The A, B, C’s of Loving One Another, “S”

By Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

Serve one another. Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

I would venture to say that most born-again believers want to serve God faithfully and want to serve each other as often and as best as we can. So why is it that many disciples of Christ live with unmet needs and feel isolated and alone? And why is it that those believers who do serve others are quickly burned out and also feel isolated and alone?

Just this week I’ve heard a radio broadcast from Dr. Charles Stanley which answers these questions. The sermon was first preached in 1989 and to seminary students, but I believe his premise is just as pertinent today. You can hear the entire series (here).

Dr. Stanley said there were 7 steps leading to frustration and regret in service to God and others. I want to summarize this particular section through a personal lens. Dr. Stanley started with the first step, but I’m going to start with the final result and work back to the very first thing that starts us down the path of disappointment in serving others.

Step #7: Disaster!

Have you ever stood over a mess of human emotions and program failures and wondered; maybe even said aloud, “How did all this turn into a disaster?” I have! And more times than I care to confess here.

In each and every occurrence I had the best of intentions. I had the right people in place. I had every detail taken care of. Those within my circle of influence were excited and supportive of the service project; large or small

Sometimes the objectives of the service were met thoroughly and even above expectations. But, it didn’t matter because there I stood in the middle of some sort of disaster directly related to the service being provided. Sadly, I was usually clueless as to why said disaster occurred.

(I no longer have the excuse of cluelessness now that I’ve heard this teaching from Dr. Stanley. If you want to remain clueless, don’t keep reading. But if you’re tired of being tired in your service for God to others then read on!)

Step #6: Disobedience!

This is so hard to admit. And trust me. I’ve used every argument and every twist of Scripture to explain the disasters in step number seven. It had to be anything except my own disobedience.

But, alas! In every disaster of ministry to others; serving the one anothers around me, there was an area of disobedience in my life. It used to be I was horribly blinded to these sins. The result was repeating step number six and repeating step number seven over and over.

I am so thankful there is now some level of maturity and the blinders are quickly removed. My service to others is not perfect, but I am avoiding this step more often which means I am avoiding more disasters.

Step #5: Disillusionment

God is so honest in his Word, the Bible. He tells us all about the human condition. So why is it I wear rose colored glasses when it comes to serving others?

Why am I surprised when someone doesn’t seem to be genuinely thankful for my service? Why am I hurt when half the volunteers don’t show to set up and the other half don’t stay to clean up?

Why am I not prepared to deal effectively and decisively with the “Woe is me” feelings that often permeate my soul? Why am I not ready for the barrage of questions and even whining that is sure to come from some of the one anothers I am serving with?

Maybe I have taken on too much. Or my own expectations are too high. Or maybe my pride is bruised or puffed up. Whatever the reason, once I am disillusioned it’s not rose colored glasses I have on. It is the dismal dark glasses of despair that cloud my judgment and my heart.

Step #4: Discouragement

Over time and under continued stress it is easy to replace the obvious blessings of God with twisted opinions of our reality. The result is discouragement.

There is no doubt that when I’ve stood in the middle of my ministry disaster (step seven), discouragement was not far away. Maybe it was even as close as a few moments or drawn out for as long as months and even years.

Most likely my self-interests were not being met. Or my need for affirmation was not as “sparkling” as I would have liked. Or me, myself and I were feeling overused and under appreciated. Or  _________________ just fill in the blank.

Step #3: Weariness

(You thought I was going to use all “D” words, didn’t you? I thought the preacher, Dr. Stanley, would too, but there just weren’t applicable “D” words to use for the last three steps. That’s probably a good thing.)

The very serving opportunity that used to excite me and be the catalyst for getting out of bed, now keeps me reaching for the snooze button. I’m just plain tired. Maybe you are too.

We’re tired of greeting the same people at the same door each and every Sunday morning. We’re tired of telling little Johnny for the umpteenth time to stop leaning his chair back on two legs. We’re tired of taking a lunch meal every Thursday to the crusty old gentlemen in 12B.

We know we shouldn’t be tired of serving others; of doing the Lord’s work. But we are and it just makes us more discouraged.

What’s happened? How did we get so tired? Why has the joy of serving Jesus gone?

Step #2: Burden Bearing

This is an interesting step because it seems so spiritual to bear one another’s burdens. In fact there is a command to do so. (Galatians 6:2)

But, the defining truth here is feeling the weight, the heaviness, of your service. It feels like you are being buried or crushed or at the very least bent over by all you are doing in the Lord’s name for others

I know this feeling and so do you. There is one reason and one reason only why we feel this crushing weight. And that is Step Number One!

Step #1: Prayerlessness

The ultimate, foundational reason I have stood in the middle of disaster after disaster in my service to Jesus for others is because I was too busy to pray. That’s it!

I am too busy to pray so I try and bear other’s burdens in my own strength and I am crushed underneath the weight. (Step #2)

I am too busy to pray so I work really, really hard but it is in my own strength and I become tired and oh so weary. (Step #3)

I am too busy to pray so I keep pulling myself up by my bootstraps, but the straps keep breaking and I keep falling and discouragement creeps into my heart, mind and soul. (Step #4)

I am too busy to pray so I raise the expectations for myself and for others only to find my rose colored glasses shattered on the all over my service mess. (Step #5)

I am too busy to pray so I disobey just a little, then a little more and more until I am blinded to my own sin. (Step #6)

I am too busy to pray so I stand in the middle of a service disaster and shake my head and wonder what in the world happened. (Step #7)

The bottom line is this: If I am too busy to pray…I am too busy to serve.

 Are you too busy today?

Photo By: Margaret Richards | http://richardsandcompany.smugmug.com/

The A, B, Cs of Loving One Another, “Q”

By Elaine Baldwin| @elainehbaldwin

Quiet and be still. Psalm 46:10  Be still, and know that I God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  (KJV)

The noise of life blocks out God’s message of love to us and makes us ineffective to love others. This happens to the best of us. Even God’s mighty prophets had to learn to be quiet.

(The following is an excerpt from “The Art of Loving One Another.”)

In I and II Kings we read about a pretty amazing prophet. His name was Elijah. He was quite the man of God and served Jehovah faithfully during a very dark time in Israel’s history. In fact, he was so connected with God that when his time here on earth was completed, God took him to heaven in a whirlwind escorted by a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses (II Kings 2:11). Now that’s a “Wow!” change moment. And it wasn’t Elijah’s first one

  • Elijah was given the ability to stop the rain (I Kings 17:1).
  • Elijah and a widow and her son were given unlimited bread while he lodged with them during the time of draught (I Kings 17:9-16).
  • Elijah was given power to raise the widow’s son from the dead (I Kings 17:17-24).
  • Elijah was given power to defeat 450 prophets of Baal in a god-test (I Kings 18).
  • Elijah was given the ability to make it rain again (I Kings 18:45).
  • Elijah was given the speed and endurance to outpace Ahab’s chariot and beat him to Jezreel (I Kings 18:46).
  • Elijah was fed miraculously by God and the angel of the Lord ministered personally to him (I Kings 19:6-7).
  • Elijah traveled for forty days to a mountain on those one day provisions (I Kings 19:8).
  • Elijah spoke directly to God on Mount Horeb, The Mountain of God (I Kings 19:9-15).
  • Elisha smote the waters of Jordan with Elijah’s mantel which fell off when he taken away to heaven in the chariot of fire and the waters were separated and Elisha crossed over on dry ground (II Kings 2:14).

Including the chariot escort to heaven that is eleven oversized change moments Elijah had that I have never experienced. That’s not to say I’ve never had giant change moments. But I’ve never outrun a chariot or stopped the rain or raised anyone from the dead and I probably never will. That doesn’t mean my colossal change moments are not significant. They are just different. There is one thing Elijah and I have that is the same. We both struggle between the “Wows!”

In between all these amazing change moments in Elijah’s life, he allowed one threat made by a malicious woman to knock him off his feet and shut him and his ministry down.

Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. I Kings 19:2

You see after his knockout punch of the 450 prophets of Baal, evil Queen Jezebel wasn’t too happy. It’s hard to believe that Israel sank so low with such a godless woman as their leader but it only took a handful of generations for Israel to be unrecognizable as God’s chosen people

But, such were the times Elijah lived in. He was the only true prophet in Israel. So when he, with God’s enabling, won the contest against the Baal prophets he didn’t really have any human to give a high five to or join him in a rousing cheer of, “Our God Reigns.”

Here he was, a little tired from outpacing Ahab’s chariot, no supporters, no fans, and no groupies, around him. Only his servant was with him. (I think he probably had to hang around.) Then he gets news that Jezebel has a contract out on him. The text says he ran for his life to Beersheba, left his servant there (there goes the last hope for any support) and then he ran into the wilderness and collapsed under a juniper tree where he requested that he might die

It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers. I Kings 19:4

It’s hard to believe that this mighty prophet of God went from the high of completing one of the most remarkable achievements in the entire Bible to a low so deep that he was despondent and wanted God to take his life. Then again, maybe it isn’t all that hard to believe. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe most of us have to some degree. But, God wasn’t finished with this runaway prophet and He isn’t done with us either. I know because I am still here writing and you are still here reading. So we obviously aren’t done with whatever God has for us to do.

Elijah also had more to do, but he was exhausted and he was hungry and he was scared and he had no one. Elijah was just done in! God knew this. Nor was God surprised by Jezebel’s threats and massive man hunt. It was all part of His plan to speak to Elijah in an intimate way.

After a few visits from the angel of the Lord, some sleep and some food Elijah was good to go. I mean he was good to go for forty long days. I love the last statement from the angel of the Lord before Elijah left for this long trek, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (I Kings 19:7b). Talk about an understatement!

Elijah conquered the prophets of Baal on God’s strength and with God’s power. He ran from Jezebel on his own without listening for God. The next forty days he survived on God’s provision from the food and rest back in the wilderness. Pretty amazing! Now he is at Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God. But was he ready to listen to God…God’s way?

He’s on a mountain top and not just any mountain top, God’s mountain top!  He still doesn’t understand what he’s supposed to do now that the big battle is over. What can he do? He’s a hunted man. He’s the only one left in Israel. Or so he thinks. Let’s listen in on the conversation between God and Elijah. You can read the whole story in I Kings 19

God: What are you doing here, Elijah?

Elijah: I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away

God: Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD

Now here is where it gets interesting. As if standing before God on His Mountain and talking with God isn’t interesting enough. But, trust me, it gets better

Elijah hangs out and waits for God to speak to him again. Suddenly a great and strong wind ripped at the mountain and rocks were torn in pieces. Elijah thought for sure that this was God. But God was not in the wind. Then an earthquake came and then a fire and Elijah thought surely this was God. But God was not in the earthquake or the fire.

After the fire came “a sound of gentle blowing.”  We’re told that when Elijah heard this gentle breeze, he just knew. God opened his mind, heart and his awareness and he knew this was God. Elijah wrapped his mantle around his face and finally did what God told him to do. He stood in the entrance of the cave. There he and God repeated the first conversation, but there was an important difference.

Elijah was ready to listen without all the “Wow!” So much of his God experience up to this moment had been the colossal and the extraordinary that he wasn’t really able to hear God in the everyday and the ordinary. I have to wonder if God gave him the big show of wind and earthquake and fire just to get the need for “Wow!” out of His prophet’s system. That is purely my own speculation, but it’s interesting to think about.

Now that Elijah could hear God in the gentle breeze, he was ready for change and he was ready for his next assignment. This assignment wasn’t nearly as dramatic or astonishing.

God simply asked him to anoint a new ruler over Aram and a new king over Judah and a new prophet to replace himself, none other than Elisha.

It took days of running and weeks of solitary travel and a mighty exhibition of God’s amazing power, but once Elijah was finally quiet before the Lord, Jehovah God reminded the prophet that he was not alone.

He was not the only one left in Israel. God had a remnant; a 7000 strong remnant that did not bow their knee to Baal.

How long has it been since you’ve been quiet before the Lord? I mean really quiet. Shh….

Photo By: Margaret Richards | http://richardsandcompany.smugmug.com/