28.1 In The Beginning: Work.

28.1

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Genesis 1: 26-28 (MsgB)

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in Our image, make them reflecting Our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; He created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

Sadly, there are some who believe that if one desires to grow closer to God, they must increasingly distance themselves from the world in which we live. Yet the Bible is very clear…even from the very beginning.

God created men and women for a purpose. And that purpose is for us to live lives of purpose, glorifying our Creator in everything that we do and say. So a true disciple/follower of Jesus will never pull away from society, abandoning the world in order to grow closer to God, but in truth, just the opposite. As we see it, a person who desires to glorify Jesus with their life is looking to become what we define as Christ-centered 3-C contemplative activists: men and women who live well-balanced lives that include seasons of intimate communion with God combined with times when we go out into our world, interacting fully with it.

This interaction with the world is first defined in the Scriptures right at the very beginning. In Genesis 1, even as God is putting His finishing touches upon His creation called Earth, He leans over to His newly-created masterpieces, the human beings Genesis calls Adam and Eve, and whispers a strong word of encouragement into their ears…

Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.

This God-commission to go into our world, becoming divinely-directed stewards of creation, is the very first indication from God that He has a plan for all of us to be pro-actively involved with this wide, wide world He has made. Later on, throughout the biblical text, we’ll find that this Genesis-commission can be easily summarized using a four-letter word most of us don’t like to hear:

W-O-R-K.

In truth, God did not create men and women to sit on our duffs, twiddling our thumbs (or use them to play gaming apps on our I-phones) as we all watch the world go to hell in a handbasket! And while some today see the concept of work as part of The Fall of Adam & Eve, as I see it, it’s actually just the opposite.

Over the next nine blog sessions, we’ll take a look at how Jesus fully expects us, as His followers, to be pro-actively involved with our world, becoming the Holy Spirit-directed stewards of creation, the Book of Genesis sees us to be.

I like the way Pope Francis states it:

The book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work.

So, gotta stop now. Time to go to W-O-R-K… doing my part in nurturing and protecting, for the cause of Christ. Wanna join me?

My prayer: Father God, it’s obvious that You never intended for me to pull away from this world, hiding away from the responsibility to You gave me to be a blessing to this creation of Yours. I’ve often seen work in a negative way, as something I must do rather than something You’ve actually created and commissioned me to do. Help me see the importance of my work through the eyes of Christ. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So what needs to change in the way I view my job or my profession? Am I seeing it like much of the world sees it, a necessary evil to put bread on the table, or am I able to embrace my work as a job-assignment from God, commissioned by Him to go and be the blessing Jesus desires me to be?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

27.3 Servanthood: Joining Christ In The Work He Does.

27.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: Ephesians 2: 7-10 (MsgB)

Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

So, when it comes to servanthood, the New Testament offers us both good news and bad news.

The good news?

God, our Father, is on the move, sending Jesus of Nazareth to serve and save this broken and bleeding world of ours. We are among those who are recipients of that amazing grace. Now, Jesus has called and commissioned His followers to go, in His Name, into this same broken and bleeding world, bringing His message of mercy and grace, serving those around us in the same manner we see Jesus serving us. This, my friends, is God’s good news gospel. This is God’s Plan A.

The bad news?

God has no Plan B!

As I see it, there is no other redemption plan in God’s mind other than the one spelled out for us in the Scriptures. God will not snap His fingers, rescuing His creation, while leaving all of us Christ-followers to sit on our duffs and watch. There just is no other way the Creator has this Jesus-rescue plan put together outside of the Master’s call and commission for His people to go, serve, and love.

Get it?

For nearly two thousand years now, every generation of Christ-followers has been given a holy assignment to go to their generation and literally love “the hell” out of those around us. Church history shows us that there have been seasons of great success in that assignment, and sadly, seasons when we have failed. Indeed, there have been golden moments over the last two millennia when the world has seen the church be all Jesus desires it to be. Times when we totally forgot about ourselves, humbled ourselves, and gone out into the world, offering faith, hope and love, in and for the cause of Christ. And yes, there have also been times when we’ve failed miserably by forcing our way upon society, insisting upon our will while literally picking up swords to kill those who might not look at life the way we do.

So, the question is this?

How will the generation of Christ-followers we live in respond to God’s Plan A?

Will we go, as servants, in the name of Jesus, and love “the hell” out of people? Or will we choose another route of ministry, following our agendas more than His, and end up winning the battle, but losing the war?

You see, Paul, when writing to his friends in Ephesus, was addressing this same question when he writes this:

Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work he does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

From Day One, the church has been on assignment from the Master. But as Paul states here, it’s vitally important that we servants of the Living Christ don’t go out in our own strength to save the world, but simply remember that Plan A has come from God, is being directed by God, and will be summed up by that same God. Our goal, as servants of Jesus, is to simply be about the business of serving, as we listen carefully and follow the Master as He is working in and through our world today!

So friends, as we close this section on Having a Servant’s Heart, take heart that you and I are not called to rescue or redeem our lost and dying world! That’s God’s job, for heaven’s sake!

Our role is to simply follow God’s Plan A, going out in Christ’s nature and His love to be the faithful servants He’s needing in this generation, so that Jesus will receive all glory, honor, and praise. Amen and amen.

My prayer: Jesus, please forgive me when I lose sight of the Master Plan of God. As Paul states here in Ephesians, God is the one who has a plan of redemption and I don’t need to be creative in developing additional ministry programming for the world around me. Father, keep me centered in on Your Plan A and give me the daily sustenance to work your plan of servanthood. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how have I wrongly expanded upon God’s Plan A, adding my other good ideas of service to help poor old God out with His redemption plan? What might it look like to throw out all other options and simply work the Master Plan (servanthood) that Jesus spells out so clearly in the gospels?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

27.2 Servanthood: A Coin In The Lord’s Pocket.

27.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: Philippians 2: 1-11 (MsgB)

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. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

As we discussed last time, serving Jesus in this world of “what’s in it for me?”, will require a different attitude, a different approach to the way you and I have learned to live our lives. From day one, all human beings have an inward motivation to be self-centered and self-focused, looking out for Number One. If you’ve ever been around a group of toddlers, it won’t take long to see this trigger towards selfishness play itself out. You see, it’s human nature to take care of our own wants and needs first and foremost, before ever considering the wants and needs of our neighbor. Those who study the human condition have found that this self-centeredness is actually a much-needed human trait, designed for survival of the fittest.

But here’s the rub.

Those who fail to mature beyond this basic gut-level of self-survival, failing to branch out our lives beyond ourselves, are destined to live a very limited, and many times, very destructive existence.

You see, God has designed the human being to not only live in community with others, but actually thrive when we do so. So as we grow up, moving beyond this primal focus on self, we also have the opportunity to grow into a God-breathed life that is full and complete, where we live and learn the beauty of a life that is shared with others.

Jesus of Nazareth provided us with the perfect model of living a life that is freely shared outside oneself. And the New Testament writers quickly picked up on the fact that the life Jesus shared with us is the same life we Christ-followers, when empowered by the Spirit of God, can share with those who surround our lives.

So when Paul writes to his friends in Philippi…

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.

…he’s pointing out the fact that those who live and breathe in Jesus will find an inner fortitude to live lives of service that will model a different spirit than the world is used to seeing. You see, living a life where we agree with each other, love each other, and are deep-spirited friends with one another is more than just a good idea. More than just a social-uplift program driven by well-meaning, religious people.

Living the life of Christ-centered servanthood; a selfless, obedient life; is a function that comes from being deeply rooted in the Master and then choosing to live, move and have our being in community with the Holy Spirit.

As I see it, it’s one thing for me to try to be a good servant through the well-meaning intentions of my flesh, yet quite another to be a Christ-centered servant, moving through life by the indwelling, empowering work of the Holy Spirit. In truth, my human attempt at being selfless might start off looking pretty impressive, but over time, my ability to be good begins to wear down, especially when it is combined with the natural self-centeredness of both myself and the ones I’m hoping to serve. In the end, trying to make ourselves live the selfless, obedient life like the one Paul talks about here is no easy task.

Yet, I don’t believe the New Testament would speak of such things if it were not possible. So, let’s try this…

How about rather than going into this day doubling down on our good efforts to live this selfless, obedient life Paul speaks of…how about if we go to the One who successfully lived such a life and ask Him for the in-breaking presence of the Holy Spirit to produce this quality of servant life we hope to find?

Allow me to close today’s blog by praying a prayer my mentor, John Wimber, used to pray when asking God for this level of servanthood…

My prayer: God, I’m just not smart enough or good enough to be the Christ-centered servant You want me to be. I surrender my life of service to You today. Let me become nothing more than a coin in Your pocket today, Jesus. Spend me wherever or however You desire. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So am I trying to live the selfless, obedient life of servanthood out of my own strength? Am I going into situations where I am called to serve and believing I can make good things happen? If so, how might I change my way of thinking and surrender more and more of my good intentions toward servanthood and allow the Master to simply spend my life today, as a coin in His pocket, in any way He desires?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

27.1 Servanthood: Come To Serve – Not To Be Served.

27.1

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: Matthew 20: 20-28 (MsgB)

It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Give Your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in Your Kingdom, one at Your right hand, one at Your left hand.”  Jesus responded, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And He said to James and John, “Are you capable of drinking the cup that I’m about to drink?” They said, “Sure, why not?” Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you are going to drink My cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not My business. My Father is taking care of that.” When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away His life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

Here’s a sad little truth when it comes to responding to Jesus’ call to servanthood…

If you and I, as dedicated followers of Christ, want to be “great” at servanthood, we must allow the Master full access to a rather ugly core motivation found deep within our human condition. As I see it, that bad-boy motivator is our nearly unending hunger for position and prominence. The drive to find a place of recognition…or as Jesus politely calls it here in today’s passage…“a place of honor.”

You see, from this very first group of Jesus-followers in the first century, all the way through to today, there is a hideous monster lurking in the shadows for all who desire to serve God. And whether it be as obvious as it is here when James and John (the two Zebedee brothers) persuade their mom to step up to the plate, asking Jesus for some special favors, or when you or I secretly hope the pastor will mention our name when pointing out those in the church who have served or given in special ways, the problem is basically the same.

The problem is self.

So let’s get honest here.

We all love it when we receive special attention. It feels good inside, doesn’t it, when others recognize our worth or value? And who can blame us? This world thrives on an insatiable need for self-worth, for value based on the work we do. That’s probably why Jesus had to point out to His first-century friends, that those who follow Him will need to operate differently than the world around us, where “godless rulers throw their weight around,” allowing “a little power” to quickly go to their heads.

You see, Christ-centered servanthood just doesn’t operate the way the world operates. As shown here in today’s passage, there just isn’t any wiggle room in Jesus’ approach to ministry…no room for self-promotion or self-aggrandizing. To Jesus, serving God and serving self are much like oil and water. They simply can’t be mixed.

Thus, if you and I have any secret dreams of gaining a seat of prominence by serving the Master, it surely won’t be long before God sends a Spirit-empowered plan to knock us off our high horses, just as the Master does here in the lives of His good friends who are plotting to gain a place of prominence as they work for the cause of Christ.

Sadly, if you look at church history, you’ll see a never-ending war between self-will versus following the will of the Father. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus had to address this ugly problem of self-promotion as it was in its early stages of development in those He dearly loved? And I’m guessing He still sees it bubbling up in all of us Jesus-followers yet today.

Which leaves us with the only true remedy to this sad condition of the human heart.

Come to serve – not be served.

True servanthood, as Jesus defines it, is a call to humble service, a call to become otherly, a call to become like the Master. No room for self-promotion. No grace for self-seeking silliness.

The Master has shown the way. Now, let’s follow Him for His glory alone.

My prayer: Alright, Jesus…I come out with my hands up. In truth, when left to my own fleshly devices, I will always tend to ponder in my heart as I’m serving alongside You…“So, what’s in this for me?” I confess my deep need for self-worth and value, so as I pour myself out in service to others, coming to serve and not be served, fill me with what I need in the way only You can.  For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how might I be acting like Jesus’ first-century followers, looking for special favors and places of prominence and honor, when the Master is actually looking for me to be willing to serve rather than be served? What needs to change inside me so I can become freer to be otherly, willing to serve the Master even when there may be no visible benefit to me?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

26.3 Servanthood: Serving As Christ’s Representatives.

26.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: 2nd Corinthians 5: 14-20 (MsgB)

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in His death so that everyone could also be included in His life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at Him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and Him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with Himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what He is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ Himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you.

My mentor, John Wimber, had a straight-forward, crystal-clear approach to doing ministry. It didn’t matter to John if you were a full-time pastor, a part-time pastor, or not a pastor at all. In John’s mind, everyone who considered themselves a follower of Christ was called into full-time ministry with Jesus. So when it came to the subject of serving the Master, John was famous for saying… “Everybody gets to play!”

Back in the day, countless men and women, who were truly interested in serving Jesus with their lives, would flock to John, asking to sit under Wimber and his ministry, so that they too might become actively involved in all they saw John doing with his life. In its heyday, thousands of leaders would gather in massive Vineyard conferences to hear John speak about “doin’ the stuff,” which was Wimber’s code phrase for the specific job assignment Jesus gave His first-century followers (see our last blog session on Luke 9: 1-6).

Jesus…gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s Kingdom and heal the sick…Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

I was one of those young Christians anxious to follow John and his growing team of young people into this exciting Kingdom ministry he was talking about. I attended numerous conferences in the earliest days of the Vineyard, and I longed to be nearer this man of God who was speaking about returning to the original ministry of Jesus; saying and doing things for the Master that better reflected the words and deeds I saw Jesus and His disciples doing in the New Testament.

But here’s the rub.

At nearly every Wimber conference I attended back then, I’d always hear John say something that reflected the same theme I hear in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. John would be adamant. He would say to all of us young leaders who were looking to him for his strong leadership in our lives…(and I’m paraphrasing here)…

“You don’t want to sit under my ministry. You’d hate sitting under my ministry! As a matter of fact, I don’t even have a ministry! Only Jesus has a ministry! And if you’re coming to me to help you find your ministry…forget it! You don’t have a ministry, and quite honestly you’ll never have a ministry! As a matter of fact, if you ever do have a ministry, it’ll be all wrong! Get it?”

You see, like Paul states in today’s passage, for those of us who see ourselves as Christ’s representatives in this world, there is only one focused center we can work from. That center is Christ Himself. He’s the leader and there is no room in His Kingdom for other leaders who bring other ministries to the table. Paul says it clearly here. Jesus of Nazareth has one ministry in mind. The NIV Bible translates it in verses 18-19 as God’s ministry of reconciliation.

So when John Wimber would scold us young whipper-snappers for being so anxious to find our ministries so that we could go out to change the world for Christ, I believe he was doing us a great favor. He was souring us on ourselves. He was sobering us up in the midst of a very intoxicating season when it was easy to envision ourselves going home and doing all the neat stuff John seemed to be doing for Christ.

Looking back now, all these years later, I believe John Wimber was doing us all a great service. He was focusing us on one thing, and one thing alone. And like Paul does here in his letter to the Corinthian church, John was pointing to Jesus alone and saying, like Paul… “as Christ’s representatives, we must do our work in and through Him…our focused center.”

Amen and amen.

My prayer: Father God, it’s very apparent that I, like others who’ve gone before me, can lose my focus when it comes to doing good things for Jesus. Holy Spirit, I ask You to come indwell me and empowered me to keep working at the focused center, following Jesus, the Christ, in all He says and does. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So where have I strayed and lost focus when it comes cooperating with God’s ministry of reconciliation with His world? What will it look like today to enter into that ministry, allowing myself to become the hands and feet of Jesus?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

26.2 Servanthood: K.I.S.S.

26.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: Luke 9: 1-6 (MsgB)

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s Kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.” Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.

Some say the Church was birthed on that amazing day of Pentecost in 33 AD, when the Holy Spirit swooped down upon a gathered group of unsuspecting disciples who were praying together in the upper room. (See Acts 2) I suppose, to a degree, this is an accurate historical assessment. Indeed, from this point forward, the Church, now established under the leadership of Peter (the Rock) and the other apostles, began to gather others unto itself, with over 5,000 people coming into the fold on that one day alone.

Yet, as I see it, our passage today in Luke 9, which records that first day Jesus sent a group of twelve friends out to do His ministry, is the true beginnings of what I believe Jesus had in His mind when He was forming His ministry team we now call the Church of Jesus Christ. My mentor, John Wimber, felt so strongly about this, he would often turn to this passage in Luke 9, and add a second one, located just a page over in Luke 10: 1-23, and say that Jesus’ true commissioning of His Church begins right here as He sends out the twelve, and then the seventy-two, giving them all very clear instructions on what to do and what to say as they go in His name.

But here’s the rub.

You see, it’s much easier for us, as followers of Christ, to go out in Jesus’ name and form churches, build buildings, hold church meetings, and collect offerings than it is to actually go out “to deal with all the demons and cure diseases” (Luke 9: verse 1). It’s much more compatible to our comfort zones to go and gather folks into buildings, instructing them to sit politely in rows while we offer sermons about Jesus than it is for us to actually go into the world “to preach the news of God’s Kingdom and heal the sick” (Luke 9: verse 2). And in a world that’s rapidly going to hell in a handbasket, it’s much more satisfying for us devout Christians to criticize and point fingers at the bad folks who don’t like us, rather than obeying Jesus’ command to “Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.” (Luke 9: verse 5).

You see, in all truthfulness, it’s really hard to follow the commission of Jesus we find here in Luke 9. As one good friend of mine likes to say, “If it were easy, Marty, everybody would be doing it!”

Yet, maybe that’s why Jesus gave us this important piece of advice in the midst of His powerful commission…

“Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. (Luke 9: verse 3)

Hmm. This line of text makes me think of the contemporary acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) which was first coined by U.S. Navy senior officer and lead aircraft engineer, Kelly Johnson, back in 1960 in order to keep his engineering team on track as they were designing some of the most highly-advanced, highly-technical spy planes known to mankind! Too bad the Church of Jesus Christ didn’t have a handful of engineers like Kelly Johnson over the last two-thousand years as it expanded its influence from being a small group of 120 disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem to now over 2.2 billion followers world-wide!

So let me insert a modest proposal here as we continue this part of our blog series on discipleship. How about if we servants of Christ recover Johnson’s acronym (K.I.S.S.), reword it just a bit, and make it the mode of operation for those of us who truly desire to stop “doing church as usual” while returning to Jesus’ original recipe for ministry given here in Luke 9: 1-6?

K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple & Sustainable.

Sounds pretty good to me. For heaven’s sake!

My prayer: Jesus I confess that it’s much easier, and much less threatening, to do church our way than it is for us to follow Your specific commission spelled out in Luke 9. I’ve become comfortable with my present reality of church life, while ignoring Your commission given us here in God’s Word. Change me and continue challenging me to go back to Your original recipe while we (K)eep (I)t (S)imple & (S)ustainable. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So where have I left Jesus’ commission found here in Luke 9 and decided to follow my own good ideas of serving Jesus? What needs to change in both my attitude and actions as I go out, in His name and in His commission, as a servant of Living God?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

26.1 Servanthood: Living The Golden Rule.

26.1

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: Matthew 7: 12 (MsgB)

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

There are many popular expressions of truth out there in our culture. I like to call them “words of wisdom.” Short, little sayings that offer us a bit of truth in a world that, quite honestly, seems to have lost all sense of sanity at times. But as much as I love some of these pithy, little sayings, I must also warn you that many of the more popular expressions out there are often wrongly associated with our Holy Scriptures. In fact, I’ve met people over the years who are convinced that I’m wrong when I try suggesting to them, “That phrase is not in the Bible!” Let me give you just a few of my favorite examples…

God helps those who help themselves.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

If you work hard enough, you’ll be successful.

Just follow your heart and believe, and you can do anything.

Good words…but not from the Good Book!

But take heart, my friends, there is actually one very wise saying out there that can actually find its origins in God’s Word. Many call it “The Golden Rule,” and it’s usually quoted this way:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And while that’s the old King James rendition of Matthew 7: verse 12, I really prefer the way Eugene Peterson translates Jesus’ words in The Message Bible; our verse for today’s study. Let’s read it again:

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Matthew’s gospel has Jesus speaking “The Golden Rule” at the end of what many call His Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), with this classic verse serving as the powerful summary to the Master’s discourse on living a life that honors and glorifies God.

So, as we begin this final section of our blog series on Christian discipleship, I think it wise to stop here a moment and reflect a bit upon Jesus’ Golden Rule. Don’t you?

So, let me ask you…

Can you think of a situation that came your way over the last few days where you had a golden opportunity to live out Jesus’ Golden Rule? You know…one of those awkward moments in life when you really wanted something for yourself but you realized someone else wants it as well?

Maybe it was a big thing like that long-awaited, (and well-deserved!) job promotion you and your office mate are both competing for? Or maybe it was as small of a thing as that parking space closer to the mall entrance?

How about that last piece of pizza sitting on the plate at dinner last night?

Or what about that single mom with her three screaming kids, standing right behind you as you are waiting in line to check out of the supermarket? A new line opens up beside you and you have only six items in your cart, while the lady with the out-of-control brats has her cart filled to the brim with junk food!

Hmm? What would Jesus have to say about that?

Naaah. Not today. I’m too (fill in the blank) to be nice. I’ll take that job promotion over my office buddy. I’ll snag that parking spot. That last piece of pizza is getting cold, I’ll eat it. I only have six items in my cart. Besides, I gave up my seat on the bus last week for that elderly lady. Remember?

And then, if you’re like me, later in the day, I might realize (if I’m not too busy)…

Oh-oh. I bet that was a test of Jesus’ Golden Rule.

Dang. I failed again.

But rather than allow guilt and shame to win out, here’s my suggestion. Let’s set ourselves up for success. Let’s begin anew tomorrow with this prayer in our hearts…

My prayer: Jesus, in all truthfulness, I am a pretty poor example of one who lives out your Golden Rule. I confess my self-centeredness, my self-serving attitude, and I need Your help. In my weakness, Lord, I come to You for Your strength. Holy Spirit, indwell me and empower me to look for one or two small opportunities today where I can grab the initiative, and become a blessing to another person. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So what current situation around me is calling out for an application of Jesus’ Golden Rule? What proactive steps can I take today, with the help of God’s Spirit, to bring a heart of servanthood where selfishness and self-consumption are currently in control?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

25.3 The Pattern Has Been Laid Down For Us.

25.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: John 13: 1-17 (MsgB)

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved His dear companions, He continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal. Jesus knew that the Father had put Him in complete charge of everything, that He came from God and was on His way back to God. So He got up from the supper table, set aside His robe, and put on an apron. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with His apron. When He got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.” Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!” Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.” “Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!” Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you.” (He knew who was betraying Him. That’s why He said, “Not every one of you.”) After He had finished washing their feet, He took his robe, put it back on, and went back to His place at the table. Then He said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

For these first-century followers of Jesus of Nazareth, walking alongside the Master, it was painfully clear that Jesus hadn’t called them together to spend the rest of their lives sitting in church pews, watching the world go by as generation after generation of people go to hell in a hand basket.

No.

To Jesus, the massive God-job of reaching out to rescue a lost and dying world was just in its beginning stages. So as the disciples sat with the Master for this Passover dinner, hidden away in some small corner of the Holy City of Jerusalem, a new work of God was forming. A rescue mission that would eventually spread to every continent on the planet, reach every tribe and tongue, and offer Good News to every human being who truly needs it and wants it, was now being planned.

As John writes this portion of his Gospel, it’s apparent that he understands the gravity of this moment. Jesus is meeting with His disciples one last time before His death on the cross. And yes, you and I know that He will rise from the dead and actually spend 40 additional days meeting with this team after His resurrection, but that night on Passover 33 AD, no one but Jesus knows what is actually coming down the pike. As a matter of fact, these disciples gathered around Jesus this evening are actually expecting a whole different series of events to occur.

From their perspective, Jesus is God’s Messiah who has come to God’s Holy City to set the world straight. They fully expect to be part of a massive governmental coup, where the oppressive Roman empire is overthrown, the corrupt religious system of the day is turned on its ear, and Jesus is crowned King of Israel, setting up the long-awaited Messianic rule and reign of God that has long been predicted in the Holy Book.

So, it’s in that context, Jesus begins their evening together by crumpling up the well-laid plans of those well-meaning disciples who were envisioning themselves as the nation’s next ruling parliament, sitting at high tables and ruling from high places, all for the glory of God.

Actually, Jesus says it very well when He states…

I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

You see, Jesus has now broken the old standards of leadership in the House of the Lord and set up a whole new pattern of how leaders are to lead for the honor of God’s Kingdom. Now, rather than fighting for position and prominence, a follower of Jesus leads by serving others. Rather than looking for ways to promote oneself, making yourself visible in your leadership role, a true disciple of Jesus now lowers him or herself so that we wash the feet of those we lead rather than hovering over them, demanding that they respect our position of leadership.

Get it?

As we go forward in this blog series on discipleship, we must fully understand how radically different Jesus sees our role as followers of Him, sent out into this lost and dying world with God’s message of hope and love. As I see it, it’s this role of becoming servants to others, having the heart of servanthood, that’s at the very core of everything we say and do as we go forward from here. Are you ready to explore it more?

Here, let me wash your feet and slip on your sandals for you before we go.

My prayer: Jesus, I thank You for modeling this new way of leadership, and while it’s radically different from every other model of leadership the world offers, I choose to embrace it. Holy Spirit, indwell and empower me with this heart of servanthood I see in Jesus. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So what needs to change and be re-arranged in my models of leadership so that I become more like Jesus and his servanthood model presented here in John’s Gospel? What lofty views of leadership must I let go of in order to embrace Jesus’ model?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

25.2 So What’s In Your John 3: 16?

25.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.                     

Our reading for today: John 3: 16 (MsgB)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

As men and women who love and serve Jesus of Nazareth; disciples of Christ, it’s vitally important to both understand and embrace the goal of the One who is sending us out. Last time we looked at the unique call of God on the life of one godly man named Isaiah, who lived eight centuries before the birth of Christ. When Isaiah responded to the Lord of the Universe, telling the Divine… “Here I am, send me,” it was obvious that this servant of God spent the remainder of his days laying aside personal agendas while aligning himself with the specific assignments God was giving him to do.

In truth, as followers of Jesus, we have very little wiggle room to make up our God-assignments as we go. As a matter of fact, many “leaders” in the church today often model a very mixed message by saying one thing about being faithful to Jesus, but then straying from the basic commission of Christ to “go and serve,” inventing other “missions” that, quite honestly, reflect more of our fleshly goals than the heart of The Master.

That’s why we, as servants of the Living God, must go back to the basics and remind ourselves why God has started this whole “sending” process in the first place. And one of the best places to begin such a pursuit is to turn our Bibles to, quite possibly, the most recognized passage in the entire Scriptures.

Whether it be a crowd shot at the NFL’s Super Bowl, the inauguration of the President of the United States, or the excitement of the World Olympics, you can always be confident that at some point during the proceedings, the TV cameras will catch a person or two holding up decorative signage that reads…

John 3: 16

These colorful placards usually include, in fine print of course, the King James version of that biblical text: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Now don’t get me wrong. The fact that God “so loved the world” is, indeed, a wonderful evangelistic message to be presented to all of us sinners in this lost and dying world; but sadly too many Christians are very zealous in also emphasizing this add-on message as well…

“Unless you dirty, rotten sinners receive my Jesus as Lord and Savior, you’re gonna burn in hell!”

Have a nice day!

Which brings me now to the very important point of understanding the context of John 3: 16. As I see it, rather than just cherry-picking this one line from John’s Gospel and building a theology and methodology for world evangelism around it, let’s read this text together one more time, but with this reading, let’s add verses 17 and 18…

This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust Him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to Him. John 3: 16-18 (MsgB)

Hmm.

Do you notice how verses 17 and 18 give us a lot more detail as we attempt to define this one verse we’ve been quoting for so many years? Note how verse 17 (see below) especially seems to address all of us well-meaning Christians who feel it our God-assignment to go, pointing out to all those dirty, rotten sinners how very dirty and rotten their lives have become!

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3: 17 (MsgB)

Gosh, I wish all of those zealous Christians who are out there today pointing accusing fingers, telling folks how bad they are, would pay as much attention to John 3: 17 as they do John 3:16. Don’t you?

Now, you might be saying, “Boller, verse 18 does say that those outside of Christ are still “under a death sentence.” And yes, you are right…John’s Gospel does state that. But let’s do this. How about as we go out in Christ’s name, we use the same “good news” tactics of faith, hope, and love to tenderize hardened hearts that the Master used? How about rather than going out with an accusing finger, we go to work alongside God as he works to “put the world right again?”

I’ve often found in this life that true Christian disciples, those who choose to defer to and prefer the commission of Jesus over and above our own agendas, do much better bringing true conversion to sinners by loving “the hell” out of them, rather than pointing the finger of death.

So what’s in your John 3:16 today?

My prayer: Jesus, as I read John’s very-well-known gospel text, it’s crystal clear that my job in serving you is to not point an accusing finger at people, but come alongside God’s rescue mission in putting the world right again. It’s Your sacrificial work on the Cross that paid for our sins, buying our ticket out of hell. Holy Spirit, indwell and empower me to go now in Your name and in Your love. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: If true Christ-centered servanthood is all about loving “the hell” out of others, what practical steps can I take today to be in agreement with that commission and call? Am I guilty of pointing an accusing finger at others, and if so, what needs to change in my heart so that I better reflect the entire text of John 3: 16-18?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…