Excerpt from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Many Amer­i­cans spend their lives work­ing them­selves into a place where they can he served more than serve. As the say­ing goes: It’s good to be queen [or king]!” Our cul­ture sees the blessed ones as those who gel wait­ed on and served. And few among us aspire to be the maid with the job of serv­ing and bless­ing others.

In Gen­e­sis 18:18 the Lord says, Abra­ham will sure­ly become a great and pow­er­ful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” God’s tra­jec­to­ry is to bless the earth through his peo­ple. And to show them exact­ly what he has in mind, he comes to earth as one who serves (Luke 22:27). Jesus is God with us. And he calls us to serve (Matthew 22:37 – 39). This is not reli­gious rhetoric that we sim­ply endorse as a good rule of thumb. The Chris­t­ian dis­ci­pline of ser­vice is the way the world dis­cov­ers the love of God. We are the way God bless­es the earth.

Jesus’ atten­tion to the bless­ing God intend­ed to bring to the nations nev­er wavered. When he finds the tem­ple in Jerusalem clogged with buy­ing and sell­ing, he takes the whole reli­gious estab­lish­ment to task — run­ning them out of the tem­ple with a whip of cords. God’s peo­ple were to be a bless­ing; his tem­ple was not sup­posed to be a place of busi­ness but a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). God intends to bless the nations through us and our lives of ser­vice. Chris­tians are the very pres­ence of God to oth­ers. We become God’s vehi­cle of bless­ing on plan­et earth.

We will nev­er real­ly serve oth­ers unless we see that the needs of our neigh­bors are as real and impor­tant as our own. This may seem obvi­ous. But the truth of the mat­ter is many of us look right through oth­ers and nev­er see them, let alone care about what they need. When we are pre­oc­cu­pied with our own con­cerns, much of the world is sim­ply invis­i­ble to us. Ser­vice is root­ed in see­ing—in see­ing oth­ers as God does. God cares about pro­duc­tive and non­pro­duc­tive peo­ple, poor peo­ple and rich peo­ple, edu­cat­ed and none­d­u­cat­ed peo­ple. God cares about every­body. And if we har­bor hatred that breeds neglect of any of God’s peo­ple, we are hin­der­ing the Spir­it of Jesus. The Spir­it of Jesus is a com­pas­sion­ate, serv­ing Spir­it that always works for the good of oth­ers. Jesus main­tains that rad­i­cal love for oth­ers demon­strates whether we know God or not.

Mar­tin Luther King Jr. said, Every­body can be great because any­body can serve. You don’t have to have a col­lege degree to serve. You don’t have to make your sub­ject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul gen­er­at­ed by love.” It is enough to make a tru­ly great dif­fer­ence in someone’s life.

Reflec­tion Questions

  1. What is it like to be loved by some­one as he or she loves him- or herself?
  2. Do you like to be served or to serve? How docs this affect the way you live?
  3. When do you live out of an enti­tle­ment men­tal­i­ty rather than love of neighbor?

Spir­i­tu­al Exercises

  1. Every morn­ing for the next two weeks ask your spouse, room­mate or a col­league, What can I do for you today?” Then do it. • Talk to God about what this is like for you. What do you sec about yourself?
  2. Devel­op a year­ly prac­tice of involv­ing your­self in one inten­tion­al ser­vice, mis­sion or rel­ic! project. Con­sid­er which type of project speaks to some of the long­ings of your own heart.
  3. Divide a paper into three columns. Above one col­umn write, For Me.” Above the sec­ond col­umn write, For Oth­ers.” Above the third col­umn write, For God.” Review the past week or month. Jot down in each col­umn the things you have bought and done for your­self, oth­ers and God. What does this inven­to­ry reveal about your life? • Take time to read Luke 23. Gaze at Jesus on the cross. What has God giv­en because he loves you? • How would you like to sec the answers in your columns change over the next months? Lis­ten to your long­ings and God’s promptings.
  4. Spend some time med­i­tat­ing on the sto­ry of the good Samar­i­tan found in Luke 10:25 – 37. Become qui­et and ask the Lord to speak to you. Give your imag­i­na­tion to God. Read the slow­ly sto­ry and aloud, savor­ing the words. • What stood out to you? • Read the pas­sage a sec­ond time, imag­in­ing you are the Levite. What are your con­cerns? Why are you in a hur­ry? • Then put your­self in the place of the priest. What are your con­cerns? Why do you pass by? • Imag­ine you are the Samar­i­tan. Why do you stop to help? I low do you feel about incur­ring all the expens­es for another’s care? • Who of these three char­ac­ters do you tend to be like? • Who in your life receives your care: fam­i­ly? friends? Who else?
  5. Sign on to set up or take down an event. This part of event plan­ning is the least sought after. • What is it like for you to do a sim­ple task that doesn’t require your skill or exper­tise? What does this tell you about your acts of service?
  6. Ask those who know you to give you their take on what your spir­i­tu­al gifts are. Plan a way of using your gifts to ben­e­fit oth­ers in the next week and month.
  7. Get to know some mis­sion­ar­ies or a faith-based orga­ni­za­tion. Find out what they need.

Tak­en from Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines Hand­book by Adele Ahlberg Cal­houn. ©2015 by Adele Ahlberg Cal­houn. Used by per­mis­sion of Inter­Var­si­ty Press, P.O. Box 1400, Down­ers Grove IL 60515 – 1426. www​.ivpress​.com

Text First Published October 2005

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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