Serving Jesus by Serving Others

It was just hours before Jesus’s betrayal. By the end of the night his trials and torture would begin.

Jesus sat down to enjoy a final meal with his closest companions. It was the Passover, a Jewish celebration of God delivering them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12) and Jesus had been eagerly looking forward to the meal and time with his disciples (Luke 22:15).

Instead of savoring that last meal and praising and thanking Jesus, what did the disciples do? They started arguing with each other about which one of them was the greatest. Now granted, Judas was the only one of them who knew he’d be betraying Jesus that night and none of them seemed to understand that Jesus’s death was imminent, even though he had told them many times in many ways. But still Jesus had already talked to them about humility and serving others and the first being last. He had also taught by his example of serving.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Jesus, Mark 9:33-35

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus, Mark 10:42-45

How many times am I like one of the disciples? Rather than focusing on Jesus and eternity, I look inward and ask, “What about me? What about my convenience and pleasure and success and satisfaction? What about my rights? What about my self-care and self-esteem? What about my needs and wants?”

Jesus responded to the disciples as they argued that Passover:

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Jesus, Luke 22:25-28

I need to take my eyes off of myself and keep them on Jesus. I should be fully listening to what He is saying rather than being self-absorbed. I should be storing up my treasure on heaven versus earth.

I need to look for every opportunity to serve others. Whether it be my husband, or children, or friends, or strangers.

I need to submit my wishes and wants to God.

I need to humble myself.

I need to view others as more important than me.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Paul, Philippians 2:1-8
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The Other Samaritan

In Sunday School I learned about the “Good Samaritan.” He demonstrated “loving his neighbor” by picking up a hurt man on the side of the road and caring for him. This was the model of the second most important command to love your neighbor as yourself.

‘One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”’ Matthew 22:35-40

Today in my #DailyBibleReading (Luke 17) I read about another Samaritan, this one embodying the first command: loving God.

Jesus was traveling by foot when he met a group of men with leprosy. They were outcasts with debilitating diseases. Shunned by society. Considered unclean. Nine of the men were Jewish, like Jesus. One was a Samaritan. (And as much as I’d like to geek out on the biblical history of the Samaritans and Jews, I’ll control myself!)

The group of men saw Jesus and starting calling out to him to have pity on them. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests. Again, not to get too much into history and law, but if someone had a skin lesion or leprosy they would have to show themselves to a priest – and show that they were healed – to be considered “clean” of the disease. (Leviticus 13).

I am sure these men were thrilled. They had probably heard stories about Jesus healing people, casting out demons, and feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish. Maybe they had even heard about him raising people from the dead. And now Jesus was sending them to the priests which could only mean one thing – he was going to heal them and they would be declared clean and could return to society.

As they were going to find a priest to declare them clean, Jesus healed them. I imagine they looked down at their hands and arms as they walked, and the blisters and ulcers on their skin vanished. The pain in their joints was gone. The sensation on their skin returned. They could feel the sun and wind.

One man – the Samaritan – saw he was healed and stopped in his tracks.

The other nine men kept running to find the priest, probably more eager to get to the priest than ever before.

The Samaritan turned around and headed back to Jesus.

He was praising God in a loud voice.

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet.

He thanked Him.

Who am I? The one who returned to thank Jesus or the nine who were too busy?

When I am feeling lonely or outcast, do I praise God? When I am healed, and rejoicing do I humble myself and throw myself at Jesus’ feet? Do I praise God in a loud voice, regardless of my circumstances, because He has saved me?

No, usually I behave like one of the nine.

But, like the Samaritan, I am a foreigner. I was unclean and sick in my sin. But God took pity on me and saved me. Healed me. Made me clean.

And I should express my gratitude daily. With all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.

 

Loving vs Sharing the Gospel

Skimming through my Facebook feed yesterday I ran across a sponsored article from Crosswalk.com and I stopped to read it (side comment: Facebook, you kill my productivity!). The article – 5 Signs Your Church Might Be Headed Toward Progressive Christianity – made me stop to think, especially slide #5 about “Love” and the red flag if a church teaches: “It’s not our job to talk to anyone about sin—it’s our job to just love them….”

My church talks about love a lot. Which is a good thing. We are called to love. Love God. Love others. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that should be evident in our life when we are full of the Holy Spirit. Rough estimate: I think my church’s sermons on love vs. sin/redemption are probably close to 85/15. And I think that is intentional because the church I attend has a mission of trying to attract people who don’t like church, people who have been burned by a church in the past, people who are new to the church, etc.

“Love” is a much easier pill to swallow than “sin,” “atonement,” and “hell.”

On the other hand, I grew up in a legalistic church that was all about sin and hell, at least that was my perspective as a child. We aren’t supposed to love on sinners. We were supposed to hand them a track and run, in case their sin rubbed off on us and we were corrupted.

The concept of loving people to heaven is very attractive. Just send money to Haiti. Volunteer at a food pantry. Pay it forward to a stranger at Starbucks. Pray for the unsaved from the comfort of my living room.

But what does the Bible say?

If you read through the entire Bible there is a clear theme:

  • Love
  • Sin
  • Punishment for sin = death
  • Sacrifice/Blood
  • Turning from sin to God
  • Forgiveness
  • Salvation
  • Obedience
  • Love

God absolutely tells us to love. We are to be hospitable. We are to be kind. We are to help the poor and the sick, the prisoner, the orphan and the widow. We are to love them because God first loved us.

But God calls us to take things another step. He called us to share the entire gospel message. Not just the love/heaven part. But the turning from sin part. The leaving your old life behind and following God, no matter what the cost. The penalty of sin is death part. Because you can’t get to the gift of God being eternal life if you don’t first address that the wages of sin are death.

Jesus said: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

And that, my friends, gets me way out of my comfort zone. That makes me nervous sweat a little.

But I also know real love isn’t just sponsoring a girl in Ecuador or going on a missions trip to love on orphans. Real love is telling the truth. The whole truth. Because the gospel truly is the most beautiful love story ever written.

‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:36-38

Stay Salty

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matthew 5:13 #DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

Warning: this is a long meandering post because I started it six months ago, in the dead of winter (while dreaming of the beach) and then got stumped. The more I studied about Salt the more I was stumped as to what it meant. I kept coming back and adding to the post, but never quite could answer the question: what does it mean for me to be salt? What is Jesus really telling me? I’ve read it means to be a witness, I’ve read it means to add flavor to the world. I’ve read it means to be a preservative. But what does that mean in practical terms? Then today it finally hit me and I finished the post.

I live in landlocked Nebraska. There isn’t an ocean within anything less than a 14-hour drive. If my husband has his way we’ll always live in Nebraska, which isn’t a bad thing, except I love the beach. I love the sand. I love snorkeling with the sun on my back and sea creatures darting below me. I love the aftertaste of salt water on my lips.

In 2002, before marriage and kids, I was walking out of a grocery store and noticed a flyer for Team in Training, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The basic premise was that if I raised a certain amount of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society I could be part of a group to train for a marathon and run the Honolulu Marathon. My hotel and registration, and even my flight, was paid for. I just needed to raise money and run the race.

I’m not a runner. Never have been. When we had to run the mile in high school I’d walk whenever the P.E. teacher wasn’t looking at me. But standing there in the parking lot with my cart of groceries and the Team in Training flyer in hand I was hit with the inspiration and  I made a decision – I was going to run the Honolulu Marathon and spend a week in Hawaii afterward, enjoying the ocean.

I did it. I didn’t run the whole thing, but I finished. I made friends, I lost toenails. I spent five days soaking my sore muscles in the ocean, enjoying the sun, saltwater, and sand. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I got a tattoo on my back to commemorate – a hibiscus flower and “2002” to mark the occasion.

I haven’t run since. Nor have I gotten another tattoo.

While wasting time looking at Instagram posts with beautiful pictures of the beach on StaySaltyFlorida‘s page (Yes, my stress relief is browsing beach photos on Instagram); I was again hit with inspiration and I told my daughter I was going to get another tattoo. This one: “Stay Salty” and some waves. She looked at me (maybe with a hint of disgust or fear?) and basically explained that tattoos are for younger and cooler people. So maybe I won’t get a tattoo. Or maybe I will. (Did I mention I passed out during my first one?).

Regardless of my tattoo decision, I do need to “Stay Salty”. And not the “I love having my toes in the ocean and wishing I could surf, salty.” I need the be the Jesus kind of salty.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Paul said,”‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

Some interesting things about salt to consider:

  • God wanted the Israelite’s sacrifices to Him to be sprinkled with salt: “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Leviticus 2:13 and “You are to offer them before the Lord, and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the Lord.”  Ezekiel 43:24 
  • “Salt Covenant”: As mentioned in Leviticus 2:13, and also “‘But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.” Numbers 18:17-19 and “Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?” 2 Chronicles 13:5
  • The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “sal”, which means “Salt”.
  • To “eat the salt of the palace” means that one’s loyalty is to the palace, or that is where you get your substance of life from, who you are loyal to, or who you are obligated to. (“Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king,” Ezra 4:14 ESV)
  • Salt is a preservative and keeps food from spoiling.
  • Salt is a flavor enhancer.
  • We become salty through the trials and fires of life: “Everyone will be salted with fire.” Mark 9:49
  • Salt has medicinal purposes.
  • Our bodies need salt; salt is found in every cell in our bodies. It regulates our body functions and maintains our fluid balance.
  • Our body doesn’t produce salt; we need to get it from other sources.

So that does this all mean to me? How do I be salty and “Stay Salty” from my living room in middle America? That is a good question – the more I read about salt in the Bible and the historical use of salt in ancient Israel, the less sure I was about what Jesus was saying.  I’ve been stumped for the past six months.

And then it hit me: Love

If I call myself a Christian, my life should show it. How? By my devotion to God and my love for others. Jesus said Christians should be known by their love and their fruit.

God wanted the Israelites to sprinkle their sacrifices with salt. He calls Christians to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, by living a life of Love for God and others.

And just like our body doesn’t produce salt – though every cell in our body needs it – the love we are to share with others isn’t naturally produced within us. It comes from God. God loves us and fills us with love that we can share with others.

How do we Stay Salty, my friends?

  • By spending daily time with Jesus
  • By praying for opportunities to love others
  • By thanking God for his love for us
  • By submitting to His will – obeying Him, following Him, sharing Him with other
  • By intentionally loving others

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Stay salty.

And send me tattoo ideas . . . in case I get brave enough for another one!

Stay Salty

The greatest of these is love

Love.

Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It doesn’t try to get it own way and it isn’t irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Without Love, all my “good works” mean nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Love is the most important of all of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13).

All of God’s laws and commands can be summed up by Love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

Love is a Spiritual Gift. What does this mean? It means if I am walking by the Spirit, He will produce fruit in my life. His love will pour out of me . . . if I am going deep with God, walking with Him, storing up His words in my heart (Psalm 119:11), praying, meditating, fasting, obeying . . . He will transform me (2 Corinthians 3:18). Love will be evident in my life.

Love should be my #1 barometer of how I’m doing in my walk with Jesus. If I notice that I’m being irritable, impatient, unkind, etc. it isn’t an indicator that I need to work extra hard at being patient and kind. It is an indicator that I need to get rid of things in my life that are keeping me from going deeper in my walk with Jesus. I need to keep my eyes on Him. I need to pray and obey. I need to be more disciplined in my daily walk and spend more time with God. And Love will be the result.

‘You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. ‘ Galatians 5:13-18 

 

The Condition of My Heart

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:7-11

#DailyBibleReading  #BibleReadingPlan

  • Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins
  • Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire
  • Give to the poor . . . help those in need

Saying that I’m a Christian doesn’t make me a Christian.

Getting baptized doesn’t make me a Christian.

Repenting of my sins, turning to God, and putting my faith in Jesus makes me a Christian. And if I’ve truly turned from my sins and am following God, my behavior will show it. I’ll love others. I’ll care for the poor and needy. Just like Jesus did.

My actions aren’t the measuring stick that God will use to let me into heaven.

But my actions are a litmus test so I can see the true condition of my heart.

 

 

Am I Loving?

Using 1 Corinthians 13 as a Barometer of my Love Life

#DailyBibleReading

The love passage.  One of three Bible chapters I have ever memorized (along with Psalm 23 and Matthew 5). It is a beautiful passage about love and about what really matters in life.

1 Corinthians 13-13.jpg

But what does it look like in practical terms?

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 NLT

I can go to church and spout Bible verses and knowledge; but if I am not loving the people in the church it doesn’t matter.

I can go to Bible studies and spend time reading the Bible and praying, but if it never penetrates my heart and changes me . . . there is a serious problem.

I can write a check to a charity or volunteer at a food pantry, but if I turn around and am mean to my husband and kids and co-workers, my “good deeds” don’t count.

The number one “good deed” that God wants to see – and that should be naturally flowing out of me if I am spending time with Jesus and focusing my attention on Him – is Love. Not perfect love because we aren’t going to be perfect until heaven. But if God is filling us we should gradually be becoming more loving.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

I don’t think these verses are a threat or a list of actions for us to attempt, but more of a barometer for us to examine ourselves. Is Jesus’s love in us, flowing out to others?  Over years spent with Jesus, am I becoming more loving? Am I becoming more like the list above?

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:11‭-‬12 NLT

Like a child growing up, change doesn’t happen right away. And I won’t be perfected until after death, but right now I should be becoming more like Jesus. If I am spending time with him on a daily basis, praying, doing spiritual disciplines like memorizing Bible verses, fasting, and meditating; I should be maturing. And the best way to tell if I am maturing? If I am becoming more loving.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.                                           1 Corinthians 13:8-10

When reflecting on my life, if I see I am becoming a more loving person I know I am on track.

If I don’t see growth in this area – if I am not becoming more loving or if I am going backwards –  I need to make adjustments in my life and make sure I am spending my time, mental focus and energy on what matters most: Jesus. Reading the Bible, praying, praising him and meditating on his words. I can’t change myself to become more loving, but when I am full of Jesus, his love will natural seep out of me.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT