Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"What's Wrong With the Old Hymns?"

Carl’s frustrated with the “worship” at church. Annoyed, he asks, "What is wrong with the old hymns, spiritual songs and liturgy? Why must we worship to rock and roll?" Carl can be such a geezer!

When people say, “Worship was good this morning,” they mean they “experienced” something during the music portion of the church service. When worship leader Don would hear people say, “Worship wasn’t very good this morning,” he’d say, “Next time, try worshipping God!” Of course, he’d say it with a twinkle in his eye. God is wonderful every morning!

After years overseas, Ann and I came home to the US. We were going to once again, get to “worship” God in church, in English, not with just a few, but with hundreds of other believers. We were so looking forward to this! This was going to be great!

The set up was, that I considered worship as singing songs to or about God. It can include that. But what does the Bible say about worship?

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:1,2

Worship is being transformed by God, and learning His will, so that we can live accordingly. After the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell believers. We became temples of the Holy Spirit of God Himself! However as temple buildings go, we’re “Fixer Uppers.” I’ve been under His renovation for 25 years now, and if anyone takes time off, sadly it’s me. Only as we let Him transform us, are we truly worshipping Him. Singing what we like is nice, but real worshipping, is when we let Him do His work in and through us. Jesus said:

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
John 4:23,24

That year that Ann and I came home, I had a difficult start. I’d anticipated corporate worship as I’d remembered it before going overseas. But the worship music changed! Everyone leading us in song seemed younger, and the music felt strange. When I asked what style of music they played, the answer was, “It’s you know, kind of like grunge?”

In the early 80s the choruses had rousing beats with lively melodies. When we sang, we clapped or raised our hands, maybe rocking back and forth. I liked it! Talk about a different generation! Now, once after a set of 90’s “grunge praise,” the pastor got up and said to us all, “Doesn’t that make you just want to get out there and tell everyone about Jesus?” That wasn’t what I was feeling. Ah but the Pastor was younger than I was too. You see, like Carl; I’m a geezer too.

Hey Sidebar! {Did you know that Geez is an ancient Semitic language used only in the Ethiopian church? Orthodox Ethiopians still use Geez after all these centuries; but only in their liturgy.}

Okay, about that “grunge praise.” One Sunday, as I sat there and listened to the music, wondering if my toes would ever tap again, I looked around at the people in the church. This was not my culture. Many were tattooed, pierced, and about 10 or 15 years younger than I was. But my kids didn’t have a problem with the music. Ann had her hands up in praise, and was worshipping fine. I had been trying to sing along for weeks! But today, I was just listening to the lyrics of the song being played. Its message of hope that can only be found in Christ was truth. What was my problem? Everyone was worshipping but me. If this was Whoville, I was in trouble.

God’s Spirit prompted me to focus on Him, and to thank Him for every truth that I heard mentioned in the lyrics that morning. There were so many! I’d been missing this for weeks, focusing not on who God is, but upon how the music was making me feel. Worshipping in spirit and in truth is what the Father wants. The truth was there, and His Spirit was in me, and finally, after weeks of complaining, I was focused, experiencing His presence!

I’ve never had trouble focusing on God, while singing or reading hymns. During the Reformation, Martin Luther and many others, wrote and made hymns much more a part of church life. Some disapproved of the hymn singing, wanting to stick with only metrical psalms. The Wesley brothers, English missionaries to America, made hymns a central part of Methodist worship, and soon those in other denominations admired the Methodists for their fervent singing. The Methodists rocked!

In England, so many people started joining the rousing worshippers in the Methodist church, the Anglican clergy had to make a decision. In 1819, Anglican Vicar Thomas Cotterill had his congregation sing Methodist-style hymns. The people in his congregation complained to the Chancellor of the Diocese of York, who heard their case. He concluded that both hymns and metrical psalms were illegal in Anglican liturgy, but added that because their use was so widespread now, that he knew there was no way to enforce his decision. This led to the increase of the use of hymns and to the writing of many more.

Music appreciation is cultural. Would I have enjoyed Jesus’ Hymns? Just after “The Last Supper” with His disciples, they all sang a Hymn. I wonder if I would have "liked" their Jewish hymn. I don’t even know what a Zither is, but the last time I heard a shofar solo, I just kind of sat there.

It isn’t about styles of music. As much as we all love our music, worship is more. The New Testament considers worship the willing and active “transformation” of the believer in Christ.

In church, hymn loving geezers are like young dance enthusiasts. Hey young worship leaders: Still trying to get us geezers dancing in church? Hello!!! We are geezers! “When the Spirit of the Lord, moves in our hearts,” we don’t necessarily “dance like David danced.” We may do many things, but dancing doesn’t come to mind first. Very few American geezers grew up enjoying corporate dance.

David’s dance expressed his experience with God then and there. He didn’t dance in order to experience God. There is a huge difference! If we dance because we are experiencing God already, and dance truly expresses our experience in Christ, then we are truly worshipping God. But if we are dancing in order to bring about some experience, then that’s just pagan. If after a drought, the farmer dances for joy, thanking God, he is worshipping. If he dances in order to bring rain, he is a pagan. Paul writes and quotes from Deuteronomy:

“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘ Who will descend into the deep?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, “ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.”
Romans 10:6-8

It is about knowing God is with us. We focus on Him in truth, allowing Him to completely line us with Himself. This worship results in changed lives (ours), and a consistent following of Him personally.

Young folk, if we geezers will agree to worship, while singing your new songs (with true lyrics), can you agree to just go ahead and dance without insisting we do too? Maybe it comes naturally to you. But I’m at that awkward age; too young to Hully Gully, but too old to really enjoy a Rave. I can do The Twist, though! Hey, and Donna Summers has been following the Lord for some years now. If we can get her to sing, “Oooh, Love to Love You Jesus!” Carl and I can teach you to do “The Bus Stop.” We cool?

You know, God does want us to sing new songs! Scripture often says,

"Sing to Him a new song."
Psalms 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144: 9 and 149:1.

It makes sense, after all. I’ll hear a new song on the Christian station, and I am worshipping! But after hearing the song played daily for a few weeks, I need to turn up the radio, just to keep my focus. Twenty more times hearing it and I’m singing along but not really thinking about God at all. Soon I'll have to turn the radio off, cause when that “favorite” song comes on, I’m singing it on stage, before my adoring fans. Definitely time to sing a new song!

Oh, and like you don’t ?!?!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Doesn't God Work Everything Out For Our Best?"

Jimmy lost his job. According to him, his boss was “out to get” him. Things came to a head when his boss told him to do something and to do it “or else!” Words followed and that turned to physical pushing. Nobody was hurt, but Jimmy lost his job. And he asks, “Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God works out everything for our best? What about this?”

Jimmy’s referring to Romans 8:28, which reads:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

It looks good, right? Like at some point, God is going to use this situation to really bless Jimmy with a better job and a better boss. Hey, maybe Jimmy will be the boss! He’ll be able to look back on this and say, “I’m glad that I lost that crummy job, because God has used that tiff to get me this awesome new job!” But no, this verse is not saying that. It is not talking about God taking crummy circumstances, tragedies, or disappointing outcomes, and twisting life around so that in the end, the believer finds himself in a wonderfully better situation. It isn’t talking about changing anyone’s situation at all.

This verse is talking about prayer and victorious living. In fact, in verse 22, we find that the world is groaning and in pain. Then the believer, though also groaning, is encouraged to hope in God’s goodness and to press on towards becoming like Christ, and to advancing God’s Kingdom. It tells us to pray and march forward, trusting God:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Verse 26

The text goes on to talk about how God did not spare Jesus from suffering, and then we the believers, are encouraged that in our sufferings, nothing will ever separate us from God’s love. The Bible seems to assume that we would care most about being “more than conquerors.” This scripture isn't about what we do for work, what kind of transportation we have, our housing, or how our bosses think of us. It is about prayer and victorious living.

Romans 8:28, tells us that, despite the trials we may be going through, God will not only not leave us, but He will continue to work into our lives Christ-likeness. Yet, we usually hear this verse used as if it says, “Cheer up! God will use this bad in your life, to bring about good for you?” It just is not saying that.

It isn’t that God might not bring us to a place one day, where we see that a difficult situation was just what we needed. But that is not what this verse is saying. Where does God promise us that any and all hardships will turn out for our ultimate and earthly best? I don’t see it. God is merciful though. I think of this verse in Joel:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”
Joel 2:25a

I’ve heard this quoted to people who have spent years distanced from God. They then repent and turn to the Lord, and people comforted them with this verse. And there may be something to that. But the prophet Joel was talking about real locusts that had ravaged Israel, and lost them years of wealth. Israel was in great disobedience to God at that time. The locust plague here, was a wake up call, reminding Israel that they will be judged like any nation. The “making up for,” blessing was to come only after judgment and repentance. It was a word to those people at that time in history. Israel represented God to the world. If anyone wanted to worship the one true God, they went to Jerusalem. Israel needed to be acting right for the nations to know God.

If we think of ourselves as in spiritual service to the Lord, a better verse might be from Psalm 23.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Verse 5

This is an almost comical scene, where though the soldier-king David has enemies, God has so overcome them, David is being honored with a banquet, while his enemies can only watch, toast to his honor, and probably seethe inside. This happens for those who seek to please God, despite opposition, as is described in Romans, Chapter 8.

When you became a follower of Christ, you became part of God’s royal priesthood.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

As His priests, our inheritance is the Lord Himself. The Levites were the priests of Moses’ day. While other tribes of Israel inherited land to work, the priests did not inherit any land. The Lord was their portion and inheritance. And so today, for those who come to Christ, the Lord is our portion. God said to Aaron and the priests:

“You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”
Numbers 18:20

Is He not enough for us? If I gain the whole world and forfeit my soul, how lost am I? If I have naught here, but have Christ, how rich am I? Scripture assumes that what excites us, motivates us, and floats our boats, are the things that we have in Christ and the amazing mission that we are on, to let the whole world know of this wonderful salvation which we have found in Him!

God expects our greatest desire to be Him. After all, hasn’t He saved us from certain Hell? Hasn’t He instead of Hell, given us Heaven and Himself? He gave us Jesus, who died for us! With this gift, He has given us not only eternal life; He’s given us a better eternity than we can even imagine! Why are we thinking 78 inch plasma, with more channels?!?

If our focus is job promotion, raises in salary, or the right transfer, then we are going to read scripture differently, than if our highest aim that day, is to do and to become whatever our Lord God wants us to do and to become. If we seriously see God as our portion in this life, we will understand and rejoice in what this verse in Romans 8:28 is really saying. We can pray, and advance the kingdom of God, despite opposition.

The Lord’s portion to the Levites was not sub-standard. (See the rest of Numbers 18). The point is that God had another occupation for priests. He would provide for them, so they could focus on serving Him. Whatever jobs we may have here on Earth, He is our portion, and our true joy will be in His service.

Our actions have consequences. When they are good, “yippee!” When they are bad, what do we do? I guess we can cry out to God; for in His mercy, He will respond. I’m sure He does that. But if we misrepresent Romans 8:28, then we are setting ourselves, and those to whom we misquote that verse, up for a spiritual dilemma. Because if we misrepresent what this verse is saying, then when situations don’t change “for our best,” then what does that mean? “Something is wrong with God’s promise,” or “something is wrong with my faith,” etc. We need to be careful with this verse, because we live in a fallen world, where consequences exist.

After having saved us from death and bringing us into His glorious light, God expects us to focus there, and to respond accordingly. If you want “all things to work out for your best,” then you need to focus on what God’s best actually is for you. And that is godliness and victory.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
2 Peter 1:3,4

We actually get to “participate in the divine nature!” It is way better than cooler job offers. (Which are still cool, by the way.) To understand Romans 8:28, we need to be thinking about the advancing of God’s Kingdom, and the part we have in that. We get to participate in what God is doing! And He will be our portion while we do it! It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

Jimmy lost his temper, and the consequence was the loss of his job. But that hasn’t affected the call that God has on Jimmy’s life. To succeed in that call, I recommend Jimmy read and heed 2 Peter 1:5-11. (See for yourself!) If he will read and heed these verses, then the next boss he gets, however mean and obnoxious, Jimmy will be more able to minister God’s light; when push comes to shove.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Can I Improve My Walk With God?

Years ago, I remember crying out to God. So deflated, I felt I had utterly failed the Lord. I lamented, “Oh Lord, I have failed as a husband, a father, and as a Christian. I give up, Lord!” And then He said, “Okay, now we can begin.” Peace came pouring into my soul. He was waiting for me to give up. And so when Ben wrote and asked me, “I keep failing. I’ve been a Christian for over 10 years now. When will I start improving? How can I improve my walk with the Lord?” I recalled that night. I don’t recall what had brought me to despair, only that freedom came. I know Ben. He prays, reads his Bible, and tells others about Jesus. This isn’t about improving.

I cannot find the word "improve" in my Bible at all! My concordance doesn’t have that word in it. I don’t even see any command to start doing "better." Ben wants what we all want; to walk in victory, excited about our relationship with God. But the answer isn’t in improving.

From all I can tell, Ben, God doesn’t want to improve you. He wants you to die.

Stop trying to become “the best Ben that you can be.” You have to die. We all do. It’s not about shortening our time on earth, either. We are to "reckon ourselves dead." That reckon doesn't mean saying, "I know I'm alive, but doctrinally I'm supposed act like I’m dead." It actually means that we have died, and we need to recognize that constantly. We are to live knowing that our selves have died. Only then can we live victoriously in Christ.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:11

In older English translations of the Bible, “count yourself” is termed “reckon yourself.”

“The wages of sin is death.” That death occurred when Adam sinned. The only way to end this bondage to sin, is to die. We don't improve ourselves away from sinfulness and into a holy state. The secret of freedom from this bondage to sin, which weighs down the soul, is death.

"Thank you Tom, you are such a help!!!"

Oh, don't thank me! I have also “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I have to die too. The thing is, I did die. And here is good news for all of us who are in Jesus. When we believed in Christ, we were crucified with Christ. (Romans 6:2) We died to sin. Yes, Jesus is the one who suffered, and paid the penalty for our sin. Just as we were with Adam when he turned from God, we were also crucified with Christ and reconciled to God. You may look human, but if you are in Christ, you died, and now you are a new creature in God’s eyes. And it is His opinion that defines who we are. As the Apostle Paul writes,

"All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death."
Romans 6:3

In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read that:

"One died for all, therefore all died."

We were crucified the day that He was crucified. The cross took us from our identification with fallen Adam, and put us into the life of the risen Christ. I have died, and I must reckon that to be so. I must reckon it to be, if I am to fully enjoy this "new life" that God wants me to have.

Improving is for while we are on Earth. In order to function with these destined-to-perish bodies in this destined-to-perish world, we have to improve our abilities. This world is not the Garden of Eden, and we need to train ourselves to live here. God doesn't need to command us to improve ourselves here on Earth. We’d starve if we didn’t improve. He does want that we receive the fullness of the life that is indestructible and incorruptible. That life isn’t achieved through improvement. It is a gift that we inherit, after we’ve died. The good news is, we’ve already died.

Our minds cannot imagine Heaven. Once connected with God's spirit, our spirits can see, though somewhat imperfectly, that there is an awesome spiritual realm that we are already connected with and that is our inheritance. We tend to falter I think, when we try and visualize it, rather than to be content knowing that it is beyond our imagination, and simply trust God that it is wonderful.

“…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2:9, 10a

When I have thought of what Heaven will be like, I take what little imagery that the Bible offers us; the streets of gold, the crystal sea, the throne of God, always light, etc. and I picture myself walking past the pearly gates and down those streets. And when I visualize it I see myself there. Oh, mind you I'm buffer and have this really good hair. But I still see Tom. I also see this “improved” Tom, banqueting at the great wedding feast. Since 1985, I have been on a no cholesterol diet. Guess what I see on that table. After 22 years on this diet, pray now that on that great and glorious day; you are not seated between me, and the manicotti!

But in Heaven we won’t be just “improved” us. Just as an oak tree doesn't look anything like an acorn, so when we have finally shed our earthly bodies and have gone to Heaven, we will receive our incorruptible bodies. I won't just be a taller Tom, with tighter abs. In fact, I cannot fathom what I’m becoming. I just know that the day is coming. And I can rest assured. God so far, has blessed me, much more than I could have ever hoped for or imagined. And so I trust, that Heaven will be better than I am imagining. Meanwhile, I need to hit the gym.

Our bodies are dying, and there is this time factor, different for each of us, though the death is certain. With our spirits however, that death has already occurred. We personally have to recognize that we are dead to our sinful selves, in order for our new lives to be experienced on a regular basis. We, in Christ, were crucified on that cross. Sin died on that cross.

Watchman Nee, in his book, "The Normal Christian Life," talks about how seeing this truth changed his life. One morning he was reading his Bible and understood. He writes:

"I saw that I was in Him, (Jesus) and that when He died I died. I saw that the question of my death was a matter of the past and not of the future and that I was just as truly dead as He was because I was in Him when He died. The whole thing had dawned upon me. I was carried away with such joy at this great discovery that I jumped from my chair and cried, "Praise the Lord, I am dead!"

Our death is a wonderful truth. When we try and improve ourselves out of sin and improve ourselves to be fit for heaven, we are like an apple seed that is trying to bear an apple. No, apple seeds must die, which allows a tree to grow, and fruit just appears. If we reckon ourselves dead, we no longer try and produce some kind of heavenly being that we are imagining. "Ah, there I go now, walking uptown, so holy! People can almost see my halo as I pat little children on the head, and sinners rent their clothes, crying "Brother Tom, what must I do to be saved!?!?" And as I pass by the crowd, I hear things like, “I can see now!” Oh, and there's all these furry woodland creatures following me. Kewl!

Oh, sorry, there I go, imagining again! Gag! How embarrassing! Don't tell anyone I was actually thinking that, okay? I died. I'm Tom, and I have died and have been buried with Christ, and apparently, I rose from the dead with Him, and though I'm writing this from my desk, I'm actually told by a more reliable source, that I am “seated in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 2:6) You see I am also to reckon myself, raised with Jesus, in His resurrection. If I can just continue to recognize myself dead to sin, crucified on that cross, then arisen with Christ and now seated with Him in the heavenly places, I won’t live the same way while on Earth. I will bear fruit that will last. I need not know what that fruit will look like.

Instead of improving, which the Bible doesn't seem to think possible (outside of maybe swimming lessons and PBS cooking shows), we need to just know that we have died.

Dead people don’t get insulted when people pass them by. Trying to tempt a corpse just kind of looks ridiculous. And dead people don’t mind being slandered or gossiped about or pick pocketed, etc. In fact, those who are dead and who are raised with Christ, are seated in heavenly places. It’s harder to fret down here, when you are really seated up there. You know?

So, cheer up Ben! You died!!!

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

When Do I Get A Break?

In 1971, McDonalds commercials sang, "You deserve a break today. So get out and get away, to McDonalds!" I remember coming in from the pool. Too young to get a job, summer vacation for me meant swimming and playing with friends, watching TV, and reading one Hardy Boys mystery after another. The lawn mowing and the hedge trimming could wait. This day, as the McDonalds commercial played, I looked up at my mother, who was busy vacuuming around me, and asked, "Hey mom, can we go to McDonald's tonight?" (I'd seen the casserole that she had prepared, waiting to go into the oven.) She looked at me, lounging still in my swim trunks, and then she looked over at the TV, just as they sang, "you deserve a break today." Mom told me to lift my feet, and said that we could go just as soon as I deserved a break. As I recall, the casserole was creamed tuna, noodle and peas.

Later, when I came to know Jesus. One thing that struck me, was that in Christ:

1. We do not get what we deserve.
2. We get what we do not deserve.

How much one loves reading the Bible depends upon what they perceive that they deserve. "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." When I remember what I deserved: death and hell; and when I remember what I don't deserve, and yet have received: eternal life, forgiveness of sins, adoption into God's family, His power flowing through us, purpose, and hope; I have joy. I have so much that I don't deserve, while the deserts of the sinner that I was, I am not going to receive after all. All this because Jesus took my place on that cross! God is awesome! Who really needs "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?" (Gag! I'm like, so brainwashed!!! )

Years ago, people corrected each other’s English. I wish we still did that. We'd be so much happier people! I remember rolling my eyes as I was told to ask "May I...?" instead of "Can I...?" I just wanted answers to my questions, while my elders droned on about the difference between being capable and being permitted. But now I find, as I get older, that I really do want for people to say what they mean. They’d have more joy if they did.

Take this word, "deserve" for instance. When people say "I deserve," they usually mean, "I really want …." It is not simply bad English. It also breeds discontentment. If I don’t get what I “really want,” then that is life. I deal with it and grow. If I don’t get what I deserve, then there is an injustice being done. Frustration!

I'm usually hardest on Christians, when I hear someone say, "I deserve..." My friends know that as soon as it is said around me, the hand will go up, and I'll say matter-of-factly, "Actually, you deserve Hell." Sounds like I'm tons of fun to be around, I know. And yes, "I do parties."

But I don't say this to be a downer. I say, "You deserve Hell," to put things into proper perspective, so we can then talk sanely. The person who says "I deserve" followed by something nice has already crossed the line into deception. As Christians, our joy is going to be robbed if we tell ourselves such lies.

To "deserve" something, one has to do something that specifically merits them to receive what was promised or agreed upon. For instance, if I have signed a contract for work, and I did my job and then I got paid the agreed amount; I deserved that paycheck. But if I got paid more, or less even, then I did not receive what I deserved.

Adam and Eve plunged mankind into sin state, when they did precisely what God told them not to do. He told them that they would die if they ate that particular fruit, and in every way, mankind got the death sentence that day. They got what they deserved.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus."

Romans 6:23

I’ve sinned and so deserved death too. But I didn't get what I deserved. Thanks to Jesus, I have gotten instead, eternal life. Heaven is not something people deserve, just for existing. It is a gift from God, to be either received or not.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2:8,9

Salvation could only come to us in gift form. All are in need because,

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Romans 3:23

We can only be given salvation by God's wanting us to have it, and by our willingness to receive it.

One of my English students was reading an article from The Times, about “America’s Poor.” The pictures showed a well-fed woman, with three children, in an apartment that had a TV, huge American refrigerator, doors that obviously led to more than one room, and I think there was even a computer there. Nothing that let my student think they were poor, except the sad look on the mother’s face. She asked, “Why is she saying that she “deserves” a better place to live? What did she do, that she deserves better?” The article doesn’t say. She knew what “to deserve” means. And the woman in the article did not.

Now, I'm not advocating that we all get poor so that we appreciate what we have, but I am saying that as native English speakers we have got to stop putting on sad faces and telling ourselves that we "deserve" better. If we want more for ourselves and for our families, we need to just be honest, and say so.

If I say I want a new car, that is different psychologically, than if I say, “I deserve a new car.” While advertisers may try and butter me up to buy their car, I mustn’t deceive myself. Because if I then don’t get that new car, I’m going to either be frustrated, or feel something unjust has gone on. If I just want the car and don’t get one, then I simply have to keep driving my Gremlin. See? No frustration.

Some athletes may say, “We deserved to win the game.” But there are no guarantees in fair sports. Had they lost, would some injustice have been done? They are misusing the word again. It is bad English. They deserve Hell.

I’m ranting, I know. But it is important to be truthful. Jesus had this to say about what our attitudes should be, with regard to Christian service:

“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Luke 17:7-10

We are worth a great deal to God. We apparently are worth dying for. (See Jesus) That doesn’t make us “worthy.” Note too, that the servant mentioned, does have time for food and a break. But it’s the Master who decides when that will be, and what it will involve. God will give us what we need.

When I was 16 years old, I worked at a McDonalds. I was told by the swing manager, when I could take a break, and for how long. I was even told what size drink, sandwich and “crispy golden brown French fries” (Gag, I did it again!) that I was allowed, depending upon my shift’s length. I didn’t just take a break whenever.

McDonald’s says we deserve a break, but scripture says we were created for good works, and that the servant is truly happiest when he is serving in the way he was created. If you are tired, it may be that you are not using your spiritual gifts. You may be muscling it out, serving in ways that do not motivate you. I recommend going to Romans 12, verses 3- 8, and ask the Lord what motivates you. You may be surprised. The world sees our talents, but God knows what makes us tick. They aren’t always the same thing.

In our Bible Concordance, the word, "deserve" has many references. There isn't one nice thing that is mentioned, that mankind deserves. In fact, this word is overwhelmingly most used in the negative. If you want to find out your worth, don't look up “deserved;” try "Love." Because you were loved and valued so much by God, He has not given you what you deserved. Instead, if you are in Christ, He has given you what you do not deserve.

"He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:10-13

Thank you, Jesus!