Aim To Serve (Romans 12:9-21)

By | January 19, 2014

Aim Low to Reach Higher #3 in the Series



     That was an amazing video. Wouldn’t you love to have a dog that could all those things? House cleaning, putting groceries away and laundry would be easier. You’d never have to get up to answer the phone or look for the remote again. That dog has been trained to serve.

     What about you? Have you been trained to serve? Is service and servanthood a part of your understanding of who you are in Christ? As we continue our Series, AIM LOW, Paul reminds us that we are AIMED TO SERVE.


Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

[10] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

[11] Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

[16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

[17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

[18] If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

[20] No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”

[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

     I want to focus on Verse 11:  “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.” One of the obvious things in the video was Jesse’s enthusiasm. He did not lack zeal and he WAS ardent in spirit. You could see it in his eyes. We’re called to have that same energy and attitude in our own servanthood as well. So, how do we get that?


     A. Well, first we need a servant’s heart and soul. So, how do you describe a servant’s heart or soul? Well, first everyone needs to know that you can only have a true Servant’s Heart and Soul, if you have given your heart to Christ. Jesus was and is the ultimate servant and our model for a life of servanthood. We’re called to follow His example. I believe that without him in our lives, that life of servanthood is much, much harder to live. But, with Jesus we can have a Servant Heart and Soul.

     Let me give you an example of what I mean. James Moore tells about a man named George. George was a peacemaker with a big heart and wonderful sense of humor. George claimed he was, “so tenderhearted that he cried at supermarket openings!” Everyone at Church loved George. He was respected at the hospital where he worked. The reason so many people loved George was because he was always kind and always respectful to everyone he met.

     His children vividly remember the days George spent in the hospital before he died. The president of the hospital paid him a visit. He and George talked like they were old friends. A couple of minutes later one of the janitors came to visit. And they spoke like they were old friends. When the janitor left, one of George’s children said to him, “Dad, did you realize that you treated the president of the hospital and the janitor just alike?”

     George smiled, chuckled and said, “Let me ask you something, if the president left for two weeks and the janitor left for two weeks, which one do you think would be missed the most?”

     Then George called his children around his bed. “Let me show you something I carry in my pocket all the time, even when I mow the lawn.” George pulled out a pocket-sized cross and a marble.

     George said, “On the cross are written these words, ‘God Loves You,’ and on the marble are these words, ‘Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You.’ The cross reminds me of how deeply God loves me, and the marble reminds me of how deeply God wants me to love others.” (1)

     That’s A SERVANT’S HEART AND SOUL. That’s the Heart Jesus wants us all to have as we seek to serve Him and become more and more like Him each day by giving Him our heart.

     B. That’s an attitude that can be learned and taught and passed on to our kids. A friend of Rachel Cook’s gave her son Rider a Red envelope which she told him they give to children to celebrate the Chinese New Year. She told him that people gave money to each because it was lucky. And this was his “Lucky Money.” Do you know what Rider did with it? He put it in the Children’s Offering because it was lucky and it would help the church and help somebody else, as well.

     Do you remember the song Down in my heart? When you have love of Jesus in your heart it asks the question: “What will you do with that love?”

     Ryan and Rachel are raising Rider right. And you are a big part of that influence. This church has a Servant’s Heart and Soul, especially when it comes to missions and ministry with those in need.

     We know what Rider’s answer to the question has been, but we all need to answer the question in that video every single day. What will YOU do with the love of Jesus in your heart.”


     A. The Second thing we need is a Servant’s Mind. Do you remember the song we learned in VBS or Preschool, Be Careful Little Eyes? You do? Good because I want you to sing it with me. SING: O Be Careful, Little Eyes

              O be careful little eyes what you see

     O be careful little eyes what you see

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little eyes what you see

              O be careful little ears what you hear

     O be careful little ears what you hear

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little ears what you hear

              O be careful little hands what you do

     O be careful little hands what you do

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little hands what you do

               O be careful little feet where you go

     O be careful little feet where you go

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little feet where you go

              O be careful little mouth what you say

     O be careful little mouth what you say

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little mouth what you say

              O be careful little mind what you think

     O be careful little mind what you think

     For the Father up above

     He is looking down in love

     So, be careful little mind what you think

     That last verse wasn’t in the original song but I think we should add it. Be careful little mind what you think. There are plenty of passages that remind us that what we put in is what we get out.

     Romans 12:2 (NRSV) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

     Philippians 2:5 (NRSV) “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,”

     1 Peter 3:8 (NRSV) “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

     Philippians 4:8 (NRSV) “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

     B. When we focus on Praise, when we focus on the positive, when we focus on servanthood, God uses us in powerful ways. Sometimes we may never know how God used us but believe me, God uses us. I doubt Mr. Paul and Ms. Ruby are still alive. And they probably never knew how much they influenced my life and my faith. For a couple of years Mr. Paul was my Sunday School Teacher and Ms. Ruby was my VBS teacher.

     For a long time, even I didn’t realize how much they influenced me. But they did. Just as you are influencing Rider and his family and every other family in this church and in this community. But then that’s what Servant’s Do, especially those servants who fill their minds with the things of God.


     A. And finally, being a servant gives us STRENGTH. It gives us strength because we rest in and we depend on the strength of Chirst. But that’s not all, it strengthens others as well. It strengthens everyone we meet by our example.

     In his book, The Power Of Holy Habits, Dr. William Hinson tells of his boyhood experience of growing up on the farm. His family raised some hogs and part of the spring chores was rounding up all the hogs and treating them with some awful concoction to keep all the critters (fleas, ticks, lice etc.) off of them. Every year his father told them the same thing, “Now boys, remember there’ll be some of them that you can’t catch, so put an extra dose on those you do catch. Sooner or later they’ll rub up against the others.”

     It’s just as true for us in the Church. As Servants, we’re conduits of God’s grace for those who aren’t here. This isn’t a monastery. We’re called to go into the world. We’re called to proclaim the Good News of new life through Christ. We do that by rubbing elbows with those around us. And maybe, the dose of grace we have received, may rub off onto them.

     Maybe, just maybe, our life of faith, our words, our compassion, our good deeds, our attitude might make a difference to someone in need. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or even just the wag of tail. I started with a dog story, I want to end with one, too.

INTRO: This is the script of the video which was shown.

     For solders returning from war, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (or TBI) can make enjoying civilian life or even functioning normally…difficult. But there is one type of therapy that is not only beneficial, it has some positive side effects as well. 

SCRIPT: (Voice of James Stinson) “It makes me feel better to know that if something happens he’s going to try to revive me. And, if he can’t, he’s going to let somebody know.”

     More than 200,000 U.S. service members were diagnosed with a brain injury from 2002 to 2012.

     (Voice of David Cox) “She’s the best thing that’s happened to our family since I’ve gotten out of the military.”

     In 2012, there were more suicides than combat deaths in the U.S. military.

     (Voice of Leah Patterson) “No more medications, no more hospitalizations, just their dog.”

     $600 Million = Cost of PTSD treatment by Veteran’s Administration in 2013

     (Voice of Jodi McCullah) “Knowing that they need donations, you know, every congregation can do something.”

     $2500 = Cost to provide one service dog through Train a Dog – Save a Warrior

     Jodi McCullah is a United Methodist chaplain at Austin Peay State University near the army base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. She has seen firsthand how soldiers and veterans suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other conditions have found life-changing relief with service dogs.

     Jodi McCullah, College Chaplain:  “We have a gentleman who had done two tours to Iraq and had been injured twice. He has a lot of pain. He was struggling with some very severe post-traumatic stress. One of the things that we had heard about were the dogs that help with PTSD.”

     PTSD symptoms: anxiety, depression, headaches, flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, stomach and intestinal issues, racing heart rate, detachment, alcohol, drug, and substance abuse.

     Chris Crawford:  “My name is Chris Crawford and this is my PTSD dog. I got him from Green River Correctional Complex, Death Row Dogs, Hounds to Heroes.”

     Jodi McCullah, College Chaplain:  “We went up with Chris to get Wolfgang. And Chris at that point was still having these serious attacks. And the next thing I know he spots Wolfgang. And he sits down. And he never takes his eyes off Wolfgang. You could just see the change in him as we walked out of that prison. I just…. I was floored.”

     Chris Crawford: “He’ll turn my touch lamps on for me. If I’m in a sleep and I’m having a nightmare he’ll come and stick his cold, wet nose in my eye. I’ve actually sat in a chair and said, ‘Boy, my feet are cold.’ And, he’s come off the loveseat and laid across my feet.”

     (Trainer works with dog)  “Target command is eventually going to help her to turn on the lights and things like that.”

     Leah Patterson, Owner, Total Canine Care:  “I’m Leah with Total Canine Care. I’m the owner and head trainer here. And then I also work for TADSAW—Train a Dog, Save a Warrior—out of San Antonio, Texas. I wanted to provide service dogs to military veterans, as my husband is a veteran also. It was kind of a passion of mine to help some of these wounded warriors that were coming back.”

     (David works with dog)  “Lex, sit. Hush.”

     Leah  Patterson: “We’re all non-profit. So we work off of donations to cover the training and the expenses of getting the dog vetted and things like that.”

     (Leah trains dog) “She’ll also learn the cover command which is if he gets in a large crowd of people with people behind him, all around him, we teach her to lean up against him to alleviate that stress of, ‘There’s so many people around me.’”

     David Cox, Veteran:  “My name is Retired Sergeant David Cox. I was in the Army seven years.  She’s picked up on me a lot. Whenever I start getting angry or upset or I start getting shaky, she does this. She’ll come over and she’ll rub against me, or she’ll get up on my lap. See that? She is awesome.”

     David Cox: “As a soldier with PTSD, we’re in denial. We don’t want to think that we’re weak. But, in reality the first step of realizing you have PTSD is admitting to it.”

     James Stinson, Veteran: “My name is James Stinson. I was diagnosed with seizure disorder and a TBI injury along with some cognitive issues. I would do what a lot of veterans would call or a lot of guys in military call ‘combat shopping.’  And that’s go in Wal-Mart at 3 o’clock in the morning with a list—boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And you’re out the door.”

     James Stinson: “When you’re in the military, you go into basic training, you’re given a battle buddy. When you go to your unit, you’re given a battle buddy. When you go into combat, you’re given a battle buddy. I’m out. I don’t have a battle buddy.  Since I’ve had Opie some of the medications I’m off of. And some of them have drastically… I’ve reduced the medication that I’m using. So you know, TADSAW is a great organization that provides a one-time fee for a dog, instead of a lifetime of medication.”

     Joseph Bayes, Active Military: “My name is Joseph Bayes, and I’m actually active duty still. So…and my dog Charlie is my service dog in training. He’s very calming to me. I had an incident when my wife was at work. She was in training. And I was watching a show that was showing about Afghanistan. And, I started crying. He came up and sat in between my legs, and I started hugging him and he was just there for me.  He kind of snaps you out of that anxiety phase where you start feeling all closed in. But then you’ve got him to worry about.”

     Because programs like Train a Dog-Save a Warrior rely solely on donations, churches can support military in their communities by helping fund service dogs for qualified veterans. Trainers can see if a soldier’s own dog meets the criteria, but many times, these ‘battle buddies’ come from shelters, so they too, get a new lease on life.         

     Jodi McCullah: “We said, ‘You know, you saved Wolfgang. He was gonna be…he was in a kill shelter and you saved him. Do you know?’ And he said, ‘Ah, he saved me. He saved me.’”

     Leah Patterson: “It is the most gratifying feeling I’ve ever felt in my life. The fact that I’ve saved two lives at once is even more gratifying.”

     David Cox: “For those that would be interested in supporting this program, I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s a little bit, if it’s a lot. It means a lot to us as the veterans, as the wounded. It means the world to us.”

     Jodi McCullah:  “The people who donated that dog and that money to take care of and train that dog, their ministry is expanded, you know. And they don’t even know it.”


     There is a waiting list and they need donations at Train a Dog-Save a Warrior and Total Canine Care.  A small church could get involved by raising $2500 to provide a dog for a soldier.

     There are several groups doing similar programs, including Death Row Dogs which helped Chris find Wolfgang.  It is based in Kentucky, and inmates train shelter dogs for use as therapy dogs.

     Learn more about ways The United Methodist Church is in Ministry with Those Who Serve.


     True happiness comes from surrendering yourself completely in humble service to God through Christ. Jesus said we are to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds and with all of our strength. I think that means that we’re called to Serve in the very same manner. AIM LOW, AIM TO SERVE.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.