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My Word of the Year: Adorn

 

“That in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

Titus 2:10

You know how some pants- skinny jeans probably- can make you look 10 pounds heavier? And how, mercifully, there’s also a cute-fit pair that seems to take pounds off?

How you fade in the teal blue top, but cobalt blue always makes the outfit pop? Or how the Miss Mauve lipstick makes you look sick but Rich Rosewood like royalty? And how the right jewelry and hair set it all off? How all of these- to use an old-fashioned word- adorn?

Last week, I was privileged to share with a women’s group. The title was Adorned and the subtitle way too long to repeat. Honestly, the talk was too.

If I could give it again, I’d say it this way: Dress in ways that make yourself look good. Live in a ways that makes God look great.

Yes, I am well aware that dressing- and living so “put together”- won’t always feel natural. Yoga pants and grumbling words might feel like a better fit. Sometimes we have to fake it till we make it. Adorning can be effortful.

But not much that’s good comes easy. It takes strong grace and our resolve. Which is why my word is ADORN.

My Word of the Year

Did you pick a theme word for the year?

One of my friends picked HELP. Another picked ENGAGE. It took me till March, but I’ve finally got one. Yup. You guessed it- ADORN.

The word adorn comes from the Greek word kosmeo, from which we get our English word cosmetic. It means “to arrange, to put in order,” – to present in a way that enhances beauty. The Greeks used it to describe how the right jewelry would beautify a well-dressed woman or how tasteful decor could beautify a room.

The Apostle Paul used the term in Titus 2:10  to describe what happens when people live godly in their unique spheres of life. Adorning the doctrine of a saving, transforming God is what we do when we show patience and kindness and self-control.

Those are just some of the many ways we make God look good. The ways we live that set His beauty off and adorn.

Adorn

Pastor C.H. Spurgeon said that adornment in this Titus 2 sense is,

  • A tribute to beauty. Godly behavior honors the gospel.
  • An  advertisement of beauty. Holiness calls attention to the natural beauty of the gospel.
  • An enhancement of beauty. Godliness gives emphasis to the excellence of doctrine.

We know how to zhuzh up our look with the the right color and fit. 

But we’ve also seen how poorly fitting clothes, wrong color shades and gaudy jewelry can actually diminish the appearance of beauty. The beauty is still there but the color or style detract and deflect. They don’t enhance or “set it off.” They don’t adorn.

We do the same things to the doctrine of a saving God. We diminish- not God’s actual beauty– but the appearance of God’s gorgeous, glorious salvation to those who know Christ through us.

I Should Like to See it Working

Alexander MacLaren was a 19th-century, English preacher. His treatment of adorn has impacted me greatly and I think his is a word for all Christ followers today. That’s why MacLaren gets the podium for the rest of this post. (The full transcript of this message can be accessed here. )

[M]en do quite rightly and legitimately, judge of systems by their followers...It is just as fair, when a creed comes before our notice which assumes to influence men’s conduct, to say: ‘Well, I should like to see it working,’ as it is for any of you mill-owners to say, when a man comes to you with a fine invention upon paper, ‘Have you got a working model of it? Has it ever been tried? What have been the results?’

So when we Christians stand up and say, ‘We have a faith which is able to deaden men’s minds to the world; which is able to make them unselfish; that is able to lift them up above cares and sorrows; which is able to take men and transform their whole nature, and put new desires and hopes and joys into them’; it is quite fair for the world to say:

‘Have you? Does it? Does it do so with you? Can you produce your lives as working models of Christianity? Can you produce your cure as a proof of the curative power of the gospel that you profess?’

So, dear friends, this possibility does lie before all Christian men, that they may by their lives conciliate prejudices, prepare people to listen favourably to the message of God’s love, win over men…and make them say: ‘Well, after all, there is something in that Christianity.

Lives Like Mirrors

Our lives ought to be like the mirror of a reflecting telescope. The astronomer does not look directly up into the sky when he wants to watch the heavenly bodies, but down into the mirror on which their reflection is cast.

And so our little, low lives down here upon earth should so give back the starry bodies and infinitudes above us that some dim eyes, which…could not gaze into the violet abysses, may behold them reflected in the beauty of our life.

Our lives should be like the old missals, where you find the loving care of the monastic scribe has illuminated the holy text…The best Illustrated Bible is the conduct of the people who profess to take it for their guide and law.

Do you repel or attract?

The issues of the conduct of professing Christians are the one or other of these two, either to add beauty to the gospel or to cause the Word of God to be blasphemed. If you do not the one you will be doing the other. If my life is not throwing back honour…it will be throwing back discredit.

Your lives, professing Christians, are not neutral in their effect upon men’s estimate of your creed. Either you attract or repel. The one pole of the magnet or the other you do present. Either you make men think better of God’s truth, or you make them think worse of it. There are no worse enemies of the gospel than its inconsistent friends.

My brother! I bring to each of you the very solemn question: Do you repel or attract? You have, perhaps, children. Are they favourably disposed to Christianity because of what they see in the lives of their father and mother? or do your inconsistencies… drive them away and disgust them with a profession of religion, and with religion itself?

You have friends and acquaintances, and a circle whom you influence. Do you influence them to look with favour upon that Word which has made you what you are? Or do you turn them away from it?

The Smallest Duties, Done For Christ’s Sake

Remember, too, as the context teaches us, that the lives which commend and adorn the doctrine must be such as manifest Christian principle in the smallest details.

These slaves [Titus 2:8-9], in their smoky huts, with their little tasks… were to ‘adorn the doctrine.’ For it is the little duties which by their minuteness tempt men to think that they can do them without calling in the great principles of conduct, that give the colour to every life after all…

A handful of snow in the hedge in the winter time will fall into the same curves, and be obedient to the same great physical laws which shape the glaciers that lie on the sides of the Alps. You do not want big things in order, largely and nobly, to manifest big principles.

The smallest duties, distinctly done for Christ’s sake, will adorn the doctrine…

He Must First Beautify Us

And now one last word. How is such a manner of life to be attained? I know of only one way, and that is by continually living near Jesus Christ.

If we are to beautify Him, He must first beautify usIf we are to adorn the doctrine, the doctrine must adorn us. That is to say, it is only when we live near Him, are in constant touch of His hand, and communion with His spirit, it is only then that His beauty shall pass into our faces, and that beholding the glory of the Lord ‘we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory.’

Only then men will say, “Well, after all, there is something in that Christianity,” Only then will the doctrine of God our Savior look gorgeous.

And don’t you want to adorn the truth of our beautiful, transforming and saving Lord?

“In the same way, let your light shine before others,

so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

“Blessed are the people who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face”

Psalm 89:15

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A Grateful Saint, Patrick

I just can’t do it. Ever since that blessed week in June of ’14, I can’t pass March 17th without a Saint Patrick post. 

Two years ago, it was a bittersweet personal confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone.  The year before it was 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My  Homeboy. Then, last year, I added another reason Patrick is a kindred soul.

This one’ll be short and sweet, straight from Patrick’s Confessions. The theme is Patrick’s gratitude.

Now Patrick, in his own words.

Why I Cannot Be Silent

I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. Patrick, who turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God. Why we praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven. (Confession 3)

I’ll Never Stop Giving Thanks To My God

I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too.

Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end. However ignorant I am, he has heard me, so that in these late days I can dare to undertake such a holy and wonderful work. In this way I can imitate somewhat those whom the Lord foretold would announce his gospel in witness to all nations before the end of the world. This is what we see has been fulfilled. Look at us: we are witnesses that the gospel has been preached right out to where there is nobody else there!  (Confession 34)

I Want To Give Thanks To God Without Ceasing

So I want to give thanks to God without ceasing. He frequently forgave my lack of wisdom and my negligence. More than once did not be come very angry with me, the one who was meant to be his helper. I was not quick to accept what he showed me, and so the Spirit prompted me. The Lord was merciful to me a thousand thousand times, because he saw in me that I was ready, but that I did not know what I should do about the state of my life…Indeed, I was not quick to recognise the grace that was in me; I know now what I should have done then. (Confession 46)

Nothing I Have That Is Not His Gift To Me

So I shall make a return to him for all that he has given to me. But what can I say, or what can I promise to my Lord? There is nothing I have that is not his gift to me. But he knows the depths of my heart, my very gut feelings! He knows that it is enough that I desire very much, and am ready for this, that he would grant me to drink of his chalice, just as he was pleased to do for others who loved him. (Confession 57)

Patrick was faithful to God’s call on his life. In the end, the Lord didn’t demand that Patrick drink the cup of the martyr’s death. He supposedly died in 463 AD, at the ripe old age of 120. Which happens to be the age that another of God’s great servants died.

But it’s not how many years Patrick lived that matters most. It’s that Patrick was a grateful saint.

As all God’s saints should be.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.  
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. 
Psalm 116:12-17 (ESV)
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Don’t Strike The Rock! Learning About Consequences From Moses

Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them…

And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.

Numbers 20:8, 11-12

Too Extreme?

Do you ever wonder at how God doles out discipline? Like when He stopped his meekest man Moses from entering the Promised Land simply because he struck a rock? How sometimes divine judgement seems too severe for the crime?

Moses had been told to strike a rock before (Ex. 17:1-7). And God himself had called his people rebels. I’ve written about these rebels before. So what’s so wrong with Moses doing the same?

After all, Psalm 106 tells us that the people sorely provoked Moses. They angered God too. And it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.

Can we really blame Moses for lashing out?

Who Can Blame Moses?

Moses was God’s servant, His pick among all the men on earth to lead His people out of slavery. The “Man of God”- as Psalm 90 calls him- brought the Israelites out of Egypt through the Sea and for 40 years led them through the wilderness. You’d expect that Moses would be the one to bring them to the Promised Land.

He was not. Because God did blame Moses. He found fault in Moses and held him responsible. That’s what blame means.

Numbers 20:12 makes that clear: Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. The offense was serious enough in God’s eyes to ban Moses from leading Israel into Canaan Land.

But you’re in good company if you’ve struggled with this. Scholars have called it “one of the most difficult problems in the Old Testament.” Articles have been written to explain. Nineteenth-century pastor Alexander MacLaren asked “Was his momentary failure not far too severely punished?”

Like banning dessert for a year because a son stole a cookie. Or denying a week at camp for a minute of sassy talk.

But God said it and I believe it. Surely the Judge of the earth will do right.

And I still want to understand why.

Still a’fighting, and a’struggling?

So, this time on my way through Numbers, I paused to ponder why. I did some work- and had some fun- studying this out. Here’s what I found.

The first thing is really a side note. But I think it’s important because misunderstanding it trips many of us up.

We think that when we are converted our old demons will suddenly die. Then we lose heart and grow faint when they don’t. We forget that as long as there’s life, there’s a fight.

W. A. Criswell explains,

If you are hotheaded and tempestuous before you were saved, you’ll have that same tendency to burn up, to be hotheaded after you are saved…

Moses was a tempestuous man.  He had a fiery and a burning spirit… Moses had it back there in the land of Egypt when he saw that Egyptian wronging that Israelite slave, and he killed him with his bare fists [Exodus 2:11-12]. And it comes out again here.

Now what happens to you when you’re saved is by the side of that burning spirit, God will put a spirit of grace and intercession by which you’re able to command and to control that volatile spirit.  But you’ve still got it…And on the inside of our souls there goes civil war all the time, a’fighting, and a’struggling all the days of your life.

Now it comes out again here in Moses.  Moses had…such high hopes for the [next generation] that when they fell back into that old way of their fathers, of murmuring, and finding fault with God- Moses was irritated.  His spirit burned within him.

To us it seems so forgivable. To us it seems a harsh punishment for a weakness in Moses’ temperament.

I ask again. Why this divine decision? 

Why Was God So Hard On Moses?

Because instead of doing what God said- “Speak to the rock, and water will gush out” [Numbers 20:8]-Moses dishonored God and disobeyed.  “He lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock,” [Numbers 20:11]. 

Let’s don’t miss God’s mercy in his judgment: Despite the people’s grumbling, despite the disobedience of Moses, God gave water abundantly, to his rebel people and their animals.

Still came the consequence: “Because you did not believe in Me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them,” [Numbers 20:12].

God barred Moses from entering the land because he did not believe the Lord or uphold the Lord as holy.

Disbelief and Disobedience: Partners in Crime

For the record, disbelief and disobedience go hand-in-hand. They did for the Israelites in the desert (see Hebrews 4:1-11) and they do for us today. “Take heed, brothers, lest there be you an evil, unbelieving heart, that turns away from the living God” [Hebrews 3:12].

Moses overtly disobeyed God [Numbers 20:811].  That was the first sin. 

His second sin was disbelief. “Because you did not believe in me,” God said. Just speaking to the rock wasn’t enough. Moses took matters into his own hands. He took his rod and struck twice. He didn’t believe that to speak to it was good enough.

But there’s one more layer that helps me understand why this particular sin, striking the rock twice, was so offensive to God.

God has great care for his types. (And that Rock was Christ.)

If I read one commentary on Numbers 20, I read a dozen, and every one brought out this point home:

When Moses struck the rock, he “broke the type.” 

That might sound confusing. Let me explain.

Do you remember God’s direction to Moses? “See that you make every thing according to the pattern showed to you on the mount” [Exodus 25:940Hebrews 8:59:23]. When the tabernacle was erected, did you hear the refrain?

It went like this, “Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.” The curtains and veil and lampstand and altar and basin and table- all were to be “just so,” as the God commanded. Because each of these things had a meaning that extended past itself.

They were types, or pictures of the person or the thing represented or prefigured. So when God barred his meekest man Moses from entering the Promised Land it wasn’t simply for striking a rock.

It was for striking the Rock. Because the rock was a type. The Rock was a picture of Christ.

Struck Only Once

God had told Moses to strike the Rock once before [Exodus 17:6]. But he was not to strike it again.  Because the Rock represents God’s beloved Son, the Suffering Servant, our Jesus Christ.

Christ was struck once. He died once [Hebrews 9:27-28], never to die again.  Scripture is so clear on this point.

 Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust.”

 Hebrews 10:10, “[W]e are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Hebrews 10:12, “But Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…”

Christ was struck for us once and for all. Our Prince of Glory died  once on that wondrous cross.  And that type is precious to God. 

As Criswell said, “God has great care and great store for His types.” 

Does God Still Discipline His Children?

Moses was disciplined for breaking faith, for his sin. But do believers still face consequences when we break faith?

Last week I sat around a table with several Christian ladies. When the subject of suffering came up, one quickly said, Well, I know suffering can’t be from God because God doesn’t punish his people. 

Really?

If by punish she meant God’s holy wrath- his retribution, not restitution- she is definitely right.

But if she  meant the Hebrews 12 corrective, fatherly discipline, “that for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,” she was quite wrong.

Sin Has Consequences

John Piper’s description clarifies,

There is an infinite difference between the painful things that come into our lives and discipline us—designed for our good that we may share God’s holiness as loved children—and that terrible experience of pure retribution where we simply bear what we deserve and experience God’s justice forever. 

I think the lady at my table did what many of us do.

She conflated- combined- two ideas into one that really are not the same. She joined the false idea- that God’s children will never suffer on earth because of their sin- with the glorious truth that God’s children will never- here or hereafter– never suffer the wrath of God.

Jesus took that- He was struck for that- once and for all. He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The record of our debt was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:15). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Hallelujah and amen!

But this incident with Moses shows us in heart-achingly, vivid color that this side of glory, sin still has consequences.

For Our Instruction, That We Might Have Hope

When Canaan was so close Moses could taste it- it’s gargantuan grapes and pomegranates and figs-Moses pled with God to reconsider. So he could just to cross the Jordan.

But he couldn’t.

And there’s something we are supposed to learn from that. Because whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

The Child’s Story Bible is succinct:

This was a bitter disappointment to Moses.  He begged God to let him cross the river so that he, too, could see the longed-for promised land.  God did not give Moses what he asked for.  “Be satisfied with what I have decided,” God said to him. “Do not speak about this any more.  Climb this mountain, and I will show you the land. Then you are to die here on this mountain. For you are not to cross the river.” (Deuteronomy 3:26)

Remember too, how David could not build the temple because he had shed so much blood? How his first child with Bathsheba died? 

I think we’re supposed to learn from Moses-and David-to take heed lest we fall, because even for God’s blood-bought children, sin still has consequences in this life.

But even their examples, Scriptures says, are meant to give us hope.

Glory Awaits

The Good Lord does not forget His saints. There’s more to the Moses story.

W.A. Criswell again.

God had some better thing for [Moses], and He has some better thing for you, in God’s will, in God’s time, in God’s purpose. He may interdict it now, maybe take it away from us now, maybe the dregs of bitter disappointment we drink in the cup now, but some day, some time, some hour, somewhere, God has some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40] as He had some better thing for Moses [Matthew 17:1-3].

Moses bore God’s discipline for his sin. Rather than speak to Rock he disbelieved and disobeyed and struck the Rock- representing Christ- not once but twice.

Though he was sorely provoked, Moses wasn’t given a pass. He died on the Mountain. He did not enter the Promised Land.

But when the-Rock-who-was-Christ walked this earth and was transfigured on the mountain, you do know who was granted the privilege of standing with him in His glory, don’t you?

Because some day, some time, some hour, somewhere...

You know.

And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness…

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 

1 Corinthians 10:4-5, 11-12

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Duty Is Not A Dirty Word (But Deserve Might Be)

An Undeserved Dinner Out
Enjoying an undeserved dinner out tonight, the caption under the smiling couple in the bright booth read.
Correction: Deserved, a friend’s comment said.

It was a sweet comment with kind intent. Completely innocent.

But it still made me wince.

Why Deserve is a Dirty Word for Me

Because if I’ve learned anything on my own clumsy quest to keep a thankful heart, it’s this:

Banish I deserve. Replace with My pleasure to serve.  Or with that line from Luke 17I’ve only done my duty. 

Because I’ve learned that whenever I start to think I deserve- whether praise or a shout-out or a dinner out-I’m heading right for Discontent Falls. Whenever I start thinking relaxation or reward is my right or appreciation or applause is my due, I’m setting myself up for an ugly spill.

Because deserve means worthy and earned, and flies in the face of unmerited favor. Deserve, therefore, cannot coexist with grace. And God’s servants stand in grace.

Because as a servant of Christ, I’m called to be a servant of all. Which means that I’ve got to train myself to replace “Applause Please” with, Just doing my duty. 

Because I deserve breeds ingratitude and God’s Word says ingratitude is a sin (Romans 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:2).

That’s why I wince at deserve.

Owned, Not Owed

Being a Christian means we are owned by God, not owed by God. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, redeemed from sin at very high price.

No matter how long we’ve been at these works of faith and labors of love. Or how many dinners we’ve served and dishes we’ve washed or how many times we’ve forgiven when we’ve been hurt.

No matter how many years we’ve written the checks or worked the nursery or taught Jr. High Sunday School.

Because all that’s our job- all a day’s work. Because we are owned not owed.  We’ve only done our duty. 

When Pride Rears Its Ugly Head

But the flesh isn’t totally dead. If it doesn’t get us with self-pity when we don’t get the praise we crave, it might snare us with boastful pride.

It can happen like this: You start feel like God is using you, and it feels good, so then you start  to think, “You know, I’m doing okay living for Jesus. There’s some fruit.  I’m helping folks know Christ.  My life is sort of in order, I’m growing in self-control and getting more patient and kind and… Aren’t you impressed, God?”

That may have been happening with the apostles in Luke 17.

So Jesus told them a little story.

We’ve Only Done Our Duty

The parable, found in Luke 17:7-10 takes aim straight at my I-deserve, entitled heart.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Did you catch the three questions? Jesus meant them to be obvious- no-brainers.

  1. v. 7- Would the master treat the servant like an honored guest, and invite him to sit down to dinner? (No.)
  2. v. 8- Would the master expect the servant to do what servants are supposed to do? (Yes.)
  3. v. 9- Would the master thank the sermon for doing what he was told to do? (No.)

Easy, right? Because most of us don’t have any problem pretending we’re the master.

But, then, verse 10 hits us like a cold shower: So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Defining Duty

Duty is defined as a moral or legal obligation; conduct due. It’s what’s expected of our station.

It’s why we’re not applauded for paying our bills. WeEnergies and Kohl’s don’t throw a party for me when I pay my bills. My boss doesn’t throw a party when I meet my deadlines at work.

Nor should they. I’ve only done my duty.

There’s no fanfare, applause, or medals. But there are a couple big perks for servants.

Servant Perk #1

The Greek word for servant in the Luke 17 story is doulos. 

John MacArthur explains,

doulos was bound to a master and cared for, kept in the home like a family member. He had stability and work to do  there. This is doulos, a bond slave, which meant he was basically attached to the owner, lived in his house, was cared for, provided for… It was a wonderful thing when it was handled well.

By contrast, day laborers would have to hope someone would show up and hire him each new day. No long-term work meant no security and no stability.

So that’s servant perk #1: Servants have steady work and provision.

The second servant benefit is even better.

Servant Perk #2

Servant Perk #2: A servant is close to the action of his master.

In John 2,  when Jesus turned the water into wine, the host didn’t know where the wine had come from. But the servants who had drawn the water knew. They were close to the Master had done the miracle.

Darrel Cook says, In Christian service, when we’re up close to the Master, when we’re right out there where the action is, when he chooses to do something for his name’s sake-we’ll get to see what He’s doing for his glory.

It’s counterintuitive to think that we’ll see God’s glory when we are just doing our duty. But it’s how He designed it.

Oswald Chambers explains,

We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God’s power… and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.

If we will do the duty that lies nearest- the dishes, the youth group, the forgiving, the patience and kindness- we shall see God.

Blessed are the [dutiful, undeserving] pure in heart for they will see God.

Do You Have A Servant’s Heart?

How can you tell if you’ve got a servant’s heart? If this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus?

I like the answer Lorne Sanny, former president of the Navigators, gave when a man asked him how he could know if he had a servant attitude.

Sanny replied, “By how you act when your are treated like one.

When someone treats you like a servant, do you get offended and think, “I deserve better treatment than this?”

Or, do you say- and mean it- “It’s all good. because I’m an unworthy servant.” 

For a servant’s duties might not be ones they’d pick, or would have imagined. Like what just came at me tonight- recouping pricey Pokemon cards stolen from one son and acquiring an Abe Lincoln hat the another. 

George Eliot was right:  We must find our duties in what comes to us, not in what we imagine might have been. The Master assigns the tasks we can’t imagine.

And, yes. This can be so hard. 

Heavenly Confetti
I feel it too. Because too often after a day at work then helping with homework then dinner and dishes, I do feel like I deserve better. Like confetti from heaven should dump down and we should all hear the thunderous voice declare, “This is my hard-hardworking daughter. With her I am well pleased. She deserves a night out.”
We can’t lose heart. The absence of heavenly confetti doesn’t mean our Master doesn’t care. God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown for His name as you have ministered to the saints and continue to do so. 
And don’t be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return.
We’ve got to keep serving. And waiting.

Blessed Are Those Slaves

Because Jesus told another parable about servants and masters and sitting down to eat. It’s recorded in Luke 12,

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

We are servants. But our Master also calls us friends.

Kent Hughes says,The eternal marvel is this: God will do for us what our earthly masters will not do. And it’s all of grace. When Jesus returns for his servants, in some sense, he will wait on us.

We- his servants- will sit down at a banquet we have not prepared, nor do we deserve.

Just Doing Our Duty

All of that means that this vapor lifetime is just practice time for God’s servants.

Because when we fast forward to very last chapter of the Bible you’ll find servants serving again. There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

Forever and ever we’ll serve Him in glory.

And our duty will be entirely our pleasure. 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

More on Duty and a Poem:

1. Keven DeYoung put together a great list  of dozens of biblical reasons to obey.  Duty is only one. But it’s a good, God-given motivation. That’s why duty is not a dirty word.

2.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention in a post on duty, what John Piper famously called, “that dangerous duty of delight.”

The Bible does not teach that we should treat delight as a mere byproduct of duty. C. S. Lewis got it right when he wrote to a friend, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” Yes, that is risky and controversial. But it is strictly true. Maximum happiness, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is precisely what we are duty-bound to pursue.

3. A favorite George Washington quote: The consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected will always continue to prompt me to promote the former by inculcating the practice of the latter.

4. A poem.

“When He Comes”

There’s a king and captain high,
And He’s coming by and by,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes…
There’s a Man they thrust aside,
Who was tortured till He died,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.
He was hated and rejected,
He was scorned and crucified,
And He’ll find me hoeing cotton when He comes.
When He comes! When he comes! He’ll be crowned by saints and angels when He comes.
 They’ll be shouting out Hosanna!
To the Man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.
– French E Oliver, 1921
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