Tag Archives: service

Finding Calcutta

I thought Finding Calcutta by Mary Poplin would be a casual read – some good stories but nothing to write down, meditate about, and share.  I was wrong.  Mary Poplin spent a period of months working beside Mother Teresa.  She is a professor at U of Texas, but writes so even I can understand.  She writes about her inner and outer journey during those months, and I find her insights pierce me.

“Discouragement is a sign of pride.  It shows that I was focused on results, perhaps in my own power, rather than faith and obedience to God’s direction and his responsibility for results.”

As I read, I was faced with my own self.  Her insights on generosity humbled and frightened me, and I realized that I’ve never really sacrificed.  Her experiences of obedience stressed that my faithfulness to God’s present call prepares me for his call later.  If God calls me to wash windows, I must wash them so the angels stop and say, “There is a great window washer, a man faithful to his call.  What a servant of God!”  Obedience is the path to “my Calcutta”.

This book is an easy, but slow, read.  It was easy to understand, but the application of what I understood made me pause in every chapter.  Truth is like that.



Filed under Be Like Jesus, Missions

Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood may be the best Christian book I’ve read on the concept of working in other cultures.

He combines practical and theoretical to create an easy reading book on the why and how of working in cultures different from my own.  Perhaps what I like best is that he isn’t afraid to step on some toes.  The back cover has this bold quote, “Missionaries could more effectively minister if they did not think they were so superior to us.”  Then I opened the cover and started reading a number of true but painful words that led me to several conclusions, a few of which I list below:

  • I can be a person who serves or I can be a servant.  One is something I do, and the other is who I am.
  • Withholding acceptance from a person is rejecting a creation of God.  It is a sin against Jesus.    (1 Corinthians 8:12)
  • Trust can take a long time to establish but very little time to break.
  • I will not have meaningful relationships or effective communication in another culture until I can assemble their seemingly illogical, random actions, and reasoning into the framework of their root beliefs – their world view.

He helped me realize that it may not be prudent to jump right into a new culture and start serving.  He believes several factors need to be considered before I step through culture boundaries to serve: openness, acceptance, trust, learning, understanding.

He opened my eyes to one of the most logical, godly forms of leadership, a style he called “Traditional Tribal Chief”.  (I’ll let you read about that in chapter 11.)  And I admired his critique on Christianity’s infatuation with the topic of leadership.  Here are five thoughts on leadership that I gleaned from the reading:

  1. The Bible talks much more about serving than leading.
  2. I can expect good and bad leaders.
  3. Knowing Scripture doesn’t make me a good leader.
  4. God alone gifts and appoints leaders.  People who are trained as leaders, but not gifted and appointed, cause problems for everyone.
  5. Sometimes I may lead uniquely, but I need to lead Biblically at all times.

I’ve gone on too long.  Suffice it to say that I liked the book.  The time spent reading it was a good investment.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.  Look for “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” as you scroll through the box.


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True Humility

weekly theme #52 True Humility*  

week containing the Sunday between October 23-29

One of the best ways for me to be humbled is to be around someone better than me.  I’ve looked like a fool in athletic contests, been hiked into the ground, and displayed my ignorance on many a test.  However, the ultimate humbling will be to stand before the LORD.  What have I ever done or said that will impress the LORD?  Thankfully, he doesn’t seek my greatness he seeks my worship.  Worship is a form of humility because it places me in the position of a servant.  Worship declares that I am not the ruler of myself.  Worship yanks from under me any platform for self-praise or boasting.  All praise belongs to God.

When I say I’m proud of an accomplishment, I’m most likely just proud of myself.  When I reflect back on accomplishments, I am tempted to reside there and bask in my past.  However, if I look back as an act of worship to God’s work, work that he allowed me to be a part of, it can inspire me to be ready for the next serving opportunity God has prepares.

I can be a Christian leader and still not be humble.  Loud boasting or obvious acts of selfishness are not required to be self-focused.  I see more subtle evidence in my own life: impatience, defensiveness*, judging other’s motives, concern about being used while serving, and mentally ranking the worth of people.  The most damning evidence of my self-focus is when I receive an instruction from God and respond with “Yes, but I don’t think…”  I’m sure there are other signs of selfishness in my life that I can’t even see – but you can.

For me, humility takes intentional effort, and I’m not sure it will ever come naturally.  I guess the first step is seeing the problem.  The next step is asking God to create a desire in me for humility.  The courage to continue in humility, even when it’s humiliating – that’s a gift from God, too.

*thoughts on “defensiveness” as a sign of self-focus – I live in the tension of two conditions.  God created me from dust, I am a chronic sinner, and I am mortal flesh.  However, I am also a beloved child of God, I am cleansed of sin by Jesus, and I am an immortal soul.  If I fail to embrace both sides of this coin, if I see myself only as one or the other, I can end up self-absorbed.  That self-absorption can be revealed by arrogant boasting or by defensive insecurity and neither is God’s desire. Paul identified himself to Timothy as an apostle as well as the worst of all sinners.  Paul described similar extremes for Jesus in Philippians 2:6-7.  I believe remembering those extremes allowed Paul to be so usable by God.  Lack of knowing who I am and lack of confidence that God can accept me as I am creates unsure footing for walking the path of service.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Servants Of God

weekly theme #51 Servants Of God*         

week containing the Sunday between October 16-22

The extremes of being a disciple of Jesus are striking to me.  God entrusts his disciple with incredible power for doing good:  healings, raising the dead, and proclaiming the Good News.  The opposite side of the coin is that the disciple is totally dependent upon God and people to meet the disciple’s daily needs.  (Matthew 10)  This irony is probably necessary so the disciple is neither proud nor discouraged, for being a servant of Christ is more than serving.  It is also an attitude of humility in both sacrifice and accomplishment.  Those I serve ought to have a servant who is loving, joyful, humble and earnestly seeking to live each day in a way that is pleasing to the Master and helpful to those served.  I want to be that kind of servant, but most days that goal seems far away.

I’m nearly sixty, and I still don’t live as a servant of Christ.  A servant is consumed with the desires of the Master.  The Master’s command should trump what I want, have planned, or even need, but I find myself clinging to my plans, ideas, and loves.  These personal things clamor for so much attention that I can’t even sense my Master’s efforts to communicate.  Before I was born, he knew that I would serve him, but he also knew that many times I would serve him poorly, or refuse to serve him. Even with that foreknowledge, he loved me, and continues to love me.  His steadfast love is the steady light in the darkness.  My prayer is, “Master, save me from my lukewarm, diluted service.”

I am only able to do the Master’s work because I depend upon the Master for guidance, opportunity, power, persistence…everything.  Including the results.

Note: I’m not sure how this relates to this week’s theme, but in one of the readings, Paul’s ideas at the end of 2 Timothy 2, convicted me.  I must avoid arguments that yield only division.  Respectfully and effectively, I must be able to explain truth, and I need to be patient with those who disagree.  Sometimes he uses my words, actions, or attitudes to impact a person.  Sometimes he doesn’t.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.


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The Church For Others

weekly theme #37 *

week containing the Sunday between July 10-16

The Church is not an organization, building, or event.  The Church is people who are followers of Jesus.  Followers of Jesus are to give love, light, and life to all those around them, both those who are members of the Church and those who are not.  People who need the love of the Church may appear unlovely, so I respond to them as I see them – as pitiful, undeserving, or repulsive.  Perhaps all at the same time.  However, it’s possible for both my response and view to change, usually simultaneously if I want God to change me.  He will enable me to see past their condition to who they really are, the beloved of God.

I have a relationship with Jesus and sharing about it is a service to others.  It isn’t right for me to do the King’s service and not acknowledge him as my King.  The King intends for the Church to be instruments for establishing the Kingdom of God to earth.  Somehow, I must find common ground and yet be noticeably “different” among those not yet in the Church.  Likely, this process will take time, humility, faithfulness, and effort, and God’s Spirit is the only way those qualities can be seen in my life.  The Church is prompt others to give Jesus his rightful glory, and Jesus identified one of the ways.  He prayed, “…that [the Church] may be one, as we are – I in them and you in me, all perfected into one.  Then the world will know that you sent me…”  (John 17:22b-23a)  When I join the Church in unity, it is convincing proof to those not in the Church that Jesus is truly the Son of God.

The world is more interested in seeing sermons that hearing them, but it seems I am caught in a pursuit of Christian knowledge rather than Christian living.  How many sermons must I hear, books read, and Bible studies attend before I am ready to obey the Lord’s two greatest commands and live the Great Commission?  (Matthew 22:37-39, 28:18-20)  The Holy Spirit lives in me and is willing to empower me to live my faith in a way that proclaims and glorifies the LORD – if only I will listen and cooperate.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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