preservation

Survival of the “strongest and the fittest, the quickest and the richest.”

Focusing nearly exclusively on their personal economic interests and pleasures.

But God calls us to be like Jesus.

Heavenly Economics – To surrender our lives to Him.

Selfless Servanthood – To die to self and serve Him in His neighborhood.

The Gospel in a Nutshell – Selfless Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood!

Totally committed to entering into our communities and our neighborhoods.

Heavenly Economics: Let our selfless servanthood follow God’s leading and live with His generosity and goodwill.

Our Worldly Economic view: our greed and selfishness can only lead to our ruin.

God is a giving and generous God.

He longs for his children to be like him in this grace.

Our place on earth is not to fill our barns and our silos with our grain, be hoarders or collectors of blessing, forgiveness, wealth, and opportunity.

No, following the lead of our Eternal Father, we are to be conduits of blessing, forgiveness, wealth, and opportunity.

As we are generous like our Heavenly Father God, we trust that he will in turn make sure we are heavenly blessed and refreshed in the ways that will draw us more and more into HIS character and more able to help others in the future.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Holy God, I thank you for all the great examples of heavenly generosity which have blessed and graced my life. Whether rich or poor, these conduits of your grace have taught me that I, too, can be .01% more like you in this way. Bless my heart with trust and faith as I seek to be more generous with others in my grace, forgiveness, finances, encouragement, and time. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

https://translate.google.com/

The Gospel of our GOD in a Nutshell. Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood.

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists among us the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” ― Dalai Lama XIV

I recently searched the Internet for the most selfless people in history. As I looked through online discussions, I discovered a lot of people consider Saint Mother Teresa, Saint John Paul II, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Mahatma Ghandi, Oskar Schindler as excellent examples of selflessness. Each of them received little reward in spite of making tremendous contributions.

Christ’s kingdom calls us to a life of modelling selflessness. Jesus told his disciples that anyone who would follow him would have to be willing to set aside their own ideas of satisfaction in order to follow the way of the cross.

Do we take the time to search our own souls to appreciate what that means?

What is the true meaning of selflessness?

Devoted to others’ welfare or interests and not one’s own; unselfish; altruistic. Showing or prompted by unselfishness or altruism; self-sacrificing. a selfless act. Concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Luke 1:26-38Amplified Bible

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin [a]betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly perplexed at what he said and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin and have no intimacy with any man?” 35 Then the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “[b]Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” ― St. Francis of Assisi

Selflessness brings out the best in others.

It builds relationships.

What does it mean to be selfless?

It means you think a little less of yourself and a little more of others.

The opposite of selflessness is selfishness.

It’s the number one cause of conflict and arguments.

The Bible says, 

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” (James 4:1-2 NIV).

Self-centeredness destroys relationships.

The problem is, being selfish is human nature.

We naturally think about our interests, our hurts, how we look, and how we feel.

Even culture tells us:

“Do what you think is best for you.” But the Bible says, “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own” (Philippians 2:4 GNT).

What happens when you and I

“only look out for one another’s interests, not just exclusively for your own”?

Not only will it transform the moment – but it will also transform you and me!

Not only will it transform our relationships—it will transform people.

Not only will it transform people – but it will transform neighborhoods.

Not only will it transform neighborhoods – but it will transform communities.

Not only will it transform communities – but it’ll transform cities and beyond.

It causes the other person to change because you are not the same person anymore, allowing them to relate to you and me in a radically different way.

I’ve seen it many times: When you treat cranky, unlikable people with kindness, instead of treating them the way they deserve, they transform into nice people.

The greatest lesson in life is learning to how and why we ought to be unselfish—but it won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take the rest of your life.

The good news is, God doesn’t leave you all alone to learn how to be selfless. Romans 8:26 says, “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness” (NLT).

To live life selflessly in the service of others is noble.

Never stop making the effort to be more selfless.

God’s Spirit is with you and me to help us break free of the destructive cycle of selfishness! And it’s then will you see transformation in all your relationships.

God’s neighborhood calls us to a life of selflessness.

Rabbi Jesus frequently told his disciples that anyone who would follow him into His Father’s neighborhood to serve their neighbors would have to be willing to set aside their own ideas of satisfaction in order to follow the way of the cross.

Mary demonstrated this kind of unconditional self-sacrifice when she was told she had found “true favor with God” and would be the mother of the Messiah.

She seemed to immediately understand that this path would bring her trouble and heartache, but when the angel reassured her that God was using her to be part of his divine plan, she submitted, saying that she was the Lord’s servant.

To be saved by Christ includes an unmistakable call to serve beyond oneself.

Christ’s model of unconditional selflessness in becoming human, suffering the indescribable indignity of unconditionally loving, living in a sinful world, and joyously submitting to death on a cross for our sake, for his enemy’s sake, was not intended to give us a life of personal leisure without concern for others.

Our lives exclusively in Christ has an unsearchable meaning that goes echelons beyond our exclusive personal benefit as we seek to be part of his greater plan.

  • Think about God’s Neighborhood. Think about a relationship in your life. In what ways do you act with selfish and selfless motives in that relationship?
  • What neighborly selfless act can you do today that is uncharacteristic of you?
  • Has someone ever acted selflessly toward you when you didn’t deserve it? How did it impact you? How did it impact them and too the neighborhood of God?
  • What would you do in life if you lived to model, like Christ, a truly selfless life?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God, my Rock and my Salvation, my Guide and my Guardian, guide me this day according to Your will, help me become a genuine servant of my neighbors. A servant entering your neighborhood, whose life is a worthy example to others.

Give me courage, Father, to claim the spiritual riches that You have promised, and show me Your plan for my life, today and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

https://translate.google.com/

%d bloggers like this: