the time is now
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:6-8 NIV
Way back at the beginning of the pandemic, I read a book. It's a good book and worth reading and putting into practice. It's by Miles McPherson, a popular pastor and former NFL player. Here's information about him:
And here's a link to the book on Goodreads:
By the way, if you ever want to buy a book, I'd recommend using Ethical Book Search. Long story short, it's more ethical than Amazon, usually cheaper, and I've loved every interaction I've had with them. Using their site, you can find almost any book from any ethical seller around the world. (No, they don't pay me to say this.) Here's a link to their site:
You can also find that link on my Favorite Links page.
There's another interesting link I got from McPherson's book (also on my Favorite Links page). I'm generally reticent to share it for reasons that become obvious as soon as you click on it. I'll attach it to a later post in this series, but, in the meantime, here's what I have to say today:
From Foster's chapter on service:
In the Discipline of service there is also great liberty. Service enables us to say "no!" to the world's games of promotion and authority. It abolishes our need (and desire) for a "pecking order." That phrase is so telling, so revealing. How like chickens we are! In the chicken pen there is no peace until it is clear who is the greatest and who is the least and who is at which rung everywhere in between. A group of people cannot be together for very long until the "pecking order" is clearly established. We can see it so easily in such things as where people sit, how they walk in relation to each other, who always gives way when two people are talking at the same time, who stands back and who steps forward when a job needs to be done. (Depending on the job, it may be a sign of mastery or a sign of servitude.) These things are written across the face of human society.
I've found this to be true, especially as I get settled in my new house. There are ten of us. With ten of us, that means 45 new pairs of relationships must be formed (click here to see how I calculated that). It's obvious to me that painfully establishing a pecking order is at least expected if it isn't normal. How do I know? Because every time I tell someone about my new living situation, they ask, "But how do you all get along?" It's as if the expected state for any close-quartered living situation is conflict. Anything better than that is a miracle that might happen accidentally.
You remember that verse that goes, "Love is patient, love is kind..."? Foster presents the opposite of that when he describes self-righteous service.
He says, that self-righteous service...
- comes through human effort. (i.e., from analysis, statistics, and charts)
- is impressed with the "big deal." (i.e., only cares about large issues while ignoring the small)
- requires external rewards.
- is highly concerned about results. (i.e., becomes bitter when the results fall below expectations)
- picks and chooses whom to serve. Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage. Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image.
- is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a "feeling" to serve ("moved by the Spirit" as we say). Ill health and inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve.
- is insensitive. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive.
- fractures community... it puts others into its debt and becomes one of the most subtle and destructive forms of manipulation known.
And please bear with me as I quote from Foster one more time:
A natural and understandable hesitancy accompanies any serious discussion of service. The hesitancy is prudent since it is wise to count the cost before plunging headlong into any Discipline. We experience a fear that comes something like this: "If I do that, people will take advantage of me; they will walk all over me"
Right here we must see the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant... when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.
Consider the perspective of a slave. A slave sees all of life from the viewpoint of slavery. He does not see himself as a posessing the same rights as free men and women... when slavery is involuntary it is cruel and dehumanizing (footnote: A good part of my doctoral study was on slavery in America. I am keenly aware of the horribly demonic nature of involuntary servitude.) When the slavery is freely chosen, however, everything is changed. Voluntary servitude is a great joy.
This quotation gives a fresh meaning to the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus says,
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:39–45 NIV
This is my first post in the series on service. Service is particularly important to me. It's near and dear to my heart. Here's my prayer:
Lord, as we serve, help us to do so truly and purely for the love of you and the love of others. If we're slaves to you, no person on earth can manipulate our service for evil. Amen.
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