Servant Leadership

Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our nation’s greatest leaders. As the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln provided an example of servant leadership, particularly in his actions during the Civil War. As president, Lincoln was faced with two difficult tasks, preserving the Union during this conflict that pitted brother against brother, and the emancipating of Southern slaves. It would have been very easy for President Lincoln to let the Union just dissolve, to allow it to split into two separate nations. It would have been just as easy to let slavery remain as it was. But that’s not the kind of leader that Lincoln was. Instead of choosing the easy road, the one that would have made his own life easier, Lincoln chose the hard road. Why? Because Lincoln believed his responsibility as a leader was to do what would be best for the people, best for the nation he served. Lincoln was a servant leader.
The greatest example of servant leadership, of course, is Jesus, who came to serve mankind by laying down his life for us. It would have been easy for Him to choose not to do so. But, Jesus taught that leaders are meant to serve. On the night before He died, He gave an example of this to His disciples when He went around the table and washed the feet of each and every one of them (John 13:1-5). The King of kings, the Son of God, washed the feet of ordinary, sinful men, setting the example for each of us to follow (John 13:12-16). After giving this example of servant leadership, Jesus gave the ultimate example when He went to His death on the cross, choosing our salvation over His own life.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives a great explanation of what it means to be a servant leader. A servant leader does nothing out of his own selfish ambition or to make himself look better. Instead, in humility, he looks at those he leads as being more significant than himself (Philippians 2:3). A servant leader puts the interests of others, of the people he leads, ahead of his own personal interests (Philippians 2:4). And, most importantly, a servant leader models the mind of Jesus by not looking at his own power or his own status, but instead serving those who he leads. Jesus was the ultimate example of this (Philippians 2:5-8).
Whether you lead a ministry, pastor a church, supervise people on your job, or lead a family, strive to be a servant leader. As you lead, look to Jesus for the example of what it means to be a true servant leader.

Worship with Intensity

Sports fans love their teams. That love is expressed in a variety of ways. When the team is rallying, fans will clap and cheer and chant things like, “Let’s go, Mets!” (Guess you can tell I’m a Mets fan!) Many fans come to the ballpark or the arena sporting the jerseys of their favorite team and players. Some fans will paint their faces, or even their whole bodies, with the colors of their favorite team. And many fans will adorn their cars and even their homes with bumper stickers and banners displaying the names and logos of their favorite teams. Basically, fans worship their teams, and that worship can be quite intense.

Believers should have the same kind of intensity when they worship the Lord. In fact, our worship of Him should be even more intense. When we come together on Sunday mornings to worship together, we should be as vocal as sports fans are with their teams. Does that mean we have to be loud? No, but we can be. We need to use our voices to show how much we love the Lord, how grateful we are for all He has done (Psalm 95:1). When we sing, we should sing with understanding of the words we are using. We should think about what we are singing to and about the Lord. When we really think about what we are singing, the intensity of what we feel about Him will come through.

The intensity of our worship should also be evident in the way we look. This doesn’t mean that we need to wear t-shirts or hats that bear the name of Jesus. We don’t need to paint His name on our faces. The intensity of our worship should result in a joy that is shown in the countenance that we wear. After Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem. How did they return? With great joy (Luke 24:52)! Their joy as they worshiped Jesus must have been quite evident to those who saw them, since Luke made a point of writing about it. The love that we have for the Lord should be evident to those who see us.

Finally, the intensity of our worship should be evident in the way in which we live our live. We don’t need to put Jesus bumper stickers on our cars, or fly Jesus banners in and around our homes. But the way in which we live should make it evident to others that Jesus is our Lord and that we love, worship, and follow Him. One of the best ways by which we can do that is by the love we show for each other (John 13:34-35). The love that we show to others is a reflection of our love for the Lord.

It’s fun to go out and cheer on your favorite team, to support your favorite players on the team, and to show your love for the team. But sports teams are just men and women. Our love and worship of the Lord should outshine our love for any team, for any athlete, singer, band, or celebrity in this world. And, our love and worship of Him should be intense, a love that we give with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength (Luke 10:27).

Replace Bitterness with Trust

Necrotizing fasciitis, sometimes called flesh-eating disease, is a very rare but serious bacterial infection. This bacteria can actually destroy skin, fat, and fascia (the tissue that covers muscle) within a very short time. Left unchecked, it can also spread through the blood and damage the lungs, heart, and other organs. Basically, it eats a person up inside.

While this disease is very rare, there is a disease that is much more common, one that also eats a person up inside, emotionally and spiritually. That disease is called bitterness. Bitterness is a feeling of anger or resentment directed toward other people, or even toward God. But while necrotizing fasciitis is caused by bacteria, the disease of bitterness is caused by perceived unfairness or injustice, or by adverse circumstances.

Bitterness can creep into a person’s life as the result of illness, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or any number of difficult and trying circumstances. A person dealing with one of these things may harbor resentment or anger at another person, or at God, and that anger or resentment, if it is not dealt with, can easily turn to bitterness. God’s Word tells us that bitterness is among the list of things that we need to put away from us (Ephesians 4:31). When our bitterness is directed toward God, it may be the result of a lack of faith or unbelief. So, how do we deal with bitterness? We replace it with trust.

In the book of Daniel, we read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Hebrew men who, while in captivity in Babylon, refused to worship the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar or his gods. As a result, they were arrested and brought before the king, to be thrown into a fiery furnace. Now, these three men certainly may have felt that they were being treated unfairly. They could have been angry at the injustice with which they were being treated. They could have been resentful toward God. After all, they were facing a fiery death because they chose to worship Him alone. Instead, they decided to trust that God would deliver them from their adversity.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace, but they were not burned. Their trust in God was rewarded and, to the amazement of Nebuchadnezzar, they were delivered from that fiery death and God was glorified (Daniel 3:28). When we choose to trust God, to replace bitterness with trust, no matter what circumstances we face or what trials we are going through, God can and will deliver us. Instead of being eaten alive by the disease of bitterness, we will be given the peace that comes from God, a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

The Gospels: A Panorama of Jesus Christ

Panorama of London Barker

In the 18th century, English painter Robert Barker created paintings of the cities of London and Edinburgh that allowed people to experience a sweeping 360-degree view of those cities. Barker called these paintings panoramas (the word panorama is formed from the Greek pan “all” + orama “sight”). The paintings were displayed in a rotunda, and a viewer standing in the middle of the room could see not just a part of these cities but a complete view. Later, panorama was used in photography by “stitching” together individual pieces of an entire scene. Instead of looking at individual pictures that showed just a part of a wider scene, people could now view the entire scene all at once.

The Bible contains four separate Gospels, each one showing us just one view of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, which was written to a Jewish audience, we see Jesus as the Messiah. Matthew reveals the many ways in which Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. 

Mark’s Gospel, which was the first one written and may have relied heavily on the oral teachings of Peter, was written to a Roman audience. In order to convince that audience that Christ was the Son of God and win converts to Him, Mark presented Jesus as a man of power and action.

The Gospel of Luke provides yet another view of Jesus. Like Mark, Luke was writing to a Gentile audience, particularly to the Greeks. As a historian, Luke provides more historical detail than any of the other Gospel writers. His focus includes presenting Jesus as a man of compassion and a man of prayer. Luke also provides the greatest view of the teachings of Jesus. 

The last Gospel, that of John, provides the picture of Jesus as God and Savior more than any of the other accounts. His account begins with the preexistence of Jesus, telling us that He was with God in the beginning and He was God (John 1:1). John also provides a hint to the divinity of Jesus through his many “I am” statements about Himself that allude to the title that God used for Himself in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.”

So, when we read the individual Gospel accounts, we can see Jesus as Messiah (Matthew), as a man of power and action (Mark), as a man of compassion and prayer (Luke), or as the divine Son of God (John). All of these views are individually important but, if we read just one of the Gospels, we see only one view, one aspect of Jesus. In order to get a complete understanding of Jesus, of who He is, the things He did, and what He teaches us, we need all four of these accounts of His time on earth. When viewed together, they present a full view, a panorama of Jesus.

The Best Things Come to Those Who Wait

“The best things come to those who wait.”

In the 1980’s, this was the advertising slogan used by the H.J. Heinz Company to promote their Heinz brand of tomato ketchup. The ads, which appeared on television, in magazines, on billboards, and even in movie theaters, highlighted the fact that their ketchup was so good that even people who were in a hurry would be more than willing to wait for it to slowly make its way out of the bottle.

When it comes to waiting on the Lord, we can say the same thing. The best things do come to those who wait on Him. But, the best things aren’t necessarily the end result of waiting, such as an answer to prayer. The best things that come out of waiting on the Lord are the things that it builds in us. There are benefits found in the time we spend waiting.

Waiting on the Lord leads us to expectancy (Psalm 5:3). As we wait on God to provide an answer to prayer or for wisdom and guidance, it can lead us to an atmosphere of expectation, having confidence that we will hear from Him. Waiting on the Lord leads us to hope (Psalm 33:20). The uncertainty over the future of the world we live in presents a constant need for hope. When we wait on God, the Holy Spirit helps us to abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

Hope is based, not on things we can see, but on things we cannot see. When we have that hope, we are able to wait patiently (Romans 8:24-25). Patience is another benefit of waiting on the Lord. Lamentations 3:26 tells us that it is good to wait quietly on the Lord, to wait patiently. Patience is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Patience is the ability to endure through waiting, even in the face of trials and tribulations.

When we wait on the Lord, we can be assured that He will answer. The answer may not always be the one that we are seeking, but it will be the answer that is best for us. But, because of the things that waiting leads us to, the time spent waiting will be beneficial to us, no matter what the answer is. The best things do come to those who wait on the Lord.

What is Your Value?

In 1938, DC Comics published a comic book called Action Comics #1, which introduced a character called Superman. At the time, this comic book sold for 10 cents. In 2014, a copy of that rare comic sold for a whopping 3.2 million dollars, making it the most valuable comic ever produced.

In 1918, the United States Post Office issued a 24 cent air mail stamp displaying a picture of a Curtiss JN4HM bi-plane. The stamp was printed in a great rush and some of the stamps displayed the picture of the plane upside-down. Despite the fact that they bear a flaw, the few stamps bearing the error became one of the most prized stamps in philatelic history. In 2016, one of these stamps sold at auction for $1,351,250.00.

What makes these comics and stamps so valuable? They are not printed on gold or silver. They do not have precious gems in them. They are nothing more than paper and ink, yet they and other items like them, have sold for tremendous amounts of money. Why? Because a value has been placed on them by those who desire them. And those who desire these things are willing to pay whatever is necessary to procure them.

The Bible clearly tells us that, in the eyes of God, we have great value (Matthew 10:29-31). After creating man, God looked at His creation and saw that it was not just good, but very good (Genesis 1:31). God valued what He had created. However, because of sin, mankind soon became flawed. But, despite man’s flaws, God’s love for mankind was not diminished. Rather, because of His love, because He still valued mankind greatly.

So, what is your value? What is my value? What is the value of each and every one of us? Would God pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for us? Is our value to God as great as the value of rare comic books and postage stamps to people? The answer to these questions is found in John 3:16. Our value to God is so great, His love is so deep, that He was willing to pay a price far greater than that paid for a Superman comic book. To wash us clean from the stain of sin, God paid the ultimate price. He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. We are priceless to God!

Who Is Jesus?

I’m on Jeopardy and one of my opponents chooses a clue. “I’ll take Biblical Characters for $500, Alex.”

The clue appears on the board and Alex says, “According to the Bible, he is the Son of God.”

I buzz in first and give my answer. “Who is Jesus?”

The audience applauds and the game goes on.

I’ve never actually been on Jeopardy, but, if I was and gave that answer to that clue, I would be correct. Jesus is the Son of God. But that is not all that He is.
Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God provided food for them in the form of manna, so that they would not go hungry (John 6:31). God gave us Jesus as our “manna.” With Jesus in our lives, we will not go hungry. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Just as a flashlight or a torch helps us to find our way in the darkness, Jesus is the light that helps us to find our way out of the darkness of sin. He lights our path showing us the right way to go.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life. When we come to Him, when we turn from our sins and give our lives and our hearts to Him, although we still die a natural death, we will have eternal life with Him (John 11:25). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He provides the pathway, salvation in Him, for us to follow to our heavenly Father. God is Truth and Life, and Jesus is God made flesh, sent so that we can come to the Father. Jesus is the only way to salvation and the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
Jesus is the good shepherd. A shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. We are the sheep and Jesus is our shepherd, who willingly gave His life for us (John 10:11). When we are part of Jesus’ “flock,” Jesus knows us and we know Him (John 10:14). Most importantly, Jesus is the promised Messiah, born of a virgin. Not only was He sent by God, but He is God, one of three persons in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was sent to earth so to give His own life as payment of the penalty for our sins.
So, yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but thanks to the amazing love and grace of God, He is so much more to those who believe in Him, to those who follow Him and trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
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