When You Could Do More

“But I could do so much more.”

11.6.14 Bridges for Peace at WIZO (78)

©2014 PurePurpose.org

As we sat in my room the first night we served in Israel, we reflected on the day. After training, we slowly eased into serving and primarily painted murals on preschool walls. It was the simple kind of painting…sort of like paint by numbers. The artist mixed the colors and told us where to paint.

We were minions.

But not really.

Once someone make the comment, “But I could do so much more,” there was a brief pause before the discussion of other perspectives began. We talked about what joy the colorful walls would bring to the teachers and young children for years to come. We talked about how closely we were able to serve among the school staff and children, which meant they would see our sacrifice. They would notice our attitudes and joy as we served. Maybe we weren’t minions after all. When we thought about the responsibility of serving in God’s name, we felt honored and humbled.

We often think we can do “more,” but what if the “more” is in the service we’re facing right now? How often do we miss out on the impact we can have with what is right in front of us because we think of other opportunities?

We want to be important, but God wants us to be willing. What seems important to us doesn’t usually match God’s criteria for importance. We do what is most important when we focus on knowing and serving God.

Maybe you think you could do more, but are you pouring your everything into what is right in front of you? It’s what God is giving you today. When you serve Him well, your efforts are multiplied through Him. You may never know the ripples effects of your sacrifice, but you can be certain God will use your humble willingness beyond your imagination and beyond your understanding.

Serve Him well. Give Him your all. It’s the most you can do.

“Not Much” Is More Than Enough

We received a list of items need by Bridges for Peace, where we served in Israel.

  • New baby clothes
  • Children’s toys
  • Toothbrushes
  • Backpacks for kids for school
  • School kits (pencils, erasers, crayons, glue stick, scissors, pencil sharpener, etc.)

We gathered as much as we could pack, and we lugged around our extra suitcases for the first several days until we began serving. We combined our bags and packed them on the bus. We rolled them into the building where they would sort, store, and distribute the items, and we started unpacking.

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (5)

©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

Little by little, those working and serving at Bridges for Peace that day came to see what all the commotion was about. They found an explosion of suitcases as we filled bins.

And they had tears in their eyes.

We started with a list, but what we didn’t know was donations were down because of the change in airline baggage fees.

We didn’t know they had been out of baby clothes for three months.

We didn’t know the baby clothes we had brought were enough for six months.

We didn’t know they had been praying for provision and witnessed God’s answer.

They cried for joy, hugged and thanked us.

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (23)

©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

11.4.14 Bridges for Peace (24)

©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

We cried, too…partly for joy, and partly because we wish we had known. We wish we had done more.

It was pretty easy to gather items, pack them, and roll them on and off our planes and buses. What we thought was “not much” was an abundance for those in need.

Yes, we could do more, but what we did was…something.

Look around. You are surrounded by needs in your home, church, community, and world. You can’t solve every problem or meet every need, but you can do something. Don’t let “not much” stop you. It might just be more than enough.

Be Open, But Not Absorbent

The older and newer rock met with a drastic line.

11.3.14 Capernaum Synagogue (12)

©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

Despite the images of the white stones of present day Israel, much of biblical Israel would have been darker stone, lava stone. It was (and still is) used for many things, because it is porous but not absorbent. It allows good aeration but don’t easily absorb water, food particles, and tastes and scents.

That’s confusing to me. Porous but not absorbent?

It’s like living in the world but not being of the world. Being open but not easily influenced and swayed. Being able to show compassion in the trenches without getting stuck.

Sometimes, living in the world but not being of the world is confusing. I’m not sure of the line of my motivation for serving. I don’t know how much others are influencing me, even in negative ways, more than I’m influencing them, hopefully, in positive ways. I don’t know how much I should share, give, or sacrifice.

Other times, it makes sense. I know where the line is, and I respect it. But if I’m honest, I often think I know where the line is more because of where I want it to be or expect it to be than where it actually is. I base the line on my experiences or my preferences. Instead, I need to ask God to take me to the line.

The line changes. Well, my experience of it changes. I’m not saying God ever changes. He doesn’t. But He changes me. He leads me to different experiences that I can handle at the time but that also change and prepare me for the future. So, the next time, the boundary might seem a bit different, because I’m in a different place. Living in the world requires more of me, because I give more of myself for God to use in the world. Not being of the world requires more of me, too. I don’t become more isolated. I become more sensitive to the needs, dangers, and opportunities around me.

I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:14-19)

 

Time to Serve

As I sat in the airport, excited to start my journey to Israel, I wondered about all the people around me. Where were they going? What would they be doing? What were their passions, struggles, and needs?

do somethingI anticipated getting to serve people in Israel, but looking around and noticing the people around me in the airport reminded me I need to serve people everywhere. The people around me were diverse in many ways. We weren’t all speaking the same language. We didn’t share the same shade of skin. We didn’t dress the same, look at people the same, or even eat the same. But we weren’t very different from each other in the ways that matter most. We all have issues, concerns, and  anticipations. Instead of separating ourselves, we can find our commonalities, and serve each other through them. We don’t have to let the differences divide us. After all, many of us travel to serve people who are different from us just to find we have much in common. We choose what we focus upon. We choose who we serve. Why do we pay less attention to a neighbor, a stranger on a corner, or a person we don’t get along with? Do we feel they’re “too close” to us? Do their needs make us uncomfortable?

It’s time to serve. Do something. It doesn’t have to change the world. It just has to serve someone. In the process, God will change you.

As I continued my travels, I found an opportunity to connect with many people through a simple gesture. Something people everywhere have in common is…sneezing. I heard people in every airport, restaurant, and restroom sneeze, and it was my invitation to simply say, “Bless you.” Every single time, whether or not I shared a language with the person, he or she knew what I said and responded with a nod, thank you, or smile. I got to look many people in the eyes as I traveled because of those simple words. And each time, I was blessed with someone’s smile and connection.

Be a blessing to others no matter where you are.

You will be blessed.

Meeting Needs in Church

needsGod wants us to meet needs, but He’s the one who determines what the needs are.

In ministry, we often ask, “What kind of classes would you attend? What could we offer than would help you get involved? How can we offer you a chance to serve in an area you’re comfortable or passionate about?”

It’s important to engage people, asking questions and getting to know them, but giving the impression that we will meet any needs people think they have perpetuates a consumer-focused culture, which has no place in the church. Faith is not about what we can get out of it. That’s a result of faith because God is generous, but if it’s our motivation of faith, we’re selfish, which in and of itself, is in direct opposition of faith.

What do you want because of your selfishness? What do you want “your way”? Maybe it doesn’t look as if you’re selfish. You might be able to get others to believe you’re seeking and following God’s will. You’re being firm about something, not because of what you want, but because of what you’re sure God wants. How sure are you? Are you deceiving yourself, too? Do you want so badly for your way to be God’s way that you’re closing your eyes, ears, and heart to any other possibility?

How are you encouraging others to take the same “me” perspective by asking them what they need or what would pull them into the church community? It’s not just about what you say but how it can be perceived and misunderstood. You might have pure motivations, wanting to meet people where they are, but here’s another possible approach:

Instead of asking for someone’s needs, then having to adjust to meet them, what if you help someone see how their needs can be met by some existing opportunities? When people are hesitant to get involved, they will find the differences between what is available and what they want. You can’t meet every need the way it is presented. But God can meet every need, even the ones you can’t identify. He knows people’s hesitations. He knows your motivations. He knows your willingness to connect and serve. He knows others’ sensitivity and baggage. He will work with it all.

Do you trust Him enough to listen…really listen…and let Him guide, even when you don’t get to decide what to ask, how to respond, and what to plan? Do you trust Him to meet your needs, as well as others’, even if you don’t completely “get” how it all fits together.

He’s a lot more trustworthy than anyone else’s assessment, including your own.

Lord God, You are God; Your words are true, and You have promised this grace to Your servant. (2 Samuel 7:28)

Suffering to Serve

I served at Passion 2014 in Houston, and it takes a small army of door holders—Passion’s phrase for volunteers—who don’t just hold doors. We literally and spiritually open doors for the thousands of college students ushered into the arena and God’s presence for the weekend. I personally served on a resource team, working what seemed to be endless hours, connecting with one student after another.

Why should you care? Well, regardless of whether or not you’ve served at Passion or another large conference, you’ve likely experienced some of the same challenges and thrills I did over the weekend. And there are always lessons we can learn in order to serve better.

Here’s a highlight reel…

  • I talked with young men who came on their own from the Netherlands, Brazil, and Seattle to personally experience an international corporate worship and teaching event. They differed in accents, clothing, and travel times, but each spoke with a sparkle of excitement in his eyes.
  • I heard the word “awesome” more than I think I have ever heard it in my life, and that’s saying a lot, since I grew up in the 80s! It wasn’t an overdramatic description of mundane, daily stuff. It described Jesus and the power of God in and around the lives of thousands of students. And God was (and is) awesome!
  • I had a street corner conversation with a group of girls who can’t wait until they’re old enough to serve as door holders. Well…that’s certainly a new perspective!

choiceI could go on and one, but can’t we all jump up and down about the excitement of events and experiences? Is everything always wonderful?

No.

While I worked with many sacrificial servants who gave up sleep and travel expenses just because they wanted to help provide an environment for students, I also worked among some with different motives. Since serving as a door holder is the only way for adults over 26 to attend, there were some who regularly snuck away or blatantly declared a personal “right” to not miss out on what was going on in the arena. When we signed up to serve, we were told on the front end that we would work long hours with little sleep and few breaks, but because different teams had different schedules, there soon became a stirring of unfairness and entitlement.

I’m not going to point my finger at everyone else without admitting that there were times I thought about trying to slip away unnoticed for an extended break or wondered how I could be sure to get on a less demanding team the next time. But as that attitude began to creep in, God reminded me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20.

The lesson is that as God’s workers, we’re not entitled to what we think we are. We don’t get to sign up to serve then demand how we serve. Serving is, by definition, selfless. There’s no such thing as selfish serving. If we’re being selfish while serving, we’re not serving.

So, consider…

  • Why do you serve? Why do you do the things you say you do for God? Are they really for God? Have you truly set aside yourself, including convenience and comfort?
  • How do you serve? Do you serve with any reluctance, or do you hold up your hand and jump up and down yelling, “Me, Lord! Pick me!”?
  • Who do you serve? Avoid giving the Sunday school answer. We often deceive ourselves to claim we’re serving God when his name is attached to something like church or missions. In reality, we’re doing what we want and asking him to bless it.

God gives us many opportunities to serve. Sometimes we’ll actually enjoy it, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we’ll actually suffer as we serve. I often hear people sarcastically declare they’re “suffering for Jesus,” getting to do something that’s enjoyable while attaching God’s name to it, but let’s be honest. Jesus knows what suffering is. We really have no clue. Until we get a clue, our service isn’t as rich and selfless as it can be.

Let God decide how you’ll serve today. Choose selflessness…with a good attitude.

Wash Their Feet

howbeautifularethefeet2So during the meal Jesus stood up and took off his outer clothing. Taking a towel, he wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:4-5

Jesus used water to cleanse others. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone who believed he was the Messiah. After all, he came as the living water, giving eternal life to all who believed. People could take all their sins to him, and he would redeem them. If there was anything he knew, it was other people’s dirt. Washing feet didn’t come close to the dirt he encountered spiritually.

But washing the followers’ feet was different than washing their spiritual feats. This was real dirt on real feet. It was tangible filth and ugliness, and here was the Son of God stooping to wash the feet of those who served him with his very own hands. He proceeded to dry them with the towel he was wearing around himself. He wore their filth.

Jesus washes your filth. He wears it no more. All the filth of the world hung with him on the cross and died with him. When he rose from the dead, there was no more filth. Death was defeated, and as a result, you have the promise of eternal life. Yes, there is still sin in the world. Yes, we’re still messy people, but Jesus already took care of the sinful mess. All we have to do is recognize and accept who he is and what he’s done, and we are clean. We won’t always feel clean, and we need to stay in relationship with him to work through the many issues we have with our uncleanliness, but we are forgiven. We now get to move on and deal with our baggage.

Just as Jesus washes our feet, we have the opportunity to share his love and mercy by washing others’ feet. We might not wash literal feet – although it is a very moving experience to be able to serve people in such a way – but we need to stoop to serve others. We need to place ourselves in a sacrificial position in order to give someone else our time, efforts, compassion, gifts, and resources.

When has someone’s sacrifice impacted your life?

When has your own sacrifice impacted someone else’s life?

Live It. Wash someone’s feet today. It may or may not be literal foot-washing, but look for an opportunity to help someone. God will not withhold the opportunity to serve him by serving others.