Thoughts on Service

A friend recently sent this.  It expresses well our attitude towards service:

True Service

In his classic book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster devotes a chapter to the discipline of service, modeled after the radical example of Jesus. In the following excerpt, he contrasts a self-serving version of service with God’s version, urging us to choose the discipline that comes when we serve in Jesus’ footsteps.

If true service is to be understood and practiced, it must be distinguished clearly from “self-righteous service.”

Self-righteous service comes through human effort. It expends immense amounts of energy calculating and scheming how to render the service. Sociological charts and surveys are devised so we can “help those people.”

True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Thomas Kelly writes, “I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.”

Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.” It is concerned to make impressive gains on ecclesiastical scoreboards. It enjoys serving, especially when the service is titanic.

True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service. Where a difference is noted, the true servant is often drawn to the small service, not out of false modesty, but because he genuinely sees it as the more important task. He indiscriminately welcomes all opportunities to serve.

Self-righteous service requires external rewards. It needs to know that people see and appreciate the effort. It seeks human applause-with proper religious modesty of course.

True service rests contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either. Since it is living out of a new Center of reference, the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient.

Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results. It eagerly waits to see if the person served will reciprocate in kind. It becomes bitter when the results fall below expectations. True service is free of the need to calculate results. It delights only in the service. It can serve enemies as freely as friends.

Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage. Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image.

True service is indiscriminate in its ministry. It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”

Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service. The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service.

Self-righteous service is insensitive. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive. It demands the opportunity to help. True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it. It can listen with tenderness and patience before acting. It can serve by waiting in silence. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Self-righteous service fractures community. In the final analysis, once all the religious trappings are removed, it centers in the glorification of the individual. Therefore it puts others into its debt and becomes one of the most subtle and destructive forms of manipulation known.

True service builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It draws, binds, heals, builds.

Early in the morning

This is from Liz Hulley, a friend and co-worker here in St. Pete. She has a great blog; I encourage you to visit it.


Who likes to get up on a cold, dark morning? Not me…although in the summer I would probably find another excuse.

But as I was going about my morning routine, an excerpt popped into my head:

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…” (The Gospel of John, 20:1)

What does morning mean to you? Perhaps it includes a lot of moaning and groaning before you begin your day. But how many wonderful discoveries have been made in the morning! The main one, of course, the discovery of our Risen Lord.

That is my encouragement for the day.   🙂


Here is another encouraging post from Liz Hulley, a Stoneworks missionary in St. Petersburg —


Looking back at previous blog posts, I noticed that I often post something from Oswald Chambers in October. I wonder why that is. Perhaps the autumn brings about a kind of desperation that makes me reach for something uplifting.

“The challenge to the missionary does not come on the line that people are difficult to get saved, that backsliders are difficult to reclaim, that there is a wedge of callous indifference; but along the line of his own personal relationship to Jesus Christ.

‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ Our Lord puts that question steadily, it faces us in every individual case we meet.

The one great challenge is – Do I know my Risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit?”*

I don’t have a problem asking myself “What would Jesus do?” I think it is a good idea to follow Christ’s example.

However, we can get into a pattern of striving to make ourselves like Christ, by our own means.

Maybe it’s better to ask ourselves, “Do I trust God in this situation? Have I surrendered this to Him, or am I still trying to do it all myself?”

*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest -reading for Oct. 27th

It is not the healthy that need a doctor.

A friend recently sent this to me.  Her marriage just about fell apart, but at the last minute she and her husband agreed to reconcile:

I had been thinking recently about the past two years and all the pain I have been through.  I started feeling sorry for myself and a little angry at the circumstances.  The deepest hurts came from lies and broken relationships, regarding my husband’s choices.

So, naturally I was praying about restoration and new understandng as I look at my husband.  God clearly spoke to me and said….you fell in love with a sinner, an outcast….that’s exactly what you are supposed to do!

My devotional the next morning led me to Matthew 9:11-13.   It talks about God sitting with tax collectors and sinners as everyone questioned Him about His motive.

His answer was simple….”It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I want kindess more than I want sacrifices.”

At that moment, it dawned on me…..sitting with and loving the ‘broken’ is what God wants from me. It’s what He did!

The Purpose of Scripture

Recently sent by a friend —

Our deeply held conviction is that everything in Scripture is for the purpose of bringing us into a deeper and closer relationship with the Lord, so that we may truly know Him and be conformed to His image and that He may truly know us, as He indicates to be so essential in Matthew 7 and as Paul says in Galatians.

The goal on every level is to surrender completely to Him, so that His lordship may be complete.

This is the purpose of all the truths of God’s Word.

The problem for many Christians over the ages has often been that Scripture has been interpreted in a way that nullifies the purpose of our obedience to Him and to His Word. Continue reading

Trusting His Methods

John and Karen Bull have become good friends; they live in St. Pete with their four children.  You can learn more about them here and here.  This is a nice post by Karen that I wanted to share:

OK, this is really John’s revelation…but it was so good for me, that I had to write it.


I have often felt frustrated with “last minute” things that are done “by God.”  Sometimes, wondering—were they from God or did people just make it happen and it finally did.  OK, more than that, let me go even farther and say that I have chatted with the Lord(once or twice) about “why don’t you do things ahead of time and prove Your Hand is in things, instead of being so last minute—it does terrible things to “God’s reputation” when people think…well, you just have to wait for Him to act and it won’t happen til the end.”

Continue reading

The Face in the Mirror

More from Liz Hulley

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

James 1:23, 24 (NIV)

This verse came to shouted at me one morning recently as I finished up my Bible reading.  The cares of the world were already infiltrating my thoughts, and I felt as though I had been studying the Word in vain.  I had to approach the Lord all over again and ask for forgiveness.

What does it mean to forget what one looks like?

It’s absurd.  The only time I didn’t recognize myself was after I got contacts and looked at myself in the mirror the first time.  I had only seen myself in glasses for most of my life.  I think one would have to be literally blind to not know oneself.

It’s sad.  Being uncertain about one’s identity can be heart-wrenching.

It’s careless.  I am not promoting vanity here, but not being familiar with one’s appearance may say something about character.  Maybe it’s a lack of organization, lack of attention, or lack of purpose.

I believe that the Living Word often works in our hearts undetected.  We don’t always experience an emotional or otherwise conscious reaction.  Yet when we test our hearts, I believe we will find evidence as to whether or not the Word has taken hold.

The passage in James is talking about action.  Good deeds testify about one’s faith.  We could also talk about bearing fruit.  But there are also simple commands in the Bible such as casting all our cares upon Him.  Surely this also is an act of obedience, and a starting point for other acts of faith.  If I can’t emerge from my prayer closet with an attitude of trust, perhaps I haven’t paid attention very well to what I’ve just read in the Bible.

Where is home?

The following was written by a friend (Kim) whose daughter (Katherine) suffered a severe brain injury.  Kim is traveling back and forth from her home in Georgia and her daughter’s home in California —


One thing I’ve learned for sure living in Tinseltown is that all that glitters ain’t gold.

The “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

I used to be envious of those people with multiple addresses you’d read about in Town and Country. “Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Astorbutt of New York, Palm Beach, and Nantucket announce the engagement of their daughter Abigail to Mr. Gregory Q. Gottrocks, IV, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Q. Gottrocks, III of Washington, D.C., Martha’s Vineyard, and Paris, France.”

Or movie stars you’d read about in People: “Brangelina (or whoever) just purchased a $22.5 million villa on the Cote d’Azur.  They also have residences in Beverly Hills, New York, and a 2,500 acre spread in Wyoming…”

Well, Mrs. F. Brooks Arnold of Athens, Georgia, Los Angeles, and Pomona, California thinks they might be crazy.


As is usually the case, the reality is far removed from the illusion. The vagabond life is not as carefree as it seems.  You can’t just call Mayflower and have the movers show up each time a change in locale is necessitated.  Personal belongings are strewn across the country. In this constant state of flux, just getting dressed in the morning poses a challenge.

Throwing on a pair of pants in Athens, I realize that the only belt that works with them is still in Pomona.  The shoes with the right heel height are in LA. In LA, I get dressed for church on a cold day, and go to grab my coat before running out the door.  No coat in that closet.  God only knows where the lipliner that matches that shade of lipstick is hiding.  Probably in a purse in the pile on the closet floor in Georgia.  And forget keeping up with little things like glasses and phone chargers and checkbooks. Continue reading

Words of Truth

Olga and I have been considering new opportunities in Estonia, and a friend in the US, who will move to Russia soon with her family, sent the following note.  We are blessed to have friends who consider so deeply the things of God and share them so freely to encourage us.

I’m not sure these thoughts will be of relevance for you guys, but it’s what I have to offer!   Continue reading

Word study

Here’s another good post from Liz Hulley

In a recent series on dealing with habitual sin, our pastor mentioned that “to confess,” in the original, means “to say the same thing.”

Today I was trying to translate a passage from John 1 (with the help of a dictionary), and I ran into a Greek word I did not know.  The first part was “homo” (same).  The second part contained “logos” (word).  Same word?  I could not think of a verb that would correspond in meaning. Continue reading