Tag Archives: slaves

Slaves on Horseback and The Resume of Righteousness

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 Cor. 11:30

I’m a bit concerned at how often we as Christians use prosperity as the exclusive measure of a successful Christian life.  Please understand that I have no problem with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have positioned themselves for God’s favor and have experienced that favor.  At Worship Concepts we are fond of the saying, “God’s plan done God’s way never lacks God’s supply”, so if God isn’t supplying then it might not be God’s plan or God’s way.  I also don’t believe that God has called every Christian to a life of poverty.  Jesus didn’t say that it’s impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; just that a rich man would have to be humble and get down off his high-horse (camel) to fit through the small entry portal to the city.  Heck, my lifestyle is extravagant when judged by the economic standards of most of the rest of the world.

My concern is when we use prosperity as the exclusive measure of God’s favor.  Too often we (I) fall into the jealousy trap of judging a pastor’s impact based on the size of his ministry; how often he’s invited to guest preach; how many hits are on his blog.  We look at successful Christian business people and assume that it’s the “favor of God” that led to their affluence.  When other parents seem to have the best behaved children on the planet, while ours drive us to desperation, we assume it’s because we’re not in God’s will.

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, when a sports figure wins a championship we often assume that God “liked” him better than the loser.  By that measure, God must have really favored Tiger Woods until he messed up (see David in the Old Testament) and hasn’t won many golf tourneys since.  Of course, Tiger is still rather “blessed” as a golfer, so God mustn’t be too upset with him.

I confess that when I don’t make the best choices in my retirement portfolio my initial response is to add fifteen minutes to my morning scripture time in an effort to regain God’s wisdom in what the stock market will do.  If that’s all it takes, then Warren Buffet must be just about the holiest man in the world.

Yes, I know that I’m on some thin ice here when it comes to the “power and authority” of Scripture or the need for spiritual disciplines, all of which I adamantly endorse.  But sometimes we can do all the right things, read the right verses, live a godly life and it still doesn’t go the way of prosperity.  Sometimes pastors can preach the good sermons and still see their congregations, and giving, shrink; sometimes parents can raise their children in “the way that they should go” and the kids still go the other way; sometimes we stand firm in the faith and get cut down; sometimes we tithe obediently and give sacrificially only to struggle financially.

Conversely, sometimes pastors live duplicitous lives and their churches grow by leaps and bounds (sometimes they even do great things for the Kingdom, in spite of the pastors “indiscretions”); sometimes parents are completely inept and still their children are arrows that fly straight and true (just look at my kids, in spite of my failures); sometimes regardless of how much we sacrifice God still calls us to poverty.  “I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.” Ecc. 10:7

When I’m tempted to use the world’s standard to measure effectiveness for Kingdom impact; when I’m start putting up decorations for my pity party because my path isn’t one of prosperity; when I assume that God has taken His favor from me in spite of my obedience; when I lament the limited success of my CV…I look at Paul’s resume.

Paul, Chief of Sinners (formerly known as Saul of Taursus)
Career objective: Preach the Gospel to Jew and gentile alike
Education: B.A. Pharisee University; M.Div Damascus Road Polytech; Ph.D. Kingdom School of Hard Knocks

Experience

  • Worked much harder
  • Been in prison more frequently
  • Been flogged more severely
  • Been exposed to death again and again

Awards/Special Achievements

  • Received forty lashes minus one – 5 times
  • Beaten with rods – 3 times
  • Stoned – 1 time
  • Shipwrecked – 3 times
  • Day and night in (not on) the open sea
  • Lowered over city walls to escape evil king

Hobbies and Activities

  • Endured dangerous rivers
  • Attacked by bandits
  • Betrayed by countrymen
  • Accosted by gentiles
  • Lived in urban blight
  • Wilderness survival

Miscellaneous

  • Labored and toiled and have gone without sleep
  • Known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food
  • Been cold and naked
  • Daily pressure of concern for all the churches

When I start to feel a twinge of jealously because someone else’s ministry is more “successful” and has more “impact” than mine I read through Paul’s resume.  Mine is rather weak by comparison…still working on my first imprisonment for preaching the Gospel.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to boast about my forty lashes minus one.  I pray that one day I’ll have a resume of righteousness.

Slaves, Servants and Other Lovers

“And I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.  If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?” II Corinthians 12:15

Here’s how Oswald Chambers expresses the above verse in today’s (2/23/11) reading from “My Utmost for His Highest”:

“‘I will spend myself to the last ebb for you; you may give me praise or give me blame, it will make no difference.’  So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.”

We are to be slaves to anyone who doesn’t know Jesus; not just doesn’t know about Jesus, but doesn’t know Him.  We “churchophiles” often get this wrong.  We make ourselves slaves to each other; trying to impress each other and put ourselves in each others’ good graces.

I believe this happens because most of the personal attacks against Christians come from other Christians.  Think about it.  When was the last time any of us were attacked personally for being a Christian?  I’m not talking about the very real persecution that occurs in some countries.  If you have access to the internet and can read my blog you probably live in a place of relative privilege regarding persecution of Christians.

Sure, there is plenty of corporate “persecution” against Christians from the new militant atheists like Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens, but when was the last time any of us experienced a real verbal attack from any of them or their followers.  I’d be willing to place a substantial wager that the last personal attack any of us experienced was from a “brother or sister in the Lord.”

My thought here is that we make ourselves slaves to other Christians so that we won’t be attacked by other Christians.  We try to say the right things, we’re passive-aggressive (see Bob Hostetler’s post: A 21st Century Church Epidemic), we worry what each other thinks about styles of worship, we have “roast pastor/worship-leader/Bible-study-leader” for Sunday dinner, etc.

We’re not to be slaves to other Christians.  We’re to be lovers of other Christians:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

This isn’t a command, by the way.  It’s a litmus test.  It’s an “if-then” statement.  If you’re Jesus’ disciples, then you will love one another.  If you’re not loving each other, then you’re not His disciples.  Loving (agape) each other isn’t something that takes effort, it’s what should naturally occur when we’re attached to the vine.  A grape doesn’t have to work at being a grape.  If it’s attached to the vine, then it’s going to be a grape not an orange.  Removing the grape from the vine gives us something completely different…a raisin.

If we’re slaves to the lost, let’s call them Gentiles, and we’re lovers of each other; then what is our relationship to Jesus?

Caveat: I know that these aren’t mutually exclusive terms and roles.  We certainly are to love the lost and be servants to each other, etc., but the English language isn’t the easiest tool to work with.

Our relationship to Jesus, in this context, is that of a servant.  Notice the terms Paul uses in describing a slave for lost souls: “spend,” “expend” and “loved the less.”  But he does it gladly.  What is Paul’s secret to being “content in any and every situation?”  He knows when to be a slave; when to be a lover; when to be a servant.

We are servants of Jesus Christ.  What’s the difference between a slave and a servant? Slaves “have to” and servants “get to.” (Please see “Servants versus Slaves.”)

These three roles are intrinsically intertwined.  Simply being a slave to the Gentiles, without the encouraging love of other Christians and servant devotion to Jesus, leaves one disillusioned and defeated.  Servanthood to Jesus that doesn’t lead to love for each other and service to Gentiles is just self-centered piousness (James 2:14-17).  Love of each other without discipleship toward Jesus and the compulsion to share the Gospel is…well…um…it isn’t love.  It’s just “circling the wagons” with an “us four, no more” attitude.  At its worst it’s sectarianism that leads to cultism.

All of that to say; let’s love each other more, serve Jesus diligently and be slaves for the sake of the Gospel.

Servants versus Slaves

Continuing in a series of posts taken from the Worship Concepts Network AWEthentic Worship Experience conference.

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“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.” Phil. 2:15

When I grow up I want to be Hector Elizondo.  More accurately I want to be the characters that he portrays in movies, with the exception of the one he plays in the original “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.”  Don’t recognize the name?  He was the hotel manager in “Pretty Woman.”  He was also the Queen of Genovia’s (Julie Andrews) security director, and “secret crush”, in “The Princess Diaries.”  By the way, his character’s name in The Princess Diaries is Joe.  Ironic, don’t you think.

Anyway, many of the characters he portrays have a similar trait: they are gracious in attending to the interests of others above their own.  In Pretty Woman he considers a prostitute as better than himself so that she can better herself.  In The Princess Diaries he sets aside his own ambitions, for both power and love, for the sake of The Queen and the newly found princess.  In both roles, he gently and graciously serves others with no thought of what they might be able to do in return from himself.  Hector’s portrayal of these characters reminds me of the motto at the Ritz-Carlton, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” (http://corporate.ritzcarlton.com/en/Careers/WorkingAt.htm) The employees of the Ritz-Carlton know who they are.  They also value each other and those whom they serve with at least the same respect they have for themselves.

This attitude doesn’t reveal the attitude of a slave, it exemplifies the attitude of a servant.  Servants don’t others to make themselves look better and they don’t degrade themselves for risk of mediocrity.  The basic premise is that they “get to” serve others, not they “have to” serve others.

A slave has to – A servant gets to.

A slave does the minimum required – A servant reaches maximum potential

A slave goes a mile – A goes the extra mile

A slave feels robbed – A servant is blessed to give

A slave fights for his rights – A servant lays his rights down

A slave is bound – A servant is free to serve

How does this apply in the service of the King, specifically worship teams?

  • We don’t have to learn a new skill; we get to hone our craft.
  • We don’t have to practice our parts before rehearsal; we get to honor our brothers and sisters by not wasting their time in rehearsal.
  • We don’t have to pay attention to detail; we get to make sure nothing distracts people from encountering God through worship.
  • We don’t have to go to rehearsal; we get to join others in preparing for worship.
  • We don’t have to get there early for tech setup; we get to set others up for a “win.”
  • We don’t have to make projection slides; we get to visually portray anointed lyrics.
  • We don’t have to endure a style that we might not prefer; we get to participate in the diversity of Christ’s Body.

Get the idea?  Can I take this from the sublime to the “seemingly” ridiculous?

  • We don’t have to help set up chairs even though it’s not our job; we get to lighten the load of someone who serves in anonymity.
  • We don’t have to clean the church bathrooms; we get to prepare the House of God for guests.
  • We don’t have to sing in nursing homes, rescue missions, to the homeless under a bridge; we get to minister to the least of these.

On worship teams we already get to do a lot of very cool things; as Servants of the King, and each other, we also get to do things that others think they have to.  Better is one day “getting to” than one thousand days “having to.”