Monday, July 23, 2007

Servant of All?

I bought a book several years ago that I still have yet to read all the way through; the title was captivating, however:

Descending Into Greatness

I remember mentioning the title in one of my bible college classes, and a couple of guys popped off and laughingly said, "How do you descend into greatness?" It is, indeed, a mindset that many men---of all ages---are completely unfamiliar with. Jesus, however, upon hearing the disciples argue amongst themselves about who would be the greatest, told them quite simply, "Whosoever would be the greatest shall be servant of all."

The idea of servanthood is so foreign to us all.

Here, I believe, though, is the root of the problem: We have no problem serving Jesus; we have no problem submitting to His authority and lordship, and recognizing His place in the Kingdom. The disciples did not argue with Him about who would be the greatest in the kingdom; they argued amongst themselves. They recognized Him as the ringleader, the Boss, the one who set the pace (yet still didn't fully recognize Who He really was), but they had little regard for one another in the kingdom.

We have no problem recognizing our place in the Kingdom in relation to Christ. Our problem is recognizing our place in relation to others who are involved in the kingdom, whom we consider our peers, or even our subordinates, our lesser brethren.

"Servant of all"...

I believe this is a large part of the dying process, the crucifying of self so that others might take preeminence among us.

"...submitting yourselves one to another..."

" honor preferring one another..."

" subject one to another..."

" lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves..."

I have no problem saying, "Not my will, but thine, Lord..." but it might not be so easy to say that to my neighboring pastor. It might not come so easily off my tongue on the floor of a conference business session, when I'm convinced I'm right, and my brother is the one responsible for disunity, and not me.

"Servant of all..."

Hard words, indeed, to swallow.

Much could be written about this short little phrase, but it speaks volumes in and of itself. And if we would see Jesus in our midst, we must learn to live by this standard.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"And Enoch walked with God..."

What an incredible eulogy; what a thing to be remembered for.

I woke this morning, and as I lay here in my bed talking with God, this passage came to my mind. Unashamedly, I confess that tears welled up in my eyes as I wondered what might be said of me after my passing.

Would it matter if folks said "He was a great father, a loving husband, a preacher of the gospel..."? Would that be a legacy to leave my children, and their children?

Or would it be the greater good to have someone tell my girls, "Your daddy walked with God, and God just took him on home."?

The recent passing of Lady Bird Johnson caused many great orators, politicians, public figures, etc. to stand and shower her family with words of comfort and encouragement, telling of all the wonderful things that she had done, how much she had given, what a great woman she had been throughout her life; one major newspaper blared the headline "Heaven is a sweeter place now", quoting a line from one of the speakers at the funeral.

Were all the major figures in the world to line up to say great things about me after my death, what could be more stirring than to have someone say, of a truth, "He walked with God"?

Much has been discussed---and not only in recent days, but for many years, I suppose---concerning "the greatest among us". This is not original with the United Pentecostal Church constituency, because even the disciples, while walking in lockstep with Jesus Christ Himself, argued amongst themselves as to who would be the greater. I can almost see the bemused look in the eyes of the Lord as He heard the murmurings of their heart, the angry whispers of His faithful followers, each setting out in his own mind where his place in the new kingdom would be.

Then Jesus blows it all out of the water by asking them, privately, "What were you guys discussing back there?" Mark's recording of this incident tells us that "they held their peace; for...they had disputed...who should be the greatest." Here are these guys talking about who's the best, the greatest, the most spiritual, the most captivating, the most anointed...and suddenly Jesus brings them crashing back to reality by taking a child in His arms, and teaching them a lesson in humility and selflessness.

We have preached (and I say "we" because I know that not only have I, but I know of several other ministers who have been preaching and saying the same things) in recent times that "It's not about us; it's about Him." but somehow I am afraid that we still don't get it. And I'm preaching to myself more than anyone else, because I know how fragile my human ego is. We realize---I really believe we do---that Jesus is the focus of our attention, adoration, and worship, and we willingly give that, but then somehow, when God allows us a little bit of honor through His Name, we get this idea that we've got a special place in the Kingdom.

Humility, selflessness, child-like's almost diametrically opposed to where we are today. We are not bad people, just as the disciples of Christ were not; we are just human, and often carnal (i.e. self-serving) in our thinking. And the scripture tells us that "to be carnally minded is death;...Because the carnal mind is enmity against God...:".

I was going to research what some of the commentators had to say about Enoch and his walk with God; I never made it past Adam Clarke's commentary:

The astonishing height of piety to which [Enoch] had arrived, being cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and having perfected holiness in the fear of God, we find not only his soul but his body purified, so that, without being obliged to visit the empire of death, he was capable of immediate translation to the paradise of God. There are few cases of this kind on record; but probably there might be more, many more, were the followers of God more faithful to the grace they receive.

I'm sorry if this is offensive, but Adam Clark's commentary---and Enoch's walk with God---are indictments against many of us who claim to walk with God today. I say this with tears and brokenness because I realize how far I have to go to ever hope to reach the relationship with God that some of the men of old had. And we needn't go all that far back to find men who could put us to shame: the stories are far and wide of men in just recent generations---we don't have to reach back into the Old Testament----who walked in a different realm than many of us walk in today. It is not that God favored them any more than He favors us today, for God is no respecter of persons.

It is just that they paid---willingly---a price to walk with God that many of us haven't decided we're willing to pay yet. Some will; others will not.

Does this mean that those who do not pay the price will be ineffective in the Kingdom, or unimportant to God? Of course not.

But there will be those giants who rise and walk among us and cast a much larger shadow than others. These men may never preach a conference or campmeeting; the chances of them running in the circles of the UPC "elite" are quite slim. They are too devoted to walking in the footsteps of their Master to try walking with other men.

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I confess that it has been said of me in the past that I am a good preacher. Superlatives and descriptives have been used that, quite honestly, are both flattering and embarrassing at the same time. When it comes to the gift of music, I acknowledge that I am skilled; God has blessed me, and He alone is worthy of any and all accolades.

But this morning, I have decided that I am not interested in being known as a great preacher, nor even as a great musician.

But God help me...Please let it be said of a truth when I pass from this life that, "He walked with God...and God took him."

There is no greater statement that could be said of a man.