True Prosperity

…and so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). 

When I look up “prosper” in the dictionary, the first entry says, “to be successful or fortunate, especially in financial respects.” This isn’t even close to the Old Testament Hebrew word for prosper! 

God makes prosper a dependence on Him. Mammon makes prosper a dependence on self. 

The Hebrew word tsalach means: 

  • to overcome obstacles (like crossing a river) 
  • to be empowered by the Spirit of God to overcome an enemy (like Samson did) 
  • to flourish like a plant growing to full harvest 
  • to have favor with man so that good can be done for others (Nehemiah 1:11) 
  • to finish well (2 Chronicles 7:11) 
  • to be poured out; to be a conduit of God’s blessings to others 

Prosperity God’s way is being blessed to be a blessing to others.

Prosperity is never for me, only from God through me. 

Prosperity from God helps me overcome obstacles for others, defeat enemies for others, bring in a good harvest for others, have earthly favor that will benefit others, finish well for the sake of others. 

I’ll say it again: True prosperity ISN’T for me, it’s only from God through me! 

Hezekiah showed how God’s prosperity came through him to benefit others: 

  • he did “what was good and right and faithful before the Lord” 
  • he lived “in obedience to the law and the commands” 
  • “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly” 

In light of this definition, I have no problem praying, “God, make me prosperous. As I seek You and work wholeheartedly, flow through me to bless others!

Think On This…

Here’s the seed thought for this episode of Think On This

My t-shirt from To Write Love On Her Arms that says, “You make today better.”

Think on this: Am I being intentional about making other people’s today better? Am I expressing my gratitude to those who are making my today better?

Poetry Saturday—A Lost Opportunity

It came and went so quickly,
   My sluggish soul saw not
The Master stand and beckoning
   Toward one of humble lot.

And I rose not up to follow,
   So slow was I to see,
Till the help I might have given
   Forever fled from me.

And often I am grieving,
   And longing all in vain,
For a blessed opportunity
   That will not come again.

Dear Lord, give Thine anointing,
   And make mine eyes to see;
And make me swift in doing
   The work Thou givest to me. —L. Adda Nichols

Poetry Saturday—Out Of Touch With Your Lord

Only a smile, yes, only a smile,
That a woman o’er burdened with grief
Expected from you; ‘twould have given relief
For her heart ache sore the while;
But weary and cheerless she went away,
Because as it happened, that very day
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a word, yes, only a word,
That the Spirit’s small voice whispered, “Speak”;
But the worker passed onward, unblessed and weak,
Whom you were meant to have stirred
To courage, devotion and love anew,
Because when the message came to you,
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a note, yes, only a note,
From a friend in a distant land;
The Spirit said, “Write,” but then you had planned
Some different work, and you thought
It mattered little, you did not know
‘Twould have saved a soul from sin and woe;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a song, yes, only a song,
That the Spirit said, “Sing tonight—
Thy voice is thy Master’s by purchased right“;
But you thought, “Mid this motley throng
I care not to sing of the City of Gold,”
And the heart that your words might have reached grew cold;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a day, yes, only a day!
But, oh, can you guess, my friend,
Where the influence reaches, and where it will end
Of the hours that you frittered away?
The Master’s command is, “Abide in Me,”
And fruitless and vain will your service be,
If “out of touch“ with your Lord. —Jean H. Watson

Poetry Saturday—I Do It Unto Thee

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things…
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou Who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.
Amen. —Brother Lawrence

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

Love Securely

Jesus is journeying toward the Cross. On Thursday, it’s His last opportunity to impart His most important thoughts to His disciples. He is about to be arrested, and everything is about to go sideways for the disciples—“this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!”—and Jesus needs to prepare them with the truth they will need to sustain them through this. 

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” Jesus says (Luke 22:15).  

So Peter and John are sent to make arrangements for the Passover meal, but one of the arrangements that they overlooked was the host duties—washing the feet of each guest, anointing them with perfume, and giving them a welcoming kiss. 

As they are eating dinner, Jesus makes four important statements:

  1. “One of you will betray Me”
  2. “All of you will abandon Me”
  3. “I will rise again and restore you”
  4. “I have prayed for you”

These statements get the disciples arguing about who’s going to betray Jesus—“It’s not me, is it?!”—and over how faithful they are—“I would never abandon Him!” Ultimately they begin to argue over who is the greatest disciple among them. 

Jesus not only explains to them how the servant is greater than the master in God’s sight (Luke 22:24-27), but He then becomes the living example of that when He washes their feet (John 13:1-5, 12-17). 

Here’s an important principle—Only secure people can lovingly serve others. 

Insecure people don’t like to serve others because they feel they are being misused, or taken advantage of, or that others will look down on them. 

Jesus “knew” (John 13:1, 3) how much power His Father had given Him, making Him secure enough to serve. Security really means, “I am loved by God, and I know who I am in Him.”

Jesus served out of love: the profound love that He knew His Father had for Him. He gave His disciples the same mandate: Serve others out of love for Me and show the world that you are My disciples (see John 13:34-35).

When Jesus ate this last supper with His disciples, He instituted a remembrance celebration that we now call Communion. The root word is “commune” which the dictionary defines as a “conversation with profound intensity and intimacy.” 

This is the type of intimate relationship Jesus had with His Father, and this is the type of relationship He calls us to with Him. The broken bread of Communion reminds us that Jesus can make whole any broken area that would keep us from communing with Him. The cup of Communion reminds us that Jesus can instantly and fully forgive any sin that would keep us from communing with Him. 

Jesus set the example—we are to commune with our Heavenly Father through the way He made by His broken body and His shed blood. It’s out of this communion that we are empowered by His love, and then feel secure enough to serve others in love too. 

Am I Interruptible?

Time after time, Jesus was on His way someplace when someone “interrupted” Him. But was it really an interruption? Do we ever hear Jesus saying, “Not now, I’m busy with someone else”? No! 

Jesus said that every step He took during the day was directed by His Father, so Jesus is our example for dealing gracefully with any “interruptions” by those who need help.

If I pray as Jesus taught—“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—then the people He sends my way are never interruptions. Instead, they are people who also need to experience God’s kingdom for themselves, and since God has allowed them to cross my path, that means that God entrusts me with the privilege of showing them God’s kingdom love.

If I am God’s servant, that means I must be interruptible by my Master. 

A servant doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for the master to tell him every single task to be done that day. The servant gets up and gets busy with what needs to be done. 

But neither does the servant put off the master’s request because he’s busy with a task. The servant doesn’t respond, “I’ll get to that request after I finish what I’m doing,” but instead the servant responds immediately to the master. The master’s requests have priority. 

So too with me. I get up and get busy, but my heart is listening for my Master to “interrupt” me (although it’s not truly an interruption!) with someone who is in need. 

May my heart always be ready to say an immediate “yes!” to anyone my Master sends across my path today. 

Satisfied Service

I started a conversation last week about being a servant (you can catch up here).

Serving should be a two-way street. Contrary to the way that some people look at servanthood, being a servant is not the same thing as being a doormat. Consider two key verses:

  • Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

We should look equally to others’ needs as well as our own needs. Zig Ziglar says it this way, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

This can be manipulation if you’re simply looking to someone else’s interests as a form of flattery or as a quid pro quo. But if you are truly serving—if you truly have the other person’s best interests in mind—if you are willing to submit to them out of reverence for Christ, serving can be liberating.

Last week Rick Warren tweeted, “The more self-centered I am, the more unsatisfied I’ll be.” I retweeted with this addition, “So the more I serve, the more satisfied I’ll be.” I believe that.

Try it for yourself—it works!

Loving Servanthood

Over the past couple of days I’ve been thinking a lot about something: What does it mean to serve? Or more specifically, what does God say about how we should serve?

The typical image that comes to mind when someone says “servant” is a person of lower status—someone who is at the lower end of the organizational chart, someone who is expected to do more with less, someone who doesn’t have many opportunities for advancement (or even a day off), or maybe someone who is expected to be tuned into everyone else’s needs but seldom has his own needs met.

Is being a servant the same thing as being a doormat?

Consider Jesus:

He now showed them the full extent of His love…. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

Jesus was the most important person in the room: Jesus KNEW that the Father had put all things under His power. He was also the most love-filled person in the room. What did He do with all of His love and power? He served others.

When He finished, John writes that He returned to His place, and asked His disciples a question, “Do you understand what I just did?” Then in the only instance of Scripture where Jesus Himself said this, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.”

Servants are people who use the power they have to lovingly serve others.

Servants don’t serve because someone else forces them to serve. Servants serve because the love of God empowers them to serve.

Do you love your spouse enough to serve him/her? Do you love your family enough to serve them? Do you love your coworkers enough to serve them? The greater the love we have for others, the greater the empowerment to serve. Love empowers us for service.

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