Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paying attention.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? ~Hebrews 2

I was reading a blog today where the writer mentioned something that is an extremely common problem for myself, and I believe is a problem for many if not all people. That is, the writer said that he was reading a somewhat familiar passage and something donned on him--but it was something he already knew. It had just gotten lost in some corner of his brain. How well I know that story.

It reminded me of the above passage in Hebrews. I find it no accident that we are reminded many times in Scripture to meditate on God's Word. There is much to be said for constantly recalling God's Words to us and meditating on them and remembering them. It builds faith as it reminds us of God's promises, His faithfulness, His character, His plan, etc. This passage in Hebrews is a very strong reminder to "pay [very close] attention" to the things we have heard in God's Word, for the consequences of drifting away are pretty grim. Even in the short-term, I realize just how many sticky or embarrassing situations I could have saved myself if I simply dwelt on the Word a little more. This is part of why I feel prompted to listen to so much Scripture throughout my day. Not only does it build my faith when I do so, but it tends to keep me out of trouble. After all, it's a little difficult to sin when you're thinking about God (unless you're a pretty hard person, in which case I don't know if there's hope for you).

As long as I live in an imperfect world I will probably have to re-learn things all the time, but in the mean time I hope to do my best to retain the things I have heard from God. I know they will keep my foot from slipping and will bless my life. I will not neglect this great salvation!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Sometimes there are certain words that seem to pop up more than others. It's like something is lurking in the shadows that I'm supposed to find and these recurring words are my clue. So whenever I notice a common theme in stories, verses, or sermons that I encounter, I tend to pay attention. 
Lately the word Hope has been following me around. It literally pops up everywhere. It's one of those words I never really paid much attention to because we use it all the time. "I hope it rains," or, "we're hoping for the best," or "I hope I can find some chocolate before I faint." It often comes with the connotation of uncertainty in our language. It's as if hope has taken on a meaning of chance. Consequently, when I hear someone talking about sharing hope with victims of a disaster or read a verse about hope, I guess that's just how my brain subconsciously interprets it. 
Recently I had one of those "of duh" sort of moments. I suddenly realized, "DUH! that's not what hope is." At least, that's never how the word "hope" is used in the Bible. Certainly not any time I can think of. When God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He will give you a hope and a future, He surely is not talking about giving you a chance at good future. When the Bible talks about putting your hope in God, it surely is not a thing of uncertainty. After all, with all the uncertainties of life, why would you throw in your lot with more uncertainty? No, in fact, when hope is mentioned in the Bible, it is very much a thing of expectancy and anticipation.
God gives us certain promises in His Word in which we can have expectant hope, knowing He will do what He has promised because He is faithful. It's not a matter of "I hope God comes through," but a matter of "God said He will do this and He will!"
I ordered several things online recently from a certain well-known website using a gift card with which I had been blessed. Since it was a gift, I didn't have to pay for the items--they had already been paid for. All I had to do was use the card to cover the cost of what I needed. Then it was just a matter of waiting for my packages to arrive. I was waiting with an expectant hope and much anticipation! One of my packages took entirely too long to arrive. Eventually it did arrive, but if it had not arrived I would have had every right to write the company and complain and demand they make it right. Even if it wasn't the company's fault things didn't go right, I have a guarantee that they will deliver.
To me this is a perfect example of the hope we have in God's promises. I had redeemed my prize that someone else paid for and now the items were mine. All I had to do is wait for them to arrive. I may have had to put in a little effort to fight for my right if things didn't go as planned, but that would be an exception to the general rule of how things work. So it is with the promises of God. He paid for them. Now it's up to us to take possession of what He has given us. Sometimes it requires a long wait and a lot of patience. Sometimes it takes a bit of a battle to keep the enemy from running interference. But we can know with a confident hope that God does provide what He promises and He will come through for us!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friendship vs Servanthood

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.   ~John 15:15

"What are you doing today to serve God?" Ever hear that question? Or have you ever sat and listened to an incredible missionary presentation and wished you could go serve God overseas? I have. When I was younger I'd hear my grandma tell many stories of serving as a missionary in South America, or stories of missionaries she knew. I always felt like in order to be important in God's kingdom you had to be a pastor or a missionary (or, in my case as a girl, the wife of a pastor or missionary). And of course I wanted to be important. But I didn't particularly feel called to be "in the ministry." At least, not in the traditional sense.
I remember the relief I had as I got a little older and realized that God uses people of all vocations, and furthermore He needs people in every walk of life to be useful for Him. I realized that God calls everyone who follows Him to certain tasks. But I still couldn't shake the mindset of servanthood. I would practically beg for God to use me as His servant to do His bidding. I didn't care if He sent me to live in a mud hut and eat strange foods and go through all sorts of hardships. I just wanted to *do* something for God. I wanted to do *anything* for God. But something was missing.

There is nothing wrong with seeking servanthood. The Bible speaks plenty of being a servant. It's associated with humility and selflessness. Paul often refers to himself as a bondservant of Christ--indebted to Him because of the price He paid. But if we get to the point where we seek the service rather than seeking the One we serve, we have swung the proverbial pendulum off-target.

I think Jesus' wording was very precise when He told the disciples they were not just His servants, but His friends. He makes the distinction, and I think we should take note. A servant is concerned only with managing whatever department they are entrusted with. They are list-keepers, so to speak. They have a set regime of tasks to complete in order to fulfill their duty. There is little relationship with "the boss." A friend, on the other hand, has close relationship. A friend serves, but a friend's service is born out of love. There is no pressure to perform in order to maintain a status and get paid. There is only the desire to please. You know what your friend has in mind, their likes and displeasure, and out of your love for your friend you do what you can to please them. Not out of fear of rejection; out of love.
Imagine if your mother when you were a child was so fixated on feeding you and keeping your face and clothes clean and neat and keeping the house clean and neat that that was all she ever talked about and all she ever paid attention to you or had fun with you. Chances are if you had that childhood, you probably don't have very fond memories of it. In contrast, if your mother lets you play in the mud and make a mess in the kitchen once in a while, you will probably grow up with great childhood memories. Why? Because in the first example it's all about the house and the clothes and appearances and keeping rules. In the second example it's about enjoying life together. There is relationship.

That is the friendship vs servanthood distinction. It's about relationship. It's about love and mutual respect. So serve God and serve Him well, but let it all be done out of your love and appreciation for all He's done for you. By the way, He did it for you out of love.

P.S. sorry for the weird background highlighting. I don't know why it's doing that and it won't stop.