blessed to be a blessing

Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d]

Galatians 3

There is no doubt that through faith in and baptism into Christ that we are all blessed. But what was the good news to Abraham? That all nations would be blessed through him. And greater is the one who blesses, than those who are blessed (Hebrews 7:7).

Abraham was blessed by God to be a blessing to others. He is the father of us all in not only being the source of blessing through the children which came through him, ultimately fulfilled in Christ, but also in being the example to us of faith, so that we’re to walk in his steps. I take it, not only in receiving the promise, but in seeing that promise extend to others. So that ultimately, we’re to be like Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and of course to lay down his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

That is why we’re blessed in and through Jesus, to be a blessing to others. And “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Something we’re to keep in mind to live out in and through Jesus.

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being willing to take second fiddle and serve

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 22

I have never seen this connection before, and I like how the NIV in its paragraph divisions, brings all of this together in one paragraph. During the Last Supper, of all places, after Jesus told them that one of them was about to betray him, they began to argue with each other over which of them was considered to be greatest.

Jesus pointed to himself as the one who took the place assigned to servants; the more important, or considered greater people, sitting at the tables, being served. But that, because they had stood by him in his trials, he would give them a kingdom in which they’ll sit down and eat and drink, as well as sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The ways of the world easily rub off on us. We need to take care that we neither lord it over others, or expect them to serve us. Instead we need to appeal to them, and serve them. We especially need to be sensitive to those who have been hurt, and who might easily misunderstand our actions and words. But we also need to be open to the need for rough edges to be taken off of us.

I’m afraid that the world sometimes rubs off more on us, than our way in Christ rubbing off on the people of the world. We end up imitating what we admire. We need to learn to see the beauty of Jesus, and come to value that. And then see everything else in that light. Certainly that’s the way of humility and service. And in God’s grace by the Spirit, Jesus himself can live in us and help us. In fact, because of that, we can become more like him.

That is the key, but at the same time we need to be aware, and when need be repent and become like the little children of the Father in the kingdom, loving and serving each other, and the world, in God’s love, in and through Jesus.

Where is Jesus?

Sometimes we simply need to get away from it all, to be free of the pressing duties and even the concerns of life. To simply relax and enjoy, to be at peace. In that to seek the Lord indeed. But to have some amusement and fun, now there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

During Jesus’s busy time of ministry, he had times when he would want to simply get away with his disciples and rest, although he couldn’t escape the people. He was known to get up early at least some mornings and get away to have communion in prayer with his Father. Yes, we need times like that. We need a certain kind of stillness and solitude.

But more often than not, we’ll find Jesus, and God in him in the pressing duties of everyday life, and in the difficult things which come our way. We can grow weary and tired over that, and we do need some breaks now and then. But more often than not, that’s where we’ll find Jesus, and God in him at work.

And so while we need to take care of ourselves, we also need to look for Jesus. Where is Jesus? What would God be doing in and through Jesus today, even through us who are in Jesus, in whatever humble way we can serve, even if only by being present?

no need for praise

Whatever God calls us to do we simply need to do and keep doing it regardless of what the effect seems to be. And certainly including whether or not any one expresses appreciation for what we have done.

There is the need for those in the church to both recognize and affirm the gifting one does have, no doubt. And it is an encouragement to know if someone is helped by what we do, or more accurately what God does through us. So there is that balance.

But the last thing we should be looking for or expecting is praise from people. In fact when God is at work the most there may be the least possibility of that. God’s working does not always bring comfort with it. Oftentimes quite the opposite to be sure.

In the end we want to be praised by the Lord as those who were good and faithful servants, doing his will, using what gifts he had given us. We realize that anything short of that is high and dry, indeed empty.

It is freedom to let go of the desire to receive any praise from anyone, in my case for teaching or preaching well, or whatever. We want to do well and be a blessing in the Lord to others. But the focus should never be on the servant but on the one that is served. Any good is all from God who alone deserves all praise.

May the Lord continue to free us from being moved either by praise or criticism from people, as long as we are faithful in Jesus by the Spirit to God’s calling to us.

Pilgram Marpeck on the highest joy of a disciple of Jesus

Our highest joy shall be that, in heaven, our names are written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20). To show, with unwavering faith  and certain hope, love toward the neighbour, and thus prove our love of God, is and shall be our highest joy. Not the work, but love itself, to serve and to be a guardian of the salvation of all the elect of God is heavenly joy.

Pilgram Marpeck quoted by Marlene Kropf & Eddy Hall, Praying With the Anabaptists: The Secret of Bearing Fruit, 106. From The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck (Classics of the Radical Reformation), translated and edited by William Klassen and Walter Klassen, 437.

doing well where we’re planted

Years ago I heard a preacher say that if the Lord would have called them to be a dairy farmer (or something of the like), they would have wanted to be the best dairy farmer they could possibly be, to the glory of the God. That has stuck with me over the years. I don’t do what I really want to do in life, and that’s been true for a long time. I did not get Bachelor and Master degrees to be working in a factory. I am a reader, love to teach, and actually love to pastor, and am a bit of klutz when it comes to using my hands, unless it is a job I have to do day in and day out. Then the degree of athleticism I have helps, and added on to that my parents’ ethic of hard work from sun up to sun down so to speak.

I hope I don’t share this to toot my own horn. Actually at work we are a team, and we mesh together pretty well I think, with all our strengths and weaknesses. The point I’m wanting to make is that in Jesus we are called to bloom where we’re planted. I think this is a big part of the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Whatever we do we’re to do to the glory of God.

Many of us don’t do what we had really hoped to do. The question becomes: Are we learning to do well the task at hand? And another pertinent, and in fact important question: Are we learning to do what pleases the Lord? And related: Do we know what he has called us specifically to do? Our work and our lives should have the mark of Jesus on them. Everything should be a witness of our faith, how we live, with all the tussles that come with that.

Is there a time to move on and do well elsewhere? Of course there is, though the younger generations seem much more accustomed and acclimated to that than does my generation. We need to work hard, “with all our hearts,” in whatever we’re called to do, And thoughtfully, as those serving our Lord.

And so we want to be the best we can be in whatever we do, in God’s eyes. Together in Jesus in this for the world.

preach the word

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

If there’s one thing I want to hear from a sermon (or when I preach one) I want to hear the word of God proclaimed and taught. And whatever text we are in, I want to hear that text, and nothing more and nothing less. For those of my generation, I’m not referring necessarily to “expository preaching,” that is, going verse by verse, line by line, and sometimes almost word by word. For some that might work well as at least one of the main ways they share God’s word. It can be delivered in a number of ways, with always an accent on reading the text and actually letting the text speak for itself.

Too often we might import this or that idea, or better, a teaching from some other part of scripture into the text. We need to let the text speak as it does, if we are going to hear it as it is, and receive the needed word from God.

I appreciate that our church uses a lectionary which, if I remember right takes us through at least most all of scripture every four years. We need all of scripture, the entire witness, whether we can make heads or tails of it or not. We need to let each part have its say. And taking in the whole, we may end up with some kind of coherent understanding of the message of God in Christ. Of course scripture leads us to Christ. If it doesn’t do that in our preaching, then we are missing the boat. Breaking the bread of life means helping the hearers feed on Christ. The Spirit is present in the preaching to bring us into the presence of Christ and God’s will in him.

I am thankful to be part of a church where the pastors do this. Any of us may falter here and there, somehow bringing something that is not helpful into the mix. But God  knows our heart, and if its our desire and prayer for his word to get through, in spite of ourselves, and by the filling of the Spirit (yes, we need to be dependent on the filling of the Spirit both in our preaching and for the hearers, that the Spirit would minister to each of them), God will speak through his word.

We are told earlier in the same letter quoted above:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

That must be our aim. We who teach or proclaim God’s word (or our pastors, I’m not a pastor by the way, though I think I’m still one at heart to some extent, and I still do preach and teach a bit) must aspire to be servants of God, people given to the ministry of the word and prayer. That will certainly keep us humble as before God and people we endeavor to share nothing of ourselves (even when we may share from our own lives) wanting to hear nothing except from God in and through Christ. As we together in Jesus seek to live out God’s will in and for the world.