Aloha Friday Message – August 24, 2012 – Who’s your Master?

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Read it online here.

Joshua 24:15 – But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

~~ Bob Dylan Gotta serve somebody, 1979

Thirty-three years ago, Bob Dylan had a powerful conversion experience. He recorded a few Gospel albums. He changed his view of the world. The world did not exactly embrace his conversion. Years later (circa 1986) he would say he doesn’t follow any organized religion, and that the songs – the music, both religious and secular – were his lexicon. Did he leave the Lord? Well, as the saying in our house goes, “Only God knows, and he’s not tellin.”

But how about us? Do you, do I, do we really serve the Lord? Most of us are pretty good at the outward signs – going to church, watching our language, avoiding dubious situations, and saying grace in the restaurant. You do that, right? Say grace before you pitch in to that T-Bone at The Sizzler? How about at work when you’re in the cafeteria with your friends? And if you do, what does that prove? Again, as the saying in our house goes, “Only God knows, and he’s not tellin.” And I think that’s probably a good thing, too, because if you knew what he knows about me, if you could see me the way he sees me, then probably I would also be able to see you the way he sees you. In fact, it makes both of us, you and me, uncomfortable to think about or talk about the stuff we never talk about even when we are talking only in our own head. We are sinners, you and I, and there’s no getting around or away from that. According to the Gospel, the Good News, sinners have served, presently serve, and will continue to serve the Lord. Some sinners serve so well that everyone knows who they serve. Dr. Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II, Rev. Billy Graham, Moses and Abraham, Saint Paul, John Calvin, Hannah Senesh, and someone in your own life whom you know as a Godly person – all of these people lived their lives openly as servants of God.

How is it we can recognize these people as servants of God? I want to direct you to the first chapter of Romans starting at verse 8. I’m going to insert it here so you can read it and refer back to it.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Right off the bat, you can see that Paul begins with that “Attitude of Gratitude” I’ve been writing about. First and foremost we know the People of God as persons who know how to be grateful for God’s infinite blessings, grace, and love. They know with unshakable certainty that God and God alone is the giver of all good gifts, and for that they remain always grateful. Not long ago we spoke of even suffering and persecutions being good gifts. Remember Jesus saying Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:11. In Crucita’s family, there is a custom of stating “thanks be to God” frequently in conversation: Buenos dἱas le de Dios. ¿Como amanecio hoy? Good morning by God’s will! How did you awake today? Muy bien, Gracias a Dios. ¿Y tu? Very well, thanks be to God. And you? If your day, your life, and all your human relationships begin with gratitude, you have begun well indeed!

Next Paul says unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers. Along with gratitude, a rich prayer life is another way we recognize a servant of God. As in this passage from Paul, the richness comes with a commitment to intercession on behalf of others. Paul’s prayers are not selfish, not egotistical. They are prayerful appeals to God for increased faith for others, for opportunities to preach the Gospel to others, and – if he prays for himself in anything – he asks for strength and wisdom to be able to endure the hardships (the blessings of suffering) required for fulfilling his mission as “the least of the Apostles.” He often tells others they, too, should be thankful all the time about everything and to pray all the time about everything. Gratitude and prayer complement each other beautifully because that combination is a key component that makes the universe function as God intended.

Paul goes on to say, “if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.” When your life’s foundation is composed of gratitude and intercession, it seems natural to be always seeking the will of God. Paul’s deep desire in this passage is to be able to travel to Rome to meet with the Christians there. We now know that he got his wish, but it came with a high price and ultimately it was in Rome that his mission work ended at the edge of an executioner’s sword. Persons who are constantly grateful for the opportunities to serve others stay connected to God so that they won’t miss an opportunity to serve. Servants expect to serve, so they are watchful – constantly attentive to the one who directs their service. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. Psalm 123:2  There are many interpretations of this passage, but my favorite is this: In David’s time, servants and their “bosses” impressed their guests by developing and rehearsing subtle signals so that with only the slightest move of the boss’s little finger or right eyebrow or posture, a servant would know to perform a certain action without appearing to have been commanded to do so. This careful attentiveness reflected on the “power” of the boss in training his or her servants. “S/he can practically read my mind, as you can easily see.” Godly servants are always watching for God’s next little move so they can spring into action and conform to his will. “Thy will, not mine, be done.” As we receive innumerable blessings, we understand that to truly do God’s will we, too, must be generous in our willingness to serve him by serving others.

A true servant of God is grateful for the opportunities to serve, and prayerfully considers finding more ways to serve God’s will by serving God’s creatures and creation by giving generously from the store of blessings the servant receives. Paul writes in verse 11, I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established …” You cannot give what you do not have. Paul’s bountiful storehouse of spiritual know-how was jam-packed with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. He patiently, consistently, and eagerly taught Christ’s Law of Love. He didn’t whizz though town like 20th-century evangelists; he spent years in one place working as a tent-maker while doing his preaching and teaching. He worked hard at his job so he could carry out his vocation. For his job, he accepted payment, but his vocation was entirely a gift given for the benefit of others. Paul’s happiness was in the giving. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35 While that saying from Jesus is not included anywhere in the Gospels, Paul’s use of it implies that it was common knowledge nonetheless.

Paul worked to pay his own way so that he might not be a burden on anyone else. He gave them the gift of respect by not making himself dependent on their support. He specifically mentions this several times in the Epistles, but not with the intent of “showing off.” He urges others to follow the example of respectful service so that the Kingdom of God will be advanced, and – like all good teachers – he learns from his pupils even as he teaches them, for he says, that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. You will remember not long ago we discussed a passage from James 1:5. Near the end of that message we read – ” So we know we should seek God’s own Wisdom, and sometimes even God’s own energy so we can grasp that wisdom, and when He bestows that wisdom on us, we must respectfully accept it with humility and openness so that we will willingly allow our life in him to conform to that Wisdom which is also His will and His Gift to us through Jesus.”

As Jesus’ disciples, we are

  • Grateful
  • Prayerful
  • Watchful
  • Bountiful
  • Respectful

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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