Saturday, June 21, 2014

Secret Strength

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ challenged His disciples, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt. 6:6).  Are we to take this literally?  During seminary at Moody, the dormitory that I'd stay in had several prayer closets in the bottom of the dorm to go and pray.  It had a small bench, a ledge for a Bible, and a light inside.  I would see the light on late into the night hours at times.  I had never had a specific quiet place where I spent time with the Father but really loved the idea. 

Jesus Christ  would visit the garden of Gethsemane on multiple times during His life, which was just East of Jerusalem at the base of the Mount of Olives, to spend time with His Father.  It was a place of quietness with little or no disturbances.  It was a place where Christ was refreshed and He shared His heart's desires with God the Father.  It was a place where Christ returned with understanding and peace that only comes from spending time with the Father.  Christ's prayer ministry was essential for daily strength and He made it a priority to happen in the midst of His busy schedule.  Jesus Christ conveyed to His followers the importance of having one-on-one time with the Father.  I believe the intent of the passage is that prayer is not a production to be seen of man.  In the stillness and quietness of the soul, God's Holy Spirit who dwells within us allows us to commune with God the Father.  He petitions God for us when we have nothing to say and don't even know how to say it (Romans 8:26).  Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God as an advocate for us and he petitions the Father on our behalf when we pray (1 John 2:1).

I certainly believe in praying everywhere, all the time, and for all matters (1 Thess. 5:17).  However, God desires so much more than our windshield time behind the steering wheel of the car.  I believe, according to the New Testament, that God welcomes and desires corporate prayer.  The question remains, "what does my personal prayer time look like with God?".  Is it something that I prize, value, and look forward to?  Or, is it more of a chore and something I hope I can remember in order to sooth my conscience?  Could that prayer time be wrapped up in three prayers a day prior to the three meals that would be eaten?  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still my soul and know that I am God,...".  The tendency is to maximize life, make the most of every hour, and not skip a beat.  We tend to squeeze in the most important things and people to us.  The tragedy is that my life can be void of true life because I fail to spend time in my secret garden (wherever that may be for you) with Him.  

God wants to answer us but we may not be spending time to share our hearts with Him in order for Him to bring the comfort and answer He wants us to hear.  Might we need to find a secret garden to spend more alone time with Him???

Monday, June 9, 2014

Inconvenient Service

Christ's perspective on serving may be a little different than what we would care to admit.  We often serve when it is convenient for us and when we can reap some benefit.  It usually has to fit our own schedule to even be considered.  However, Jesus Christ epitomized what it meant to to be a servant by surrendering His privileges to take upon Himself the form of a servant to the point of punishment on the cross.  He demonstrated the depth of His love by washing His disciples' feet as an example of true greatness.  He encouraged His followers with these words, "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10: 43-45).  True servants, according to Scripture, have others in mind before their own comfort.  Ouch!!!  In fact, the words servant and slave are used interchangeably in conveying the idea of the humility tied to service.

I write today's blog with a somewhat heavy heart.  It was not long ago that I had conversations with an individual who was very concerned about the authority they ought to have in a position compared to how they could be more effective in their serving.  In the Sermon on the Mount, the heart attitude was key to the act of service and how we relate to others (Mt. 5).  Too often (along with Christ's disciples) we can forget why we are called to serve and how we are to serve.  It is not to exercise authority, to be recognized, to be praised, or fill a void in our own lives.  Too often, because our own motives and desires get in the way we can become obstacles to service ever happening.  Believers can even sow seeds of discord in order to get their way when it comes to service.  I suppose it could be viewed as, "service on my terms only and if it makes sense to me".   However, Christ's idea was that His followers understand that Kingdom living  places others first in our thoughts and actions.   A good litmus test to test our hearts when it comes to service is can we serve if we are never acknowledged or if things don't go our way.  The disciples lost sight of the love and unity amongst themselves that should have existed while doing Christ's work.  Christ demonstrated through His own example that His kind of service forgets about what is due us as a result of our service.

It is through the lens of Christ's sacrifice on the cross that we can understand where we belong when ministering to others.  His sacrifice helps us to understand that everything begins with a selfless heart attitude for the sake of the advancement of His greater work.  John said it well in John 3:30, "He must increase but I must decrease."