WCA Blog

Servant or Celebrity

April 05, 2017
By Eric VanDerhoof - Head of School

During my early morning workout I had the opportunity to watch the Australian Open tennis tournament. Now, I’m not a huge tennis fan, but I do know how to keep score…and there are at least 3 basic grips of how to hold the racket: eastern, western, continental grips. Beyond that, it was something to watch on TV! Anyway, as I watched the matches, the various participants began to attract my attention…especially the ball persons. They all seemed to be teenagers and the thing that intrigued me most was how they behaved. They all dressed alike, stood still for prolonged periods of time, never spoke, chased balls, handled sweaty towels, and responded immediately and respectfully to players and officials. Now, I’ve been in education for over 25 years, have served as a youth pastor, have raised six teens, and spent 8 years as a teenager myself; and I’ve often heard that it is unreasonable to expect any of those characteristics from 12-19 year olds because they are…well, teenagers! Yet, right before my very eyes it was happening! And, their role models, the players, were not doing a very good job of modeling any of that behavior. They, of course, were busy playing the game, focused on their winning strategy, expected immediate service from the ball persons (without asking, acknowledging, or even thanking them!), they each wore their individualized outfit, regularly uttered questionable expletives, and often argued with the officials! “Aha!” I mused to myself, “there’s the proverbial ‘teenager’!”

Now…it is not my goal to disparage teenagers or tennis players…rather it is to consider perceptions and expectations. A little research reveals that these qualities are the expected norm for these roles in the tennis world. The players are the CELEBRITIES, and the entire tournament is centered on making a BIG deal about them. They are to be served, wined, dined, accommodated, appeased, glorified, etc. The ball persons are just part of what makes this goal possible. As the Wikipedia definition summarizes, “Though non-essential, [ball person] activities help to speed up play by reducing the amount of inactive time.” That view seems rather demeaning! And, they are told they must behave in the aforementioned manner, they must go through rigorous training, their shorts may not be worn baggy/low…but they may keep their uniform as payment for their service! With all of these “unreasonable” demands, over 700 teenagers tryout for the opportunity to SERVE as a ball person…and only 250 are selected! Why? They consider it an honor to SERVE as a ball person.

So, while this is not a well-documented, scientific study on human behavior, I think we may all agree that perception and expectations have a lot to do with attitude and action. People are willing to do most anything when motivated by what they value; in other words, people do what they believe. And, I would like to argue that this principle is foundational to Christian living. It is a matter of belief…of faith.  Just as in the Tennis World, I believe a proper perspective about our designated roles will enable us to live more consistently with the teaching of God’s Word and avoid the traps of the Enemy that often surface through cultural perceptions and expectations. The question that needs to be answered is: Am I a Celebrity or Servant in the Kingdom of God? Christ’s profound teaching recorded in Matt. 20:25-28 provides a simple, but seemingly difficult, solution to this dilemma.

1. Man’s view of Greatness is on display in Life (v. 25) Being “Great” is part of life. It is how the world system operates and is used by God to His glory. However, Romans 1 reminds us that man takes God’s design and perverts it for his own glory. Often the pursuit of “Greatness” becomes a power play or an ido Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 remind us that Lucifer was beautiful and great but chose pride and self-exaltation instead of God’s crowning glory. Secondly, “Greatness” is a good thing. God created Adam and Eve and they were given dominion in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, Abraham was a great, wealthy man, Noah built a great big ark, the Temple was a great and glorious building while Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Esther all held positions of greatness. Finally, “Greatness” can be used for good and evil. However, the world’s view of “Greatness” is to lord it over others though self-promotion.

2. God’s expectation of Greatness is different in His Kingdom (vs. 26-27) Greatness as defined by God is to be a servant/slave; the Mark 9 version includes “of all”. This view is contrary to human view because it is contrary for the Father of Lies who seeks self-exaltation. Being a servant/slave is viewed as demeaning and not honorable. However, it is of highest value in the Kingdom of God. Are we motivated by man-centered ideals of size, strength, power, and wealth like Pharaoh, Tall Towers, Strong cities, Goliath, and King Saul? Do safety, success, security, long-life, good health, and a life of ease top our list of priorities? These goals may be viewed as earthly success, but without a servant’s heart like Christ they lead to eternal failure. Faith is the gauge of success in God’s Kingdom, not results. As Hebrews 11 reminds us, the people of God press on whether they are in the penthouse or in prison. Are we willing to walk like Christ?

3. Authentic Greatness is demonstrated by Christ (v. 28) Christ’s teaching that He came to serve is clear. This truth can also be seen in:

- Christ’s perspective (Heb 12:2) - looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

- Christ’s mindset (Phil.2:5-7) - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

- Christ’s example: Through His Humiliation (humble beginnings, Insignificant ministry, serving others, and horrific death) and Exaltation (resurrection, ascension, adornment, adoration) God’s principles for kingdom living are modeled by Christ.

We love to cheer about “Victory in Jesus” and claim that conquest for ourselves…and well we should. We are encouraged to do so. Because of Christ we are victors, children of God and co-heirs with Christ. But in the same manner, we are commanded to follow in all of His footsteps. Too often Christians try to pursue the celebrity status and avoid the servanthood. We love the large crowds, miracles, promises, and perceived success; yet, we bemoan the trials, struggles and apparent failures. We should expect to experience everything that Christ did because the world hates Christ! Christ is the only Celebrity in the Kingdom…He is the King! Everyone else is His servants called to make a BIG deal about Him. And, it is an honor to do so! He alone has the power and authority to overcome sin and death. His name alone has the power to change lives. The name of Christ should provoke us to be better, bolder, and believe. It’s not “I can do all things”, but it is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” It is only as we are humbled and live by faith in obedience to God’s Word as exemplified by Christ that we will become great in the Kingdom of God. Believe that there is no greater privilege, prize or position anywhere. Be a Christ-like servant of all!

Quack Like a Duck!

March 08, 2017
By Mr. Eric VanDerhoof - Head of School

Edward the Emu is a children’s story about an emu in the zoo that was unhappy to be… an emu. As he listened to the visitors talk about the other animals, Edward thought his life would be better if he could be a different animal. First he swam with the seals and enjoyed his new life, until a visitor mentioned that the lions were really the best animals in the zoo. So, the next day Edward hopped over to the lion’s den and roared along with the best of them. As Edward basked in the sunshine with the lion pride, a visitor remarked that the snakes were really the highlight of the zoo! The next day as Edward was slithering and hissing with the snakes, another visitor exclaimed that of all the animals in the zoo, the emu was the most delightful to watch. Excited by this bit of news, Edward returned to his habitat only to discover another emu had been brought in to replace him. After checking out the new emu, Edward realized some wonderful news…the name of the new emu was Edwina! And they lived happily ever after…as emus!

Christians often act like Edward. They become discontent with their life or situation and try different things, expecting others to excuse their actions/behaviors even though they are contrary to God’s Word. These “trendy life choices” are frequently defended in conversations that talk about “gray areas” and are posited as piety vs. liberty, tradition vs. relevance, principle vs. preference, or law vs. grace. While these are valid conversations to have, it must be understood that changing a view on something does not necessarily change the nature of the situation; nor does lack of understanding about the nature of something reduce the effects. For example, a child’s lack of understanding that heat scorches does not prevent him from getting burned when he touches a stove. Ouch!

The Apostle John provides some wonderful insights about the life of a believer in his first epistle. In fact, he gives a “test” that checks for true belief. In chapter 2 verse 3 John states, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” As the children’s Sunday School song so aptly reminds us (sing along), “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E…Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” But, how often are we tempted, and we acquiesce, to disobey God’s Word…and then we offer excuses to explain it away! In this short passage, verses 3-6, John reminds the reader about the very nature of God’s saving grace, and provides a way to test for true belief. I like to call it the Duck Test! You know…if it looks, quacks, walks like a duck, it must be a DUCK! When this test is applied to the life of someone who claims to be a Christian, it confirms or exposes the true reality.

The first test is to look like a duck. John says the claim to know God will lead to obedience. This truth was clearly taught by Christ (John 14), lived out by the Apostles (Acts 5), and understood by unbelievers. The religious leader, Gamaliel, counselled his fellow Jews that if the Apostles were obeying God, there would be nothing that could stop it. John introduced this topic by stating that the life of a Christian is predicated upon God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice (vs. 1-2). As the great reformer John Calvin declared in his commentary on this passage, “The knowledge of God, derived from the gospel, is not ineffectual …obedience proceeds from it.” In other words, the regenerating power of God’s saving faith produces obedience in the life of the believer! A duck looks like a duck!

The “Quack Test” can be applied as a second assessment. In verses 4-5 John says that a person who claims to know God, but disobeys Him, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Wow...that escalated quickly! Doesn’t John seem a bit harsh and unloving? Not when we consider that John had witnessed Jesus teaching in a similar manner when He addressed the Jewish leaders who claimed Christ’s teachings were demonic. (John 8) Christ clarified that those who speak lies are doing the work of the Father of Lies, Satan himself. It’s really a Quirk and not a Quack. John is reminding his readers that disobedience to God’s Word is a matter of life and death. It was disobedience by Adam and Eve that sent all mankind to damnation. (Gen 3) As St. Augustine opined, “The cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.” Disobedience shows disregard and hate for God because it cost the life of His Son to redeem His people from the one who provokes such hate and contempt for God…the Father of Lies. Apart from God’s love for us, we cannot love Him; and our love for God is demonstrated through obedience. As James wrote in his epistle, “Faith without works is dead!” A duck quacks like a duck!

The final test is to check the duck’s walk. In verse 6 John says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This message was also taught by Christ (Matt. 5), modeled by Christ (Phil. 2), and taught by the Apostle Paul (Romans 1). Admittedly, there is a struggle that ensues in the life of the believer. But, it is not so much WWJD as it is WWJD in me. The life of the Christian is Christ living through the believer by the Holy Spirit. This “abiding” produces the fruit of righteousness. Jesus/the Holy Spirit/God cannot not live any other way! It is the characteristic of life in Heaven (Rev. 22). Matthew Henry says in his commentary, “Observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself.” The great benefit to God’s Spirit indwelling His people is that they have Christ living in them now! And, a duck walks like a duck!

So, we can check the genuineness of our faith today with the Duck Test. Ask the question, “Do I look, sound, and walk like Christ?” If our life is characterized by obedience to the Word of God…be encouraged, encourage others, enjoy Christ’s peace, keep the faith, continue to love God with your whole heart, proclaim Christ until He comes, and worship Him for eternity! If the test exposes a life of disobedience… believe it is true, humble yourself before God, confess your sin, seek God’s mercy, receive His grace, experience forgiveness and live out His love in obedience to His Word.

Those who know God will enjoy Christ in the way that St. Augustine recorded in his Confessions, “Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.”

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