The Power of One

God works through his people. And sometimes it simply takes one willing person to turn the tide.

In the days leading up to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, God was searching for that one person. God’s people had abandoned their faith. Abandoned their God.

Someone was needed to draw the people together and lead them back to God.

But no one could be found. Not one person could be identified who had the faith, the courage, the passion for God and the love for God’s people to stand in the gap of the wall. This “wall” was not a wall of stone, but a wall of people united as living stones to stand for God and resist Satan. No leader could be found to stand up to evil and stand strong for God.

The priests and spiritual leaders were to teach God’s people to rest in God’s promises and live according to his laws. The princes and officials were to protect the people and insure justice and peace in the land, pointing the people to God as their true King.

But not one could be found who was ready to do his work. Just the opposite, in fact. Instead of doing the Lord’s work, the princes devoured the citizens with conspiracies, blatantly looting the common people. And the priests violated the law and profaned the holy things entrusted to their care.

Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference in God’s kingdom. One person to change the broken culture. One person to help a church to achieve its mission. One person to serve on a ministry team. One person to lead a growth group. One person to visit the sick, or the prisoner. One person to care for the widow, the orphan, the person stricken by need or poverty.

One person filled with the Spirit, standing in the gap, can make all the difference in the world.

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30, NIV).

Lord, you have been so kind to me. You “stood in the gap” through the cross, to reconcile the world to yourself. Make me willing to stand in the gap for you, and for your people. Fill me with your Spirit, and with the courage and willingness to serve you wherever I am needed.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, November 11, is Ezekiel 22:23 – 23:49, Hebrews 11:1-16 and Proverbs 27:15-22.

Header image based on "Gap" by Les Chatfield, CC By 2.0

Servanthood for Dummies

In Washington D.C. there’s a bronze statue by sculptor Jimilu Mason. It’s a modern take on Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. In this portrayal, Jesus wears modern clothing — a sweatshirt and pants — but no shoes. Even more intriguingly, the sculpture is situated directly in front of Christ House, which is a medical facility for homeless men.

It’s an amazing portrayal of servanthood. And could there be a more fitting location for such a statue?

That being said, the statue begs a question. Or maybe a whole set of questions.

What does a servant of God really look like? Is there a clear job description for this position? Is there maybe a book I can read titled “Servanthood for Dummies?”

Paul says, “Yes, there is! I wrote that book. Just take a look at what our life has looked like since we began to follow Jesus. Observe how my missionary team and I served unchurched people and pursued sharing the gospel with them.”

Paul draws a portrait of great endurance, hard work, sacrifice and deprivation. He gives us a portrayal of pursuing a life of great character and sincere love. His description paints a picture of weathering dishonor and disgrace.

Servanthood is a willingness to endure pain and shame, and yet not lose your joy or your energy for sharing Jesus with others. It is simultaneously displaying a willingness to generously give away everything you have for the sake of the gospel, while acknowledging and rejoicing in the immense riches you already possess.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Isaiah 3:1 – 5:7, 2 Corinthians 6:3 – 7:1 and Psalm 105:12-22.

Lord Jesus, thank you for making me immensely and eternally wealthy. I possess everything because of you. Help me to keep your servanthood (and Paul’s) in mind as I aspire to my own servanthood. Make me willing to live a sacrificial life here as my way of thanking you for all you have done for me, and as a way of sharing the gospel with those around me.

Header image based on "04.AdamsMorgan.WDC.17September2014" by Elvert Barnes, CC By-SA 2.0

All In!

Admittedly, when we look at how sinful we are, things don’t look so good for us. “The wages of sin is death,” Paul writes to the Romans (6:23a).

The law of God seems to relentlessly push and press. We can never live up to it. Sin and fallenness is the wall we all face. And with our life spinning relentlessly toward that wall, our inevitable destiny seems to be death.

Until Jesus.

Through Jesus’ perfect obedience of the law, the power of sin to enslave us is taken away. And because the power of sin to oppress us is broken, death’s wages have been replaced by God’s gift — “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

Paul tells the Corinthians, “So, with victory over sin and death already yours, be strong. Stand your ground. Don’t hold anything in reserve. Leave it all on the field. Because what you do for the Lord, and for the Lord’s kingdom, is never going to be squandered effort or wasted time.”

Now is the time! Here is the place!

We’re “all in” for the work of the kingdom.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58, NIV).

Lord Jesus, through your perfect life, sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, you have given me victory. May that victory over sin, death and Satan take hold of my heart. I want to be all in for you, and for your kingdom.

Our Bible reading for Monday, August 24, is 2 Chronicles 21:4 – 23:21, 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 16:4 and Proverbs 20:25 – 21:4.

Header image based on "Balancing on the Brink" by Paxson Woelber, CC By 2.0

Faithful Servant

Paul writes to the Corinthians describing for them how he hopes they will view him. He doesn’t want to be considered a VIP, a master, a bigwig, a celebrity, or a star.

He wants to be seen as a servant — a servant who nevertheless has been given a very serious responsibility. He is a steward of the mysteries God has revealed.

What are those mysteries? They are questions like these: Does God love me? Will God forgive me for the sins I’ve committed? Is there any hope for me? Can I be saved? How do I find eternal life?

God has cleared up all these mysteries by sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have revealed the answer to every one of the unknowns represented by these questions.

Does God love me? Yes! Will God forgive me for the sins I’ve committed? Yes, he already has forgiven you, in fact. Is there any hope for me? Have no doubt, you have a certain hope, because you have a faithful God. Can I be saved? Yes, anyone can be saved through faith in Jesus. How do I find eternal life? Jesus answered this question by saying, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved!”

Whoever knows the answers to these “mysteries”, whoever has been given the correct responses to these questions, has been given a trust. We must treat this knowledge as a precious asset and preserve it in our hearts.

And somewhat ironically, we must also share this knowledge with as many people as we can, so that they too have the solution to the mysteries. We want others to have the same forgiveness, hope and life that we do. To keep it, we must give it away.

That, Paul says, is simply being a faithful servant.

“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, August 8, is 1 Chronicles 26:20 – 27:34, 1 Corinthians 4:1-21 and Proverbs 19:13-22.

Lord, I repent of all the times when I have not had a servant-mentality, when I have tried to lord it over others. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you that you sent your Son Jesus to love and serve me, and grant me forgiveness. Now may I be a faithful servant to others, sharing the mysteries of the gospel with them.

Header image based on "Question Box" by Raymond Bryson, CC By 2.0

To Serve and Sacrifice

Jesus pointed his disciples to true greatness.

When James and John asked Jesus if they could be the ones to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in heaven, Jesus was not offended by their wish. Later on, however, when the other disciples heard about it, they were not so kind.

The Bible calls them “indignant.”

Jesus simply uses this as a “teachable moment” for the disciples. He huddles them up and reminds them of the things he had taught them. They are not to operate the way the world around them operates.

He helps them recall all that he had demonstrated to them. They are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

To serve and sacrifice — that’s why Jesus came.

And that is the way to greatness in God’s kingdom. Service and sacrifice.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, March 1, is Leviticus 5:14 – 7:10, Mark 10:32-52 and Proverbs 6:12-19.

Lord, help me to serve and sacrifice for others, as you first served and sacrificed for me. Thank you for being truly great, because your greatness is my eternal salvation.

Header image based on "Close up eye red - Jesus - Cross" by Gerardofegan, CC By 2.0

Echoes of Grace

I love to hike. And here in Arizona we have a lot of canyons where a person can travel up a stream. There’s just something about water and trees in a desert.

But the other thing I love about canyons is the way the sound moves through them — the sound of birds singing, the rush of the wind, the bubbling of the creek.

And the echo of my voice. I almost always give a couple shouts in the canyon, just to hear what it sounds like for the sound of my own voice to bounce back at me from the canyon walls.

(I know. One of you is surely going to say, “I always knew Jeff loved the sound of his own voice!”)

What got me to thinking about echoes today was this verse: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV).

As Christians, our call to greatness is a call to serve and sacrifice self, Jesus tells us. And then he goes on to tell us something critically important. Our service is really nothing more than an echo of Jesus’ service toward us.

Jesus gave his life for me, so I will — as I’m energized by his grace and self-sacrifice — become the servant he calls me to be. It’s as if the voice of Jesus bounces of the walls of our hearts to resound into the hearts of others.

Love begets love. Service inspires service. Self-sacrifice arouses self-sacrifice.

Jesus first. Us second, as echoes of his grace.

Lord, may I always echo your gracious “first-love” for me. I desire to serve you and my neighbor. I cannot do this on my own. So, may your heart of love, service and sacrifice simply echo through me to others, and bring all the glory to you!

Our Bible reading for Friday, January 30, is Job 15:1 – 18:21, Matthew 20:20-34 and Psalm 17:13-15.

Header image based on "Verde Canyon Railroad" by sfbaywalk, CC by 2.0