Monday, May 17, 2010

R12: What's keeping you?

A couple of weekends ago, I took my five year-old to a monster truck show. He loves the toys and always responds with "Wow! Did you see that?" whenever he sees a picture or a video of just about anything with wheels larger than the norm. I never expected his response from the show: growing up to be a monster truck driver is now running neck and neck with growing up to be an astronaut. I tell him that maybe he can do both, driving monster trucks on the moon, but he doesn't believe me.

"I want to grow up to be a monster truck driver!" may be something we expect to hear from a five year-old along with astronaut or fireman. At this age, the child wants to imitate the what, not the who. An astronaut is recognized by the suit he or she wears. But can you honestly name one of the astronauts up in space right now? My son thinks Grave Digger is the coolest monster truck (and who doesn't?), but can you tell me the name of the driver? Yet you go to a monster truck show and there will be kids lined up with their parents to get an autograph from the driver of their favorite truck. The signature shows on a picture of the truck, likely doing something incredibly cool, not on a picture of the driver.

The monster truck driver, the fireman, the astronaut must be content with anonymity and joyful in the role they play. No one else can do what they do. So fame is secondary to getting to do something worthwhile. Only later in life do we grow out of the vague answers of policeman or pilot and begin to aspire to "be like Mike"- now desiring fame when the name is larger than the role.

We're tempted to the same with our Christianity. In ministry, "I want to be like her." If an aspiring author, "I want to be like him." "I want my family to be like theirs." Admit it, you hear this, you may even say it. Why don't we hear "I want to be like Jesus" more often?

When I first really dug into Romans 12, it was like a dagger in my heart. What was clear above all else was that it wasn't about me. Words like "sober judgement", "love must be sincere", "honor... above yourselves", "harmony", "do not be conceited" were contrary to my religiosity and absent from the church around me. I recognized I wasn't following God's son the way he would like and if I really wanted to do great things for Him, I had to change. As the song goes, "I put myself upon the shelf."

Authentic community is defined as when the real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way. Romans 12:11 gives us the right reason, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." The reason is that it's for Him, being led by the Holy Spirit, with all diligence and zeal. If you choose to live that way, don't expect recognition. You may receive gratitude at times, but your reward will wait for you in heaven.

Chip Ingram gives the example of being called last minute up to lead a weekend retreat where he preached nonstop, served to the point of exhaustion, and battled spiritually alongside several brothers. At the end of the weekend, the feeling of a job well done was sucked away when he received the lowest honorarium he'd ever received. His joy was robbed by his own pride wanting to be recognized for his hard work. Only after a great deal of prayer was he able to reconcile that he wasn't serving for his own recognition, but he was serving in zeal for the Lord as Paul commanded.

If you're tempted to feel this way, and I know I am on a daily basis, here are some scriptures worth reflecting over:

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10, NASB)

"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (John 5:44, NASB)

"And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.'" (Luke 16:15, NASB)

Think: Do you relate to this temptation? Why or why not?
Reflect: How would you characterize your current service to God? Is it, on fire, fading, or in need of passion? Why?
Understand: What practical ways have helped you keep your service to God characterized by excellence and passion? What do you do when you are concerned about having improper motives?
Surrender: Ask God to help you see your motives through His eyes. Leisurely remember it's about loving God, not fulfilling people's expectations. Confess or rejoice as necessary.
Take Action: Take a long, slow walk and evaluate your present ministry involvement: too much, too little, none at all.
Motivation: Get the joy and adventure back in serving. Consider doing three acts of kindness this week. Buy coffee for the next person in line, get a meal for a homeless person, or meet a need secretly at work.
Encourage Someone: If you apply this verse, "Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" you will encourage many!

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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