Make Me a Servant

by Sarah Langness

Alright.  I have a very anti-Christian-sounding confession to make. But don’t write me off or let this statement keep you from reading this in full:

Sometimes, I really don’t like praying.

Not the actual  act of praying, the whole talking to my Father, sharing my heart with Him stuff. I’m fine with that. But I don’t like praying for change . . . specifically, change in me. It’s like that whole concept of  “Don’t pray for patience, otherwise the Lord will give you more opportunities to practice patience.” I had one of those experiences this past week. Except I prayed for a servant heart. And man, was I ever tested.

It all started when I decided to start reading through the book of Mark. I began to notice how often Jesus mentioned servant hood and how often He Himself was a servant (1 Peter 2:21). And because He has left us an example to follow, I knew I needed to become a servant as well. That I needed to become less selfish as a mother and as a wife. That I needed to exemplify love as Paul describes it in that all-too familiar chapter that we don’t even really get anymore – 1 Corinthians 13. That I needed to put the needs of those in our church family and our community above my own. So my prayer became that of the old song:

Make me a servant, humble and meek.
Lord, let me lift up those who are weak.
And may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant.
Make me a servant . . . today.”

After only a few mornings of praying this prayer, the opportunities seemed to abound for me to be a servant. And they weren’t opportunities that came from a far-off place or would send me out of my comfort zone. They were in my own home.

They were opportunities with a toddler who suffered from a 102.2 fever and just wanted to cuddle for nearly two days. They were opportunities with that same toddler who, after the fever broke and he seemed to be himself, didn’t want to take naps in his crib and would only sleep while being held. They were opportunities with my husband, who can’t read my mind after only (almost) four years of marriage. They were opportunities to make a meal for a VBS team even when I felt like we had so much to get ready for our trip. They were opportunities to open our home to new friends even when I felt so tired at the end of the day.

Here’s my other confession: after a couple of days of constant opportunities to be a servant, I stopped praying that prayer. I was exhausted.

But ya know what? I should start praying that prayer again. Because Jesus was a servant even in death. I guess this time though, I’ll try not to be as surprised at the constant opportunities to serve.

“‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'”  Mark 10:42-45, (NASB) (emphasis mine)

Resting in God’s Perfect Way

by Sarah Nelson

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. ”  Psalm 18:30

Recently my oldest son returned to the U.S. after a six month adventure in Europe that included backpacking for three months and serving as an intern with the Josiah Venture ministry.   During the days of his return travel, I kept in touch with his friend and fellow traveler’s mother to keep track of where our sons were and how they were doing.   Relief was shared by both of us upon confirmation that our sons’ feet were back on familiar ground.

Over twenty-five years ago, my parents were on the sending end as I ventured out across the country, and eventually over seas.  My mother gave  the gift of sending me off with her blessing and encouragement.  She never once tied me down with the “what ifs” or worries that would be so understandable on the part of a parent.  She realized the truth of the quote that the “safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”   Her example of sending me out knowing that I was under God’s protection provided a wonderful model for me when it came time for me to  do the same with my children.

Does this mean that no illness, accident, or even death will touch us if we’re serving where and how God wants us to live for Him?  No.  We may very well encounter illness, difficulty, and trials. We will see our children and grand-children live with the realities of being born into a broken world.  What we can know and rest in is this:  Our God’s way is perfect and proven!  He is the shield of our soul, and will welcome us in to heaven because of His death and resurrection.  His victory over the grave is our assurance of life with Him, not just here, but for eternity.

May we live lives surrendered to the One who calls us His.  May we give our children and grandchildren the encouragement to trust that God is their protection from the darts of the Enemy and the woes of this world.   May we love them enough to let them go and serve the One whose plans are always perfect, trustworthy, and certain.

Thoughts on Expectations and Following Jesus

by Sarah Langness

I was pretty excited this past weekend to have a named winter storm headed our way. Gandalf was coming, and supposedly he was bringing a significant amount of snow, lots of strong winds, and some frigid temperatures. Since Gandalf was going to be so intense, I expected to hunker down inside: no morning walks with my baby boy, an increased consumption of hot beverages, dozens of cookies baked as the wind howled and snow fell; maybe even having my husband trapped inside and unable to go to work. No such luck: we only got a couple inches of snow and the wind didn’t seem extraordinarily fierce. I was able to walk on Friday morning after all. I didn’t drink more coffee than usual; I didn’t even make hot cocoa. I didn’t bake cookies. And Jordan still had to go to work. My expectations sure weren’t met.

I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about my expectations in regards to my service to Jesus. If you would have asked me ten years ago how I would be serving Jesus today as a 24-year-old, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably something lofty, obviously important, and amazing. Like living in Africa serving in an orphanage. Or working in a children’s ministry at a church alongside my youth-director husband. Or missionary service at a homeless shelter. Emily Freeman sums up my thoughts in her book Grace for the Good Girl:

“I am struck by how I have lived in a constant state of high expectation. I compared my current life to the one I thought I would be living. I compared my Jesus walk to the way it seemed it ought to be. I had clear ideas about what important Jesus work was supposed to look like, and it had nothing to do with cleaning the toilet.”

This past week, I’ve been challenged to change my thinking on what it means to follow Jesus. All too often, it is easy for me to focus on the big things, the obvious things, that people do to serve the Lord. But there are ways in which we are to serve the Lord that may go completely unnoticed by others. Like clamping our mouth shut when we want to participate in gossip. Like putting others’ needs before my own. Like bringing a meal to someone in need. Like getting to know my neighbor across the street and sharing Jesus’ love with them. Like giving more than I’m receiving. Like telling the truth instead of lying. Like not envying that couple’s house or those girls’ friendships. Like being the best mom I can be to my little Ezekiel and the best wife I can be to Jordan.

Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him probably includes those huge, mountain-moving acts of faithful service like serving as a missionary in a foreign country. But I think, more applicable to the average Joe like me, it has to do with our daily living right here in HomeTown, USA. It might not seem as exciting or as important for the Kingdom – but it is.

However we serve, however we live, I pray that we would be working to hear these glorious words:

“‘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.'” – Matthew 25:21

Let Him

If I ever went back to college, I think I’d get a degree in psychology. I have no idea what I’d do with it; I just like to try and figure people out. Like what made my brother-in-law Caleb decide to be a cat one day in school? Or what made him look in the freezer for a lost pair of shoes? There are other things I like to try and figure out too. Like why some days my son fights his naps and other days he quickly succumbs to sleep. Or why certain days he is excessively spitty more than others. But I’ve simply had to resign myself to the reality that I’ll never have it all figured out; I’ll never truly understand why people do what they do.Sometimes we do that with God, don’t we? We try to figure Him out. We try to decide why He does what He does. We try to determine why He allows certain events to happen. And I believe there are times when we believe we’ve got the Lord all figured out.

But we don’t. And we never will.

“Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?” – Romans 11:33-35 

“The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:11

Take comfort in the fact that nothing escapes the Lord. He knows about your heartache. He knows about your pain. But maybe instead of trying to figure Him out, trying to decipher His reasoning and decisions — maybe just let Him be God and let you be His child. Let Him hold your tears; let Him bring you strength; let Him be your joy.

I think that’s what trust is all about: not having to know everything and simply leaning on the strength of the One who does.

“‘I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so 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

Praying for Your Pastor – Day 31

Ask God to heal any hurts that your pastor has suffered in the ministry. Pray that he will
serve the Lord with gladness, and encourage the congregation to worship God with a joyful, surrendered spirit.

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

Taken from Revive Our Hearts

Praying for Your Pastor’s Wife – Day 30

Pray that the Word will be her counselor, and that she will serve the Lord with gladness,
and encourage others to worship with a joyful, surrendered spirit.

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3

Your testimonies also are my delight;
They are my counselors.  Psalm 119:24

Taken from Revive Our Hearts