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Teddy Bentulan
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Teddy Bentulan

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Being a Servant Is Unannounced
by Charles R. Swindoll

John 13:6-11

As Jesus prepared to wash His disciples' feet, He never said, "Men, I am now going to demonstrate servanthood---watch my humility."

No way.

That kind of obvious pride was the trademark of the Pharisees. If you wondered whether they were humble, all you had to do was hang around them awhile. Sooner or later they would announce it . . . which explains why Jesus came down so hard on them (just look at Matthew 23!).

Unlike those pious frauds, the Messiah slipped away from the table, quietly pulled off His outer tunic, and with towel, pitcher, and pan in hand, He moved quietly from man to man. Now understand, please, that they weren't sitting as they are portrayed in Leonardo da Vinci's work The Last Supper. All due respect for that genius, but he missed it when he portrayed the biblical scene through Renaissance eyes. They were not sitting in ladder-back, dining-room chairs all on one side of a long table!

In those days, people reclined at a meal, actually leaning on one elbow as they lay on their side on a small, thin pad or on a larger rug covering the floor. The table was a low, rectangular block of wood upon which the food was placed. And they ate with their hands, not utensils. This position meant that if your feet were not clean, your neighbor was very much aware of it. It would be hard to ignore a face full of dirty feet.

As Jesus reached Peter, I am sure most of the small talk had dwindled. By now, the men realized their wrong. Guilt had begun to push its way into their hearts. Peter must have drawn his feet up close to him when he said, in effect, "No! Not my feet. Never, ever, ever will you wash my feet, from now 'til eternity!" This reveals a second observation about having a gentle and humble heart: being a servant includes receiving graciously as well as giving graciously.

Peter wasn't about to be that vulnerable. After all, Jesus was the Master. No way was He going to wash the dirt off Peter's feet! I ask you, is that humility? You know it's not.

Being willing to receive sometimes takes more grace than giving to others. And our reluctance to do so really exposes our pride, doesn't it?
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A Servant, not a Superstar
by Charles R. Swindoll

Matthew 11:28-29

A familiar essay anonymously written many years ago says this about Jesus Christ:

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Impressive words regarding the most phenomenal Person who ever cast a shadow across earth's landscape. Without question, He is unique. He is awesome in the truest sense of the term.

But what was He like personally down inside His skin? Is there any place in Scripture, for example, where He described Himself? The answer is yes. Does that description fit the common idea of human greatness? The answer is no.

I remember my surprise some years back when I received a slick, multicolored brochure in my morning mail announcing a series of lectures to be delivered in Los Angeles by a man who was a well-known Christian "superstar" of the day. He was a popular speaker who traveled all over the country, and his name is still familiar to most folks in the family of God. But I confess, I lifted my eyebrows in astonishment when I read the words used to describe him in that advertisement:

A phenomenal individual . . .
In great demand around the world . . .
Today's most sought-after speaker!

That's a far cry from the way Jesus Christ described Himself:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

Unlike most influential, celebrity types, Jesus's description of Himself doesn't sound like the popular hype we've grown accustomed to hearing. Jesus was a servant, not a superstar.
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Hidden Greed
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 2 Kings 5:14-27

The prophet Elisha's servant, Gehazi, was the bearer of news the Syrian officer, Naaman, did not want to hear. As a result, Naaman threw a fit. But do you know what later happened to Naaman? He finally did precisely what he was told to do, and he received the miraculous result he had been promised (2 Kings 5:14).

Unlike many people whom you and I may help, Naaman returned to thank Elisha and Gehazi. He was so overwhelmed, he offered a sizable gift of gratitude. Elisha refused any tangible thank you (5:15-19). But that's not the end of the account. Naaman offered Gehazi a gift as well. Deep within the heart of Elisha's servant crouched a silent beast of the soul. It is perhaps the most subtle peril every servant of God must endure: hidden greed.

This is the secret, smoldering desire to be rewarded, applauded, and exalted. Elisha said, "No." No way did he want the soldier ever to say, "Elisha did it for what he would get out of it," which prompted the prophet to respond as he did---"I will take nothing" (5:16). But Gehazi was cut from another piece of cloth. Maybe he was weary of feeling used and unappreciated, or perhaps he had had enough of just getting by on a shoestring. Whatever his reasoning, he possessed some pretty strong feelings, since he second-guessed Elisha's decision (5:20), falsified the story when he met up with Naaman (5:22), and attempted to cover his tracks when he later stood before his master (5:25). Gehazi's end was tragic.

Exposed and sternly judged, Gehazi experienced a horrible punishment---leprosy (5:25-27). Gehazi had not only gone against the decision of the prophet, he had lied to him when confronted with his deeds.

The servant was accountable! Accountability is essential in order for any servant of God to remain pure and pliable clay in the Master's hand.

Frankly, I'm grateful such extreme consequences don't happen to us today when our motives are wrong. If they did, churches would be full of people with leprosy.
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Dealing with Disrespect and Resentment
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 2 Kings 5:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

A man named Naaman was a high-ranking Syrian soldier. He was influential, wealthy, proud---a man of dignity, courage, patriotism, and military clout. There was only one problem: the man had leprosy. Through a chain of interesting events, Naaman was led to Elisha for cleansing from his dread disease (2 Kings 5:1-14).

It fell to Elisha's servant to be the bearer of news the Syrian officer did not want to hear. As we read in the account, the high-ranking soldier was offended. He became enraged. And look who was caught in the crossfire---the servant. The dear guy didn't generate the news, he just communicated it . . . and boom! The result? Feeling and hearing the verbal blows of disrespect and resentment. Let me stretch this out and apply it.

There are times when God's servant is called upon to confront or in some way tell another the truth that the individual does not want to hear. The information may be painful to accept, but it is what God wants said. So the faithful servant says it. Graciously yet accurately. And all of a sudden the lid blows sky high. He is caught in the crossfire. What do you do in such precarious moments? Fight back? Yell and scream and threaten in return?

Listen to God's counsel to servants whose job it is to say hard things:

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

What wise counsel! Not quarrelsome, but kind. Not irritated, but patient . . . even when wronged. Not angry, but gentle.

God may be using your words to help the hearers "come to their senses," which may sound very noble. But, believe me, there are times it's not a lot to write home about.
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Feeling Used and Unappreciated
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 2 Kings 4; Hebrews 6:10

For a servant named Gehazi, working alongside a high-profile, greatly respected prophet like Elisha was a privilege. But at the same time, it was a particular position that brought about unique temptations.

The "miracle child" God had given the barren Shunammite woman grew up and was old enough to work in the fields. While doing so, he either received a severe blow to his forehead or suffered a sunstroke or some other serious internal problem, causing the young lad to cry out, "My head, my head!" (2 Kings 4:19). Naturally, the mother thought immediately of Elisha. If anybody can help, Elisha can.

Elisha laid out a plan, and his servant was dispatched to the bedside of the mother's son. We can be sure Gehazi's heart was beating fast. He must have anticipated an exciting response, as God would surely raise the lad from death. He would be involved in a miracle! But nothing happened. Not a thing changed.

Suddenly, Elisha burst on the scene, and phenomenal results occurred. A miracle transpired. The child was raised!

Try to identify with Gehazi. As you do so, you'll feel some of the very human feelings Gehazi must have felt. Serve others long enough and you'll periodically dip into this valley. Gehazi had done exactly what he was told to do. Yet he had witnessed no change, no miracle. In came Elisha who suddenly did it all. And guess who was given the assignment to tell the mother? Gehazi!

And if that isn't sufficient, the chapter goes on to relate how a famine struck the area. Our friend, Gehazi, was told to whip up a pot of stew. Inadvertently, poisonous plants were dropped into the crockpot, and everybody cried out! But Elisha showed up and fixed the problem---again (4:38-44).

Gehazi had done the work . . . but Elisha got all the credit. I mean, the servant couldn't even make stew! How frustrated can one get? So it is with serving today. It is so easy to feel used and unappreciated.

Do I write to you who serve behind the scenes in a ministry or a business? You work faithfully and diligently, yet the glory goes to another. Your efforts make someone else successful. How easy to feel resentful! Assistant directors, associate and assistant pastors, secretaries, administrators, "internal personnel," take heart! Our God who rewards in secret will never overlook your commitment.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)

A great verse for those of you who feel used and unappreciated.
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Proud Hearts and Dirty Feet
by Charles R. Swindoll

John 13:3-11

The gentle and humble lifestyle of the Savior is nowhere more evident than in the account of John 13, where He washed the feet of His friends, the disciples. In that event, He left us some timeless principles we dare not ignore regarding serving God.

The scene is first-century Jerusalem. Paved roads were few. In fact, within most cities they were unheard of. The roads and alleys in Jerusalem were more like winding dirt trails, all covered with a thick layer of dust. When the rains came, those paths were liquid slush, several inches of thick mud. It was the custom, therefore, for the host to provide a slave at the door of his home to wash the feet of the dinner guests as they arrived. The servant knelt with a pitcher of water, a pan, and a towel and washed the dirt or mud off the feet as each guest prepared to enter the home. Shoes, boots, and sandals were left at the door, a custom still prevalent in the Far East.

If a home could not afford a slave, one of the early arriving guests would graciously take upon himself the role of the house servant and wash the feet of those who came. What is interesting is that none of the disciples had volunteered for that lowly task . . . so the room was filled with proud hearts and dirty feet. Interestingly, those disciples were willing to fight for a throne but not a towel. Things haven't changed a lot since then, by the way.

Read rather carefully the account of what transpired:

Jesus . . . got up from supper . . . and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean." (John 13:3-11)

Meditate on the scene John describes for us. Tomorrow, I'll share some observations about the example Jesus set for us in serving others.
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Three Timely Lessons for God's Servants
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read John 15:20; Acts 24:16; Hebrews 6:10

In recent posts, I have written about God's servants feeling used and unappreciated, experiencing undeserved disrespect and resentment, and having hidden greed---a desire to be rewarded.

From these very real and common perils, there emerge at least three timely lessons for all of us to remember.

Lesson one: no servant of God is completely safe. A tough truth to accept! We who give and give become increasingly more vulnerable as time passes (read John 15:20). Truth be told, there are times we'll get ripped off. We will be used. We will feel unappreciated. But realizing ahead of time this will happen, we are better equipped to handle it when it comes. The proper perspective will guard us against stumbling into peril. Lean hard on the Master when you serve others.

Lesson two: most of the servant's deeds will be initially unrewarded. That's a basic axiom we must accept (read Hebrews 6:10). If you are the type who needs a lot of strokes from people, who has to be appreciated before you can continue very long, you'd better forget about being a servant. More often than not, you will be overlooked, passed up, placed behind the scenes, and be virtually unknown. Your reward will not come from without but from within. Not from people but from the satisfaction God gives you down inside.

Much of the ministry requires this mentality. A pastor may stand at the door of the church following his sermon and shake hands with the flock as everybody says nice things about him (my friend Howard Hendricks calls this "the glorification of the worm," a description I certainly agree with), but in reality, if that man preaches for those few moments of flattery---and most don't---he's in the wrong business.

Lesson three: all motives must be honestly searched. Before jumping, think to ask why (read Acts 24:16). Before accepting any tangible gifts of gratitude (and there are occasions when such is perfectly acceptable), probe into your reason for doing so.

Check your motive, fellow servant.
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Good Will Come
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26

As a pastor, counselor, and seminary chancellor, I have often found myself in an unpopular spot. An individual who has come to me pours out his or her soul. And God very clearly leads me to confront or point out a few specifics that the person finds rather painful to hear, not to mention accept.

Suddenly, I become the verbal punching bag.

Now understand, I didn't write the Book, and I in no way view myself as the individual's judge, even though the person may think I do. But I have had counselees scream at me, curse, stomp out of the room, and share with me a piece of their mind they couldn't afford to lose. Some wait until later and write me one of those flaming missiles that burns your eyes when you read it.

And what did I do to deserve that treatment? I told the truth. I simply carried a message as tactfully and well-timed as possible, but it was rejected---at least for a while.

But the payoff comes later when the person realizes the truth was told and I really had his or her good at heart.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: being God's servant may not be very pleasant, but when you do and say what is right---unpopular though it may be---good will come.

Or better, in the words of Solomon:

When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
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To Serve and to Give
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Mark 10:45

God's true servant is like the Lord Jesus, who came not "to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

To serve and to give.

Pride wants strokes---lots of them. It loves to get the credit, to be mentioned, to receive glory, to have people ooh and ahh. Ideally, your superiors will be thoughtful people who give you the credit you deserve, but, regrettably, that will not always occur. And your pride will need to be held in check.

At those tough times when you do the work and someone else gets the strokes, remember your role: to serve and to give.

True love flowing from authentic servants does not keep a record of who did what, and it does not look to others for the credit. In other words, real servants stay conscious of the blindness pride can create.
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Some Common Misconceptions, Part 1
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4-7

Does it surprise you that being a servant of God is perilous?

To some folks, serving others sounds as safe and harmless as a poached egg on a plate. What could possibly be perilous about it? Plenty.

As we examine Paul's words in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, I'd like to suggest several familiar misconceptions regarding servanthood. Read verses four through seven carefully:

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:4-7)

Sounds like servants comprise an elite body of people, doesn't it? They possess a treasure. The "surpassing greatness" of God's power pours out of their lives. But when you look closely, you detect that all of that is of God, not themselves.

This introduces us to misconception number one: servants have special powers in themselves. How very easy it is to look at God's servants through rose-colored glasses! It's almost as if they possess a mystical, divine unction or some angelic "mantle" that causes them to ooze with supernatural, heaven-sent power. But this is wrong! Look at an earlier verse:

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)

They have no special powers in themselves. Tomorrow, I'll offer a couple of more misconceptions.

But for now, mark it well: servants are absolutely human, filled with all the weaknesses and potential for failure that characterize every other human being.
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