Serving the Summons and Choosing to Serve!

Serving the Summons and Choosing to Serve!

I received a Jury Summons in the mail the other day.  My first thought when I saw the envelope and purpose within was not a nice one.  My angst was probably driven by a number of reasons.  I was spinning a dozen or more mental and emotional plates all at the same time that day and the thought of driving to downtown Houston in early morning traffic is a favorite of no one.  This duty just added to my present depletion.  Finding a way out of it was probably my second thought.  Reschedule? Quickly move out of state? Join the Marines?  Fake symptoms of the West Nile virus?  After all . . . I had been in Africa three years ago.

When the dust cleared and after a couple of days of processing, I was able to reassess the situation and reminded myself of how blessed I am to be an American citizen.  I have often suggested that the best education for American teenagers would be a requirement to live for a month or more in a third world socialist country before graduation. That would sure reduce the amount of complaining going on these days.  In addition though, I’m also thinking that this might be a good thing for many Americans of every age.

Despite whatever problem we might be dealing with, I can assure you there are other places on the globe where your conditions and contextual expectations would be much worse.  I also thought about whoever the poor souls might be who are facing legal trials over the next month and possibly the ones I’d be expected to serve on a jury for.  If I were in their shoes; would I want someone doing everything they could to get out of this role, or someone being still and compassionately listening to all sides of the case and truly working to discern accurate justice?  Honestly, I’d probably want someone like me who is trying to follow Jesus as a juror member of whom I knew would be praying for wisdom.  Thus, that is what I needed to be.

This whole process also caused me to look at the local church as well.  Often times we look at the local body of Christ as something which exists for us.  We ask questions of the church in regard to what we are going to get out of it.  What are the others going to do for us?  How are we going to get our needs and desires met?  However, when there is a need for our attention or time, we suddenly become too busy with other life pursuits to lend a hand.  Sometimes this is just a sad reality. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it.

Yet when we look at what the authentic church is and what Christ calls for, we have new reason to serve instead of firstly being served.  In numerous places in the Bible we see illustrations of the true church being comprised of many different people who all fit together tightly being blessed by each other and blessing others. Then of course there is the pattern of Jesus who said that he did not come to “be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” and “greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” Truly, Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of service by dying for your sins and rising again.  Jesus offered salvation and showed us a new way.

America, or any country for that matter, would be a better place when its citizens were first looking out for others rather than for number one.  This application is obviously true for followers of Christ who have tasted the grace of Jesus. The more we look for ways to serve instead of expecting to receive, the more the love of Christ will expand and in fact, we will all be blessed by this sacrificial fruit.

Yes, there will be tough times when our schedules must be interrupted or our desires set aside for others. But the end game will be much more beautiful for all concerned.

What about you?  How can you serve others today?

John Chau, Antagonistic Attacks, and Why We Persevere!

John Chau, Antagonistic Attacks, and Why We Persevere!

It was late Thanksgiving Day when I got the word that a young missionary, John Chau, was killed earlier that week.  John was attempting to make positive contact with a Stone Age indigenous tribe on North Sentinel Island in the jurisdiction of India. Reports from a local fisherman noted that the islanders had shot him with arrows in his final encounter with them.  While there are many aspects to this story, the one that surprised me the most was the enormous negative coverage the media and critics are giving Chau.

The mild attacks simply focused on a fear of Chau spreading diseases foreign to the indigenous people while the cruder referred to John as a criminal adventurer, full of prejudice, and even lambasted him as xenophobic.   One article even called him a villain and most attacked him as being arrogant and in dismay as to why he would feel a need to convert these people to his way of thinking about God. (more…)

The “Stuff” of Life!

The “Stuff” of Life!

I once had an English teacher begin the semester by proclaiming he never wanted to see the word, stuff, used in our writing. For him, the word, stuff, was too general and using it screamed of laziness.  He wanted us to take the time and effort to think through exactly what we were writing about in very deliberate and specific language.  Stuff is boring. It’s what accountants and dentists deal with.

But yet, isn’t that really what life is made up of? It’s those little details that build our days of which no one really pays attention to.  The packing of lunches, mowing the grass, and kissing our families good-by before they head off for the day.  Like quiet bricks in a building that no one pays attention to, they are so necessary for the completion of the project. All the attention is given to the corner stone but yet the building is made up of those boring pieces of stone which together keep the rain out and heat in.  Isn’t that life? (more…)

More Powerful Than a Nuke. Part II.  An Encore for Encouragement!

More Powerful Than a Nuke. Part II.  An Encore for Encouragement!

Things are different.  I’m at the stage in my life now where my two sons have grown and left the house but my younger two daughters are still with us.  Because of that our Friday night family time usually finds us taking in movies of the Sabrina type genre rather than the Expendables.  I’m dealing with it actually quite well.

A while back my oldest daughter ordered a movie called The Help through Netflix and while I wasn’t excited about the show itself, I wanted to be with my girls.  So Hinton Tacos and a girly show is what I prepared for.  The Help is a great show which is based off of a 2009 novel by the same name.  The drama chronicles the stories of African American  maids in Jackson Mississippi as recorded by a young white woman during the civil rights movement of the early 1960s.  Two or three times during the cinematic narrative a motherly black maid lovingly grabs the attention  of a young white girl she is responsible for and tells her that; “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.”   (more…)

The Problem with “Pastor” Steve!

The Problem with “Pastor” Steve!

I’ve never really been a fan of religious verbiage. I especially hate it when people call me Pastor Steve. God doesn’t call me that.  But the problem with the word pastor, in the English language, is that it means just about everything. Thus it sometimes doesn’t really mean anything.  Anything specific that is. The problem with me is that I tried to do and to be everything associated with the word and it just about killed me.  But maybe, in truth, the real problem belongs to all of us who call on the name of Christ. (more…)

Does it Work?  (Christianity that is.)

Does it Work?  (Christianity that is.)

Sometimes Boris would drive me nuts.  I mean really drive me nuts.  Ok, sometimes I suppose he just ticked me off if we’re being honest here.  I remember well the afternoons that Boris would come into our office at the college we rented from in Moscow, Russia.  We’d play chess and discuss everything from politics, to Christianity, to philosophy.  I liked playing chess with Boris because he was just about the only Russian over the age of 12 that I could actually beat.    The reason Boris pushed me to the edge sometimes was because he clearly had little interest in discussion for discovery, but rather just for the sake of being argumentative.  Boris longed for the Communist to retake the government in the national elections of 96.  Boris quoted Paul McCartney with as much reverence as the apostle Paul.  Boris referred to both Vladimir Lenin  and John Lennon with equal admiration while joking about Jesus.  Boris would deny the credibility of the Bible while all the time never acknowledging the proofs I’d give for its inerrancy.  Boris just liked to argue and I suppose that’s probably normal for a young man in his late teens and early 20s. I’m sure I’ve got my own history of annoying folks with my arguments as well.  So if you’re out there Boris, please know that I really do love you and miss you.

One of the criticisms of Christianity that Boris would level at me periodically was the supposition that Christianity was simply not practical. “It didn’t do much,” he’d say.  Maybe he was contrasting me to the Bolsheviks of old or something.  But for whatever reason he had that idea, I tried to illustrate to him that Christianity is anything but impractical.  (more…)