Ordination, Offices, Function and Authority (2)

But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

-Matthew 20:25-28
In churches there are structures of governance.  If you walk into a church meeting, you might ask, “who is in charge?”  And when someone writes, speaks, prays, counsels or does music; somebody might ask, “by what authority?”, or, “who authorized you?”
Some people make these questions more important or a bigger deal.  You mention an author that you read and people might ask who they are or where they are from and what group they are attached to.  And it gets difficult to describe the affiliations or make-up of someone’s pedigree, because their are thousands of streams or tribes in the body of Christ.
My friends and I were starting a home group once and a man who was a friend and tried out the group, was very concerned that none of us who were co-leading had ordination papers or were pastors on a payroll or something.  I knew a pastor who’s regional overseer was concerned about groups that were meeting outside the walls of the church property and that this pastor was beginning to dress more casually, when meeting with the church.  And I saw a person’s article in an online magazine, who was wearing the priestly collar, in which they were questioning another person’s authority to teach or lead in blog posts or through speaking and writing, outside of some sanctioned arena of influence.

All of these stories get me thinking about this topic of ordination, offices, function and authority.  The church ‘authorities’ questioned Jesus about, “who authorized you?’ (Mark 11:27-8).  Seems like the same thing still goes on today.  And although people are ordained in the high to the low churches and we have big Christian publishing houses and medium and small; in all these mechanisms or spheres of authority, we have faulty people.

I’m saying that we assume that because a person is ordained with a group, or has a book contract or record contract with a publisher or label, that they ‘must be ok’.  And if they ‘go bad’, they will be dealt with or disciplined by that organization.  But scandal is always a part of institutional power, perhaps because power outside of God or power that is not from and through God is corrupt power.

One of the words that authoritarians use is, ‘laity’.  They refer to we who are not in the clergy class as being ‘lay people’.  The problem is that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy in the NT.

We are actually all clergy and laity.  A huge variety of gifts are in us all and many of those gifts have leadership attributes or abilities that we may function in for the benefit of others.  The leadership structure in the kingdom is flat, with one person at the top, who is Christ.

Every time you want to argue that there is clergy and they are the ones over others, in charge, the authorities, the bosses or whatever title you want to employ; you must check yourself with Jesus words from Matthew 20.  No dominating exercising of power over other people.  Rather, you get to serve and be a slave; and servants or slaves are not in any way ‘over’ others, but under them, lifting them up and beside them, holding them up and guiding them and protecting them.

Most every church has officers.  Officers are those who are appointed, ordained, chosen or commissioned to be ‘in charge’ of some task or duty.  This includes the treasurer, the person who makes the coffee and provides or coordinates the food, the person in charge of child care and men on the board of elders who make decisions about a church’s facilities, properties, corporate vision or partnerships (to name a few of the things elders might do).

In the NT, we see the church being led by a plurality of elders.  Even the Apostles that Jesus left behind exercised a plurality of leadership.  Circle back and re-read Matthew 20.  In my life, I have witnessed a popular form of church governance that has perhaps waned a bit in recent years; that is patterned not after the plurality of elders model, but after Moses.

God can call a church or guide a church to have a ‘Moses type’ leadership structure.  And I believe that God does, but it is a special calling and is the exception and not the rule, nor the pattern expressed in the pages of the NT.  Churches that began with a dynamic leader called to be a ‘Moses type’ autocrat, must either reproduce Joshua’s who are still autocratic,  but maybe, maybe less so; or be transformed into more of what we see in the NT.

What is silly and even ugly is when a dynamic one-of-a-kind leader gets copied by the next gen of leaders who are actors or caricatures of the original person.  And we end up making a norm out of an exceptional person.

Asking God For Help

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

-James 1:4-6 (NIV)
I want to talk about asking God for help.  We continually have challenges in life that stretch us beyond what we know to do.  And we must learn to ask God for help.
When we ask God for help, it is not like asking someone to lend us a hand.  Asking God for help is availing ourselves to God’s goodness, grace and love.  Asking God requires my listening and following God.
Asking God means that when God answers, I must follow.  God makes a way for me, with him.  This is very different than my asking God to help me do things my way.
God is always expanding my awareness and experience in him as I walk along in life.  And this is what asking for wisdom from God is all about.  I am asking God how to do something I can not do.
Life serves up a challenge and I am not doing well with it.  I might say, honestly, “I can’t do this”.  The next step is to ask God for help, saying, “How can I do this?”
James brings up this issue, because his whole letter is a catalog of wisdom from God, that James wants to share with his audience.  The original people who James was ministering to had real problems.

The message from James is: “Now that you are a Christian, you have a lot of problems”.  The message, “Come to Jesus and you will no longer have problems”, runs counter to the book of James.

Here, in chapter 1, is the first of four times that James is going to mention wisdom in his letter.  About the theme of wisdom, Brian Simmons writes: “His letter could be considered a wisdom sermon, for the style is similar to the Proverbs.  Throughout his letter James taps into the long tradition of Jewish wisdom and applies it to various practical topics for wise Christian living.  He recognizes wisdom as necessary for trying circumstances; it involves insight into God’s purposes and leads to spiritual maturity; and God is the source of all true wisdom.”(1)
A good way to understand the whole message of James is to read the whole thing in one sitting.  If you had just done that and then circled back to chapter one, you would have probably noticed that James contrasts God’s heavenly wisdom with earthly wisdom that can be demonic.
Some Christians are afraid of the idea that there is a demon behind every bush.  But the demonic and the dark powers are a reality and they influence how the world functions.  And people who are not walking with God come under the influence of the demonic.
The Christian who is not growing in godly wisdom through a living relationship with God is vulnerable to all the demonic traffic of ideas that is going through the air and it is only natural that they may adopt these ideas and pet them and feed them and believe in them.  They are not from God but are opposed to God.
Before we ask for wisdom and before we realize we are having trouble and need help, we need to understand that our faith is being stretched and grown through persevering under trials.  James says that we are all in a maturing process.  Over the years, I have met young and old believers, who resisted the idea of the long process of maturity.
I will never forget a man, who I was in a class with.  The instructor was sharing a model on the whiteboard of how people grow and mature.  This man shared with the class, with stars in his eyes, how God had taken him through all of these steps in just one night.
This brother was the oldest person in the room and a full time minister, who planned on getting a Doctorate, after finishing his Masters degree in Christian counseling.  And he was arguably the rudest, most selfish student in our class, based upon how he treated others.  Later in the program, several students openly confronted him, during a group sharing session.
I share that story, because many people want overnight change and do not want a long growth process.  But perseverance and learning godly wisdom usually comes from a lifetime lived, walking with God and asking God for help.
God does touch us and heal us.  We can have a life changing experience with God.  But maturity, mature faith and a godliness that has God’s character usually takes time.  We can most definitely be touched by God, but not have very good fruit in our lives, because the cultivation of that fruit occurs in a process over time.
Perseverance means that we have persevered.  We have walked through the severe circumstances:  Circumstances that tried us and tested our faith.  Our faith has been refined. 
Part of perseverance is to ask God for help.  And asking God for help takes humility.  I already mentioned that when we ask God for help, we have to be willing to follow God.  If you are asking God to “give you a hand”, it is not going to work.
That person might say, “I have asked God for help over and over and he just seems to ignore me!”
Are you asking God to lend you a hand, or are you humbling yourself and availing yourself to God changing your life, through the help he gives you?
We need wisdom,  We need God’s wisdom to be godly people.  We have to be in the habit of asking God for help, which involves constantly humbling ourselves, saying, “I don’t know”, and even, “I have no idea”.  Then we ask for wisdom, for advice, for God’s perspective.
If you get in fights with people, if you are hurt or offended by people or you are mad that you are not getting your way; be prepared and don’t be shocked when God says, “You are wrong”.
If you are in the maturing process and you are going through your first world problems and you decide to start asking God for help and you discover that asking for help is not asking God for a hand, but coming under God as God and asking God to be God in your life and give you help as God: you are probably going to hear or sense, “You are wrong”.
God who loves you, will tell you that you are wrong, just like how Jesus told his disciples they were wrong.  “You are wrong”, does not mean you are bad or unloved, but means you don’t get it.

A person who never acknowledges they are wrong is a small person and may become a psychopath.  That is not a person to follow or that you want to be.

Living a life of not asking for help and authentic help requests say, “what am I doing wrong?”, is a life of pride.  Asking for help, as in asking what I can do differently or what should I do, takes some humility.  God opposes pride and give grace to humility.
The issue of asking for wisdom without doubting is about perseverance.  That means that you burn the ships after you reach the island or burn the bridges, so that you can not go back to where God led you out of.
You can’t say, “It did not work, so we are going back”.  That is not faith or perseverance.
Abraham is the man of faith, in scripture.  He had a promise that took a very long time to be fulfilled.
Sarah did not have the encounters with God that her husband had, as far as the record of scripture tells us.
But they both had to wait.  And they made a mistake, to try to ‘help the promise come about’, that was not God’s wisdom.  But God still entered into their situation and redeemed it.
Maybe you are like Abraham and you are worried that you either ruined your chances or that somehow God has forgotten you.  Maybe like Abe, you have a wife or a husband that did not receive the promise like you did, but they nevertheless must live out your life in God, as a couple in covenant.
I am encouraged that despite Abraham and Sarah’s fumble, that intimately affected two other people, God still kept giving them wisdom, guidance and grace.  The point is that despite the flaws that were huge, the scripture says that their faith did not waver (Rom. 4:20-21).  Yes, I see them as one, a couple.
This is message on persevering in faith and asking for wisdom unwaveringly.  If you think that your faith is not pure enough, strong enough or laser beam straight enough; think again.  Decide to believe and keep deciding, keep believing in the one who is faithful.
Keep your confidence in God.  Make it a habit to not worry.  Do not worry about things God does not worry about.  Instead, ask for wisdom.
Generous grace is available every day to those who turn their humble hearts towards God.  Generous grace is available every day to those who humble themselves to ask God for wisdom.  There is always grace for today, but we have to avail ourselves to God’s open hand by humbling ourselves and asking for it.
Being ambivalent towards God or keeping your options open as you look around will destabilize your faith and your life.  There is only faith or unbelief and no neutral.  If you are undecided about God, that is called unbelief and you will not get or grow in wisdom or grace.
The place where James takes you is to become, like he was, a servant of God, in the service of others.  That is why we need to do all these wise things that James advises in his sermon letter.  You will know God, serve God and serve others, finding meaning and purpose.
Our destinies are called out and developed in the seeming darkness of troubles and problems in our lives.  Every single person has equal standing to be redeemed by God and employed in God’s service.
Ask God for help and find wisdom.  Make that your lifestyle.
1. Brian Simmons, Hebrews and James: Faith Works, The Passion Translation; pp. 67-8

Ministers of The Light of The Gospel

Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth. But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The light of Christ is shining.  Letting that light into our hearts is the beginning of and the way on in the life in Christ.  The light is that God has now acted in history to change humanity through Christ.

Being a believer is not about going to heaven, but about being transformed by God and then becoming an agent of God.  Being a believer is not about doing the right thing, but about knowing God and acting according to that knowledge.  Being a believer is to be a person who’s life is centered in and has come under the rule and reign of the kingdom of God, empowered by God’s Spirit and living in and for God’s glory in Christ.

Being a Christian is not being an evolved or enlightened Jew or a Gentile who has joined the true Israel, who is now able, through Christ and the Spirit of God dwelling in them, to live a lawfully wedded life to God and serve Him for all his or her days.  Being a Christian is to be a person who has placed not only their faith in Christ, but has given their whole lives to God, in Christ, and have become vessels or agents of God’s Spirit in the earth for the sake of the gospel.  Being a Christian is to be a person in whom the light of God has shone and is now shining.

The light of Christ comes as a blinding light to some, like how when Paul was blinded by the light of Christ, on the road to Damascus, which was a part of Paul’s dramatic conversion.  For others, the light of Christ is like what a poet called “the hound of heaven”, that is there in a person’s life, continually pursuing them, until the person gives in and lets the Son shine in.  T-bone Burnett has a song, where he says that God’s love is relentless; and Francis Chan describes God’s love displayed in the light of Christ as “Crazy Love”.

A Christian is a person who has gone from darkness to light, through a work done by God.  A Christian is a person who was once in the dark but now is in the light, and it only and completely happened for them because of God’s initiative.  A Christian is not involved now in a self-improvement program, but has seen the light of God in Christ and is now in a death, burial and resurrection process orchestrated by God and modulated by their own desire to know God more.

To be a Christian means one has encountered the light of God and been regenerated or born anew into everlasting life through Christ.  And just as the sun and all the stars did not come out of nothingness by themselves, but were supernaturally created by God; so too, people only become saved or are regenerated and born anew by the supernatural work of God.  Christianity is not something we thought of, that we made and that we do; but being a Christian is something that only God can make you through a supernatural creative work that only belongs to God.

Being a Christian is to be in Christ and to be in Christ requires a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Christianity is not a philosophy or religion that one accepts, adheres to, practices and participates in.  Christianity is part of the new creation of God that only begins and lives through the supernatural, creative life of God.

The whole of the ministry of Jesus Christ is to be agents of and participate with the work of the Spirit of God, who shines the light of Christ, to be seen by people, so that they will come to know Christ and then be transformed.  Ministers are agents of the grace of God, who though flawed, God mercifully uses to share and shine the light of Christ.  We see the light, but many are blind to it and will only see when the Spirit of God does a work in them to cause them to see the light.

We can not make someone see who is blind, but only let the light shine through us and welcome those who respond to it or begin to see the light through the working of the Spirit of God in their hearts.  We can love, help and speak to spiritually blind people; but only God can open blind eyes.  As agents or heralds, it would seem that we are calling attention to our selves; but we are only drawing attention to our selves in order to point to or shine the light on the one we are serving.

The beauty or handsomeness, the talent, the engaging personality or the lovableness of the minister is for one purpose, and that is to promote Christ.  Yes, follow a person, but only as they follow Christ.  Yes, listen to a person, but hear Christ.

If Jesus constantly pointed people to and reflected his Father, then we should copy Jesus and constantly point to him and to our Father.  Ministers are servants who serve on someone else’s behalf, and reflect their master.  Ministers are faithful slaves, who announce, promote, and reveal the light of their master.

I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Hope Floats

I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me.

-Psalm 69:2
Do you have sinking feelings?  Are you bogged down by adversity, loss, failure or depression?  Have things just not gone your way in any of a hundred ways, in your life and you feel like there is no end to your troubles?
Many of us understand, because we feel that way some times.  Many of us do.  I think it is just the length, pace and depth of this feeling of no bottom, ‘overwhelming-ness’ and ‘adrift-ness’ that varies among us.

To myself and to any of us who are feeling down or adrift, I want to say these two words:

Hope floats.

In the midst of everything, how ever bad, there is always hope.  The hope that is always there for us is in God and Christ.  There are all these sinking feelings and overwhelming feelings of loss and a lack of grounding, but hope floats and we must get a hold of hope and let it give us buoyancy, a lift, and let it be our life’s preserver.

Everything we face or go through leads to a “but”, or a “yet”; that is hope in God and Christ.  And here is the second piece: God and Christ do not negate your pain, but they enter into it and save you with their redemption.  Triumphalism is not the gospel.

When I went through one of the most painful seasons in my life.  My urgent prayer was for God to make the pain go away.  Instead, this verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9, was given to me personally: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

God enters into the lives of us who are experiencing heartbreak, brokenness, and humiliated weakness; and loves us unconditionally and teaches us the way.

You may know this praise song, by Robert Davidson:

As we gather may Your Spirit work within us
As we gather may we glorify Your Name
Knowing well that as our hearts begin to worship
We’ll be blessed because we came 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is Your faithfulness, 0 Lord
Great is Your faithfulness 

These words, the second part, come from Lamentations 3, from the Revised Standard Version.  The next verse says, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” (RSV); or, “I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (HCSB)

And before Jeremiah writes about the steadfast or faithful love of the Lord and putting his hope in the Lord, he writes twenty verses about his troubles, then turns a corner, and in verse twenty-one writes, “Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”, or “But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”; and then gives us the beautiful line that is used in the song above.

Jeremiah shows us that hope floats.  Here is the context, in the HCSB:

ז Zayin

Remember my affliction and my homelessness,
the wormwood and the poison.
I continually remember them
and have become depressed.
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

ח Khet

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
I say: The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.

ט Tet

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him.
It is good to wait quietly
for deliverance from the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is still young.

There is another scripture on hope, that I personally love, and it is this one, from 1 Corinthians 13:

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love. -1 Cor. 13:11-13

Another scripture passage on hope is this one from 1 Thessalonians:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. -1 Thess. 4:13-14

Do you remember the quoted scripture, by John, in John 2, when Jesus cleared the temple area of the money changers?   John wrote, “And His disciples remembered that it is written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”  That is Psalm 69:9, the same Psalm where David is writing about feeling overwhelmed.

It is amazing how John takes a line from David, who had moods and went high and low, and in the midst of thirty-six verses of this Psalm, he makes the statement that, “Zeal for Your house consumes Me.”  Take note that the Temple had not been built.

David was talking about God’s presence, the place where God dwells, whether in heaven or on earth.  You might be having set backs, troubles, failures, disappointments or betrayals; while living under the banner of zeal for God’s house.  You identify with David and Jesus also is identified with David, by John and his other disciples.

Hope was needed, for floating, for David, as he was going through troubles while he wrote Psalm 69.  And hope always floated for Jesus, as he went through his life, including what he did with the money changers in the temple courts.  Inspired by God, John sees Jesus as zealous for God’s house, and touches that back to David, who was going through a time when he needed hope to bring him up.

And, if you read all of Psalm 69, or at least up through verse nine, to get the context, you will see that David is calling out to God, asking that his followers would not lose their hope because of all that had befallen him.  Here is the context:

Save me, God,
for the water has risen to my neck.
I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep waters,
and a flood sweeps over me.

I am weary from my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without cause
are more numerous than the hairs of my head;
my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me,
are powerful.
Though I did not steal, I must repay.

God, You know my foolishness,
and my guilty acts are not hidden from You.
Do not let those who put their hope in You
be disgraced because of me,
Lord God of Hosts;
do not let those who seek You
be humiliated because of me,
God of Israel.

For I have endured insults because of You,
and shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers
and a foreigner to my mother’s sons
because zeal for Your house has consumed me,
and the insults of those who insult You
have fallen on me. -Psalm 69:1-9

I underlined verse two, which is my jumping off point; then verse six, that mentions hope; and then verse nine, that is the line about zeal for God’s house.  You might be a person with zeal for God’s house and be very down and discouraged.  In your prayers, you ask God to not let your journey and it’s mishaps to hurt those who have followed you, are in your care, or of who you lead relation-ally.

A certain percentage of ventures, including starting churches or ministry outreaches fail.  Faith involves risk and sometimes risks fail, but God loves people who exercise faith and risk in doing so.

Praying for anything is an example of exercising faith.  Doing anything in the kingdom also requires faith, and true faith always has risk.  As leaders, we always have concern for others, that when failure or disappointment comes, that they do not lose hope.

And all of us are leaders, except the newborn babes among us.  You lead your friends, your co-workers, and you lead in your family.  The task of Christian leadership is service.

Service is always for the sake of others.  And when we care about others, our service is to help them in their relationship with God.  My leadership is to serve you, to help you connect with God, and become who God has made you to be, as your destiny.  My back and my shoulders are for you to stand on, to see God.

You might be passionate about your ideas about God.  You might be concerned for your followers, people you lead, or people in your care; just like David was.  That is good, that is Christ.

Zeal for God’s house is what eventually got Jesus killed.

Is zeal for God’s house worth dying for, to you?  And as you live out that Zeal, are your people very important to you?  I mean, are you living out Jesus’ life that says, “This is my command: that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.”

We not only want hope for ourselves, but we want it for others.  In Christ, we begin to care more about others than our selves.  We lead by saying to others, “How are you doing?”, rather than being centered on our selves.

We realize we need hope and take hold of it, when we are flooded by troubles.  Then, we immediately turn our concern to others.  It is like what they tell you in the emergency instructions, when you fly: first, get the oxygen mask on your face, then help others.

Servants Rule!

The greatest among you will be your servant.

-Matthew 23:11
How is your serve?  I was thinking about the phrase kids use to brag that their group is the greatest, like, “nerds rule!”  It’s like “we’re the best”, or “we’re the greatest”.
And it is true that Jesus said that servants are the great ones in the kingdom.  Kingdom values are different, even upside down from earthly values.  We are kingdom people first and church members second.
The way that Christians are governed is by kingdom values inside and outside the church.  It does not matter if you are thinking of “the church gathered” or “the church scattered”.  Jesus, who is the builder of the church, says that his people will not be like the world or like the religious institutions, of his day.
Jesus said that there is no hierarchy and no corporate flow chart.  There are not special people who are heads or positional leaders.  There are no officials or officers.
We’re just brothers and sisters, with Jesus as our head, Lord, teacher, and leader.
Serving is it.  Jesus said he came to serve.  Father sent Jesus to serve.  
And Jesus says to us, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”.  What does he send us to do?  Serve.  Who does Jesus make us all to be?  Servants.
How is your serve?  
I see Jesus inviting us into his life of service.  I see Jesus building his church through servants.  And the servants are in on Jesus’ secrets (John 2:5-9).
You can be a pastor, a preacher, an evangelist, a prophet, an apostle, or a teacher.  But you will only be great in the King’s sight, if you are first a servant.  Servants serve, they do not feel entitled to being served in any way.

Servants rule!

Toward The Lord Are My Eyes

Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah from Pahath-moab’s descendants, and 200 men with him.

-Ezra 8:4
The message here is based on the names in this text, with a note on the number 200.  I believe every verse in the Bible is “preachable” (2 Tim. 3:16), and of course I believe in context and exegetical principles.  I also believe that names are important and numbers mean something sometimes too.  
Photo: Pixabay
I believe that we are people who’s eyes are fixed on the Lord.  We are watchers and seers.  Our inheritance is to be people who have eyes to see and follow God.

e-li-e-ho’-e-ni (‘elyeho`enay, “to Yahweh are mine eyes”)

This is what Eliehoenai means.  Every follower of God has this calling.  Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Those who have a desire to see God have glimpsed him already.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good”, says Psalm 34:8.
The one who has the Lord in his sights, was fathered by the one from who the Lord has risen or come forth, Zerahiah:

zer-a-hi’-a (zerachyah, “Yahweh hath risen” or “come forth”; the Septuagint has Zaraia, with variants)

We who watch and see, were likely fathered by or are living in the inheritance of those who the Lord “rose upon” or “came forth” to.  In other words, we lived and came up under the fruit of a move of God.  We are the descendants of someone.

Pahath-moab, is the “further back” part of the generations.  Generations and family lines are important.

200 can mean great expectancy (10 x 20) or insufficiency.  From “Numbers in Scripture”, by E.W. Bullinger:

20 is the double of ten, and may in some cases signify its concentrated meaning. But its significance seems rather to be connected with the fact that it is one short of twenty-one, 21 – 1 = 20; that is to say, if 21 is the three-fold 7, and signifies Divine (3) completion as regards spiritual perfection (7), then twenty, being one short of 21, it would signify what Dr. Milo Mahan calls expectancy, and certainly we are not without illustrations in support of it:

  • Twenty years Jacob waited to get possession of his wives and property, Gen 21:38,41.
  • Twenty years Israel waited for a deliverer from Jabin’s oppression, Judg 4:3.
  • Twenty years Israel waited for deliverance through Samson, Judg 15:20, 16:31. But his work was never much more than “begun,” Judg 13:25.
  • Twenty years the Ark of the Covenant waited at Kirjath-jearim, 1 Sam 7:2.
  • Twenty years Solomon was waiting for the completion of the two houses, 1 Kings 9:10; 2 Chron 8:1.
  • Twenty years Jerusalem waited between its capture and destruction; and
  • Twenty years Jeremiah prophesied concerning it.


Twenty is the number of expectancy as we have seen (p. 262). Here we have it tenfold (20×10).

The significance of this number is suggested by John 6:7, where we read, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is NOT SUFFICIENT for them.”
And so we find this number stamping various things with insufficiency.

  • Achan’s 200 shekels were “not sufficient” to save him from the consequences of his sin (Josh 7:21). This shows us the insufficiency of money (Psa 49:7-9).
  • Absalom’s 200 shekels weight of hair were “not sufficient” to save him, but rather caused his destruction (2 Sam 14:26, 18:9). This shows us the insufficiency of beauty.
  • Micah’s graven image was purchased for 200 shekels (Judg 17:4 and 18), and led to the introduction of idolatry into Israel and the blotting out of the Tribes of Dan and Ephraim from the blessing of Revelation 7, showing usthe insufficiency of mere religion.
  • Ezra’s 200 “singing men and women” (Ezra 2:65), were “not sufficient” to produce “peace with God,” true spiritual worship, or joy in the Lord. Only God’s word rightly ministered can lead to this (Neh 8:5-9). This shows the insufficiency of external things in the worship of God, and the impossibility of worshipping God with the senses. True worship, which alone God will accept, “MUST” (John 4:24) be spiritual.

There is a lesson here to not see sufficiency in our selves, but always see our only sufficiency in the Lord.  There is also a lesson here to live in great expectation of the Lord’s coming and the Lord’s moving here and now.

We serve a big God, the big God, called The Lord, Yahweh, or Jehovah.  This is the person we have our eyes on, the eyes of our heart.  Watching for, looking, and beholding Him, is our passion.

Looking for what the Father is doing and then following His lead is our inheritance and Jesus way of living (John 5:19-20).  Christians are called to let Christ live through them.  We will live a life where we see what the Father is doing and do that very thing, in the Spirit of Christ.

Our lives in Christ are also careful not to be distracted.  We re-focus our eyes on the Lord every day.  My Lord is one who is worth looking for, taking the time and energy to look for, and then seeing and following.

We live in the paradox of, “I will be with you”, and at the same time, waiting for and waiting on God.  A good waiter or servant invests what they have already had deposited in them, and is ready and attentive, while they wait.

God is on the move, but we have to stop, look and wait for his move.  We have great expectation of God.  We also always know we have no sufficiency in our selves.

We have a heritage and a legacy of God, rising up, and coming forth to save and deliver people.  He is doing it and will do it again.  Same God, new move.

God is the most creative person and he does what he does in a new way, a fresh way, His way.  We looking toward the Lord, having no idea what he will do or how we will do it, but believe that he will save, heal, restore, deliver, and love people.

And we get to participate and be his servants in his great ministry.  But we must watch for him and move with him.  Toward the Lord are my eyes always.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance by E.W. Bullinger Philologos Edition:  Oct 1601

Simon, Simon

When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it (again) until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, (which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.)  But look, the hand of the one betraying Me is at the table with Me! For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do this thing.

Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. But He said to them,“The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called (call themselves) ‘Benefactors.’ But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. You are the ones who stood by Me in My trials. I bestow on you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

(Then the Lord said,) “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you (all) like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

“Lord,” he told Him, “I’m ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”

“I tell you, Peter,” He said, “the rooster will not crow today until (before) you deny three times that you know Me!”

-Luke 22:14-34

Artwork: Gerard van Honthorst (1624)

“Simon, Simon”, the Lord called out to Peter, from across the table.  Luke records Jesus as peculiarly and particularly, saying his formal, given name two times, to get his attention, or to underscore the seriousness of what he was about to tell him.  Just previous to this, we see the disciples arguing about who is the greatest among them.

Jesus and the guys had been eating the meal and Jesus had shown them how the meal was about him and told them to keep having meals together, “do this”, to remember him and celebrate what he has done.  Jesus makes mention that, in the future, they will all be having meals together, eating and drinking in the kingdom.

The dispute about who is greatest shows us that they didn’t get it, after three years with Jesus, on some levels.  It is so often the case, that they and we do not get it, but Jesus calls us and uses us anyway.  Living the life in Christ and doing his ministry, always requires on the job training.  Jesus deploys troops on the battle field or players in the game who are not experts, not seasoned, and not really ready.

To stay on the sidelines or at home base, because you say you are not ready is a mistake.  Christianity, living in Christ and participation in Christs’s ministry is always with on the job training. And it is also very common to get into ministry and think we are ready, when we are not ready.

That was the case here with Peter and some or all of the others.  They had the intimate time with Jesus around the meal.  Jesus shared many of his deepest teachings with them that night.

In the midst of Jesus teaching them, they turn to one another and begin arguing about who is going to be the greatest.  Jesus responds by teaching them about servant-hood in the kingdom.  Then Jesus turns to Simon Peter and gives him a very serious word about Satan’s workings on him and all the guys, in the hours to shorty come.

Jesus tells Simon that Satan, behind the scenes, has asked permission to sift them all, like wheat.  Sifting wheat is when it is tossed and shaken, until the husk or chaff is separated from the edible grain.  The wheat is flailed, threshed, or beaten; until the separation occurs.  It is thrashed.

He experienced Jesus, first hand, close up, for about three years.  Intensive discipleship, training, teaching, mentoring, and fathering from Jesus.  He still does not get all of it and he still is not completely transformed, but that is how Jesus uses us, while we are in process.

Now, here comes Satan.  He wants to destroy and at least corrupt us.  Satan does not have in mind to make us better.  He says, “Let me thrash them”.  This is what happened to Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).

Satan asks to and gets permission to thrash us sometimes.  But the thrashing has grace, a blessing, or a gift from God attached to it.  In this case, Jesus says that he has prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail.

Satan brings flailing upon us, so that our faith will fail.  Jesus prays for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25) that our faith will not fail.  Who’s prayer is God going to answer?

Imagine that Jesus spoke to you.  I will use myself as an example.  “Steven, Steven, look out!  Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail.  When you return, strengthen your brothers.”  Bad news and good news, right?

It looks like 5 phases:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Satan has been given permission to thrash you.
  3. But, the Lord has already, ahead of time, prayed for you.
  4. You can come through this.
  5. When you come through, strengthen (help establish) your brothers.
Jesus first says, “Look out”.  Many translations say, “Behold”.  It means, “Pay attention”, or, “Now get this”.  I often hear preachers say, “Watch this”, when they are about to make an important point, they want you to get, that is key.  I think that is the modern “Behold”.
Before the thrashing, before the trial, before Peter falls away; Jesus tells him that he has already made provision for him.  Jesus implicitly says, “You are going to fall, but you are also going to return, because I say so”.  Peter had to live out the awful real thrashing of that.
Peter’s first response is not good.  He says, to Jesus, “No way”, or “You’re wrong”.  In a word, Peter is audacious.

Jesus responds to him, straight up, head on; and gives him specifics.  Peter stops talking.  He is now beholden to Jesus’ words, even though they don’t make sense and he has not yet lived out the trial that is soon to be, with his fall and return.

In the midst of the best dinner party so far, where Jesus has shared his last meal with these roughneck guys,  some or all of them are not even fully aware of what is happening, how history is being made right before their eyes and the most important event in the history of the universe is about to transpire within hours.  In this, they argue, perhaps led by Peter, about who is going to be the top one in the kingdom.

Jesus patiently teaches them about servant-hood.  He is The Servant and they are to be servants.  But then, Jesus tells them Satan has requested to thrash them.  It was not enough for Satan to gain access to Judas, for Jesus’ betrayal and brutal torture and execution.  Satan also wants them all to go down and be done.

Permission is given to Satan, to thrash Peter, but Jesus has asked his father to help him.  The principle here is, “What God allows, he makes provision for”.  God already loved Peter before this.  But, when Satan makes a move on him, God provides provision for Peter to come back from it.

That is good news.  It is sobering news that, “You are going to get hit”.  But God always provides for us in life’s trials.  We know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

We need to pay attention to Jesus as we go into hard times, and realize that he has been and is praying for us.  I remember when I was witnessing and feeling the pain of one of the worst things in my life and I sensed the Spirit of God tell me to turn my eyes upon Jesus.

The trashing still went on, but I saw the Lord, in my deepest pain, and it dazzled me, to quote a famous saint.  I really experienced that.  I can remember a number of times in my life, when the pain was acute, and I saw him.  It is very special and precious or awesome.

In your trial, in your sifting or thrashing, you are going through; God is there.  He has already made provision for you, just like he did for Peter.  In whatever is being done to you or you are doing to your self, God has given you a grace package, provision, or a care package.  It is a gift for this time, from Jesus.

In your trial or after your failure, it is available.  This is sobering and encouraging.  We need encouragement, because life kicks us down, and it seems that our courage is gone.

Open the gift of provision that Jesus has made, personally for you, when he saw that you were going to go through bad stuff.

The Organizing Principle of Life

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

The earth and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the Lord;
for He laid its foundation on the seas
and established it on the rivers.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.


Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of glory.


-Luke 2:14, Psalm 24
Photo: Pixabay
Many people are going through trials and even tribulations.  There are big problems and small ones.  Some smaller ones feel big.  
There are people that are dying, who witness to us about their faith in the Lord and have a worshipful attitude of heart.  I don’t know if you have met ones like these.  They have in place in their lives that God is our glorious King.
There is a verse, by Paul, that says, “In every thing (in all circumstances) give thanks, for this is the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:18).  To be in God’s presence is to worship Him.  In Heaven, there is continual worship of God.
“Glory”, is not a word most of us use in every day life.  The first time it is used in the Old Testament is from the lips of Laban’s sons, expressing their jealousy towards Jacob, who was, “getting the glory”, or “getting the wealth”, that they wanted (Gen. 31).  We call the American flag, “Old glory”, signifying the honor that we bestow on it, because of what it represents.
Glory means, abundance, riches, honor, and splendor.  Glory has to do with the dignity of position, character, or reputation.  God is the King of glory and we use glory and honor in our relationships with one another, while never glorifying anyone or any thing except God.
We give glory or honor to one another and act honorably, in line with God’s glory.  We see and function in our relationships, according to God’s glory.  To dignify others and receive dignity from one another is godly and reflects God’s glory.
No matter who you are and where you are and what you are going through in your life, he is the King of glory.  God’s will for all humans is given in Luke 2:14, in a statement:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!

 God, in glory, who is glorious, who we glorify; wants to give us peace on earth; to those he favors.  That peace is peacefulness in our lives.  It is the opposite of worry, anxiety, strife, and agitation.  And the people he favors or who bring pleasure to him are simply people who respond to him.

Psalm 24 gives a bigger picture of God’s plan.  These words describe a person who responds to God and note that we do not come to God or get saved through our works, but we receive his power to do the right thing from him and act on it, saying, “Yes, I will let you save me and receive your power to save me and now here is how I will live because of that work you are doing in my life.”  Being obedient to do the right thing results in blessings, but only God can bestow righteous standing before him through Christ.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

We seek him, who has sought us, to receive righteousness and salvation.  But it is another step to seek God’s face.  Seeking God’s face is intimacy with God, opening your heart to God in your daily life.  We will be in trouble when we are people who sought him in the past, but are not seeking his face today.

It is always a temptation to be a Christian in name only, but God is alive and relational, wanting interaction and to walk together with his children.  We are stewards of our lives, but always his child and his slave.

So, there is some paradox there.  God relates to me as his child and as his slave.  We need to live our lives happily responding to both paradigms.

The center of everything is the glory of God.  We want to be in alignment with God and his gloriousness.  God is glorified through saving us and then we bring him glory by living saved lives.

As a person in Christ, you are God’s child, upon whom his favor rests.  You also are his slave and it’s not a bad position because the master is completely good and righteous.  In those two roles that are yours towards God, you live out your life.

You are a citizen, a neighbor, a pensioner, a retiree, a friend, a husband or wife, a student, an employee, or a leader of a company or a business; to name a few roles you might have.  No matter what your place or role in life here, above that, you are God’s: God’s child and God’s servant or slave.  He takes care of his children and he also takes good care of his slaves.

This is the bottom line:  God, who is glorious, lavishes his glory upon us, saving us.  We are now his: his children and his slaves.  And he takes care of what belongs to him.

God’s plan is to save us.  Jesus exemplified God’s glory.  He is the glory of God.  He calls us into God’s kingdom and saves us and we become his, to be cared for by him.

The King of glory saves us, coming into our lives, when we open to him.  His glory shines upon us and we are his children.  And he is a good shepherd and a good father to his children.  And we are on a path, following Christ, dying to our selves, and being his slaves.  And he is the master and takes care of us, because we are not only in his care, as children, but he is living his life through us and his father watches over his life for his glory.

You might ask, “How can I give thanks in all circumstances?”  This is the answer.  God, his glory in his son.  Having his life in my life and becoming rightly related to Father through him gives me thankfulness no matter what, and he uses the stuff of life to help me learn to walk in that relationship and draw upon the life that he gives me through Christ to be his child and let him be the master.

Do Something!

“So always be ready. You don’t know the day or the time when the Son of Man will come.

“At that time God’s kingdom will also be like a man leaving home to travel to another place for a visit. Before he left, he talked with his servants. He told his servants to take care of his things while he was gone. He decided how much each servant would be able to care for. The man gave one servant five bags of money. He gave another servant two bags. And he gave a third servant one bag. Then he left. The servant who got five bags went quickly to invest the money. Those five bags of money earned five more. It was the same with the servant who had two bags. That servant invested the money and earned two more. But the servant who got one bag of money went away and dug a hole in the ground. Then he hid his master’s money in the hole.

“After a long time the master came home. He asked the servants what they did with his money. The servant who got five bags brought that amount and five more bags of money to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you trusted me to care for five bags of money. So I used them to earn five more.’

“The master answered, ‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with that small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me.’

“Then the servant who got two bags of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of money to care for. So I used your two bags to earn two more.’

“The master answered, ‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with a small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me.’

“Then the servant who got one bag of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, I knew you were a very hard man. You harvest what you did not plant. You gather crops where you did not put any seed. So I was afraid. I went and hid your money in the ground. Here is the one bag of money you gave me.’

“The master answered, ‘You are a bad and lazy servant! You say you knew that I harvest what I did not plant and that I gather crops where I did not put any seed. So you should have put my money in the bank. Then, when I came home, I would get my money back. And I would also get the interest that my money earned.’

“So the master told his other servants, ‘Take the one bag of money from that servant and give it to the servant who has ten bags. Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them.’ Then the master said, ‘Throw that useless servant outside into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’
-Matthew 25:13-30 (ERV)(1) 

We are all given something from the Lord and he expects us to do something with it. We are all called to serve, and the court we serve on is the the kingdom of God.  All Christians are in the kingdom and the church is in the kingdom.  The church comes out of the kingdom. It may look like the kingdom comes out of the church, but the church is the vessel of the kingdom; not the other way around.

Jesus’ message was the kingdom of God. Jesus and his kingdom is the central principle of Christianity. We are servants of the kingdom, living in the kingdom, beholden to the king.

The kingdom is unlimited: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, and the kingdom works in the world through the church. We serve God, in the kingdom, in our daily lives. There is no kingdom work in the world outside the church. But this does not mean that kingdom service only happens in church, in church gatherings.

There is a phrase, “church gathered and church scattered”. We are the church, “out there”, and “in here”; or, “out here”, and “in there”. Christians are in the kingdom, which encompasses our whole lives. And all Christians are in the ministry. Kingdom ministry and service happens among church gathered and church scattered.

The Bible passage, from Matthew 25, above, which is commonly referred to as “The Parable of The Talents”; is about the stewardship of Jesus’ deposit in your life. A talent is a weight amount of money in the ancient world. It gets confusing, because we might surmise that Jesus is talking about God given talents: singing, preaching, counseling, cooking, artistic or athletic talent.

Photo: Pixabay

The lesson here is, “Do something!”. Doing something with what you have been given gains you something. If you try and fail, you gain experience. If you minister, being kind to people in your daily life, you are being a servant of the king.

Don’t think of minister as a person up there, whom you are not, or as a position; but think of minister as “administering” as in, “administering first aid”.  The concept of certain people being “ministers” and the rest of us being “lay people” is not in the New Testament.

In the church, we are all ministers and we are all priests.  There are some who are elders, who shepherd and manage the affairs of the church, and there are people who are gifted to equip others.  But there is no special class of people called “ministers”. 

The lesson here is that passivity is a sin. It is wrong to do nothing. You may have a small or a large deposit in your life.  What are you doing?  Do something.

Jesus says, “to who much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). What matters is, are you doing something.  Life brings forth life and light shines out light and those empowered move.

Jesus is not looking for perfection or stellar results.  He wants faithfulness.  Doing something, doing anything in faith, is being faithful.  Doing nothing or doing what you know is wrong is being unfaithful.

We are in a covenant relationship with Jesus, where faithfulness is required.  And the good news about the covenant is that he holds it together, just like Christian marriage; but you must participate for it to work.

There is a principle here that says, “Do something”, or “Just do something”, or “Just do it”. This harmonizes or goes hand in hand with the principle of waiting until God comes. The context of this teaching by Jesus is how to live while you are waiting for his coming.

We are all waiting for something: Waiting to get married, waiting to be a parent, waiting for a job or a promotion, waiting to see people we love get saved, waiting to be healed, waiting for deliverance, or waiting to get out of prison. Waiting and the waiting room are part of life.

So we know that we must wait sometimes or much of the time. And the Bible says this about waiting: “Wait upon the Lord”, and the “upon the Lord” part is the key to waiting.

Consider waiters and waitresses at restaurants. They “wait” upon the people. They are also called “servers” who give service. Can you guess what I am getting at?

Waiting in the Bible is active. The idea that I will engage in ungodly or sinful activity while I wait, is completely foreign and completely antithetical to our walk in Christ. While we wait, we serve, we do something, we are “on our feet”, attentive to serving.

We serve by doing things for people and thereby, doing something with what the Lord has given us, to and for the Lord.

The creativity that God has given each person is unlimited. Doing something, till he comes is simple. Just do something, anything, that is from the deposit God has made in you. Get up and do something.

1. Easy To Read Version, 2006 

Servantship For Ministers (Isaiah 49:7, Matthew 20:25-8)

The Sevant, by GC Meyers, http://redtreetimes.com/2008/12/10/if-i-had-a-boat/

This is what the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, says to one who is despised, to one abhorred by people, to a servant of rulers:  “Kings will see and stand up, and princes will bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel—and He has chosen you.”

-Isaiah 49:7 (HCSB)

But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”.

-Matthew 20:25-8 (HCSB)


What does the word “servant” bring to your mind?  Here are some words that I equate with that word:

  • Low 
  • Takes orders
  • Obedience 
  • Not the boss 
  • Under orders  

In Isaiah 49, The Lord calls Israel “My Servant”, but God is raising up a person to be “His Servant” who will fulfill everything he has ever desired for Israel.

The Lord’s Servant will bring Israel into it’s destiny.  The Lord’s Servant will bring God’s salvation to the whole earth.  All this is service to God.  The Servant serves God by letting God make him into the Agent of God’s service.

Isaiah 49 contains one of the four sections in Isaiah, called “the servant songs“.  As Christ followers, we can see Jesus described in these.

Jesus came as a servant, serving the Lord, bringing God’s redemption to humanity, as service.  Jesus followers also serve the Lord and each other by carrying on Jesus’ service.

Jesus is The Servant and his followers are going to be servants also.  This is God’s plan.

When God calls his ministers today, he also calls them to be servants.  Jesus does not call people to be leaders, but he calls them to be servants.

Before Jesus calls you to serve, he calls you to be his disciple.  Is it possible to be a leader in the church, but not be a disciple of Jesus?

What do you call church leaders or church members who are not disciples?  Churchians?  Christians, “in name only”?

There is a Christian culture today, where we are indifferent to Jesus words.  He calls us each to be disciples and make disciples.  And if you have any ambition to lead, he calls you to serve and be like a slave.

It seems pretty clear and it seems to be ignored by a lot of leaders.

Christian ministry is incarnational.  The Son of God came into this world, as a man and as a servant, to serve.  Christ-inans, people who have Christ living in them, will be the same way: servants serving in servantship.

Everyone is called to discover their giftedness from God and give that gift, in a life of service, back to Him

In my previous post, I reflected on the issue of calling.  While Jesus does not call us to lead like the world does, but calls us to serve each other; he does have a destiny-calling-gift that each person carries, develops, unpacks, and gives back to God in a life of service.

The calling each one of us has is for our lives to be gifts, given back to God, in a life of service.  This is described in Romans 12:1-8:

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith;

If service, in service;

If teaching, in teaching;

If exhorting, in exhortation;

Giving, with generosity;

Leading, with diligence;

Showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

There is a gift here called “service” and it means the same thing (servant) that Jesus said his not-like-the-gentile-rulers would be (Matt. 20:25-8).  We are all called to serve, rather than boss, lord over, control, or subordinate others.  But some people are wired by God to have a special gift of servant.

There is also a spiritual gift of “leading”, mentioned here.  The word means manager, administrator, or ruler.  The same word is used in Paul’s letter to Timothy, when he tells him that elders need to be people who lead their own families well first.  The same word is also used in 1 Thessalonians, describing the elders role in the church.  I’ll get back to that.

The gift of leading that some people have, gives them a gifted ability to see the big picture, and assign resources to get a project done. These people are good organizers and have schedules, but don’t over schedule. The gift of leading is not diametrically opposed to Jesus’ call for all to be servants, but it is a gift to get things done with imperfect people graciously, happily working under pressure.  These gifted people are gifted to lead people to get projects done.  Noah, Joseph, Boaz, and Nehemiah are people in the Bible who might have had this God-given gift of management.

It is also interesting that the exhorters are the natural leaders (and also the natural evangelists), because they are the people connectors.

The idea that gifts of our life-calling, destiny, and design are given to us, to be given back as a gift of service is illustrated in Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:18:

When He ascended on high,

He took prisoners into captivity;

He gave gifts to people.

-Eph. 4:8

You ascended to the heights,

Taking away captives;

You received gifts from people,

Even from the rebellious,

So that the Lord God might live there.

-Ps. 68:18

It seems that Paul took some liberties with Psalm 68, which scholars have tried to explain ever since.  But, I think that it perfectly illustrates that the gift in our life is a two-way street.  He gives it to us and we give it back to him.  
And the church has always had rebels, even very gifted rebels.

The Leadership Cult (1) in The Church

Over the past 35+ years there has been a boom of leadership training and technologies in the church.  Robert Geenleaf is credited with beginning the modern servant leadership movement in 1970, when he published, “The Servant As Leader”.  At some point, someone coined the term, “servant-leadership”.  Many books were written and conferences were held.  This all spilled over into church culture.

Jesus never called us to be leaders nor servant-leaders.  He called us to be servants, disciples, and disciple-makers.  He also never called us to run the church like the non-redeemed people run things.  

There are a couple of NT verses that might seem to indicate a command and control leadership in the church.  The first one I will mention is 1 Thessalonians 5:12.  In the HCSB, it isn’t too controversial:

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you.

I love the way they translate this verse.  You’ve got the culture of honor motif and the leading from beside or among idea.  Both of these are good, and I think, right.  But, if you go with the King James, NASB, ESV, NKJV or NET Bibles; you read the word “over”, as in “are over you”.  The problem of that translation is that it gives the idea of rank, hierarchy, and top-down bossing.

What I think this verse really means is that this person is working with you, watching over you.  We watch over children or babies and a dance instructor watches and walks around and among the couples at their dance class and instructs them.  An over-watcher (over-seer) is a function and a role that a person has, who is among (not over) the people (1 Peter 5:3).

The bigger picture in 1 Thess. 5 is “body life”.  Fellow Christians, who are not necessarily the “leaders” in that place are to encourage one another, and the leaders mentioned are not necessarily elders, which I find interesting, because this illustrates that leadership is a function and role that pops up, when needed.

For example, if there was a personal emergency and someone took action, whether turning off the water main if a pipe burst, or rendering c.p.r. to someone, that would be leading as a function and a role, but not necessarily from an office.

Let’s zoom out on this passage:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

-1 Thess. 5:11-14

Everyone encourages everyone (vs. 11) and everyone warns those who are irresponsible (vs. 14).  We are completely wrong if we think that it is someone else’s responsibility to warn the irresponsible person (admonish the unruly or warn the idle) .

The other controversial verse that seems to teach that leadership is hierarchical or bossy, is Hebrews 13:17, and the HCSB translates it in a way, as many do, that confuses how Jesus shaped leadership works:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Command and control, hierarchical leadership is affirmed here, right?  Nope.  A better translation would be “follow”.  Leaders need to be followers of Christ.  We can follow people who are following Christ.  In fact Paul says that in 1 Corinthians 11:1.

The “obey” word, Πείθεσθε (Peithesthe) means “follow” or “listen to”.  The Greek Lexicon BDAG says it means, “to be won over as the result of persuasion”(2).We are never called to obey people.  We are not called to have authority over people either.  But we gain moral authority through authenticity and agape love.  Then, we might be able to persuade.

We are called to obey God and obey God’s word.  Leaders Servants call us to obey God.  It is a whole different idea for brothers or sisters to call us to obey them.  That’s a serious abuse and misunderstanding of this scripture.

We are all called to mutual submission.  Leadership (servantship) in the church is more accountable and transparent than leadership in the world.  There is plurality of leadership, consensus in decision making, the headship of Christ, and the empowering presence of the Spirit of God.

Any church that says you must “obey” the leadership, is a church you should run from, and get a copy of “Toxic Faith” by Stephen Arterburn, or “Healing Spiritual Abuse“, by Ken Blue.  But we should listen to and follow the leaders servants that are among us, who are following Jesus and themselves led by God’s Spirit.

Called To Ministry (Servantship)

All Christians are called to ministry.  Some people are fond of pointing to Ephesians, chapter 4 to show ministries, but it actually says these are “equippers” or “trainers”.  You might have a personal trainer at the gym, or your workplace might send you out for special training to a class led by a trainer.  That person equips you to do the work (better).

There are people who are gifted and function in a training role, in the church.  They are listed in Ephesians 4.  They are not “the ministers”, but are trainers for the rest of us to be ministers.

It is confusing when we call pastors or teachers or evangelists or prophets or apostles “ministers” or “ministries”; because this passage teaches that they (these 5 functional offices) are trainers or equippers, for the rest of the church, who are to be the ministers.

The saints (that is everyone) do the ministry (service).  Some pastors get this and see themselves as equippers.  The problem is when the pastor sees himself as clergy and the people in the chairs or pews as the laity.  Unless the clergy/laity divide is thrown out, the people will not do the ministry, but say something like, “we pay him to do it”.

We are all called to be in the ministry, and the call comes, “ready or not”.  We need to be serving, have a life of ministry (service), following in the footsteps of our master (The Servant).

The Moses Model and Sovereign Vessels

God sometimes has leaders servants who are like Moses, who are viceroys endowed with exceptional authority for a special assignment.  Paul was one of these (Acts 9:19) and Paul saw himself as a slave of Jesus.  If you dig into Paul’s writings, you will find authority and deep humility.

An interesting point is that while God can and does call a person to lead like a Moses autocrat, that person is also called to humility and meekness, because that is the call of Christ to all and the Bible says that Moses himself was the most humble or meekest man on the earth (Num. 12:3).   And Moses also has elders serve with him (Exodus 3, 12, 24; Numbers 11

Ambition is not a bad thing.  Lust for power and a desire to control are not good.  If someone desires to be in a role of responsibility, in the church (1 Tim. 3:1), that is a good thing, if they are in Christ in their life.  In the church, there is one chief, senior, or lead leader (1 Pet. 5:4) who is Christ.  The corporate chart is “flat”.  There is Christ at the top, and then all the rest of us.

The senior (lead) pastor or ruling elder (first among equals) is not in the New Testament.  Leadership is plural, not singular.  We have elders (plural) and the equippers in Ephesians 4 are plural (pastors, etc.).  When a church is new, there may be a point-person or persons who are functional elders in it while the future elders are emerging.

Titles?  Father, Doctor, Teacher, Pastor, Apostle, etc? No!

Some have said, “titles entitle”.  Jesus actually told us to not call anyone by a title, like “teacher” or “father”: (Matt.  23:8-9).  But we LOVE titles today.  Doctor and pastor are the ones we hear a lot.  Many times, christian leaders who are called or call themselves “doctor” have not even earned the doctorate (it is honorary) or they got it from a “diploma mill”.

Jesus told us to call each other by our given names or brother or sister, period.  Your gift, gifting, calling, destiny, dream, or office is functional and a role.  We don’t even call people leaders (Matt. 23:10).  You are a leader, because you lead.  It is a function.  It describes you.

Leadership is functional and organic, not positional and hierarchical

If a building is on fire, someone might find the way out and usher others to the door and make sure everyone gets out.  That is a leader.  He or she did that because of who they are, not because of a name tag or stripes on their shoulder.

Leaders, overseers, or elders, do what they do (lead, oversee, and manage) in the church, from among and not over the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).  The role of leadership is to be in and among- supporting, encouraging and leading.  You oversee from beside and among, not over (Matt. 20:26 & 1 Pet. 5:3).

Do you feel called to ministry, or the calling to be a minister?  We should all answer “yes”.  Serving and servanthood is at the core of following Christ.  There is no “two tier system” in the New Testament.  We are all ministers or servants of Christ.

We are mistaken if we see ministry as a job.  Ministry is a life.  If you really run with the call, towards God, then you get to be a slave.  But, you are also a son or daughter; and you get to be both, in paradox.

Jesus came as a servant, serving the Lord, bringing God’s redemption to humanity, as service.  Jesus followers also serve the Lord and each other by carrying on Jesus’ service.

Jesus is The Servant and his followers are going to be servants also.  This is God’s plan.

When God calls his ministers today, he also calls them to be servants.  Jesus does not call people to be leaders, but he calls them to be servants.

I will close with a verse from Psalm 31:

Show Your favor to Your servant; save me by Your faithful love.

-Psalm 31:16

The artwork above is by GC Meyers.
1. The Leadership Cult, by Mark Galli.
2. Obey and Submit? (Hebrews 13:17), Alan Knox.
-Listen here to Lance Ford talk about how Jesus is at odds with much of the leadership culture in the church today.
-Lance Ford’s book: Unleader: Reimagining Leadership
Robert Coleman: What Planters Can Learn From Jesus’ Discipleship Method
-Free Ebook: Revisiting The Master Plan of Evangelism: Why Jesus’ Discipleship Method Is Still the Best Today
-Winfield Bevins succinct summary notes of Coleman’s Master Plan For Evangelism book, How Jesus Made Disciples
-Coleman’s handout from an address he gave on Jesus’ Method of Evangelizing
Where Would Jesus Lead, by Gary Goodell

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