Created to Serve

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

God has set His children free! Glorious truth that is!

But that freedom is not the freedom of an unsupervised toddler, free to touch and play and wander at will. We as Christians are called to use our liberty for love. Our life’s purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor will involve serving each other — not just doing whatever we want.

We can serve in so many ways. It will take wisdom to know how to serve each day, since the opportunities are endless.

  • Serve your husband by running the two errands he asked, instead of getting all your tasks for the day done before saying, “Oops, I just didn’t get to that. Maybe another day.”
  • Serve your neighbor by taking the time to stop and touch base for a few minutes, even though your coffee got cold.
  • Serve your cousin’s grandmother by popping by the nursing home for cheery visits.
  • Serve your neighbor by attending the fundraising banquet at the end of a long day to encourage the staff and financially support a good cause, if you are able.
  • Serve the body of Christ by teaching children and young people the precious truths of Scripture.
  • Serve your children by encouraging their walk with the Lord and growth in godliness, rather than only harping on the obvious failures.
  • Serve a young mother by doing her laundry or cleaning her kitchen one day.
  • Serve a missionary through regular notes of encouragement.
  • Serve your pastor by listening to and carefully considering his counsel.

May God strengthen us to fulfill our purpose as we walk in freedom today.

Everything in Its Place

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

This is key for organization. It’s not the cute boxes and nifty shelves. It’s that things are assigned to places. When they are needed, they can be found and used; when they are not needed, they return to base.

Unfortunately, jazzy systems can only go so far. Putting everything in place, no matter how wonderful that place is, requires discipline. Ugh!

Now, we’re not talking boot camp discipline here. Perfectionism is not required, even though it would keep those shelves absolutely perfectly organized. But that (fortunately) is not the ultimate goal. Keeping things orderly has several purposes, but none that should be overtaken. Reflecting God’s character is lovely, but obsessive organization shouldn’t become a god. Making the best use of our resources is ideal, but shouldn’t be the ultimate driver. Saving time is great, but we don’t need more time just for the sake of having free time.

Keeping things in place is a way to serve God, your family, and everyone around you. If you make a habit of using things and then returning them to a reasonable location, you will have fewer hindrances as you fulfill your purpose. The frustration you feel when your home is a disaster area can be minimized. The time wasted searching for necessary books and papers before school can be converted to a calm departure and good conversation on the way to school. You don’t have to tear the house apart for a bandaid when the skinned knee comes limping in from outside. Guests are welcomed to a home that is lived in but not hazardous. Bills can be paid on time rather than lost in scattered stashes of mail.

Basically, it’s not rocket science or out-of-reach creativity. You can do the simple, basic steps needed to bring order to your household and life. Not perfect order, but purposeful order.

Committed Love

 

But Ruth said:
“Entreat me not to leave you,

Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

These words are a beautiful expression of the committed love Ruth showed Naomi, a reflective flicker of the incredible covenantal love of God for His people.

In our premarital counseling, our pastor reminded us that sometimes marriage will require love that will stay in the car and ride even into the ditch. You can see the danger ahead and calmly share your concern, but sometimes the decision is still to continue. You then buckle up and ride out the crash (and pay the repair bill and allow the bruises to heal) together. Note: this is not referring to life-or-death or sin situations.

Yes, commitment is that committed. Committed love goes all the way to the end. The idea is beautiful and we love being loved that way, but how often are we committed?

How often will we go out to eat IF we like the restaurant? If it’s not a menu we like, it doesn’t matter with whom we are eating (never mind Proverbs 15:17).

How much have we been willing to be friends AS LONG as we share interests and think alike? It’s more efficient and comfortable. No need to stretch (Proverbs 27:17).

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, I’ll love AS LONG as they love me? Fair is fair, and I have my rights.

I have fallen in all these traps. That’s not love; it’s an even exchange of goods.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” — John 15:12-14

We often think of the Ruth passage related to weddings. I find it interesting that neither of these Scriptures are referring to marriage. Ruth loved her mother-in-law. Christ commanded His disciples, and by extension the church.

Who are we loving today?

sanddunes-2

 

Rejoicing in Relationships

Recently I was part of a reading group discussion on Unforgettable by Scott Simon, and part of the conversation was about how the author told the story of his life with his mother through relationships. The people they knew made their life what it was. Memories of family and friends, long-term and short-term, painted the picture of the decades they shared. Whether life-time family members or friends known for a time, so many made an impact.

So often we think of lives — whether ours or anyone else’s — as a series of events. We are born, we walk, we start school, we graduate, we work, we marry, etc. Project-driven types like me tend to think of our days as a series of tasks; Monday is defined by the to-do list.

Speaking for myself, I need the reminder daily (if not hourly) that my life is in relationships, not accomplishments or milestones. My relationship with God is life, all I need today and for eternity. My relationship with my husband is my earthly priority and a priceless work of God’s grace in my life. My relationship with my stepdaughter is a precious treasure day after day. My relationships in my local church and through the work day build me up and provide an avenue for blessing in turn. My friendships provide similar benefits and a whole lot of joy. Neighbors, extended family, acquaintances, waiters and clerks we see on a regular basis, and more — all enrich daily life.

I need to remember that my life so far is a beautiful tapestry of people God has placed in my path. I need to remember that my day today is not about getting the oil changed and the laundry caught up and the project finished and dinner made, but about loving those in it. Yes, I love them by doing the dishes, but often I need to look up from the sink and smile at my family and be thankful.

Don’t Go It Alone

As we discuss ways to manage our selves and our households well, I want to spend a few minutes on words of warning. As humans, when we strive for excellence, it can be easy to get caught up in the achievement itself (or lack thereof).

We all too often struggle with a skewed perspective. We have to do and be “good enough.” Martin Luther described it this way:

This pernicious opinion of the law, that it justifies and makes righteous before God, is so deeply rooted in man’s reason, and all mankind so wrapped up in it, that they can hardly get out; yea, I myself, have now preached the gospel nearly 20 years, and have been exercised in the same daily, by reading and writing, so that I may well seem to be rid of this wicked opinion; yet, notwithstanding, I now and then feel this old filth cleave to my heart, whereby it comes to pass that I would willingly have so to do with God, that I would bring something with myself, because of which he should give me his grace.

Sisters, you are children of God your Father. In Christ, you are secure and have no need to earn your position or measure up. When you fail in your efforts to manage your household well, all that is at stake is the cup of milk spilt. That is it. Your salvation and identity are not at risk. God’s desire for you is that you serve your family well. And He has already provided all you need for godliness (II Peter 1:3-4). You have what you need! Your efforts, goals, plans and obedience are the outcome of an end already achieved by Him. You are free to live exultingly dependent on His power and grace at work in you.

No matter where you are on the spectrum — looking forward, with your ducks self-righteously in a row (you assume), or wandering, distracted and discouraged with ducklings far afield — I encourage you to lift your eyes. Live as a fully mature child. Your every minute is not allotted to assigned tasks to be completed. Your responsibilities are yours to manage, thriving through the strength God provides. Live in the light of your adoption as a daughter of God.

As a Christian, you are also a vital part of the body of Christ, the church. You will benefit from partnering with your sisters as you grow together (Ephesians 4:16) in Christlikeness. We are all in this together. There is beauty in relying on each other for encouragement and wisdom and accountability. We glorify God as we embrace His plan for His people. Live as a child of God in the body of Christ.