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I stop what I’m doing to take in the scene.

Photo by Pieter Blonk

Photo by Pieter Blonk

What once was a temple of the deity materialism is now the temporary home of a charitable ministry. Pyramids of donated non-perishable food are stacked where aisles of stuff that people really don’t need once stood. Volunteers now breathe the air that hourly wage-earners once did. The activity taking place in the building used to be buying. Now it is a warehouse of giving.

These are my people, I think.

My heart swells with love for each of them, even the ones who are with us for the first time. I feel good about spending my time this way, to help others who are less fortunate than is my family this December. I am proud of my church for doing something for our community. We’re “getting out there” and “getting our hands dirty” in mission. It’s a good thing.

We are doing this right! I say to myself. OUR church gets it. It’s not about programs, and church as country club. WE are serving what Jesus calls ‘the least of these.’

My chest swells as the words run through my head, and I look at “my” people. Superiority.

God checks my heart.

Um…what is the point of today, this service Sunday? Is it how good you feel about yourself? Is it making your church “better” than other churches?

God indeed calls us to serve, and not to overlook the poor, orphans, widows, the hurting, the dying — basically anyone in need of more than the average human interaction. We are obedient when we take action. Our focus is off kilter when we do so for selfish or prideful reasons. Feeling good about serving God and others is not a bad or sinful thing. Serving God and others so that we can feel good or better about ourselves is. It’s a thin line called motivation. When we serve whom do we serve…really?

At the end of the gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him (John 21: 15-19). Each time Peter says yes. Jesus responds to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” The third time, Jesus foretells Peter’s martyrdom in the name of Christ. As far as I can tell, there is a link between feeding Jesus’ sheep and self-sacrifice. Serving is not about feeling good about ourselves or bringing attention to ourselves, or even our philanthropy. It’s about pointing to Jesus and “stretching out our hands” so that God’s work can be glorified.

“The way of the cross is selfless,” writes Connie Jakab in her book Culture Rebel. “It abandons all aspects of ‘what’s in it for me.’ It doesn’t look for that ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ you get from giving to the less fortunate. Jesus takes it further and asks who we are really giving for” (47).

Photo by Pieter Blonk

Photo by Pieter Blonk

I realize the voice I hear is not mine. The people are not mine, and the glory of service Sunday is certainly not mine. I repent and get back to work with a better frame of mind and my heart in the right place.

These are my people, God says. And I am their God. Well done, good and faithful servants.

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Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop Series Book drawing winners!

Advent seriesWeek Two book giveaway drawing winners.

Congratulations to each of the following…

Saskia Wishart, winner of Andrew’s Christmas by Brendan Barth

Sherri Meyer-Veen, winner of Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus by Mary DeMuth

Meadow Rue Merrill, winner of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter by Jennifer Grant

Each of the authors will contact the winner of her book via email, and will mail the book directly. Thank you, winners, for reading the posts of the authors participating in the Deeply Loved Advent blog hop series. Please keep reading and commenting, and please recommend to your friends to do the same!

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