Table Manners

The bell rings and the campers all rush to line up single file on the sidewalk. The campers wait for the director to make announcements, say a prayer, and open the door to the dining hall. We had all been invited to our next meal, and we were ready! On occasion, the camp director would quote Matthew 20:6 after saying his prayer and before opening the door: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This was the signal that the order of access to the dining hall was being reversed with no exceptions—not even for me, the granddaughter of Harvey Swenson, the camp director.

Every time this reversal was decreed, the same reactions occurred. Those who had been last in line marched forward with expressions of triumph while those who had secured the coveted first spots were forced to wait.

I think of this scenario whenever I read Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 14:8-11. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus had been invited to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee. While there, He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table for themselves. It reminds me of those campers rushing to secure the best spot in line. Those who arrived first stood at the head of the line. I never saw a camper leave space for others ahead of her. I certainly never allowed anyone else to “cut” in line if they arrived after me!

What does Jesus say about all this? “Do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . for those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:8-11).

As we continue to explore our theme of Belong and think about the tables we have been or will be invited to, let’s listen to those words of Jesus. Stay humble. Recognize that there is room for all who have been invited; every guest will get a seat at the table. Listen to the voice of the host, and submit to the seating chart when one exists. Then, when all are seated, celebrate together the grace of being invited and the blessing of collaboration and conversation.

The same was true at camp. On those occasions when the line was reversed, we all still enjoyed our meal. No one was denied access, and we all learned a lesson about humility.

No Rights Yet Recognizes Authority

“No rights, recognizes authority, works hard, and doesn’t expect recognition.” [1]

 

What a list! These are phrases from Jon Byler’s book, The Heart of Christian Leadership, describing the characteristics of a servant.  As I read those phrases, I felt a sense of conviction. Do I really understand what servant leadership is?

 

In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus made a clear distinction between the world’s view of leadership and His requirements for leadership: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, whoever wants to be first, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

And just like that, Jesus took the words “great” and “first” and placed them in the same category as slave and servant!

 

Jesus wanted to make sure His followers were clear that whoever wanted to rule, must understand that a servant mentality was required, not an “I’m the boss” mentality. The world’s leadership view must be set aside completely and replaced with His view. And that brings me back to Jon Byler’s book. Out of the four characteristics, two stood out in my mind: recognizes authority and has no rights. Two characteristics that test the strings of love and obedience in the body of Christ.

 

Recognizes Authority

A servant is under authority and recognizes that the position held is solely for the purpose of carrying out his master’s will. A servant’s plans are not his own; his ideas and efforts are strictly aligned with his master’s. Having a servant’s heart in leadership is recognizing that we, too, are under our Heavenly Father’s authority and under church leadership authority. A servant’s heart has a well-defined sense of submission to: His word, His kingdom and His will. Why? Simply because the authority is recognized as belonging to God first. If His word is truly our authority, the rest is viable.

 

Yet, we struggle. Just like the disciples struggled and became indignant when the mother of Zebedee’s sons asked Jesus for high positions in His kingdom for her sons.

Our all-knowing Savior made it simple for them and for us:  if we wish to lead and be “great” or “first” we must become a servant. A servant, a slave. He used an image so powerful that there was no question what it meant: submission. That simple truth opens the path to servant leadership. Selfless work becomes the norm as the only desire is to do the Master’s will.

 

If authority is a struggle in leadership, we must ask the difficult question:  whose authority are we really under and whose desire are we seeking?

 

No Rights

“A servant doesn’t demand his rights, he has none.” [1]

 

When I read this particular characteristic, I had to truly meditate on this. In our culture, from childhood it is ingrained in us that we have rights. We have a right to free speech, a right to worship, a right to bear arms, a right to assemble, a right to vote and so on. That is why when we grasp Jesus’ standard of servant leadership, setting rights aside truthfully poses a heart challenge.

 

But Jesus’ words place the focus back on the essence of service, “He came not to be served but to serve.” Matthew 20:28. Our Savior laid aside His glory, hHs privilege, and His throne to serve humanity. A servant leader will have to come to terms with the reality that if Jesus gave up His rights for us, we too, will be called to relinquish our rights. There will be moments as servant leaders that we may have to give up our right to defend our point for the sake of peace. We will be called to let love triumph over the right to prove our idea or plan is best. In the name of unity, we will be called to forsake our right to an opinion.

 

Servant leaders look to Christ for perception; only then can we surrender our rights.

And that’s because rights take on another meaning under the light of Christ’s servanthood: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” Isaiah 53:7-8.

 

We enjoy the gift of salvation, purpose, and a living hope because Jesus willingly set aside His rights for us and humbly submitted to His Father’s will.

 

Do I really understand what servant leadership is? I’m learning!  And every day I am given a new opportunity to love, to submit, and to obey.

[1] John Byler, The Heart of Christian Leadership, LeadersServe, 2010

 

#Fail: Now What?

“This is my story. This is my song,” are lines from the hymn “Blessed Assurance.”

Peter’s #Fail Story
Remember Peter, before Jesus’ arrest? Jesus had said, “Satan has asked permission to sift you as wheat. I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned, strengthen the others.” (See Luke 22:14–33.)

Peter’s reaction? “I’ll never deny you. I’ll go with you unto death.”

Jesus knew better. Within hours, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, let alone admitting to loving this man he’d trailed for three years. Peter, and the other disciples with him, failed. Feared. Fled. They locked themselves away, where one night, Peter said, brilliantly, “Let’s go fishing” (John 21:1–13).

Fishing? Didn’t they leave those nets to follow Jesus?

Right. That life segment ended badly. Plan B became Plan A, and off they trundled, shaking out their nets and casting them into the waters. One long dark night in a rocking boat…these former fishermen fished. All night. And they caught nothing.

Plan B. #Fail. Plan A. #Fail. Now what?

When the sun rose, silhouetted in the shadows stood a man. “Haven’t you any fish?”

Busted. More #Fail.

But wait. At the man’s command, the washed-up fishermen again threw in their nets, hauling in such a huge mess of fish it made history. There on the beach, Jesus invited Peter and company to breakfast—into relationship, into forgiveness, into calling.

It’s there that Peter’s song and story changed.

Unless we know the backstory, his future successes—thousands of people added to the Church, passion, death threats, courage, conversion—seem overwhelming and unattainable. Only the superstars, the #Success people, experience such astounding triumph. Not true.

Peter’s accomplishments are most meaningful in the context of his greatest failure.

The “if-onlys” of failure riddle all of our lives. If only I hadn’t made that mistake, failed in that relationship, dropped that ball, betrayed that person. If only.

Failure became part of Peter’s story—the part that gave him credibility to “strengthen the others.” Without failure, forgiveness is not applicable. What’s to forgive? Resurrection means nothing. Breakfast on the beach, that miracle of sustenance and provision, is just a nice picnic.

Without the #Fail, who could relate to Peter? But because of it, others witnessed the power of Christ in and through him. Transformed from someone who feared, failed, fled—into someone inviting people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

#Fail. It’s a great common denominator among all who dress in skin and bones. But when failure leads to forgiveness, to a turning point over a charcoal fire at sunrise, when we deserve nothing—our stories offer others hope.

What’s your story, your song, your past imperfections, your present forgiveness? Where have you failed, been found, been forgiven?

“I have prayed for you”—not that you will not fail. Because you will. “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned, strengthen the others.”

#Fail. #Success. The ultimate turnaround.

Turns out, we are super qualified. And that story will sing.

 

 

This article was adapted from the original published in Indeed magazine, March/April 2018. © 2018 Jane Rubietta. All rights reserved.

Jane Rubietta loves words and the Word. She is a Master Instructor and coach, speaks internationally, and is the author of 20 books. Her newest release is her debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis. See JaneRubietta.com for more information.

Speak Kindly and with Love! Speak Peace and Joy!

We are women who can make a Kingdom impact!” We have a heart that loves our community, our neighbors, the ones in need. We have an intimate relationship with our God, the perfect example of Love. However, the reality is that we still live in a fallen world. We are broken people. No matter how much we want to be full of peace and love we can fall into sinful habits.  We echo the sentiments of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:19 where he wrote, I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

We live in a world of many voices, some of which are obviously against God’s Word. Others are quiet and subtle, yet attractive and convincing; we must be careful with those voices for we can fall into sin and justify our actions.

There will be times of conflict with others – for different reasons. Relational conflict is not something that should surprise us as Christians…we should expect it. We are complicated creatures and conflicts will come. They are unavoidable. The key question is, how do we handle them? Are we responding in a way that honors God or are we using old habits to go through the conflict? How does God want us to resolve conflicts in our personal relationships? When we seek to follow His commands and trust His wisdom, we honor God through even the most difficult times of conflict. When we strive to reflect God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy to those with whom we are in conflict, we provide a beautiful witness to God’s character, and, glorify Him. Peace is possible if we look to Him. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God“, Mathew 5:9
Being compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient during conflict can be tough. When you know it is not in you to forgive, then you must find it in Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:12-13. Does forgiving negate the pain you have suffered? Does it reverse the things that have happened to you? No, but you will be free from the thoughts of hatred and bitterness. Joy is reflected in your life. Forgiveness is not only done for the sake of the one you are forgiving, but for your own sake so that you don’t have to live with the burden.

 

We, as women in Christ, having the Holy Spirit living within us, can love as Christ does. By obeying the Spirit, inspired by God’s word, we can show Christ’s unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving love to others. Even those who wronged us are the recipients of Christ’s love.

 

This is what we know to be true: we are women who can make a kingdom impact. We can be kind and loving. We can speak peace and joy.  We have the Holy Spirit in us, and He works through us. We cannot do anything of lasting significance by our own strength. We cannot bring about peace in our relationships on our own. We depend completely on Him, our Savior. Others will see the power of God in us and experience His peace and His love which have been given freely to us.