Sunday, April 20, 2008

True Service

Most of us who live in the world of Christian service would agree that service is the act of taking that which I have (time, money, abilities, effort) and using it to edify, or build up, others. We serve God and others through financial giving, corporate worship, teaching truths, or even painting the church nursery. Christian service may take the form of delivering a much-needed meal, offering free childcare, or making an encouraging phone call. Christian service, indeed human service, is limited only by the needs and creativity of those involved. In looking for a handbook or guide to Christian service, I found little beyond biographies of Mother Theresa and liturgy for weddings and funerals (Christian services).

As I considered the act of giving this week, I came across the passage: "...there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:1c-3). As a young person, I arrogantly assumed the psalmist simply didn't know anyone like me--or he wouldn't have written this! Then again, maybe God was overstating the case to motivate us to a higher good. It is only as I have studied God's Word more closely and He has revealed my true heart that I can agree with the psalmist. (Check out for a closer look into this topic.) I do not do good. I do not seek after Him. He alone is good. He alone has sought me out.

How can I agree that I don't do that which is good? When someone does something kind for me, I put it in the category of "good." My husband bought me a dozen red roses when he returned home from a business trip last week. That was very good! Is it possible that God's definition of good is not the same as my definition of good? When I give to others, or to Him, that which has value, is it a good thing?

Too often we put God in our box, examining Him and observing Him through our limitations. Too seldom we look at ourselves through the lens of His Word--and His lens is not one of deeds, but one of faith.

"The just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3:11);

"For without faith it is impossible to please God...." (Hebrew 11:6);

"We live by faith, not by sight"(2 Corinthians 9:7);

"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Galatians 3:2-3).

If, in service, we desire to do that which is good, there is only one answer: our service must be done as an act of faith. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that we are reconciled with God. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that we are sealed with God the Spirit. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that we offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that there is any good thing.

The apostle Paul rebuked the Galatians for expecting God's approval for things they did themselves--those spiritual acts they did to earn God's favor. Service done to earn God's favor is not an act of faith, it is a work of man, therefore it is corrupt. Service done to earn the approval of others is not an act of faith, it is a work of man, therefore it is corrupt. Service done out of obligation is not an act of faith, it is a work of man, therefore it is corrupt. Service done to appease my conscience is not an act of faith, it is a work of man, therefore it, too, is corrupt.

If the only service God sees is that which is offered through faith in Jesus Christ, how much of my service is without blemish or spot? If God only sees His Son, how much of that which I offer reaches the foot of His throne? What have I done today that was so dependent on His mercy that it glorified no one but Himself? Service redefined is faith--not giving, not sacrifice, not duty--but Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Service: True? or False?

This thought process was brought about as a result of last week's Sunday evening service, "The Just Shall Live by Faith" by Pastor Tim Waldron and listening to Dr. Harold M. Best (the author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith) on Moody's Open Line April 16, 2008 (

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How Much is Too Much?

I had a very serious conversation with a six-year-old yesterday. "I just don't think we can be friends anymore, " she confessed.
"What seems to be the problem? Why can't you be her friend?" I expected an answer along the lines of being influenced toward bad behavior, or a betrayal of some kind.
Instead she answered, "She always wants me to do what she wants to do and I don't want to keep doing her things."
What a great opportunity to share the principle of limits and love! God loves all of us, but the thing that separates us is our desire to do our own thing. The more I understand about Who God is, the more aware I become of the difference between His way and my way. Just like this little friend, I have an expectation that God will do what I want Him to. How very arrogant! God is separate, He is a being apart from all He has created--and yet He has reached down to me!
At the same time, God has limits and cannot, will not, overlook wrong. There is a way to approach Him, but not on my terms. The only way to approach God is on His terms: "Then Jesus said to Him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.'" (John 14:6).
It is only through humility, a confession of my sin, and dependence on His Son, Jesus (Who paid my sin-debt), that I can enter that relationship with God the Father.
Now we all know this little six-year-old does not stand in the place of God, nor should she express a sinful arrogance, but there is a time and place to lovingly serve and a time and place to lovingly confront. I don't know which path she chose--which path have you chosen? The one that leads toward God, or the one that lead away?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Power of Service

Yesterday I visited with a young lady who claims to be "the only atheist" at her church. She was very open about her personal views. "And who is this Jesus anyway? I don't know even one person who really loves Him. They say 'God is love,' and 'Jesus loves everyone,' but what do they really mean?"

"Well, now you know one," I answered. "I love Him very much. I love Him enough to get up and spend time with Him early every morning. Loving Jesus is about listening to Him and talking to Him just like a real person; it's about living to please Him because I want to."

As we visited, I admitted that I cannot do what God wants me to do. Left to myself, I am selfish, proud, impatient, unkind. The only way I can serve others and put them ahead of myself is to ask Him to remove my will, my desires, my plans. "If I have put you ahead of myself in any way this last week, you can be sure it wasn't me, but God. When God uses me, I become anonymous--I am invisible." To remember the service and forget the person is an act of God. What a powerful opportunity to present God's grace through Jesus and His example of loving service on my behalf!

The power of our Invisible God is displayed in the life of a transparent person. How invisible are you?