Tag Archives: Matt 22:36-40

Ya gotta

18 May

“…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“Ya gotta eat.”

You don’t have a choice.

But you do get to choose where you eat.  So you may as well eat at Rally’s.

I think Rally’s is onto something more significant than burgers and fries.

God created us with choice built into our being, but we don’t have unlimited choice.  We get to choose which, not whether or not.

Let me explain.  We get to choose which food (or where) we eat, but not whether we eat.  We have to eat to stay alive.  How we respond to our parents (even if they died when we were young) is also our choice, but we don’t get to decide whether we have parents or not.  Most of our choices are like that.  We get to choose what or which, but not whether.

The most basic of issue of our existence is no exception– whom we serve.  It’s a given that we WILL serve someone or something, but we do get to choose what or whom.

Bob Dylan sang it:

You may be famous, popular, powerful, rich, hiding, skilled, sought-after…      But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

He broke it down to the most basic decision like Joshua did above: choose to serve the Lord or evil.

God the Father said it first when He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, and Jesus repeated the idea of love being the underlying motivation for choosing to serve God.  God gave us the prerogative to choose whom we want to serve.  Knowing it’s best for us to serve Him rather than created things, however, He commands us to serve Him.

Our culture, even well-meaning Christians, would like to soften the extremes, and in so doing, obscure the clarity, of this black and white choice.  Their arguments include we can serve other people (if done with the right motivation, this is serving God), serve ourselves (which degenerates into idolatry rather quickly), or just live life taking what comes.

Putting anything or anyone before God is idolatry– even, and maybe, especially, good things like relationships and providing for one’s family.  In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller asserts that idols like these can be cultural, which makes them almost impossible to identify.  “Any dominant cultural ‘Hope’ that is not God himself is a counterfeit god….  When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.” (Chap 6, p.130)  The American Dream is rife with disguised idolatry. 

The world would say that Christians are in bondage to God.  They are correct.  But they are also bound to the things they serve.

I would rather serve the all-powerful Creator God who loves me so much that He did not withhold His precious Son but gave Him up to pay my penalty, than anything or anyone else.  More than my comfort, and more than my reputation.  More than possessions and riches.  More than my own ideas and everything temporal.

Using Keller’s description of a cultural idol, it’s possible that even the church can serve counterfeit gods.  The church is not exempt!  Individually and collectively, those of us who follow Jesus must serve Him only, or we serve counterfeit gods.

This seems like such an easy choice in the black-and-white of my laptop screen.  In my day-to-day life, however, in the mash-up of confused emotions and hidden selfishness, it’s not so easy for me to tell who I am serving.

That’s no excuse, I know.  And so I pray for spiritual clarity.

God expects total surrender– pray continually, in everything give thanks, make the most of every opportunity, guard your heart and mind, trust in Him at all times…

Only God can give me what I need.  Only He is worthy to be served.

As for me, I will serve the Lord.


Ready for Sunday

On one hand I am sure there are no idols as I worship God and lead others before His throne; on the other I know there are latent idols hidden inside acceptable church behavior– compliments, reputation, work ethic, and perfectionism, as well as clinging to my preferred worship style and practices.

Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

God show me every idol I put before you – as I prepare to lead your people, and while leading them.  Strip me of the gross and ugly sins dressed up in cultural finery until all I see is You.  Everything else is chaff.



12 May

Be filled with the Spirit.  Eph. 5:18b

“Rub the oil into the grain like this. Come on, keep rubbing.”

“But my arms are tired,” I whined, dropping my sticky fingers to my sides and sticking out my bottom lip just a little.

But Dad kept rubbing.  I watched him, and soon I couldn’t help myself.  I dipped my rag in the vegetable oil and applied all of my 65-pounds to pushing the oil into the butcher block with renewed enthusiasm.

My dad took a break to get more oil. (I think his arms were tired, too, because he took more than a few minutes to explain.)

“Before we put any food on this wood, we have to soak it with oil. One coat isn’t enough.”

My eyes opened wide at that.  We weren’t even half done!

“We’ll let this coat dry overnight and do it all over again tomorrow.  The wood has to be filled up with oil.  Then, when we chop tomatoes on it…

I smiled.  I grew tomatoes in our garden because they were my favorite.

…the juice that squirts out, won’t soak into the wood.  The chopping board will be so full of oil, nothing else like food or germs or stains will be able to soak in.  That makes clean-up easy, too.  Just a quick wipe with a damp cloth.”

Cleaning up the kitchen was NOT my favorite, so I smiled at that, too.

“And wood likes oil; it doesn’t like water.  Oil stays in the wood, but water dries out fast.  The oil protects wood from water.  Look, they don’t like each other.”  He poured a little water on his rag and it ran right off onto the floor.  I giggled.

Dad continued after wiping up his mess:  “If we used this cutting board without oiling it, we’d have to wash it in hot soapy water every time we cut something on it to get the soaked-in food out of it.  Then it would dry out.  Wash and dry, wash and dry, over and over again would cause the wood to crack.”  And so we got back to work with purpose.


Last week I bought new wooden spoons.  Even though I am now much older than Dad was when he taught me how to season wood, I heard his explanation as I rubbed them with oil.

And today I read Ephesians 5:1-21.  I paid particular attention to the last few sentences: …be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The Greek word for filled  (pleroo) means completely permeated, over-filled, satisfied.

My imagination went back to my spoons and further back to my conversation with dad.  If a wooden spoon is completely permeated with one thing, nothing else can get in.  Staining and contamination are not possible.  The spoon is protected from cracking (which would also let foreign particles in), and the spoon stands ready in the kitchen to stir goodness and nutrition into a tasty meal for my family.

Wooden spoons and butcher blocks need routine re-applications of oil– though not as intense as the initial one.  Without further treatments, the wood becomes unprotected and susceptible to cracking, staining, and contamination.  The tense of pleroo implies the same principle – a continual, not once-and-you’re-done, filling.

The verses immediately following the command to be filled with the Spirit describe both the evidences of being filled with the Spirit and practices that allow the Spirit to keep filling the soul.

  • Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Stay in Christian community and point one another to Christ.
  • Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.  Worship God from deep within, not simply exterior, face-saving practices.
  • Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Be grateful and trust that He is in control and knows what he is doing in every circumstance, relationship, need, and opportunity.
  • Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Put others and their interests first as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

As I read over this list, I can’t think of anything to add.  (God’s Word is so perfect!)  Worshiping and thanking God; encouraging others and putting them first– reminds me of the two greatest commandments – Love the Lord and your neighbor as yourself.

Worship leaders are to be so full of the Holy Spirit that we are unhindered by sin and free to be used by God who stirs the hearts of His people into a pleasing aroma of praise.

Our calling is not easy, but it is simple.


Ready for Sunday

The above list from Eph 5:19-21 isn’t easy, but it is simple.  My struggle comes when I am working on one of the four and one of the others slips.

Holy Spirit, show me when I’m out of balance, and what I need to do to restore it.

And, ultimately, work through me.  I can’t do any of this without your power working through me.  You are my Source– the One I worship, and the One who empowers my worship.

The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:29-30

Tomorrow may I be unnoticeable; may your people see only You.

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