The True Servant

By |2020-12-03T08:06:05-05:00December 10th, 2020|

In 27 BC, the Roman ruler Octavian came before the Senate to lay down his powers. He’d won a civil war, become the sole ruler of that region of the world, and was functioning like an emperor. Yet he knew such power was viewed suspiciously. So Octavian renounced his powers before the Senate, vowing to simply be an appointed official. Their response? The Roman Senate honored the ruler by crowning him with a civic crown and naming him the servant of the Roman people. He was also given the name Augustus—the “great one.”

Paul wrote of Jesus emptying Himself and taking on the form of a servant, Augustus appeared to do the same. Or had he? Augustus only acted like he was surrendering his power for his own gain. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). Death on a Roman cross was the worst form of humiliation and shame.

Today, a primary reason people today praise “servant leadership” as a virtue is because of Jesus. Humility wasn’t a Greek or Roman virtue. Because Jesus died on the cross for us, He is the true Servant. He’s the true Savior.

Christ became a servant in order to save us. He “made himself nothing” so that we could receive something truly great—the gift of salvation and eternal life.

Who’s It For?

By |2020-10-28T09:06:05-04:00October 28th, 2020|

The picture made me laugh out loud. Crowds had lined a Mexican avenue, waving flags and throwing confetti as they waited for the pope. Down the middle of the street strolled a stray puppy, appearing to grin as if the cheering was entirely for him. Yes! Every dog should have its day, and it should look like this.

It’s cute when a puppy “steals the show,” but hijacking another’s praise can destroy us. David knew this, and he refused to drink the water his mighty warriors had risked their lives to get. He had wistfully said it would be great if someone would fetch a drink from the well in Bethlehem. Three of his soldiers took him literally. They broke through enemy lines, drew the water, and carried it back. David was overwhelmed by their devotion, and he had to pass it on. He refused to drink the water, but “poured it out before the Lord” as a drink offering (v. 16).

How we respond to praise and honor says a lot about us. When praise is directed toward others, especially God, stay out of the way. The parade is not for us. When the honor is directed toward us, thank the person and then amplify that praise by giving all the glory to Jesus. The “water” is not for us either. Give thanks, then pour it out before the Lord.

A Critical Reaction

By |2020-10-09T09:06:03-04:00October 9th, 2020|

Tough words hurt. So my friend—an award-winning author—struggled with how to respond to the criticism. His new book had earned 5-star reviews plus a major award. Then a respected magazine reviewer gave him a backhanded compliment, describing his book as well-written yet still criticizing it harshly. Turning to friends, he asked, “How should I reply?”

One friend advised, “Let it go.” I shared advice from writing magazines, including tips to ignore such criticism, or learn from it even while continuing to work and write.

Finally, however, I decided to seek the best advice of all. What does Scripture say about how to react to strong criticism? The book of James advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). The apostle Paul counsels us to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).

An entire chapter of Proverbs, however, offers extended wisdom on reacting to disputes. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1. “The one who is patient calms a quarrel” (v. 18). Also, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding” (v. 32). Considering such wisdom, may God help us hold our tongues, as my friend did. More than all, however, wisdom instructs “fear the Lord” (v. 33) because “humility comes before honor.” 

Photobombing Jesus

By |2020-05-08T16:10:09-04:00May 13th, 2020|

When my pastor asked our class a difficult question about the life of Jesus, my hand shot up. I had just read the story, so I knew this one. And I wanted the others in the room to know that I knew it too. After all, I’m a Bible teacher. How embarrassing it would be to be stumped in front of them! Now I was embarrassed by my fear of embarrassment. So I lowered my hand. Am I this insecure...

The Main Actor

By |2019-10-03T07:53:28-04:00October 11th, 2019|

I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well organized and moving...

Walking Backward

By |2019-09-11T14:06:52-04:00September 7th, 2019|

I stumbled upon footage from a British newsreel crew who filmed six-year-old Flannery O’Connor on her family farm in 1932. Flannery, who would go on to become an acclaimed US writer, caught the crew’s curiosity because she’d taught a chicken to walk backward. Apart from the novelty of the feat, I thought this glimpse of history was a perfect metaphor...

Following the Leader

By |2018-12-19T15:15:22-05:00December 20th, 2018|

In the sky over our house, three fighter jets scream through the sky—flying in formation so close together they appear to be one. “Wow,” I say to my husband, Dan. “Impressive,” he agrees. We live near an Air Force base and it’s not unusual to see such sights. Every time these jets fly over, however, I have the same question: How can they fly so close together and not lose control? One obvious reason, I learned, is humility...

Asking for Help

By |2018-10-02T15:48:00-04:00October 3rd, 2018|

Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions. The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine...

The Right Way to Pray

By |2018-09-12T10:34:54-04:00September 16th, 2018|

I admire people who record prayer requests in journals tattered from daily handling, those who keep track of every prayer and praise and then faithfully update their lists. I’m inspired by those who gather with others to pray and whose kneeling wears out the carpet at their bedsides. For years, I tried to copy their styles, to emulate a perfect prayer life, and to imitate the eloquence of the so-much-more-articulate-than-me folks...

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