Sunday, September 12, 2021

Finding Our Purpose for Life - Servanthood

Ever be in the middle of a conversation and the other person says, “Not to change the subject, but…” That’s like driving down the freeway and Siri suddenly says, “Exit here,” and you have to cross over three lanes of rush hour traffic, dodge the concrete dividers, miss the exit and then back up into on-coming traffic so you can stay on the pavement to get off the highway.

Or you spend 30 minutes talking to someone about your grandkids and they have the audacity to interrupt to talk about theirs.

Or you’re pouring out your heart to someone and they say something so totally unrelated that it shouts, “What you’re saying isn’t important to me.”

Or like the other day, Jan said: You’ve not heard a word I’ve been saying. And I thought: that’s a strange way to start a conversation.

Matt 20:17 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up." 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." 

Do what? I’m telling you about my death. We’re only days away. And you want to talk about positions? Okay, let’s talk about positions.

Matt 20:24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." 

These guys didn’t get it. Jesus had one agenda and they had another. The plan of God was on His mind. It wasn’t on theirs.

This had happened before, after the Transfiguration – the great moment the Father declared who Jesus was - Mark 9:33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 

So, what did He tell them? Same thing: Mark 9:35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." 

Wait, what? First to be last and last to be first? That’s not how life works. Jesus, you don’t live in the real world. It’s the ones at the top that get the benefits. The ones at the bottom are nothing. Top dogs eat first. The last get the left-overs.

 So, Jesus realized they needed an attitude adjustment. It’s called a reset, flipping the script, changing the mind-set. As Paul said: change comes by changing our minds.

They thought Kingdom operated like the World. They thought you just lived in one like you did in the other. All they showed was how ignorant they were for how life really worked within the Kingdom. They had distorted the true image. Jesus is trying to correct that image.

Paul clarified this: 2Cor 5:15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 

Living for the benefit of someone else is a struggle for most. You’ll see it in primary care givers, nurses, moms caring for their little ones. We even promised it in our wedding vows, but rarely do you see it in everyday life.

Jesus had to explain how things were to be different. Under the New Covenant, there was a change of life direction, life intention and life determination. There was a new life with new expectations for how the Kingdom of God worked.

God will be using His people to get His work done. We are His gloves. His hand provides the power and direction. That’s what had been going on in Jesus’ life. He fleshed out what that life was to look like.

John 14:31 so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. 

John 17:23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 

When people saw Jesus, they saw the Father. When they listened to Jesus, they heard the Father. When people were cared for by Jesus, they felt the love of the Father. Jesus served the Father by making Him known and served others by showing what the Father was like. By serving the interests of the Father, Jesus revealed the goodness of the Father. That’s how glorifying God works. As the moon reflects the sun, Jesus reflected the goodness of God. Jesus was the glove into whom the Father slid hand.

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. 

Explained: exegesis - explain in a way that clarifies what is most important. It refers to what a preacher or teacher does. Neh 8:8 They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. They served the people by taking the complicated off the top shelf and placing it down on a lower shelf where the people can handle it.

Isa 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 [So, to help you understand what I want you to understand] For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 

Let me stretch you: Jesus is the Word of God. The One by whom God explained Himself. Jesus explained the thoughts and ways of the Father. But since He was God – whose thoughts and ways are beyond us – how did He explain what is beyond us? He took Himself off the top shelf and went down to a lower shelf where the people could understand. Jesus accomplished what the Father had sent Him to do.

If I could become a bird…

Jesus said to His disciples. That’s what servants do. They take a lower position to accomplish a greater good. You’ve got to do the same thing.

Paul explained it: Phil 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

Form of GodWho He was - God. Then He combined that with the Form of a bond-servant. How He operated - Servant. He was the God/Servant.

We hardly ever combine the word servant with a role of a leader: General/servant, President/servant, Pastor/servant, Elder/servant, CEO/servant, God/Servant.

It was only through that combination Jesus could accomplish the Father’s plan and be able to say to His men, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Only The God/Servant could fulfill the role as Messiah. One coin. But, for them to understand, He had to show them both sides of the coin. One side God, the other Servant.

The Kingdom of Heaven didn’t work like the kingdom of the world. In the world, the top dog gets the extra portion. In the Kingdom, the top dog gives the extra portion to others. That’s Grace.

Matt 20:25 Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant

Remember, on the last night He spent with the disciples, Jesus washed their feet?

John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 

Why do that the night before the crucifixion? Wasn’t the clock running down? He only had a few precious hours left. Shouldn’t He have been pouring information into the minds of His men, giving them last minute instructions? No, Jesus knew they didn’t need more information, they needed the right attitude. He was about to die, the great climax of why He came to earth, and they had yet to learn the important lesson for how He did the things He did and why and how His life was the example they’d need to follow to carry out their mission.

They were expecting a pep talk for fighting. “This is it, men. We’re fixin to go to war. This is what we signed up for. We can do this. Are you with me? Grab a sword and let’s go.” They expected a rumble. But, instead, Jesus bent down and washed their feet.

What was the lesson? The servant is more important than the position.

On 9/11, when Flt 77 hit the Pentagon, the place broke out in chaos. One plane was still in the air and they feared it was coming there. And yet they continued operating in rescue mode. There was a day care on site with 40 babies of various ages from infants to toddlers. The lady in charge tried to get her people to gather up the little ones and get them to safety. But it was overwhelming. A Marine came by and asked what he could do. She told him. He ran off. She thought he failed her, that this wasn’t worth his time with everything else going on. In a minute he returned with 30 Marines who loaded up cribs and tucked toddlers under their arms and got all the babies out of the building. They made a circle with the cribs, building an enclosure to hold in the toddlers and then made a human fence around the enclosure to protect the little ones until the parents came to get them.

Men of war, stirred to fight, yet serving the needs of babies.

That’s what this moment in the upper room meant. Regardless of what you think you ought to be doing – what position you think you deserve – you are first and foremost a servant. A servant does what needs to be done. It isn’t a job. It’s an attitude.

Phil 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus8 who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

God the Son became Jesus the Man to take away the sins of the world and open the doorway through which children of the world can become Children of God. He was Lord of all, and yet servant to all.

Nobody wants to be the servant. Everybody wants to be served. Everybody wants to be the chief. Nobody wants to be the Indians. Everybody wants to be management. Nobody wants to be labor. So, Jesus levels the hierarchy. We’re all servants. Wait. If that’s so, then who’s in charge? Who’s the boss?

Again, Paul clarifies that for us: Col 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 

Yes!

Remember how the actions of our purpose in life are all interconnected. Like the old, retired preacher in Nevada, “God’s purpose for our lives is to be where we are to be, when we are to be there, doing what we are to be doing, the way God wants it done, and doing it all for His glory.”

What are we to be doing? Serving. Not working on a to-do list where we mark things off as we complete them. We don’t serve for a moment. We serve as our lifestyle. Otherwise, we will only do what we want to do. Serve if that service fits our desire. We’ll select from a pool of opportunities only those things that appeal to us. And with that attitude, nobody will wash anybody else’s feet. And people will stop coming to church because our feet stink.

Servants don’t tell their Master what they are and are not willing to do. Servants serve at the pleasure of the Master. They are the extension of the Master’s desire. They are the gloves He places His hands inside to do His work.

TAKEAWAYS:

  1. The mind of a servant must be in agreement with the will of the Master.
  2. Since it is the Master who accomplishes His work through His servants, the servant does not place conditions on his service.
  3. The glove doesn’t tell the hand what to do; the hand controls the glove.
  4. Being a servant requires surrender to the purposes of the Master.

 

 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Finding Our Purpose in Life - Timing

Years ago, in a meeting with an old, retired pastor in Nevada, he pulled me aside and said, “I want to tell you God’s purpose for your life.” I found that somewhat intrusive but said okay. He said, “God’s purpose for you is to be where you are to be, when you are to be there, doing what you are to be doing, the way God wants it done, and doing it all for His glory.”

As I’ve considered this over the years, I’ve discovered these principles aren’t steps but the process of stepping - walking. You don’t do one, stop, then the other, stop, then the next. Like walking, all the motions are combined into the action necessary to walk. We don’t send separate commands to our feet and legs. We just walk. To do so, several things are taking place at the same time. These principles are a collective package of doing what connects us to a single purpose, and that is to glorify God.

I offer this to you as your (our) purpose in life as Believers and as a Church. And though they are this collective package, we need to break them down individually to get a handle on how all of this works.

·       Be where we are to be – It’s the principle of abiding – John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothingAbiding means to stay or remain connected in a position of readiness for the actions the Master wants from us.

o   Like a well-trained dog told to stay as he awaits the next command

o   Like a branch attached to the vine, waiting for the juices to flow that will produce fruit: the evidence of faith – what’s produced when we trust God.

·       To be where we are to be, when we are to be there – Timing

I was to catch a flight once. I’d made specific reservations because I had an appointment at the other end. I was at the airport, had my confirmation number, my bags. I was trying to check in and the computer wouldn’t let me. I was 12 hours early. Apparently, when I booked, I clicked PM instead of AM. I was at the right place but at the wrong time. By disconnecting the when from the where, I messed up the appointment.

Being where we ought to be does no good if we’re early or late when it’s a timed action.

Draw a line across your mind, marked off by years. Let’s call it a life-graph. Each of us can plot out where we’ve been and what we’ve gone through to get to where we are today. Where we grew up, vacations we went on, where we went to school, who we dated, when we married, where we lived, where we worked, where our kids were born, what were our tragedies, what were our successes, when we retired or plan on retiring, loved ones we’ve lost. We can graph out our history.

But when we look back, if we’re not careful, we might say it was all a matter of being in the right place at the right time as though our life was a result of good luck or chance. But for those of us who know God and know He has plans for our lives, there’s more to our life-graphs than luck.

Though we exercised choice in much of what went on – like college or vocation, most of what went on just seemed to happen. How many, other than me, picked your wife out of a catalogue, then had her delivered? No, we just met and things developed. We didn’t plan it or schedule it. It just came along and we embraced it. Which has made our lives a journey and not a trip.

A trip is the action of getting from one place to another. A trip draws a line between two points. Connecting point A with point B. A journey is everything that goes on between point A and point B. The process of getting there. In a journey, much more happens than just arriving at our destination. Much more than we plan.

Like the turtle on the fence post. How on earth did he get up there? At the end of our lives, we look around and ask: How on earth did we get here? There seemed to be an invisible hand guiding us along, which also explains the turtle. There has to be some plan connected to our lives.

When God said: Jer 29:11 For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope, He was saying our lives are significant to Him and therefore worthy of Him investing His plans into our lives. To accomplish those plans, He attaches to them a strategy.

Strategy is intended action designed to achieve an overall aim. In other words, the job of strategy is to help us hit the target.

Put in simple terms, strategy is the instruction: Ready, Aim, Fire. That order is crucial to the success of hitting the target. If we, instead, go: Ready, Fire, Aim, we still shoot the gun, experience the noise and feel the recoil, but the bullet isn’t going anywhere near the target.

Within the strategy God sets, there is a target and a time frame by which to hit the target. That timeframe becomes the framework upon which He builds our lives. It’s how God fills the life-graph between our birth and death giving meaning to why we’re here and what He has planned. My life-graph is different from yours and yours from mine.

Which means, though the purpose of our lives is the same – to glorify God – the way that will be accomplished will be different. God’s plans are specific to each of us.

It starts with vision. Vision is the view from the top down. The whole picture from beginning to the end. Seeing the parade from a bird’s view, not from spectators along the parade route. God sets the vision. He’s the only one who can see our whole life, where everything is going and how it all fits together.

Gen 15:7 And He said to Abraham, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it." 

“Abraham, I know where I found you, where I brought you from and where I am taking you. I’m working out a strategy for your life-graph. I’m going to use you to help Me accomplish a greater plan. So, together, this is what we are going to do.”

The whole Bible reveals God’s plan. But it’s not until the NT that the plan becomes more obvious. When we get to the Gospels, we notice there is a timing factor connected to the plan. That within the plan is a schedule.

John 7:3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, "Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 5  For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, "My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 8  Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast [as you suggest] because My time has not yet fully come." 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee. 10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. 

Jesus was working from a schedule. Though much of what we read about Him seems to be just happenstance, there is a clock attached to His life. Each thing He did moved the story toward its scheduled climax. Each moment held significance in the overall story.

·       Matt 5:17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 

o   God used the prophets to share details of His plan. Primarily, so that when the things prophesied happened, people could check and see, “Oh, this is the Lord’s doing.”

o   Alfred Edersheim found 456 prophesies in the Old Testament that point to or describe or reference the coming Messiah. About 80 prophesies relate to the 2nd Coming, but he found that Jesus fulfilled at least 375 prophecies during His earthly ministry.

o   A professor used 48 prophecies to estimate the probability of them being fulfilled in one person. He came up with 1:10^157 – 10 with 157 zeros.

o   Jesus came to fulfill prophecy as proof of who we was.

·       Also, He came to fulfill the Law.

o   Rom 11:26 THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. 27 THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS. 

o   The Law established the sacrificial system. Within that system was the all-important Day of Atonement. Atonement didn’t mean forgiveness. It meant covering.

o   The Law has no expression that sins are forgiven. Always – sins will be forgiven.

o   Lev 16:8  Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. 22  The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. 

o   Scapegoat taking away sin was a picture of what was to come.

o   John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 

You don’t do that in one setting. It takes time and events to orchestrate. Jesus couldn’t have just walked up to Pilate and announced, “Okay, I need to be crucified to take away the sins of the world. How about this Thursday?” There was a schedule, an alignment, and players that needed to be put in place.

Not seen better than in Laz: John 11:1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4  But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." 

John 11:14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him." 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 

John 11:21 Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." 

John 11:39 Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 

John 11:45  Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. 47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. 

John 12:9 The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. 

Story with many twists: love of family and friends, hope, promise, identity of Jesus, instructions and resurrection. But mainly timing.

What if Jesus had gotten there when everyone wanted Him there? He would have healed Laz and it would have been no big deal. Jesus healed a lot of people but only a few got mentioned. A large crowd wouldn’t have been there. They came because Laz had died not because he was sick. Many who believed would have missed their opportunity. Word wouldn’t have gotten to the Council to stir them up. The death plan wouldn’t have been initiated.

Had He come early, Jesus would have missed the window of God’s plan. That miracle, at that time, took those that wanted Him removed, all the way into their plot to when God had scheduled Him to die. Timing was crucial.

Mid-air refueling – a strategic plan that requires timing.

Chronos (clock-time) and Kairos (timing). Kairos time means making the right decision at the right time.

John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time [Chronos] in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 

John 7:8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time [Kairos] has not yet fully come.

Kairos – the time when conditions are right for accomplishing crucial action: the decisive moment.

We’re more “by the clock” people. You do realize how much of a hindrance that is to faith? Faith is trusting in a God who works on His own time schedule. We watch the clock. He watches the calendar. He doesn’t just send an answer but prepares the right moment for the answer to come.

We want to know how much longer? God says: however long it takes. Because to Him life isn’t a trip but a journey. Some really important things may be scheduled to happen along the way that He doesn’t want us to miss.

Since we don’t always know when those are, we set our lives into a readiness mode - abiding, anticipating God to work in and through us as He chooses - timing. Being where we are to be, at the time we are to be there, is an attitude of anticipation. I stay, awaiting the next command, ready for what God plans to do, anticipating what comes next.

Jesus had a schedule. Moments within that schedule were strategic to the story. But that schedule was connected with the Father’s plan. His Goal remained the same: to do the Father’s will. Which made it essential that He was where He needed to be, when He needed to be there. Each moment held the expectation and anticipation of the Father’s work in His life. It’s the same for us.

Keep Me in the Moment – Jeremy Camp

Oh Lord, keep me in the moment
Help me live with my eyes wide open
'Cause I don't wanna miss what you have for me
Oh Lord, show me what matters
Throw away what I'm chasing after
'Cause I don't wanna miss what you have for me
Keep me in the moment
Oh, keep me in the moment
Keep me in the moment
'Cause I don't wanna miss what you have for me

TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Timing is as crucial as the plan. 
  2.  God works on a schedule of Kairos - when the time is right. 
  3.  Since He is never early and never late, we cannot put God on our time schedule.
  4. At the same time, however, God wants us on His, by us living in anticipation that we will see His goodness in our lives. 
  5. Faith keeps us in the moment.