Spiritual Disciplines: Service

We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Serving. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we discussed the discipline of evangelism. In that post, we discovered that few aspects of the Christian life generate more anxiety in the life of believers than sharing their faith. We also learned that few things overflow from a heart gripped by God’s grace, like telling others about it.   

Each week I issue something similar to the following reminder: “No one,” Whitney said, “makes himself or herself acceptable to God by trying to emulate Jesus' example of service.” While Christ may be the perfect example of how to live, copying Jesus won’t save you; trusting in Him will. Practice the Spiritual Disciplines because they get you more of Jesus and help you become more like Him. Keep this in mind as you study and read this week.

Summary

“Serving God,” Whitney said, “ is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. God asks for your life. He requires that service to Him become a priority, not a pastime. He doesn't want servants who offer Him the leftovers after their other commitments.” God places a high call upon the Christian’s life. He wants not parts and parcels but the whole. “When Christ calls a man,” Bonhoeffer said, “he bids him come and die.” 

Images of faithful martyrs who put it all on the line are easy to conjure when reading that Christ lays claim to every part of your life. Most often, the daily dying a Christian does is to sin and selfishness. That’s not sexy work however. “We’re drawn to the appeal of service,” Whitney said, “when it holds out the promise of bold adventure, but repelled when it means—as it more often does—feeling banished to serve Christ in a dreary corner of a seemingly inconsequential place.” We want to “play the man” and charge into the fray sword drawn, ready for battle, seldom realizing that to play the man, most often means being faithful in the solitary posting away from the action. “Serving typically looks as unspectacular,” Whitney said, “as the practical needs it seeks to meet.” 

This call to denial of self and conquering of the flesh are why serving God takes discipline. We don’t naturally drift towards it. There are occasions where serving flows from our love for God and others, but on the whole serving God requires discipline on our part. We must intentionally seek it. “Those who do,” Whitney said, “will find serving one of the most sure and practical means of growth in grace.” 

Service is part of God’s plan for our becoming more like Jesus. He is at work in our service, not just in the tangible things we actually do, but deep in our hearts. You’ve probably heard that mission trips do far more to change the hearts of those who travel and serve, than those of the people on the receiving end. Something similar happens when we serve. God is at work within us. 

“Of course, motives matter in the service we offer to God,” Whitney said. He identified six motives for our serving found in Scripture.  

1. Obedience — God has called us to serve. At least one of our motivations towards service should spring from a desire to be obedient. 

2. Gratitude — When the fire of service to God grows cold, consider what great things the Lord has done for you.

3. Gladness — God expects His servants to serve—not grudgingly, grimly, or glumly—but gladly.

4. Forgiveness not guilt — "The child of God,” Spurgeon said, “works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved." We work not to merit or earn God’s forgiveness, but because we’ve already been forgiven in Christ.

5. Humility — Christians aren’t to serve in order to receive the applause of men. 

6. Love — No fuel for service burns longer and provides more energy than love. It will lead us to do things we wouldn’t do for money, but that serve others extremely well. A missionary to Africa put it like this, "But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like?...Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go' and we go. Love constrains us."

While service to God and others should spring forth from the redeemed heart unbidden and unplanned, more often than not effort will be required. “For most Christians,” Jerry White said, “serving requires conscious effort.”  

Reflection

Serving is part of what we do as Christians. At least it should be. I was reminded of this as I read this week, and what a great reminder it is. There is a direct link between our growth in godliness and our being of service to God and others. Those who give much of themselves in service, will have gained much in growth and maturation. 

What does my level of serving say about my walk with Christ? Do I serve in a manner commensurate with the blessings and grace I have received from the Lord? Or do I take and take and take from the Lord without moving forward to serve? Do I serve only when it’s convenient? 

These questions and a hundred like them challenged me to take a long hard look at what motivates me to serve, and I’m thankful for it. 

"Fellowship with God,” A.W. Tozer said, “leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed." 

Next Week

We will continue with the next chapter (chapter eight) of the book next Sunday. We’re in the middle of a series on Spiritual Disciplines, and would love for you to get the book and join in. Click here to see what we’ve covered so far. 

10 Parenting Tips for New Parents

Hudson is here!

Hannah and I are over the moon excited to welcome our new little guy into the world. We can’t wait to see all the adventures we’ll go on or who our little man grows up to be. We’ve been on the receiving end of a ton of good advice as we’ve prepared to be parents for the first time. Some of it has come from parents and grandparents and some has come from books we’ve read. I’d like to share some of that advice with you here.  

Some of these tips are for new parents, and some of them we’ll just have to tuck in our back pocket for down the road. Regardless, my hope is that you’ll find a nugget or two to take with you.

Treat your spouse like she has a life threatening disease. Protect her rest and serve as the gatekeeper. People visiting the house during those two weeks is exhausting. Tell your friends ahead of time you’ll let them know when you’re ready for people to come over. They’ll want to be helpful and come hang out but it’ll be too much for a while.   

Put baby on a schedule. Your sanity is important.

Let their childhood last as long as possible. Some burdens are too heavy for children. There are topics and conversations they aren’t ready to handle or shouldn’t have to until they’re older. Carry those loads for them until the time is right.

Don’t discipline out of anger. There are going to be times when your temper gets the best of you, but don’t let that be the norm. It's’ better to let something go, than to react out of anger in the moment.

Get a date night without baby as soon as possible. It will be easy for both new parents to get cabin fever and feel isolated. Getting out of the house helps provide relief. Also good to learn to leave baby early on. Gets harder the longer you go without leaving them.

Prioritize sleep. Sleep is scarce, get it when you can.

Have Dinner Together - “Families who eat dinner together,” Duhigg said, “seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control, and more confidence. Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”

You (dad) are not there to serve the baby, you’re there to serve the mom. Mom will be intently focused upon the needs and well being of the baby. The best way to love your child then, is to love your bride well. Look for ways to take as much pressure and distractions off your wife’s plate as possible. Make sure she is comfortable, refill her water, pray for her, do the laundry; these are all ways you can show her your love and serve her well.  

Our work is not to distract us from our children, our work is to provide for our children. Work is important because it makes so many of the other things we are responsible to do for and with our children possible. It puts food on the table and gas in the tank, but it can also become a distraction. Parents must fight hard to ensure that it doesn’t. Go home and spend time physically, emotionally and in all other ways present with your kiddos. Work is something we do for our children, but it shouldn’t keep us from them.

The goal of parenting is not control of behavior, but rather heart and life change. “As a parent,” Paul Tripp said, “you have been called to something more foundational than the control of the behavior of the children that God has entrusted to your care.” So much of the parenting advice well meaning parents give revolves around behavioral control. That’s always struck me as strange. If what I understand about Christ and the gospel is true, then we are after something far bigger than behavior modification—not just with our kids, but with everyone in our lives. Changing how they act is down river from the heart, just as politics is down river of culture. Don’t get me wrong, we are responsible for helping shape their behavior, that’s just not the most important thing on our to do list.


 

Hard Conversations

We live in a broken, fallen world full of strife, difficulty and disagreement. We don't always get along with or agree with those around us. Maybe someone has done something that has hurt you financially, emotionally, or otherwise. You might feel bitter and you might be wounded, but things don't have to stay that way. 

Often the conversations you most dread are the ones you most need to have. There is something deep down inside us that knows exactly what we need to do. That feeling of dread or fear may not mean what you have always thought. Those knots in your stomach might not be telling you to run, but just might be confirming what you need to do. Whatever conversation has you scared, run towards it. Sure things could blow up in your face and go badly, but being willing to lean in and engage in tough conversations just might lead to outcomes you've only dreamed of.   

Tough conversations don't have to be negative or destructive. It can actually serve as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships and help you grow as an individual. If for no other reason, lean in and engage those you most fear. It has the potential to completely change everything. If you think about it in these terms, those tough conversations all of a sudden get a whole lot easier. 

Ok, you know you need to have a tough conversation but you aren't sure how. Here are a few quick hits that can help you master the art of the difficult conversation. 

Prepare your heart. This is the most challenging part of any difficult interchange. Before going to the other person pause and take a look at yourself. Search your own attitudes, words and actions. Many times you'll find that you've contributed far more to the relational strife your experiencing than you previously realized. Taking a swim in your own stuff will better prepare you to talk to someone else about theirs.

Be humble. humility looks good on you..jpg

Plan out what you will say. Scripting your conversation may be impractical however, it is extremely helpful to spend some time processing not only what you will say but how you will say it. While the content of your message is important, method and tone are even more so. A helpful way to address tone and method is by how you would like to be confronted. One golden rule that won't steer you wrong is to be humble. A humble attitude smooths over a lot more than you realize.