Becoming “useful to the master”

making-potteryJust starting your Christian walk? Still incubating? God loves you. He is patient with you. And he is committed to you!

But keep perspective: God will put you to work in years ahead, mentoring others, discipling others, teaching others, seeking the lost. Non-believers, seekers, transitioners, new believers, family members, your own children, hurting/struggling believers, or just strong believers who need fellowship and friendship. God is preparing you to make disciples and serve others. To practice hospitality, hosting, teaching, correcting, encouraging, feeding, giving, and being a role model. It will happen more quickly than you imagined. Your local Christian community needs you.

So as you develop spiritual habits, learn the words of Jesus, learn to love other people, participate in the life of Christian community, grow in your obedience, and submit your heart to the gracious care of your Good Shepherd, remember David’s prayer:

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” (Psalm 51)

And Paul’s counsel,

“If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2)

God is preparing you to be “useful to the master of the house.” But if you don’t cleanse yourself of what is dishonorable, your fruitfulness will be stifled. So be eager to grow in wisdom, making the “best use” of your time:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5)

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Politics is tiny

Camille Paglia:

“We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death… Young people have nothing to enlighten them, which is why they’re clinging so much to politicized concepts, which give them a sense of meaning and direction.”

How the apostolic “elites” talked

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”
— Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
— 1 Peter 3:18

“We love because he first loved us.”
— 1 John 4:19

More from Paul:

His “importance”: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

While stressing his apostolic legitimacy and direct authority from Jesus: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

Expressing desire to come to the Romans: “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11-12)

Counting himself among the apostles: “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

After showing his Jewish creds: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

After boasting of his sufferings: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30)

While speaking of his ministry of proclamation: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29)

“All that I have commanded you”

I talked to a young man last night who had just returned from his LDS mission to Idaho. “Tell me about your mission.” He said that he shared the teachings of Jesus, and that families could be forever. I asked him, “What did Jesus teach?” “You mean like in the Four Gospels?” “Yeah.” He paused. “Well I spent most of my time reading the Book of Mormon. I really don’t know the Four Gospels that well.”

So I shared with them the Great Commission in Matthew. Jesus said to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28) Everything he commanded.

Then I shared Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 of the four soils. The seeds that took root in healthy soil bear a ton of fruit: “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Jesus tells us how to be like this soil: “He who has ears, let him hear.” Be careful how you listen.

Then I shared Jesus’ words in John 15: Jesus said that if you abide in him, and he abides in you, you will bear much fruit. Not only that: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

So I pleaded with this 21-year-old: Your LDS mission did not equip you to truly know the words of Jesus. Here is your challenge, your new mission. Don’t arrive at 30-years-old without knowing the words of Jesus. Become obsessively acquainted with them. Like a man who loves a movie and can complete its quotes.

Jesus said in Matthew 24, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” His words will last longer, and always be more important than anything your church, your heroes, your leaders, or your family tells you.

Know these words, not to be smart, not to be better than others, not to be puffed up with knowledge, but to build on a solid foundation. I told this young man: The older you grow, the more you will find your Solomon-like endeavors failing, the more you will ache to build something that lasts. A legacy, a productivity, an ambition that matters, a fruit that is satisfying, a house that stands. Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7)

“Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor”

“Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: ‘I want to see the king.’

“Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, ‘Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.’ At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

“The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. ‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. Is it one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2009), 135

From this little mustard seed

To help myself understand the significance of the “mustard seed” in Matthew 13…

He plants it in an existing field alongside massive fields and farm machinery and silos and grain elevators and genetically engineered crops.

No, this little seed, Jesus says, is his kingdom. The others will eventually die. Everything else will burn. Nothing else will last. It doesn’t how matter how big their crops are, their buildings are, their money is, how rich their tradition is, how confident their laborers are…

This little seed, these little ones, the least of these, this little flock, this remnant, these little children, these humbled ones, from these, from this little seed the kingdom comes.

“Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?”

We had just moved to Utah. We were living in a basement apartment. My wife was pregnant with our son.

BYU professor David J. Whittaker came to where we lived because our host wanted him to talk to me. I had talked faith/Jesus with her. David was in her ward.

I asked him about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and he conceded flippantly that Smith had little honeymoons (i.e. trysts) with at least some of his plural wives. We got to talking about “eternal marriage.”

Stacie and I were sitting on the couch together, and he was sitting across from us. He asked Stacie, “Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?” And she said matter-of-factly to him, “No.”

He was dumfounded. Stacie explained what Jesus taught in Matthew 22: there would be no marriage in heaven. We will be as the angels. She will worship Jesus. Jesus has joy in store for us at the resurrection that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Marriage is an old-Earth reality. We trust Jesus for this.

I felt so deeply in love with Stacie. This was a romantic moment. I knew exactly what she meant. I felt closer to her in her very affirmation of not needing our marriage or even wanting it in heaven.

I love you, Stacie.

“Let those who have wives live as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31)

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)