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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Place of the Unbeliever

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

It's confession time. We've finally reached the verses I've been trying to avoid for more than a week, the verses that prompted the segue with Alfred. No avoiding them now, though. I, like most people, dread hard. 

Writing this post is hard. Some people won't like it. I've finally accepted that I can't help it if people don't like it. These are the words of Jesus. With that said, here we go...

I love warm and fuzzy.

It's good to love warm and fuzzy because Jesus is certainly warm and fuzzy sometimes, but He is also as firm as a steel girder sometimes, too. This is one of those times.

It warms my heart to read that the Master will put the faithful servant in charge of all His possessions. The servant will get better acquainted with his Master. They'll draw close. It's win-win.

BUT. There's hard truth we need to address.

If the servant thinks the Master's return is delayed and does whatever he wants, it's not going to be good. 

When I skimmed through "eating, drinking, and getting drunk" I first thought of someone discouraged and depressed. I imagined someone in shabby clothes sitting at a table in a bare room, surrounded by gray walls, under a bare lightbulb with a bottle of cheap whiskey and a glass, downing one shot after the other. That choice is certainly no way to get the commendation of our Lord, but it's not all Jesus had in mind.

The word used here is methysk┼Ź. This is an inceptive verb and indicates the process of an action. Most of us understand the process of "eating, drinking, and getting drunk", whether we've ever done that or not. In a way, it's a drinking party. (a party where alcohol is served and consumed, often to excess) 

If, instead of being totally committed to caring for the Master's kingdom, we choose to be unkind to those around us and to waste time in frivolous living, (eating and drinking and getting drunk) we cannot expect to receive a commendation.  Instead, that servant can expect his master to arrive unexpectedly and "cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

The word used for "cut him in pieces" is dichotome┼Ź, and is used to describe either cutting in two or a severe scourging. Because the servant is still alive (assigned a place with the unbelievers), it's thought to indicate a severe scourging. 

The "cut in two" is a subtle reference to the fact that the servant has been living a double life, (presenting himself as a faithful servant while, at the same time, living a life of unkindness, decadence, and pleasure). That double life has been/will be exposed by the Master.

When we choose to be a double-agent in the kingdom of God, we may fool others, but we will not fool God. He will not tolerate it. He will deal severely with the attempted deception.

The unfaithful servant has another punishment awaiting him, and it's worse than scourging. He will be "assigned a place with the unbelievers." The word translated as "assigned" can also be used to describe laying aside a garment, taking off a coat. The unfaithful servant will be removed from the place of believers and put in the place with the unbelievers (same word as infidels). 

In a way, if we want to act like infidels, God will treat us like infidels. He will place us with infidels. 

Being assigned a place with unbelievers is not a good destination, no matter how you parse this phrase. 

As far as I can tell, there are no unbelievers in heaven.

I don't see any other way to interpret the words of Jesus. The Greek is clear.

When we become disciples, we make a conscious decision to follow Christ. If we are disciples, we follow Him. We choose His priorities and His way of life. 

As disciples of our Master, we don't just follow Him. We obey Him

This is harsh, and there will be some who don't like these words. Talk to Jesus about it.

If you don't like the "place of the unbeliever", stop acting like the unbelievers.

It is past time for the people of God to stop living with one foot in both worlds. We cannot live like the world during the week and try to live for God on Sunday. It fools no one, certainly not God.

Pick a side. Make a choice. Live like you believe. 

In the end, we will be rewarded based on the choice we make, so we must choose well. 

Now's the time to evaluate our lives. How much "world" occupies our lives? Let's get rid of the things that entangle us and choose to live in a way that pleases our Master.
~~~~~~~
Our Father, forgive us for serving ourselves rather than serving You. Help us to relinquish the world and cling to the cross, serving You only, above all others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#disciple #JesusChrist #followthenazarene

Friday, August 28, 2015

The benefit of faithful service

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions." Luke 12: 42-44 NASB

After a week's break for a portion of the Alfred allegory (which will be continued at a later time), we return to Luke 12. 

Tomorrow, we'll look at Jesus' words for the servants who aren't faithful, but for today, let's focus on the benefits of faithfulness. Jesus promised blessings and authority for His diligent servants. 

In the Alfred stories, we saw the faithful servant rewarded when his master found him doing what he was supposed to do. These verses tell us that the servant who is found faithful will be put in charge of all the master's possessions. 

Faithfulness, then, is the key that unlocks greater responsibility in the Kingdom of God. 

With greater responsibility, we have a greater opportunity for doing good, but that's not the best part of "being in charge of the master's possessions".  To be in charge of someone's possessions requires that we know that person's will concerning their possessions. To know their will, we must know them. 

When we receive a divine appointment to greater responsibility, it brings us closer to our Lord.

The appointment to a position of authority, or responsibility, then, is an invitation to draw closer to our Lord by continuing to serve. 

For disciples, the longer we serve our Lord, the closer we draw to Him. 

It's the way it should be, but it's easy to become complacent in our relationship with Christ, as in earthly relationships, and allow our diligence to wane. We can easily become more focused on the work we're doing for God than our relationship with God. 

One of my favorite hymns says, "The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows." That's the experience of the faithful server.  

There's no mandatory retirement age in following Christ. The longer we serve God, the more faithful we serve, the greater the blessing. There's no age limit, no limit on years of service, so don't give up. Don't waver in faith or in following. 

Paul, after years of faithful service to His Lord, wrote these words. "Brethren,  I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

Keep pressing on. Keep drawing closer. 
~~~~~~~
Our Father, forgive our faithlessness. Draw us closer to You and give us hearts of faithfulness and diligence. Help us to know You more and to press on. In Jesus' name, Amen.
#disciple, #wepresson # JesusChrist

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 8



"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It not my usual morning devotional, but it's a short series, and we'll return to the usual format in a few days. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who recently announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. The warehouse is in such a mess that he has to clean and straighten before any distribution can begin. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1Alfred # 2Alfred #3Alfred #4Alfred # 5Alfred #6, and Alfred #7.

In yesterday's story, Alfred's Master brought much-needed supplies and worked side-by-side with Alfred. He explained that his plan in leaving Alfred alone in the midst of the mess was so that he could understand the severity of the problem and the importance of good stewardship once it was solved.

We pick up with Alfred as he and Master are heading into the bedroom to clean it. "I'll retrieve a couple of garbage bags and the broom. It's quite the mess, Sir."

"I'll get the mop and the bleach. That room needs to be sanitized. It looks like mouse heaven in there."

The two men get to work in the bedroom. First, they gather all the trash in the bedroom. Alfred is horrified at the mess the last warehouse steward has left. He slept here? Didn't his mother teach him anything? 

It's a decision point for Alfred. After all the work he's done cleaning up, and that difficult night spent sleeping on the floor, Alfred thinks he's entitled to a little hard feelings. This decision point threatens to defeat him, and nearly does, but Alfred's Master is by his side. He doesn't want to displease the Master, so he makes a good choice. He lets it go. He's not responsible for what his predecessor did, even if he does have to clean it up. Maybe there's something he doesn't know. 

He chooses not to criticize. He chooses to focus on the job ahead of him rather than on the job behind him.

"Alfred, let's move everything out of this room. We'll scrub it down before we bring the furniture back." Alfred grabs the bedside table and Master grabs the lamp. They carry it to the hallway and push it into a corner.

 Alfred goes back for the bed linens. The sheets are filthy. It looks as if they have never been washed. "What should we do with these?" he asks.

"Put them in a garbage bag and I'll take them to be washed. Hot water and detergent might make more of a difference than we expect. It's worth a try."

When the room is cleared, the two men attack the filth like whirling dervishes. They sweep, scrub, mop. They don't just mop the floor. They mop the walls and scrub the baseboards. This takes longer than the kitchen did, but the little bedroom is spotless before they're done. They wipe down every piece of furniture before they return it to the room. 

The mattress is hopeless. Mice have been gnawing on it and have made a bed in its recesses. It goes to the Master's truck to be hauled to the dump. 

"Hey, anybody here?" they hear a man's gruff voice calling.

"Sounds like the mattress is right on time," Master says. "In here," he calls and hurries to direct the delivery men. They not only have a new mattress and box springs, they have a little table and two chairs for the kitchen, too. Alfred won't have to eat sitting on the floor anymore. 

While the men set up the bed, Master hauls one of his boxes to the bedroom. He unpacks clean cream-colored cotton sheets, a chocolate brown comforter, a new pillow (still in the bag), and brown and burgundy throw pillows. There's even a deep burgundy crocheted afghan for the foot of the bed and a rug for the floor. 

Alfred chokes up again. The horrible bedroom suddenly looks like home.

Master's box is still not empty. Shower curtains, towels, bath mat. Light bulbs. He has thought of everything. 

When he can speak again, Alfred turns to the Master. "You didn't have to do all this. I would have cleaned this room and made do with what was here. I don't deserve all this."

Master puts his arm around Alfred's shoulder. "I know you didn't expect all this. I know you would've made do with what was here. It's not a question of what you deserve, Alfred. You're a good servant and I love you. You've been with my family a long time and you're like family to me. Don't you know that yet? I'm doing this because I want to do it. I love you, Alfred."

Alfred doesn't know what to say. LOVE? The Master loves me? He doesn't trust his voice so he nods. Finally, he whispers, "Thank you, Sir. I love you, too."

Alfred has just encountered a truth that will rock his world and change his life. His Master loves him and it's not because of something Alfred has done. He has chosen to love Alfred because love is what the Master does. 

"Let's get the delivery men to take a picture of us cleaning up, Alfred. I want to have something to help remember this great day. Let's get our scoops and stand in the midst of the trash."

That sounds like a whacky idea, but Alfred will do anything the Master says. The two men get their scoops and stand side-by-side as the delivery man takes their picture with the Master's phone. They both have grins that spread all the way across their face. 

When the delivery man returns his phone, the Master looks at the time. "Oh, my, Alfred. It's getting late. I'll be back tomorrow. I think you're set for today. Have a good night." They shake hands and man-hug, then the Master leaves.

Alfred walks through the warehouse, incredulous at the very surprising day. Master loves me. Master cares about me. I'm not just a face in the crowd. He provides everything I need. He glances at his watch. It's 4:30 pm. There's still time to clean the bathroom and still clean some in the warehouse. Alfred gets back to work, humming a tune the entire time. He's never known such joy

Alfred has learned something we all need to understand. Our Lord loves us and His love makes all the difference. It was His great love that took Him to the cross for us. It was His great love that conquered sin and death and the grave. It is His great love for us that makes discipleship possible. It's that great love that motivate us to obey and draws up into the depth of His love.

His love for us is a fact. Our response to that love is a choice. How will we respond to the great love of God? 

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly suppose those who heart is completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB
~~~~~~~
Our Father, whose love knows no bounds, forgive us for our lack of love, our lack of faithfulness, our lack of obedience. Draw us closer to you and help us to love You as You love us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#disciple #radicalobedience #Alfredthebutler #JesusChrist






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 7

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who recently announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. The warehouse is in such a mess that he has to clean and straighten before any distribution can begin. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1Alfred # 2Alfred #3Alfred #4Alfred # 5 and Alfred #6.  

In yesterday's story, Alfred's Master brought much-needed supplies and worked side-by-side with Alfred. He explained that his plan in leaving Alfred alone in the midst of the mess was so that he could understand the severity of the problem and the importance of good stewardship once it was solved.

We pick up with Alfred as he and Master are heading into the bedroom to clean it. "I'll retrieve a couple of garbage bags and the broom. It's quite the mess, Sir."

"I'll get the mop and the bleach. That room needs to be sanitized. It looks like mouse heaven in there."

The two men get to work in the bedroom. First, they gather all the trash in the bedroom. Alfred is horrified at the mess the last warehouse steward has left. He slept here? Didn't his mother teach him anything? 

It's a decision point for Alfred. After all the work he's done cleaning up, and that difficult night spent sleeping on the floor, Alfred thinks he's entitled to a little hard feelings. This decision point threatens to defeat him, and nearly does, but Alfred's Master is by his side. He doesn't want to displease the Master, so he makes a good choice. He lets it go. He's not responsible for what his predecessor did, even if he does have to clean it up. Maybe there's something he doesn't know. 

He chooses not to criticize. He chooses to focus on the job ahead of him rather than on the job behind him.

"Alfred, let's move everything out of this room. We'll scrub it down before we bring the furniture back." Alfred grabs the bedside table and Master grabs the lamp. They carry it to the hallway and push it into a corner.

 Alfred goes back for the bed linens. The sheets are filthy. It looks as if they have never been washed. "What should we do with these?" he asks.

"Put them in a garbage bag and I'll take them to be washed. Hot water and detergent might make more of a difference than we expect. It's worth a try."

When the room is cleared, the two men attack the filth like whirling dervishes. They sweep, scrub, mop. They don't just mop the floor. They mop the walls and scrub the baseboards. This takes longer than the kitchen did, but the little bedroom is spotless before they're done. They wipe down every piece of furniture before they return it to the room. 

The mattress is hopeless. Mice have been gnawing on it and have made a bed in its recesses. It goes to the Master's truck to be hauled to the dump. 

"Hey, anybody here?" they hear a man's gruff voice calling.

"Sounds like the mattress is right on time," Master says. "In here," he calls and hurries to direct the delivery men. They not only have a new mattress and box springs, they have a little table and two chairs for the kitchen, too. Alfred won't have to eat sitting on the floor anymore. 

While the men set up the bed, Master hauls one of his boxes to the bedroom. He unpacks clean cream-colored cotton sheets, a chocolate brown comforter, a new pillow (still in the bag), and brown and burgundy throw pillows. There's even a deep burgundy crocheted afghan for the foot of the bed and a rug for the floor. 

Alfred chokes up again. The horrible bedroom suddenly looks like home.

Master's box is still not empty. Shower curtains, towels, bath mat. Light bulbs. He has thought of everything. 

When he can speak again, Alfred turns to the Master. "You didn't have to do all this. I would have cleaned this room and made do with what was here. I don't deserve all this."

Master puts his arm around Alfred's shoulder. "I know you didn't expect all this. I know you would've made do with what was here. It's not a question of what you deserve, Alfred. You're a good servant and I love you. You've been with my family a long time and you're like family to me. Don't you know that yet? I'm doing this because I want to do it. I love you, Alfred."

Alfred doesn't know what to say. LOVE? The Master loves me? He doesn't trust his voice so he nods. Finally, he whispers, "Thank you, Sir. I love you, too."

Alfred has just encountered a truth that will rock his world and change his life. His Master loves him and it's not because of something Alfred has done. He has chosen to love Alfred because love is what the Master does. 

"Let's get the delivery men to take a picture of us cleaning up, Alfred. I want to have something to help remember this great day. Let's get our scoops and stand in the midst of the trash."

That sounds like a whacky idea, but Alfred will do anything the Master says. The two men get their scoops and stand side-by-side as the delivery man takes their picture with the Master's phone. They both have grins that spread all the way across their face. 

When the delivery man returns his phone, the Master looks at the time. "Oh, my, Alfred. It's getting late. I'll be back tomorrow. I think you're set for today. Have a good night." They shake hands and man-hug, then the Master leaves.

Alfred walks through the warehouse, incredulous at the very surprising day. Master loves me. Master cares about me. I'm not just a face in the crowd. He provides everything I need. He glances at his watch. It's 4:30 pm. There's still time to clean the bathroom and still clean some in the warehouse. Alfred gets back to work, humming a tune the entire time. He's never known such joy

Alfred has learned something we all need to understand. Our Lord loves us and His love makes all the difference. It was His great love that took Him to the cross for us. It was His great love that conquered sin and death and the grave. It is His great love for us that makes discipleship possible. It's that great love that motivate us to obey and draws up into the depth of His love.

His love for us is a fact. Our response to that love is a choice. How will we respond to the great love of God? 

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly suppose those who heart is completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB
~~~~~~~
Our Father, whose love knows no bounds, forgive us for our lack of love, our lack of faithfulness, our lack of obedience. Draw us closer to you and help us to love You as You love us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#Alfredthebutler #disciple #JesusChrist



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 6

photo courtesy freeimages.com

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who recently announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. The warehouse is in such a mess that he has to clean and straighten before any distribution can begin. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1Alfred # 2Alfred #3Alfred #4, and Alfred # 5

In yesterday's story, Alfred was exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to resign. The master stopped by, however, with a picnic breakfast. While Alfred finished his coffee, the master brought in a mountain of boxes and stacked them in the corner beside a large cooler.

"Master, let me help you with those boxes," Alfred offers. 

"Nonsense, Alfred. Finish your coffee. You've earned a break. It won't take me but few minutes." 

Alfred finishes his coffee and, in true butler form, gathers up the remains of the picnic and puts the leftovers in the refrigerator. No mice will get this good food. He folds the cloth and packs it in the basket, then washes the dishes and packs them, too. 

By this time, the master has finished unloading his truck. He wipes his hands together to brush away the dust. "There we go, Alfred. Now, first things first." He opens a big box as Alfred looks on in astonishment. Master rummages around until he finds what he wants. "Here they are!" He turns to Alfred with two large packages in his hands. Industrial ultrasound mice-chasers. 

"The first thing to do is chase the mice out. We need to stop their destruction. Here, Alfred. Let's plug these in every room. We'll put four in here because it's so big. Be sure to put one in the kitchen and one in your bedroom." 

Alfred has to swallow hard because of the lump in his throat. "Thank you, Sir. I hate mice."

"I know you do, Alfred. I could have installed these before you arrived, but I wanted you to see the extent of our mice problem."

"Too big."

"That's right. Too big. Because you've seen the problem and the destruction they can cause, you'll be more diligent about mice prevention. It's a hard lesson well learned."

When the last ultrasound machine is installed, Master turns to Alfred. "Now, it will take weeks to get all this garbage up with that push broom. I've brought you some big scoops. We can scoop up the trash and pile it in the garbage bags. Here, see how much better this will be." He retrieves a large scoop. 

The new scoop will hold far more than Alfred's dustpan. This will help. "But Master, you have brought quite a few scoops." 

"You never know what you'll need, Alfred. They're just in case. Let's get started."

Alfred takes the scoop and gets to work. He pushes the scoop along, gathers the garbage and wasted grain, and dumps it in the garbage bag. He turns when he hears a scraping sound. The Master has one of the extra scoops and is hard at work beside Alfred. "Master, what are you doing? That's my job." 

"Nonsense, Alfred. This is my warehouse. The work will be much faster with two of us." 

The master is right. He and Alfred work side by side for the next few hours. They manage to clear Alfred's goal of 1000 square feet before they stop for lunch. 

Alfred has begun to think about a spoonful of peanut butter when the master says, "I'm hungry." 

"Me, too. We have the banana bread Cook sent and some of the fruit from this morning."

"That's for your breakfast tomorrow. I have lunch in the cooler. Let's roll it to the kitchen." Master grabs the handle on the cooler and a bucket of cleaning supplies and heads to the kitchen. 

"Gross, Alfred. This is worse than I remembered. Let's clean this kitchen before we unpack the food. You work on the refrigerator and I'll take the cabinets and counters."

It doesn't take long to have the tiny kitchen clean and spotless. "Here, Alfred, put down this shelf paper and I'll unload the cooler." While Alfred measures and cuts and places, the Master unloads his cooler. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Condiments. Heavy cream. Milk. Orange juice. Homemade stew from Cook. Four small casseroles for the freezer. Frozen ground beef and chicken in individual packages. He sets two covered bowls on the counter top. "Cook sent chicken salad and green salad for lunch. I almost forgot. I have another kitchen box." 

Master hurries back to the warehouse and retrieves a large carton. He unpacks it and stocks the cabinets. Small canisters of sugar and flour. Coffee. Loose leaf tea. A kettle. A pot and skillet. Dishes and utensils for four. Four glasses. Salt and pepper. A fresh jar of peanut butter. 

Alfred looks at the cabinets. It's too much to believe. A few hours ago, he was planning to ask for his butler job back. Now, this job looks promising. He has food to eat. A tiny but clean and well-stocked kitchen. The mice will be gone and there's a new mattress on the way.

Alfred and Master sit down again on the warehouse floor and enjoy a picnic lunch. "How are you feeling about this job now, Alfred?"
"I love it," Alfred tells him. "You've restored my hope today. I will never forget what you've done. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Alfred. I'm proud of you. I thought you'd be able to make it through a hard night, but now I'm sure of it. I hope you never forget that dark night of the soul, either."

"I don't think I ever will."

"Good. Let's work on the little bedroom before we get back to the warehouse. I want it clean before we bring in the new mattress."

Alfred will not have to sleep on the floor tonight. He can't wait! 

It has been an eventful morning. Already, Alfred has learned that the dark night of his soul was not an attempt on his master's part to be malicious. He was not neglecting Alfred. His master was teaching him.

That dreadful night provided Alfred an important lesson in the importance of diligence in the warehouse. He's learned the destruction mice can cause. He's seen first-hand how people can suffer when the warehouse is not open for distribution. He's seen the importance of a faithful steward. 

He's also learned about his master's care for him. Before, Alfred was one of many servants. For the first time, Alfred is one-on-one with his master. He has seen his master's tender care for him personally, rather than as one of the crowd. His love for the Master has expanded exponentially.

Alfred has embraced his lessons quickly and does not intend to forget them. There's no need to keep teaching the lesson. Alfred has passed the test already. It's time to move to the next lesson. 

He is beginning to get an inkling of Jeremiah 29:11. "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."

When we experience hard times, especially those dark nights of the soul in which despair engulfs us, we have a choice. We can embrace the lessons God has provided and allow Him to change us through them or we can run from them, refusing to be changed. 

It is through embracing the lessons of our hard times that we take a step closer to our Lord and experience first-hand the tender care of our Shepherd. Have you gone through hard times? How did God meet your needs? What did you learn from the hard times? 

Look for the ways God's plan for you has unfolded. Recognize that what seemed like a calamity at the time was used to give you a future and a hope.

God is good. All the time. No circumstance can change that truth.

~~~~~~~
Our Father, thank you for your tender loving care. Help me to recognize Your hand at work in my life and to learn from the lessons you provide. In Jesus' name, Amen.
_________________________
#disciple#JesusChrist#Alfredthebutler












Monday, August 24, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 5

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1Alfred # 2Alfred #3, and Alfred #4

We pick up the story late on the first night. Alfred had worked past his usual bedtime and had cleaned 500 square feet of a 100,000 square foot warehouse. He finally stopped for dinner, but all he could find was a long-opened jar of peanut butter. He ate two big spoonfuls and went back to his work.

Alfred had picked up trash and swept up dirt for more than twelve hours. It's 2 am and he's finally finished his goal of cleaning a 1000 square foot area. He walks back to the little bedroom. When he flicks on the light, he hears a scurrying of little feet and sees four gray mice running under the bed. There is no way he can sleep in this room. 

Alfred doesn't even bother resenting this new assignment from the master. Missing his wonderful bed with the down duvet would take more energy than he has left. He slides the pillow out of the soiled pillow case and trudges back to the area he's already cleaned. He puts his bare pillow in the center of the 1000 square feet, lies down, and promptly falls asleep. 

It's been a long and very hard day, but so far, Alfred has made good choices. 

When he awakens at 7 am, Alfred has had five hours of sleep. His body is aching from sleeping on the floor and his muscles are stiff from the unaccustomed physical exertion. He can see the difference in the warehouse, and is determined to do as much today as yesterday. He is determined to keep his good attitude and to make wise decisions again today.

Attitudes and decisions are choices we make. If we have bad attitudes, it's because we made that choice. If we make bad decisions, it's a result of choice. 

We can do better. If we will.

Unfortunately, not everyone associated with Alfred has the same determination. Jack is the master's gardener. He loves working outside and keeping the gardens beautiful. He loves working in the roses and the other flowers. The master's gardens are a testimony to his skill.  Today is his day off. 

Master stops by and says, "Jack, Alfred is working in the grain warehouse and he has a big job. He could use some help today. What do you have planned for your day off?" 

Jack smiles. "That Alfred is a hard worker. He can handle it. I need some 'me time' today. I'm going to get a barber shave and have a massage. After that, I'm meeting some friends for tennis and lunch. This afternoon, I'm reading a new novel. I have a great day planned." 

"That sounds like a fun day. If you decide to help Alfred, let me know. Have fun."

Jack nods. "I'll do that, Sir. You have a nice day, too." Jack thinks, "There is no chance I'm going to help fusty old Alfred. He can deal with grain himself. It's not like I need the grain in the warehouse. What good will it do me?" He wisely refrains from telling the master this, though.

Jack chooses his busy, fun day. 

Alfred chooses to press on. 

At this point, he's exhausted, hungry, and sleep-deprived. He could use some "me-time", too. Fortunately for Alfred and his friendship with Jack, he will never know about the choice Jack made. But Jack will know. One day, Jack may wish he'd made a better choice. But it will not be this day.

Alfred remembers the Eggs Benedict and thick-sliced bacon from yesterday's breakfast. He misses Cook more than ever, but there's nothing to be done about it now. He goes back to the little kitchen, washes his spoon again (there's no telling what has walked over that spoon during the night), and eats two big spoonfuls of peanut butter. If only he had some coffee.

After his quick breakfast, he trudges back to the warehouse, finds a new garbage bag, and starts on the second 1000 square feet. 

He's one-fourth of the way through the second section when Alfred hears a car pull up. It's the master. Great, Alfred thinks, I can tell the master this is too hard a job. He will need to get someone else. I'm going back to being a butler.

The Master comes in with a basket, a red-checked cloth tucked atop the contents. A fabulous aroma wafts from beneath the cloth. "Hi, Alfred. I thought you might need some breakfast. Cook sent you a little something. Stop and eat." 

Alfred hurries to the basket. When he lifts the cloth and sees the food tucked inside, he has to blink back tears. Homemade banana nut bread. Still warm. A thermos of coffee. Link sausages. Biscuits. Orange and grapefruit salad. A plate, knife, fork, and spoon. A cup and saucer. When Alfred sees the cup and saucer, symbol of the life he left to work in the warehouse, he can't hold back. Tears begin to trickle down his cheeks. 

The Master sees Alfred's tears and they break his heart. He knows Alfred is working too hard. He knows Alfred is doing this because of his great love for his master. He knows the job is too much for Alfred. He also knows that the work will change Alfred into a stronger, wiser man and that he has a wonderful surprise planned for Alfred when this horrible job is done.

He puts his arm around Alfred's shoulder. "You've done a good job, Alfred, and you've accomplished more than I expected. Stop now, and eat. I brought a few things for you, and I've come to help." 

Master spreads the cloth (which was a little table cloth) on the floor, sets the tableware and the food out, and directs Alfred to the picnic. Next, the master does the most surprising thing. He sits down with Alfred. "Tell me all about it, Alfred," he says, and Alfred does.

"Oh, Alfred, I'm sorry it was so hard, but I can help. First, those mice need to go somewhere else. I brought ultrasound plug-ins to chase off the mice." Alfred's heart leaps in his chest. Hooray! Alfred can't stand mice.

"I have something else for you, Alfred. You need a decent bed to sleep in. I ordered you a new mattress and box springs. The one you have is in terrible shape. They couldn't deliver it to you until today, but it will be here later this afternoon. I brought clean bedding, too. Just send the old bedding with me and I'll deal with it."

Alfred is already feeling better. His hope is restored. The master hasn't forgotten him. The master knows his needs. Maybe he shouldn't quit after all.

"Finish your coffee while I bring a few things in from the car." The master comes back with two new push brooms and a variety of cleaning supplies. He has several large boxes. Alfred can't image what's in the boxes. All he knows is that his master has seen his needs and has met them. 

Alfred has experienced the truth David wrote about in Psalm 23. "He makes me lie down in green pastures... He prepares a table before me..." He has a master who cares about him and meets his needs.

It's easy to wish for our needs to be met in a certain way and miss the sweetness of the provision our Lord makes. Certainly Alfred would have enjoyed bone china and heavy sterling silver with a gourmet meal but, with an humble grateful heart, he was able to see the picnic on the warehouse floor as a tremendous blessing. 

Every gift from God is a blessing, even when it's not the one we wanted.

For today, let's focus on the provisions God has made, even when they weren't made in the way we hoped. Let's give thanks for the gifts we've been given. Let's press on.
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Almighty God, who lives and reigns forever, we give you thanks for all the gifts you have bestowed upon us. Thank you for the gifts we wanted and for the ones we didn't know we needed. Thank you for being our Good Shepherd. In Jesus' name, Amen.

#disciple, #JesusChrist, #Alfredthebutler, #servant #countyourblessings






Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 4

photo courtesy of freeimages.com

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who, earlier today, announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1, Alfred # 2, and Alfred #3

We pick up the story late in the evening of the first day. Alfred has just worked past his usual bedtime. He has been cleaning the garbage and filth of the grain warehouse, left there by his predecessor, for hours. He has cleaned 500 square feet of a 100,000 square foot warehouse. He has a lot of warehouse to go.

By 9:30 pm, Alfred notices a rumbling in his stomach. His mouth is dry, he's tired, and he's hungry. He had Eggs Benedict and a side of thick-sliced, maple-cured bacon for breakfast, but it's been a long time since breakfast. Alfred thinks of Cook with her snowy white apron wrapped around her stout waist, wooden spoon in her hand like a baton, orchestrating a culinary masterpiece. Whatever dinner she prepared would have been magnificent. At that memory, he's even hungrier.

Alfred has reached a decision point again, for decision points come fairly often in life, though we seldom realize it. Alfred can whine about the gourmet food he is missing and grumble about the master who has caused this culinary disaster or he can embrace the change the master has directed and the opportunity the master has given. 

For a lifelong "foodie", this is a harder decision than you might think. Alfred doesn't mind hard work, but he adores great food. Don't mistake the importance of Alfred's decision here. 

A good decision will allow him to continue in the master's path

A bad decision (grumbling, complaining) will lead to resentment, anger, and bitterness. It might not seem like it, but it will begin a detour off the master's path. 

What's difficult about this decision is that it will need to be made over and over again, every day, until it becomes a habit. At this particular moment, Alfred makes a wise decision. There's no guarantee that he will make a wise decision the next time though, for good decisions are made one at a time

"I miss Cook's dinners, but no matter. I saw a jar of peanut butter in a cabinet." Alfred doesn't know who used the jar before, nor how clean the spoon they used as a scoop, but at this hour, he doesn't care. Alfred washes a spoon, scoops out a spoonful of peanut butter and eats it. It tastes so good, he eats another heaping spoonful, puts the peanut butter back in the cabinet, and resumes his cleaning. There's nothing like hunger to sweeten a meal, he announces. 

Alfred washes his spoon and his hands, then scoops water from the faucet into his hands and takes a long drink. Ah. How refreshing! He splashes a little water on his face, dries his hands and face on his not-very-clean butler apron, and returns to work. He still has 99,500 square feet to go. 

As he picks up his broom, Alfred pauses to do a calculation in his head. If he can clean 1,000 square feet of this nasty warehouse every day, and if he works hard six days a week, he can be through by Christmas. He smiles at the thought of those thin children outside having a hearty bowl of cooked grain for Christmas and, at that moment, something changes in Alfred.


He's not just working to please the master. He's working to rescue the hungry children waiting outside the warehouse, too.  

What seems like a mundane task suddenly has a point, and he begins to understand why the master brought him to this place.

Alfred now has a vision and he's working to see it accomplished. 

When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we can grumble and complain or embrace the opportunity God has allowed into our lives. It's seldom that we understand all God has in mind at the beginning of our journey, but if we persevere, the difficulty will not be wasted. Like Alfred, as we work, we can often gain a glimpse of God's vision for our circumstances, an idea of what He hopes to accomplish, and it will help to carry us along.

Are you in a difficult circumstance? Has your life taken a different path from what you expected? Embrace the circumstances and serve God faithfully. He may have a bigger plan than you can imagine. At every decision point, make the pleasing-to-God choice, for every single decision adds up to a life spent as a servant of God. 

Choose faithfulness.

Choose sensibleness. 

Be the steward God called you to be.


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Our Father in heaven, you are HOLY and WISE and JUST. Your plan for us is GOOD and we thank you, even when we don't understand. Help us to be faithful to the task you have given us. Help us to choose a Christ-like attitude and to persevere with joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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