Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Humility and Servanthood

Volume 3 No. 152 July 18, 2013

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Isaiah 43:2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 21)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_9th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (July 21)

Sermons for Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_9th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

The Strange Math of Jesus: Emptying Himself by Adding Human Nature

Given that the divine nature in Jesus was eternal and infinite while the human nature in Jesus was created and finite, one of the questions we ponder is just how these two natures could coexist in the one person. Could Jesus as both fully divine and fully human be, for example, simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent - qualities of his eternal, divine nature - while also possessing a limited and finite human power, a limited yet growing knowledge and wisdom, and a restricted ability to be only one place at one time - qualities of finite, human nature? ...

Featured: Two Men Worth Imitating

Our Savior did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Every Christian is the blood-bought servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being a servant of Christ is not an option if you want to be more dedicated; it is the calling of every believer. If you are not a servant of Christ, you cannot rightly call yourself a Christian. ...

How to Tell a Servant When You See One

If to be a deacon means to serve, and if it really matters the quality of the person chosen to serve the congregation, then someone in church leadership must be able to recognize a servant when they see one..

Jesus Teaches About Humility and Servanthood

Humble people are always thinking, not of themselves, but of others. For that reason, they have a servant's attitude, looking for opportunities to be a blessing. However, just because someone serves others isn't sure proof that he's a true servant. Many people outwardly seem to be kind and generous, but often they are just acting in order to gain people's favor. ...

Leadership as Stewardship

The biblical concept of a steward is amazingly simple and easy to understand. The steward is one who manages and leads what is not his own, and he leads knowing that he will give an account to the Lord as the owner and ruler of all. ...

Stewardship as a Response to Grace

Moses' response to the Lord's gracious action was worship (see Ex 34:8). Today our response to God's salvation should echo that of Moses. ...

Increasing Mental Health Literacy in Rural America

One in five Americans has a mental illness yet only about 4 in 10 of these people receive treatment. In rural America - where 20 percent of the country’s population lives - the challenges of getting mental health treatment are exacerbated by the fear of being misunderstood, lack of awareness about services and chronic shortage of behavioral health providers. ...

Family: Christian Parenting

But, after all, the mass of Christian piety in a country will be found to be in the generation of the pious; and though God shows his own sovereignty in sometimes raising up an eminent instrument of good from among the most wicked, he also shows the riches and the faith fullness of his own promises: "The generation of the upright is blessed." "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." ...

Anything can remind us of the Creator

When I want to talk to God and thank Him, I just pull out this old deck of cards and they remind me of all that I have to be thankful for." ...

About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 21)

Sermons for This Sunday (July 21)
This Week's Features

The Strange Math of Jesus: Emptying Himself by Adding Human Nature

by Bruce Ware

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8

Whereas the eternal Son of the Father, the second person of the Trinity, had no beginning and will have no end, the incarnate Son - the son of David, the son of Mary, the Messiah - had a beginning in time and space. This Son, (1) Jesus the Christ, was brought into being through the power of the Holy Spirit, as the divine nature of the eternal Son was miraculously joined together with a created human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Luke's account of this miracle - the grand miracle, as C. S. Lewis rightly called it - is riveting. Luke writes:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy - the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-35)

The conception of Jesus in the Virgin Mary was unique in the history of humankind. Not only did the Holy Spirit supernaturally bring about conception within her apart from the involvement of any human father, but even more remarkable was the uniting of the divine and human natures in Jesus, such that this one would be born the son of Mary (Luke 1:31) and the son of "his father David" (v. 32) while also being "the Son of the Most High" (v. 32), "the Son of God" (v. 35). That is, he would be fully human (son of Mary) while also being fully divine (Son of the Most High). The miracle the Holy Spirit brought to pass, then, was to conceive in Mary none other than the God-man, the the anthropic person, Jesus Christ, son of David and Son of God.

The Nature of the Kenosis (Self-Emptying) of the Eternal Son

Given that the divine nature in Jesus was eternal and infinite while the human nature in Jesus was created and finite, one of the questions we ponder is just how these two natures could coexist in the one person. Could Jesus as both fully divine and fully human be, for example, simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent - qualities of his eternal, divine nature - while also possessing a limited and finite human power, a limited yet growing knowledge and wisdom, and a restricted ability to be only one place at one time - qualities of finite, human nature? It seems clear that some qualities of his eternal, divine nature are simply incompatible with his true and genuine human nature, such that it would be impossible for him truly to live as a human if that so-called human life was also one in which he exhibited fully divine qualities such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. In other words, would Jesus be truly and genuinely human if in his human experience he had limitless power, knowledge, wisdom, and spatial presence?

The crux of the answer to these questions comes in how Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 expresses the kenosis, the self-emptying, of the eternal Son as he took on human nature. Here Paul writes:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Notice some crucial features of this important passage.

First, Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus, as the eternal Son of the Father, is fully God.

Paul offers two expressions, each of which conveys the full deity of Christ. Paul writes that Christ existed in the "form of God" (v. 6), using the term morphē, which refers to the inner nature or substance of something, not its external or outward shape. So, while the English word form can convey merely the outward appearance of something (i.e., the shape or contour or facade of some object), not its inner reality, the Greek word morphē conveys just the opposite, as can be seen with Plato's "forms" - i.e., those substances of ultimate realities such as beauty, truth, justice, goodness, etc., that Plato thought existed eternally and apart from any material representation. The Greek morphē, then, is the inner substance or very nature of a thing, not its outer shape or appearance.

That Paul intends this understanding can be seen further in his second use of morphē, when he says that Jesus took the "form of a servant" (v. 7). Surely it is evident that Paul does not mean that Jesus took on merely the outer appearance of a servant, implying perhaps that though he looked like a servant, he was not in his own heart and life a true servant. Just the opposite: Jesus took on the inner substance and very nature, i.e., the form (morphēn), of what it means to be a servant, and that to its highest expression. As a servant, he served to the utmost, as he was obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. So again, "form" (morphē, v. 6, and morphēn, v. 7) must mean the very nature of something, not merely its outer appearance. Therefore, Paul's point in 2:6 is clear: Jesus, being the "form of God," exists in very nature as God, with the inner divine substance that is God's alone. He is fully God since he exists "in the form of God."

Paul also refers to Christ as possessing "equality with God" (v. 6), which likewise makes clear his full deity.

Nothing is equal to God except God! As God declares of himself, through the prophet Isaiah, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isa. 46:9; cf. Ex. 8:10; 15:11; Deut. 3:24; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kings 8:23; Ps. 71:19; Mic. 7:18). Indeed, there is no god other than the one true and living God - so God is exclusively God - and there is no god who is like the one true and living God - so God is incomparably God. With this background in mind, Paul's declaration that Christ possesses "equality with God" is stunning. It can mean only one thing: by virtue of the fact that no one can be equal to God but God himself, Christ, who possesses equality with God, must himself be fully God. Of course, as we often find where the deity of Christ is expressed, we see hints or outright declarations that someone other than Christ likewise is God. Since he is equal to God, this means that there is another who is God, in relation to whom Christ is his equal. So, as John puts it, the Word is both "with God" and is "God" (John 1:1), and Hebrews declares that Christ is the "exact imprint" of the nature of God (Heb. 1:3). Likewise here in Philippians 2, Christ is both other than the one who is God (understood as the Father, no doubt) while he also is equal to this other one who is God and so is himself fully God.

Second, when Paul writes that Christ "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6), he cannot mean that Christ gave up equality with God or that he ceased being fully God.

Since he is fully God, he cannot cease to be fully God. God is eternal, self-existent, immortal, and immutable, and thus he cannot cease to exist as God, nor can he fail to be fully God. Surely what Paul means is this: Christ being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man. He did not clutch or grasp his place of equality with the Father and all this brought to him in such a way that he would refuse the condescension and humiliation of the servant role he was being called to accept. Just how he could accept his calling to become a man while being (and remaining!) fully God, we'll explore next. But here it is crucial to see that Christ's not "grasping" equality with God cannot rightly be taken to mean that Christ gave up being God or became in any way less than fully God when he took on also a fully human nature. No, rather, he did not grasp or clutch onto the privileged position, rights, and prerogatives that his full equality with God, his Father, afforded him, in order to fulfill his calling to become fully a man who would be, amazingly, servant of all.

Third, as one who is fully God, Christ Jesus "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant" (v. 7).

The word that here is translated "emptied himself," ekenōsen (third aorist indicative of kenoō), means literally just this: that Christ "emptied himself" or "poured out himself." Note that Paul is not saying that Christ emptied something from himself or poured something out of himself, as if in so doing he became less fully God than he was before (which, as we have seen, is impossible). Rather, he emptied himself; he poured out himself. That is, all of who Christ is as eternal God, all that he is as the one who is in the form of God and is equal with God, is poured out. Christ, then, as God remains fully God. He loses nothing of his divine nature, and no divine qualities are removed from him as he pours himself out. No, Christ remains in his divine nature fully who and what he is in his existence as the eternal second person of the Trinity. He has eternally been fully God, and now in the incarnation he pours out fully who he is as God, remaining fully God as he does so.

The question then becomes just what this means - that Christ, the one who exists in the form of God (morphē) and as equal (isa) to God, pours himself out (ekenōsen). The answer comes, amazingly, in the three participles (particularly the first one) that follow ekenōsen. Christ poured himself out, taking the form of a servant. Yes, he pours out by taking; he empties by adding. Here, then, is a strange sort of math that envisions a subtraction by addition, an emptying by adding. What can this mean?

In brief, what this must mean is this: Christ Jesus, existing and remaining fully who he is as God, accepts his divine calling to come to earth and carry out the mission assigned him from the Father. As the eternal Son of God, who is himself the form (morphē, i.e., very nature) of God, he must come in the form (morphēn, i.e., very nature) of a servant. That is, he must come fully as a man, and as a man he must live his life and give his life as one of us. In so doing, Christ pours himself out (all of who he is) as he takes on, in addition to his full divine nature, a full human nature. Again, it is crucial to see that in the self-emptying (ekenōsen) of the eternal Son, Paul does not say that he poured something "out of" himself. No, absolutely not! Rather, he poured out himself. All of who he is as the eternal Son of the Father, as the one who is the form (morphē) of the Father, is poured out fully.

Here, then, is no subtraction, strictly speaking. It is a "subtraction" (i.e., a pouring out, an emptying) by adding human nature to his divine nature. He came, then, to become the God-man - the one whose very divine nature took on fully the existence of a created human nature. He poured himself out by adding to himself the nature of a man, indeed, the nature of a servant par excellence who would give his life in obedience on the cross to fulfill the will of his Father.

Endnotes:

1. The appellation "Son" is used of the second person of the Trinity in three distinct yet related senses in Scripture.
(1) The eternal Word (John 1:1) is often referred to as "Son," and in this sense he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father (e.g., John 3:16–17; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 John 4:9–10).
(2) Jesus the Christ, Son of David and Son of Mary, who is the incarnate God-man, is referred to as the "Son" of God, and in this sense he is the incarnate and historic Son of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary (e.g., Luke 1:31–35; John 1:33–34, 49; Gal. 2:20).
(3) The crucified but risen, ascended, reigning, and exalted Messiah is also referred to in a distinct way as the "Son" of God, and in this sense he is the risen and triumphant Son of the Father (e.g., Acts 13:32–33; Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:27–28; Heb. 4:14).

Source: The Man Christ Jesus; Taken from The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ by Bruce A. Ware. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Source: christianity.com Daily Update

Featured: Two Men Worth Imitating

By Steven J. Cole

Scripture: Philippians 2:19-30

At St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is only one door into the sanctuary. Over that door is a hand-lettered sign that reads, “Servant’s Entrance.” There isn’t any way in or out of that church except through the servant’s entrance!

That’s not a bad reminder of the fact that every believer is called to serve our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Unlike most sports teams, the Lord’s team does not have any bench warmers. Every Christian is given a first-string spot on the team, with a vital role to fulfill. A non-serving Christian is a contradiction in terms.

After the doctrinal high water mark of this letter, where Paul speaks of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ who left the glory of heaven to take on the form of a servant and to become obedient to death on the cross for our sakes (2:5-11), Paul turns to some seemingly mundane matters about sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church, and about his hope of coming personally if he is released from prison. This is one of those sections of Scripture that, at first glance, you may wonder why God took up the pages of the Bible with the travel schedules of these three men. But as we examine it, I hope you will see that the Holy Spirit uses it in a marvelous way to illustrate for us the truths that Paul has been presenting in this entire chapter. These choice men whom Paul commends to the Philippian church, Timothy and Epaphroditus, are two men worth imitating as we seek to serve our Lord. Along with Paul himself, they have much to teach us about Christian servanthood. They show us that ... If we cultivate a servant’s heart and endure a servant’s hardships, we will receive a servant’s honor.

1. We must cultivate a servant’s heart.

Our Savior did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Every Christian is the blood-bought servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being a servant of Christ is not an option if you want to be more dedicated; it is the calling of every believer. If you are not a servant of Christ, you cannot rightly call yourself a Christian. But, because we all are selfish by nature, we must cultivate the heart of a servant as we grow in Christ. Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus illustrate men who had servant’s hearts, as seen in two dimensions:

A. A servant’s heart is centered on the things of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul was a man whose focus was on the Lord Jesus Christ. In 2:19 he says, “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly.” In 2:24 he says, “I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.” It is Paul’s way of saying, “If it be the Lord’s will.” It shows that he did not make decisions based simply on common sense or on what he thought was best, but he submitted everything to the Lord and His will. When he mentions how Epaphroditus got well from his illness, he doesn’t say, “Thank goodness he got better!” but rather, “God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but also on me.” When he instructs the church to welcome Epaphroditus, he tells them to “receive him in the Lord with all joy.” Clearly, the Lord was the focal point of Paul’s life and ministry.

Timothy’s focus was also on the Lord. Paul states that, unlike many others, Timothy was not seeking after his own interests instead of those of Jesus Christ (2:21). Timothy served with Paul in the furtherance of the gospel (2:22). Christ and the gospel were at the center of Timothy’s life.

Epaphroditus also was a faithful servant whose focus was on the things of Christ. He had pushed himself almost to the point of death to bring the gift to Paul from the Philippian church. Maybe he grew ill on the six-week journey and pushed himself almost beyond his limits in an effort to get to the apostle’s side. Or, perhaps after arriving he contracted some illness, but he kept pushing himself in his service to Paul in the cause of the gospel. His longing and concern for the church back in Philippi also reveal his servant’s heart for the things of Christ.

Paul calls Epaphroditus a “minister to my need” and states that he had completed by his presence what the Philippians could not do in their absence in service to Paul (2:25, 30). The word translated “minister” and “service” comes from a Greek word from which we get our word “liturgy.” In secular Greek, the word was used of a man who, out of love for his city and the gods, would finance a great drama or outfit a battleship. It has the flavor of sacred service, or worship. Every servant of Jesus Christ does what he does, whether giving or helping or speaking, as an offering to the Lord Jesus. A servant’s heart is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ and His work.

This focus on Christ and His work should not just be true of those who earn their living from the gospel. Every Christian, however you earn your living, should live every day in fellowship with the Lord, in submission to His will, in obedience to His Word, available to do His work. Christian servants will be eager to talk about the great truths of the Bible with fellow Christians. They will be ready to tell lost people about the Savior and His work on the cross. They watch for opportunities to please Him by helpful deeds toward others. Three attitudes mark servants who are focused on the Lord Jesus Christ:

(1) They are willing to be sent anywhere. It wouldn’t have been easy for Timothy to leave the side of his beloved father in the faith in order to go to Philippi, but he was willing to go if that was God’s will. It hadn’t been easy for Epaphroditus to leave the comforts of home and journey to Rome, but he had done it. Now, it also would be difficult for him to leave Paul and return home, but he was willing to go where the Lord wanted him.

Have you told the Lord, “I’m willing to go anywhere You want me to go”? I remember as a teenager being hesitant to do that, because I was afraid He might say, “Go to Africa as a missionary,” and I didn’t want to do that! But then I reasoned, “God is a loving Father who knows what is best for me. If it’s best for me to serve Him in Africa, I’d be stupid to stay in the United States.” So I surrendered to Him on that matter. Then, after seminary, an opportunity came up to pastor a church in northeastern Indiana. I can think of few places in this country I’d rather not be more than northeastern Indiana! But Marla and I knelt down and reaffirmed our submission to His will. The packet of material from that church never arrived in the mail, and the Lord soon opened up the church in the mountains of Southern California, where I served for 15 years.

(2) They are willing to serve anyone. Timothy served Paul, but he was willing to go and serve the Philippian church. Epaphroditus served the Philippian church, but he was willing to go and serve Paul. He reminds me of Philip, who was being used by God to reach great multitudes in Samaria, but who was willing to go to a deserted road where the Lord used him to reach the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:5-8, 26-40). A servant of Christ isn’t out to make a name for himself by speaking to large crowds only. He’s available to his Lord to serve anyone the Lord directs him to serve.

(3) They are willing to sacrifice anything. Timothy had given up his own interests to become a servant of Christ. Epaphroditus almost lost his life in his service for the Lord. To the Ephesian elders, Paul said of his own ministry, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Have you told the Lord, “I’ll give up everything--my desires, my ambitions, my comforts, my time, my money--to serve You”?

I have emphasized this point at length, that a servant’s heart is centered on the things of Jesus Christ, because if you have any other motive or reason for Christian service, you will eventually burn out or bomb out. You’ll get angry and be hurt because of the way people treat you; you’ll be frustrated and grow weary of the hardships you have to endure; you’ll quit in disgust or disappointment-- if you’re serving for any reason other than love for the Lord Jesus who gave Himself for your sins. A servant’s heart must be constantly captivated with Christ.

B. A servant’s heart puts others ahead of himself for the sake of Christ.

The Apostle Paul was in prison facing possible execution. Timothy was his right hand man, a faithful man who had served with Paul as a child serving his father (2:22). It would have been understandable if Paul, thinking of his circumstances, had said, “I can’t spare Timothy at this time. He must stay here with me.” But, instead, he was willing to send Timothy for the sake of the Philip5 pian church. The Philippians had been willing to serve Paul by giving monetarily and by sending Epaphroditus, who himself had been willing to serve to the brink of death on Paul’s behalf.

Of Timothy, Paul says, “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:20, 21). These are hard words to understand, because you would think that out of all the faithful Christians in Rome (Paul wrote Romans 16 about five years prior to this, where he greets many faithful believers in Rome), he could have found some who were not living for themselves! And, what about Luke, Titus, Aristarchus, Trophimus, and Epaphroditus? Paul must have meant that of those available to him at that time as messengers, Timothy was the only one he knew of who would genuinely seek after the interests of others instead of their own.

There are at least three ways you can tell if you’re putting others ahead of yourself:

(1) You will have heartfelt love--These verses are oozing with Paul’s heartfelt love for Timothy, Epaphroditus, and for the Philippians. Also notice how Epaphroditus longed for the Philippians and was distressed (the word is used of Jesus’ distress in the garden) because they had heard that he was sick (2:26). There are some super-spiritual Christians who try to remove all emotion from the Christian life. They think that spiritual maturity means being stoical, not showing any grief or anxiety or tenderness or tears. But Paul here says how if Epaphroditus would have died, he would have been overwhelmed with grief at the loss of this dear servant of God. Paul knew Romans 8:28--he wrote the verse! He also knew Philippians 4:6-7, about not being anxious. Yet he didn’t chide Epaphroditus because he was distressed over how the Philippian church felt about his sickness (2:26). Paul wasn’t afraid to be human and to express his deep feelings for others.

(2) You will show genuine concern--This spills over with heartfelt love, but here I am especially focusing on Timothy’s genuine concern for these people, that he was not seeking his own interests, but the welfare of the church (2:20-21). Sad to say, many who serve the Lord, including some in full-time ministry, do it with mixed motives. They’re out for the strokes others can give them. They like being in the limelight. They’re manipulative in using people for their own advancement or gain.

I knew a pastor in California who was outwardly very friendly. He seemed loving and caring. But when you got to know him you could see that he had an inordinate need to be liked. He would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear so they would like him, even though sometimes it was not the truth. He was really seeking his own interests, not the welfare of the church.

(3) You can work cooperatively with others--Timothy served with Paul like a child his father (2:22). Paul and Epaphroditus worked together harmoniously in the gospel cause. To do that, you’ve got to die to self and put others ahead of yourself for the sake of the work. Some people are not team players, unless they are the boss. Even though Paul was clearly the leader among these men, and was about 25 years older than Timothy (we don’t know how old Epaphroditus was), he didn’t lord it over them. He humbly calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier. He deflects any glory from himself and lifts up these two faithful servants. So we must cultivate a servant’s heart, centered on the things of Jesus Christ, putting others ahead of ourselves for the sake of the gospel.

2. We must endure a servant’s hardships.

Serving Christ is not easy. The term fellow soldier implies warfare. It brings us under the withering attacks of the enemy, who wants to hinder the cause of Christ. Just as soldiers must go through boot camp so that they can learn to endure the hardships they will encounter on the battlefield, so the Lord’s servants must be tested. Paul mentions Timothy’s “proven worth” (2:22). The word means “approved by testing.” It is the same word used in Romans 5:3, 4, where Paul says that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance brings proven character. A product that has been approved by testing is a reliable product. Either the manufacturer or a consumer advocate has submitted the product to severe conditions to see if it holds up. You can know that the product won’t give out just when you need it most. Timothy had endured enough testing that Paul knew he was faithful. Testing or hardship in Christian service can come from many sources:

A. The hardship of persecution both from without and within.

Paul was in prison due to persecution from without. But also he was under attack from those who preached the gospel from envy and selfish ambition (1:15, 17). Perhaps they are the ones he refers to in 2:21. They claimed to be serving Christ, but in reality they were serving themselves. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “Many a professing Christian life has a veneer of godliness nailed thinly over a solid bulk of selfishness” (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], “Philippians,” p. 284). Paul knew the keen disappointment of professing Christians who were not faithful because they were living for themselves. It’s often more difficult to bear the attacks from those within the flock than from those outside, because you expect the world to be against you, but not fellow Christians.

B. The hardship of the work itself.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Paul catalogues the hardships he experienced as a servant of Christ: persecutions, physical hardships, dangers that brought him to the brink of death, and, on top of everything else, intense concern for all the churches. In our text, he mentions his concern for the Philippian church (2:28). He mentions Epaphroditus’ risking his life (it’s a gambling term, “to throw the dice”), as well as his concern about the church. So the work of the gospel involves both physical and emotional hardships that can wear us down. We must be prepared for hardships in serving the Lord and rely on His sustaining grace, not on our own strength or resources.

I would encourage you to read the biographies of the great saints who have gone before us. One of the best is Ruth Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya [Zondervan], which is a biographical history of the missions movement. It will move you to tears as you read of the incredible hardships that God’s people have gone through to take the gospel to the unreached parts of the earth. In the early years of missionary work in Africa, only one out of four missionaries survived the first term of service (p. 155)! They were plagued by disease, by hostile people, by tribal warfare, by govern8 ment hindrances. Yet they kept going. Our hardships are nothing in comparison with theirs!

Why go through such hardship? If we cultivate a servant’s heart and endure a servant’s hardship, ...

3. We will receive a servant’s honor.

We don’t seek the honor for ourselves, but for our Lord who alone is worthy. But He promises, “Those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30). He will reward every faithful servant with the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Any hardship we suffer now in serving Christ will be well worth it when we see His face and hear from Him, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

Paul here honors Timothy by sending him as his own representative. He honors Epaphroditus by his commendation and tells the church to “hold men like him in high regard” (2:29). As Calvin points out, the devil is intent on undermining the authority of godly pastors, and so the church must hold such men in high regard (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], “Philippians,” p. 84).

Conclusion

Did you notice how these seemingly mundane words about the travel schedules of these men illustrate what Paul has been saying throughout chapter 2? He has told us that we should do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to regard others more highly than we do ourselves; not looking out for our own interests, but for the interests of others (2:3-4). Then he gave us the great example of our Lord, who laid aside His rights, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient to death on the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him (2:5- 11). Jesus had a servant’s heart; He endured a servant’s hardships; He received a servant’s honor. That’s the pattern for all who serve Him. Let’s all strive to become imitators of Timothy and Epaphroditus; but not only of them, but of the Apostle Paul; and, beyond him, of our Lord Jesus Himself. There should be only one entrance to the church: the servant’s entrance!

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

How to Tell a Servant When You See One

by Dr. Joe McKeever

If to be a deacon means to serve, and if it really matters the quality of the person chosen to serve the congregation, then someone in church leadership must be able to recognize a servant when they see one.

Otherwise, you may end up with a lot of men in your deacon body who want to do anything in the world except serve.

Which, as you think of it, is a perfect description of a thousand deacon groups: a lot of men who want to do many things, none of them being to serve.

Now, before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end....
(John 13:1)

You will recognize that as the opening of the Upper Room passage where the Lord washes the feet of His disciples, the ultimate act of servitude. In this one verse, we find a number of insights as to the traits of a great servant.

Jesus could serve because He knew the correct time.

For years Jesus had repeatedly announced, "My time is not yet." But no longer. Now, the time has arrived, and He had to act quickly. There was so much to say and so little opportunity to say it. In taking up the towel to serve, the Lord gave the disciples an object lesson they would never forget.

Jesus could serve because He knew His destination.

The Lord knew full well that within a matter of a couple of days He would be reporting in with the Heavenly Father. He was not confused, not in doubt, not fearful and not insecure. Confidence is so empowering.

Jesus could serve because He loved.

The Lord had no need to dominate these men in that Upper Room, felt no need to keep reminding them how wonderful He was, and certainly saw no need for them to get down and serve Him. Out of an overwhelming, everlasting love, He got the towel and served them. Love overcomes objections, and empowers the servant.

And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments, and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. (John 13:2-4)

More reasons why Jesus was able to serve the disciples....

The devil was on the job and on schedule.

Your enemy, the devil, is walking to and fro as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). In case you didn't know that, there is no time to delay.

I hope you have noticed that Satan is alive and well on Planet Earth these days. The time is critical and God's people must be at their best and strongest.

The Father had equipped Jesus for all that He was asking of Him

God did not send Jesus on this greatest of all missions without providing all that would be required of Him. "The Father had given all things into His hands." He wants for nothing more. He lacks nothing else. He will be able to do all the Father asks, whether great or small.

Tomorrow, Jesus would go to the cross and take the sins of humanity upon Him. Tonight, He would first wash the disciples' feet.

Jesus knew who He was and had nothing to prove.

The primary reason people will not serve is insecurity: not know who we are, we always feel we have to prove ourselves. The last thing we want is someone overlooking us, thinking down upon us. We crave recognition, long to hear our name called, thrill to be chosen in elections.

Anyone requiring proof of our sinful, self-centered souls, need look no further.

Jesus knew where He came from and where He was going.

This is the secret of His steadfast self-confidence and self-esteem. Jesus knew that He had come from the center of the universe, Heaven's Throne Room, and that shortly He would be back there with the Father in unimaginable glory. The last thing He needed and lusted for was the puny accolades earth had to offer. Therefore, He was able to serve in the lowliest ways.

So, what then does a servant look like? How can we recognize one when we see him?

1. A Kingdom servant is not insecure, but knows who he/she is in Christ.

The Christ-like servant has no identity crisis and no esteem confusion. A servant does not need a vote from anyone to know he/she is "somebody" in Jesus Christ and "nobody" as far as the world is concerned. And he's fine with that.

2. A Kingdom servant is always ready, eager to find ways to give and to bless.

In the church, you may even notice he/she does not even wait to be asked, but sees a need and jumps in. The rest of us are amazed at such faithfulness, such humility, and such sweet willingness. Where, we wonder, does God get such people? They seem to be a breed apart.

3. A Kingdom servant will take the lowliest job which no one else wants.

A need is announced with quite a price to be paid, and silence prevails. No one wants that job with so much demanded and so little in return. That's because there are no servant-hearted in the room. The man/woman with a servant heart eagerly jumps up and volunteers for the worst task, the lowliest job, the most thankless assignment. Why? I don't know exactly, only that it's true.

By the way, these are not abstract principles. I have specific deacons in mind for each point. They are all treasures to everyone who knows them. It can be said of them what Hebrews 11 says of some saints of old: "Wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God."

4. A Kingdom servant will have the greatest attitude throughout.

Because his heart is in the right place ("hid with God in Christ" is how Paul put it), the servant-hearted will enjoy working with those troublesome 9-year-old boys or cleaning the nursery after an accident or remaining behind following the church dinner to clean. Listen closely and you will hear them singing.

They are such treasures.

5. A Kingdom servant will expect nothing in return.

When you decide to give them recognition or bestow an award on them, you will have to sneak around and surprise them since this is the last thing they want. The award will embarrass them. They live by the mantra given by our Lord in Luke 17:10, a great word for all servants in the Kingdom: "I am only an unworthy servant; I have only done my job."

Now, find a few people like this and make them deacons. (Which is to say, find some already serving and enable them to serve in greater ways.)

Jesus Teaches About Humility and Servanthood
Scripture: Luke 14:1-14

Just the fact that the only fault the Pharisees could find with Jesus was that He healed on the Sabbath tells us that He must have been a very good person. (We know that he was sinless). Jesus wasn't content to let them think that He was guilty of even one little sin, so He explained that the fault they'd found in Him wasn't a fault at all. Rather, they were criticizing Him for a virtue. He was helping someone who needed help on the Sabbath, just as they would do for their sons or animals if they were in need on the Sabbath. So Jesus proved that their only criticism of Him was unjustified. He was sinless.

As we've previously seen, the religion of the Pharisees was mostly just a show. They worked hard at looking good on the outside, but their inward motivation was all wrong. They were seeking the praise of men rather than the praise of God, something that usually characterizes religious people who are not born again. Jesus saw through them, and noted that their desire to be honored before others was evident even in how they seated themselves to eat a meal together. Each one tried to sit near the head of the table where the most "important" people sat, and Jesus seized the opportunity to teach a lesson about humility. When we exalt ourselves, we run the risk of being humbled, just like the man who takes a seat of honor at a wedding feast. It's much better and more pleasing to God if we will humble ourselves. If we will, we're more likely to be exalted.

Humble people are always thinking, not of themselves, but of others. For that reason, they have a servant's attitude, looking for opportunities to be a blessing. However, just because someone serves others isn't sure proof that he's a true servant. Many people outwardly seem to be kind and generous, but often they are just acting in order to gain people's favor. They are hoping to personally benefit in the long run. For example, people sometimes give gifts in order to make others feel indebted to them. That is one reason Jesus told us to give secretly. Secret gifts are motivated by pure love.

That is also why Jesus told the host of the dinner not to invite his friends, brothers, relatives and rich neighbors when he gave a dinner. They could and would repay him for his kindness. A higher, more godly love would be demonstrated by giving a dinner for those who could not repay him. Jesus told him that if he would give a dinner for people who could not repay him, such as the poor, crippled, lame and blind, God would reward him at the resurrection of the godly.

This doesn't mean that it's wrong for us to show love to our friends, brothers, relatives and neighbors. But our love for them could be just selfishness disguised as love if we have hidden motives. God is calling us to a higher love, one that is pure like His. He wants us to show love to those whom most people neglect, ignore, and even hate.

Q. What do you think God would say to a person who wants to look good in the eyes of others when he humbles himself with the hope of being exalted?

A. God would say that person is guilty of false humility. True humility has no plans for being exalted by other people. It only desires the praise of God.

Q. How do you think God feels about social cliques, small groups of exclusive people who look down upon or don't associate with those who don't meet their standards for acceptance?

A. He's against them, because they are held together by selfishness and convey hatred toward people He loves.

Application:

Is there anyone you know that most people ignore, a person who receives very little love from others? It may even be someone in your school or church who is a little different from everyone else. In light of what Jesus said, what do you think He wants you to do? Will you?

Source: Family Style Devotions

Leadership as Stewardship

by Dr. Albert Mohler

Christians are rightly and necessary concerned about leadership, but many Christians seem to aim no higher than secular standards and visions of leadership. We can learn a great deal from the secular world and its studies of leadership and its practices, but the last thing the church needs is warmed over business theories decorated with Christian language.

Christian leaders are called to convictional leadership, and that means leadership that is defined by beliefs that are transformed into corporate action. The central role of belief is what must define any truly Christian understanding of leadership. This means that leadership is always a theological enterprise, in the sense that our most important beliefs and convictions are about God. Our most fundamental beliefs about God determine everything else of importance about us. If our beliefs about God are not true, everything we know and everything we are will be warped and contorted by that false knowledge – and this fact points to a huge problem.

The culture around us has its own concept of God, and it has little to do with the God of the Bible. Out in the fog of modern culture, God has been transformed into a concept, a therapist, a benign and indulgent patriarch, and a user-friendly deity. As theologian David F. Wells states so powerfully, "We have turned to a God that we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that he is benign, that he will acquiesce as we toy with his reality and co-opt him in the promotion of our ventures and careers."

In the aftermath of this crisis in the knowledge of God, many essential truths are eclipsed or lost entirely, and one of those truths is the principle of stewardship.

The Sovereignty of God and the Stewardship of Leaders

Out in the secular world, the horizon of leadership is often no more distant than the next quarterly report or board meeting. For the Christian leader, the horizon and frame of reference for leadership is infinitely greater. We know that our leadership is set within the context of eternity. What we do matters now, of course, but what we do matters for eternity, precisely because we serve an eternal God and we lead those human beings for whom he has an eternal purpose.

But the most important reality that frames our understanding of leadership is nothing less than the sovereignty of God. Human beings may claim to be sovereign, but no earthly leader is anything close to being truly sovereign. In Daniel chapter 4, we learn of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, one of the most powerful monarchs in human history. God judges Nebuchadnezzar for his arrogance and pride, and he takes Nebuchadnezzar's kingly sovereignty away from him. Later, after his humbling lesson, God restored Nebuchadnezzar to his greatness. Now, if your sovereignty can be taken away from you, you are not sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar spoke of the lesson he had learned about who really was sovereign, and he testified of God's true sovereignty, stating that "his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation" (Daniel 4:34).

Like Nebuchadnezzar, today's Christian leaders know that God is sovereign, and we are not. But, what does it really mean to affirm God's sovereignty as Christian leaders?

It means that God rules over all space and time and history. It means that God created the world for his glory and directs the cosmos to his purpose. It means that no one can truly thwart his plans or frustrate his determination. It means that we are secure in the knowledge that God's sovereign purpose to redeem a people through the atonement accomplished by his Son will be fully realized. And it also means that human leaders, no matter their title, rank, or job description, are not really in charge.

The bottom line is this – we are merely stewards, not lords, of all that is put into our trust. The sovereignty of God puts us in our place, and that place is in God's service.

The Steward: The Real Meaning of Servant Leadership

The biblical concept of a steward is amazingly simple and easy to understand. The steward is one who manages and leads what is not his own, and he leads knowing that he will give an account to the Lord as the owner and ruler of all.

Stewards are entrusted with responsibility. Indeed, stewards in the Bible are shown to have both great authority and great responsibility. Kings had stewards who administered their kingdoms – just think of Joseph as Pharaoh's steward in Egypt. Rich citizens hired stewards to serve as what amounted to chief executive officers of their enterprises – just think of the parable Jesus told about the wicked steward in Luke 16:1-8.

Paul describes ministers as "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:11) and Peter spoke of all Christians as "good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10). Clearly, this is a concept that is central to both Christian discipleship and Christian leadership. Christian leaders are invested with a stewardship of influence, authority, and trust we are called to fulfill. In one sense, this underlines just how much God entrusts to his human creatures, fallible and frail as we are. We are called to exercise dominion over creation, but not as ones who own what we are called to lead. Our assignment is to serve on behalf of another.

Just think of the leadership failures and crises that regularly populate the headlines. Many, if not most of those failures originated in the leader's arrogance or overreaching. Stewards cannot afford to be arrogant, and they must quickly learn the danger of overreaching. At the same time, stewards are charged to act, and not to stand by as passive observers. Leaders are to lead, but to lead knowing that we are leading on another's behalf. Leaders – no matter their title or magnitude – are servants, plain and simple.

Source: This essay is an excerpt from my recent book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters. It is available at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and your local bookseller.


Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
Stewardship as a Response to Grace
Scripture: Exodus 34:1–9

Why did Moses need new stone tablets "like the first ones"? Because Moses smashed to pieces the original tablets (see Ex 32:19). Exodus 32 describes how the people of Israel grew weary of waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai; he had been gone for 40 days and 40 nights, and the people thought that Moses was dead or long gone. So Aaron, Moses' brother, led the people in idol worship, gluttony and, very likely, sexual immorality. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw what was happening, "his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces" (Ex 32:19). The words of God were destroyed.

But a few chapters later, we find God commanding Moses to make new tablets on which God would write the words that were on the first tablets. Can you imagine a greater act of mercy, love, forgiveness and grace? After all that had happened, God still desired to communicate with the Israelites.

Moses' response to the Lord's gracious action was worship (see Ex 34:8). Today our response to God's salvation should echo that of Moses. Yet when authors John and Sylvia Ronsvalle conducted a three-year study of money dynamics in the American church, they determined a surprising lack of correlation between grace and giving.

This area of theology, attempting to move from the law into a sense of the grace that ought to define financial giving patterns, has apparently been difficult for the church in the United States throughout its history. Robert Wood Lynn commented from his historical studies, "I don't think American Protestants have come close to a scriptural view of God's grace in stewardship. We are a law-ridden people, and the law is becoming more and more important as a means to move us. Why haven't we given more for 140 years? I don't think the American churches have been able to understand the full meaning of the gospel for this area of stewardship. We've been denying this for an awfully long time. It raises the whole fundamental meaning of the gospel. It is not only duties and obligations; it is also grace that can set us free. Then discipline can follow."

Lynn suggested that it is enormously difficult to talk about grace and the subject of financial stewardship, partly because it is so seldom talked about. "Grace is the central reality out of which we can begin to understand what we are to do with these resources. We have to get a conversation started on faith and money. We must not let this be interpreted as another spiritual assault where people are reminded they are selfish and greedy. We already know that. We need a setting in which we can talk about the meaning of money in our lives and discover how much it dominates our lives. We can use this as an occasion to understand again the whole meaning of the gospel. We cannot use grace in order to raise money. But rather we are going to the topic of grace to use this as an occasion to rethink what is the meaning of the gospel for this time."

Think About It

How has God shown grace to you?
How do you respond to God's grace?
What does God's grace have to do with your giving?

Pray About It

Lord, open my eyes to see your mercy and grace in my life. Then show me my appropriate response.

Source: Discovering God's Design, Bible Gateway

Increasing Mental Health Literacy in Rural America

New Mental Health First Aid Rural Guide Released

One in five Americans has a mental illness yet only about 4 in 10 of these people receive treatment. In rural America — where 20 percent of the country’s population lives — the challenges of getting mental health treatment are exacerbated by the fear of being misunderstood, lack of awareness about services and chronic shortage of behavioral health providers.

Mental Health First Aid delivery in rural communities helps to increase mental health literacy in rural America and connect people to care. A new guide focused on the delivery of Mental Health First Aid in rural communities was developed with support from the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions run by the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council).

“Rural communities have a long history of taking responsibility and coming up with innovative solutions to disparities their populations face. Mental Health First Aid is an excellent tool to grow awareness in these communities. It is a low-cost, high-impact program that emphasizes the concept of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council.

Mental Health First Aid helps to build community capacity to identify mental health and substance abuse issues early. Mental Health First Aid training in rural areas is offered through an in-person training that presents an overview of mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems. Participants learn a 5-step action plan to help individuals in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care.

Studies have found that people trained in Mental Health First Aid have greater confidence in helping others, a greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, improved concordance with health professionals about treatments and decreased stigmatizing attitudes.

Brought to the U.S. from Australia in 2008, the pioneering Mental Health First Aid program has already been delivered to more 100,000 Americans through a network of nearly 3,000 instructors. The training is intended for people from all walks of life, including non-clinical healthcare workers; school staff, counselors, and nurses; social and human services agency staff; law enforcement and corrections officers; nursing home staff; outreach workers; volunteers; clergy and members of faith communities; young people; families; and the general public.

Alaska Island Community Services (AICS) is testament to how Mental Health First Aid can make a difference in a rural community. A HRSA funded community health center in isolated Wrangell, Alaska, AICS has used federal grant funds to train local school system personnel, staff in integrated primary and behavioral health care clinics, respite providers and EMT first responders in Mental Health First Aid. The training has helped to reduce discrimination, make healthcare more user-friendly and accessible and has increased referrals as well as the likelihood of clients following up on referrals for behavioral health services.

Instructors already trained to teach the adult Mental Health First Aid program in their communities may add a rural certification by attending a brief online orientation and delivering a specified number of courses in designated rural areas annually (to learn more log in to the instructor web portal) Those new to Mental Health First Aid and interested in bringing the program to a rural community may review the Quick Start Guide. To find an instructor near you who can teach the course in your community, visit the Mental Health First Aid website and be sure to check for the blue “rural” icon.

The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,000 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than 8 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 100,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities. Learn more at www.thenationalcouncil.org/about/mental-health-first-aid/

Outreach for the Rural Mental Health First Aid project is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration under contract #HHSH250201200095P with Atlas Research and the University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health.

Family: Christian Parenting

by Edward Bickersteth

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. You shall teach them diligently to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:6-7

"The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous." Proverbs 3:33

The republication of Legh Richmond's "Domestic Portraiture" is a favorable opportunity for prefixing a few remarks on Christian education, a most important part of every parent's duty, and the root of innumerable future blessings. In doing this, the writer hopes, in some measure, to concentrate within a short compass, the many truly valuable exhortations and pressing entreaties to his children, by his honored and beloved friend, Mr. Richmond, which this volume contains.

It is common to hear complaints, that the children of pious parents disappoint the expectations which are usually and naturally formed; and it is true that this is too often the case; and that in some instances children piously educated, will, when they break through the restraints of education and habit, become excessively wicked—and they may, even like Eli's and David's children, perish in their wickedness. In these extreme cases, there has probably been either some serious neglect of parental duty, or the formation of unhappy friendships with others. At least, every Christian parent is mute before God under such awful dispensations, and is feelingly alive to the conviction of his own sinfulness.

But, after all, the mass of Christian piety in a country will be found to be in the generation of the pious; and though God shows his own sovereignty in sometimes raising up an eminent instrument of good from among the most wicked, he also shows the riches and the faith fullness of his own promises: "The generation of the upright is blessed." "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

It may be of use, briefly to notice some causes of lack of success, and also to touch upon the means of a successful Christian education.

In considering the causes of lack of success, we must first notice the disregard of one of the most important religious principles—a due knowledge of which lies at the root of all success in this work—that all children are by nature born in sin, and are children of wrath. They inherit from their parents, a carnal mind, which is enmity against God. However pious the parent, his nature is corrupt, and descends to his children. From us they derive that nature, and all success in education must be owing to God's blessing our efforts, and giving them his grace, that they may gain dominion over their natural and inbred corruption.

The Christian parent will ever be watchful to detect the workings of this corruption, even in those things which may appear to the eye of the world, pleasing and delightful. That alone which is the fruit of the Spirit—that alone which is superior to nature, will satisfy him. While he will forward and cultivate whatever is lovely and of good report, he will be, above all, anxious, that everything of this kind should proceed from Christian principle, and not from the mere love of human praise.

The indulgence of parents, proceeding from an idolatry of their children, is one of the most common sources of ill-success. This was the ruin of Eli's and of David's children, and it is a cause which is constantly operating in a vast variety of forms; such as indulgence in appetite, in dress, in pleasures, in yielding to any obviously improper requests, and in seeking rather to gratify their present wishes, than to secure their future, their spiritual, and their highest good.

The inconsistencies of Christian parents in their conduct and conversation, have a most pernicious influence over their children. The spirit of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, manifested by a parent—are eagerly and most naturally imbibed by children. They are creatures of imitation in all things—but they have a natural aptitude in imitating whatever is wrong. The bad tempers, the haughtiness, the self-will of the parents—are very soon indeed, copied by the child. Their admiration of riches, or rank, or talent—naturally engenders similar inordinate views and feelings in their children. Thus, our sins punish us in our offspring.

Improper friendships which children are allowed to form with others, whether of a similar, or of an older age, but especially of the latter—often ruin the best laid plans for education. Children are so soon captivated by delusive and spurious appearances of superior wisdom, and by the vain promises of liberty and pleasure; that one evening spent amidst the fascinations of worldly society, may unsettle and permanently injure their young and inexperienced minds.

Amid the common complaints of lack of success in the bringing up of children, complaints which are often heard from Christian parents—it is pleasant to contemplate those instances which sometimes occur, as in the families of Mr. Richmond, where more gratifying results have been realized.

The inquiry is most interesting, and most important—whence arises this difference?

A customary resource for consolation, and almost for justification, in cases of an unhappy description, is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

Often, however, this great and solemn doctrine is brought in as an excuse for parental neglect, when it would be just as reasonable to assign it as an excuse for exposing your child to a pestilence, or for leaving him, in sickness, without medical aid.

The cases above alluded to, and others quite numerous enough to form a rule, and not an exception, show that when certain means are used—the corresponding results may be expected to follow; and that the failure of the parent's hopes—may generally be traced to their own deficiency in their conduct.

In speaking however of means—a word perhaps inadequate—it is desirable to use that word in its utmost extent—to look upon it not merely as comprehending a certain routine of duties, but as embracing the whole obligation of the parent to the child.

The first and main obligation is Love. It is to be feared that the real root of the mischief of which we are speaking, little as it may be suspected, lies in a deficiency here.

Parents are lacking in a deep sense of the real worth and danger of their children's souls! They wish and hope that they may be serious and godly; but it is a sort of faint, ineffectual wish; not that ardent desire, that unceasing anxiety which filled Mr. Richmond's mind; not that love which made Paul exclaim, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ is formed in you."

From these feeble hopes and languid wishes, flow cold and formal prayers, offered as a duty—not as the inmost desire of the soul. There is no wrestling for the children, with the "I will not let you go except you bless me!" of Augustine's mother. Nor are these the prayers of faith; nor can they be expected to bring down blessings—since the promise is, "Whatever you shall ask, believing, you shall receive." They are often offered up from a mere sense of duty, without any expectation, and almost without any sincere desire, that they should be answered. With such weak and faint impressions of heavenly concerns, we may expect to find their children clinging firmly to the world. Just in proportion as the one is undervalued, the other is sure to be overestimated. The interests of the present life are eagerly sought after, the affairs of eternity postponed: hence all manner of temptations creep in.

A Christian parent had once, led by prospects of worldly advancement, placed his son beyond the reach of the public means of grace, and in the midst of manifold temptations. The son was shortly after on a visit to his father; and the parent prayed, in his family worship, that the boy might be preserved, amidst the various perils of his situation. The youth reflected, "Why does my father put me into the devil's mouth—and then pray to God that the devil may not be allowed to swallow me up?" Surely to have occasioned such a reflection from a child, must have been very painful to the parent?

The result of this line of conduct, half-Christian, and half-worldly, is to bring up a race of young people acquainted with the truths of religion, but without any effectual feeling of its power. They are thus in a worse situation than even the more ignorant—since the sound of the gospel can hardly reach the latter without some awakening of the conscience—whereas on the former everything that can be said falls as a mere repetition of what had been fully known for years, but never deeply or effectually felt.

The spirit of Mr. Richmond, then—his fervent love for his children's souls, his never-ceasing concern, his constant watchfulness, his daily and hourly prayers, not of form but of faith—furnish unitedly a model, to which the attention of Christian parents may be most advantageously directed.

Resting in the form of godliness without its life and power—is one of the great dangers to which the church is peculiarly exposed in this day of general profession. And parents had need be very watchful that they do not unawares foster the most dangerous self-deception in their children, by giving them credit for genuine regeneration and conversion, where there has been nothing more than excited natural feelings without any real spiritual change. When the young possess nothing more that what naturally amiable dispositions under religious culture may easily produce, they are soon overset in the rough sea of this world's trials and temptations. Let parents beware of too soon speaking peace and rest to an awakened mind, or a troubled conscience.
 

Anything can remind us of the Creator
A young soldier was in his bunkhouse all alone one Sunday morning over in Afghanistan. It was quiet that day, the guns and the mortars, and land mines for some reason hadn't made a noise. The young soldier knew it was Sunday, the holiest day of the week. As he was sitting there, he got out an old deck of cards and laid them out across his bunk.

Just then an army sergeant came in and said, "Why aren't you with the rest of the platoon?" The soldier replied, "I thought I would stay behind and spend some time with the Lord." The sergeant said, "Looks like you're going to play cards." The soldier said, "No sir, you see, since we are not allowed to have Bibles or other spiritual books in this country, I've decided to talk to the Lord by studying this deck of cards." The sergeant asked in disbelief, "How will you do that?"

A
"You see the Ace, Sergeant, it reminds that there is only one God.

2
The Two represents the two parts of the Bible,
Old and New Testaments.

3
The Three represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

4
The Four stands for the Four Apostles:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5
The Five is for the five virgins that were ten
but only five of them were glorified.

6
The Six is for the six days it took God to create
the Heavens and Earth.

7
The Seven is for the day God rested after working the six days.

8
The Eight is for the family of Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives, in which God saved the eight people from the flood that destroyed the earth for the first time.

9
The Nine is for the lepers that Jesus cleansed of leprosy. He cleansed ten but nine never thanked Him.

10
The Ten represents the Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses on tablets made of stone.

J
The Jack is a reminder of Satan. One of God's first angels, but he got kicked out of heaven for his sly and wicked ways and is now the joker of eternal hell.

Q
The Queen stands for the Virgin Mary.

K
The King stands for Jesus, for he is the King of all kings.

365
When I count the dots on all the cards, I come up with 365 total, one for every day of the year.

52
There are a total of 52 cards in a deck, each is a week, 52 weeks in a year.

Seasons
The four suits represents the four seasons:
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

13
Each suit has thirteen cards,
there are exactly thirteen weeks in a quarter.

So when I want to talk to God and thank Him, I just pull out this old deck of cards and they remind me of all that I have to be thankful for."

The sergeant just stood there and after a minute,
with tears in his eyes and pain in his heart,
he said, "Soldier, can I borrow that deck of cards?"

Courtesy-Bhagyalakshmi Sundaram

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