Who will be greatest?

serve.pngIn my daily Bible reading (using the Word for Today schedule), I was looking at Matthew 20 this morning.  Beginning in verse 20, James and John’s mother goes to Jesus with a request for her sons.  They want positions of power in Jesus’ kingdom.  Jesus tells the sons and the mother that they have no idea what they are asking, but that they will, in fact, share in His “cup” of suffering.   When the rest of the disciples hear about this request, they are angry … because they want those same positions of power.  That’s when Jesus makes a statement that we all need to take to heart.

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

My question today (of myself and you) is, “Where is your heart?”  What I mean is that we all have places and situation where we have power and authority.  How do we handle those opportunities?  The temptation to “lord it over” others and exercise authority for our own benefit is powerful. 

 But I love the words of Jesus, “It shall not be so among you.”  We are of a different spirit and mentality through Christ.  Our first instinct should be to serve those around us (like Jesus), rather than desiring to be served.  That takes some practice.  But it helps to remember, Ephesians 2:10. We have been re-created in Christ as a divine masterpiece!  In fact, God has planned our re-created life around good works that serve others and model the grace and love of Jesus.

 So, let’s take up Jesus’ challenge.  Let’s seek real greatness through service and servant-hearted leadership.  Let’s show the world that we follow the King through our loving kindness to others.

“Super Moon!”

img_1007“Super moon!”  Scientists tell us that this is the best view of the moon we will have between now and 2034!  That is quite a while.  I hope you have had the chance to enjoy this rare spectacle, but if not, here are some great pictures taken by friends and one from the internet.

What really caught my attention with regard the “Super Moon” is the is that the moon is really no different today than it was in 1948 (the last time it appeared this big) or than it will be in 2034 (the next time it will appear Supermoon.jpgthis big).  It is actually the coincidence of a full moon with the closest approach that the moon makes to the Earth in its orbit.  The technical term is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system.  So in short, it really isn’t about the moon at all!

The reason why that is so interesting to me is that it reminds me of the way that we have a tendency to misconstrue things.  Especially when it comes to faith.  We often think of Jesus as coming closer to us at particular times and being more distant at others.  As if the circumstances in our lives, behavior, heartaches, or struggles could “move” God closer or further away.  That simply isn’t true!  Jesus doesn’t img_0997change.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) On top of that, Jesus’ last word before He ascended into heaven was, “I am with you always.”  (Matthew 29:20)  That means that He isn’t moving back and forth, He is right there … next to you … right where you need Him.

So when we feel like God/Jesus is far away, what is really going on?  Well, sometimes our ability to perceive the spiritual truth is clouded by the physical and emotional realities around us.  Sometimes, we have allowed our hearts and minds to be filled with other thoughts and priorities and have drifted (in our perception) away from God.  Sometimes we just aren’t listening.

img_1008So what can we d0?  I would suggest three things.  1)  Pray.  Just because you feel like there is a distance between you and God, don’t stop praying.  Keep it up!  And in addition to telling God what you need, be sure and allow some quiet moments to listen.  2)  BE IN THE WORD!  God makes the promise that wherever His WORD is, He Sprit is there, also.  Read the Bible.  If you want to know where God is at this very moment … FOR SURE … He is waiting for you in the pages of Scripture.  Not as a story to read, but as a living and active friend and leader and “lover of your soul.”  Finally, 3) Trust. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6)  Don’t let your short term struggles distract you from the truth.  The one who called you to faith will NEVER abandon you.  Trust that.  Believe that.  Write it down and read it over and over again!  God loves you with an unconditional and everlasting love.

A Prayer for Our Nation

USA.jpgGracious Heavenly Father,

As our nation moves forward in the wake of a contentious election, I pray You would bless our land. Guide the leaders we have elected (and each of us as individual citizens) by Your strong and faithful hand. No authority exists that is not ordained by You. You raise up rulers and depose them. Lead and guide our nation during this fragile time.

Restore our unity as a country and our love and respect for one another. Draw us back to Yourself as You did so often for the people of Israel. Let humility, service, kindness, and generosity prevail in place of arrogance, lawlessness, selfishness, and anger. Help the hearts of all Americans to be moved to put the needs of others above their own.

By the power of Your Holy Spirit, grant that our leaders heed your Word and follow the way of truth. Grant them wisdom, courage, and conviction to make good decisions, even during difficult times. Surround them with wise and faithful counselors and advisors. Help them, in the midst of the cacophony of voices and opinions, to hear the voice of Your Spirit.

Father, there are threats that linger today – threats of terror attacks, threats of violence and discord, threats of upheaval in the markets and in our economy. Lord, thwart any coordinated plans against the good order and peace of our United States. Allow clear and reasoned responses to all of the election results to prevail among us. Protect us, Abba.

In the days ahead, allow the witness of the Christian Church to shine brightly with Your love to our nation and world. Help us, no matter what, to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. Help us, by Your Spirit, so that our words and actions reveal that we are disciples of Jesus. Help us to remember daily that we, Your Church, are the hope of the world.

We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hope

hope

This morning the WORD for Today reading was Luke 8.  This is an amazing chapter with several wonderful stories … mostly about miracles!  In particular, I was captivated by a “scriptural-mash-up” of two stores that begin in verse 40 and conclude with verse 56 (the end of the chapter).

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.  Luke 8:40-42

So Jesus was approached by a man who pleads with Him to help his daughter who is dying.  As a parent, I cannot think of anything more near and dear to my heart.  So when Jesus heads out to help her, everything looks good.  But pay careful attention to what happens next.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  Luke 8:42b-48

Jesus starts out to care for a dying child and He gets caught in a traffic jam!  No cars, just people pressing in so tightly that “the crowds almost crushed him.”  I have been in traffic jams like that.  I have been in crowds like that.  They are no fun.  Worst of all, you cannot move.  Getting anywhere takes forever. Everything slows to a snail’s pace.  Normally, that might be okay.  But this time, Jesus is on His way to save a life!

Now, just think about the father of the little girl who is dying.  Can you imagine how he is feeling.  He knows his daughter is dying and this crowd is slowing Jesus down! Every minute matters!  Then, another excruciating delay.  Jesus stops to heal someone in the crowd … and have a conversation.  Yes, it is wonderful that Jesus cares.  Yes, this dad is happy for this woman’s healing.  But really!  This is taking too long!

Then, he sees a familiar face moving toward him.  And he can tell from the look on his servant’s face what the news will be.  She’s gone.  And the father’s frustration and fear, resolve into devastation!  All hope is gone.

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.  Luke 8:49-56

Amazing!  Here’s what jumped out at me this morning.  I can get pretty frustrated with God.  I trust Him, but all too often his timing seems slow.  Sometimes His answers seem off.  Sometimes I just don’t like His answers (or lack thereof).  But the amazing thing is, Jesus IS really good at what He does!

Jesus can take the most frightening, frustrating, discouraging, and devastating circumstances and turn them into something beautiful.  He takes this heartbreaking situation and turns it into two miracles.  One of those miracles is beyond imagination!

You want other examples?  People:  Every one of the disciples were broken … and Jesus used them to change the world.  Places:  The stable where Jesus was born had to be stinky and gross … and of absolutely NO consequence to anyone and Jesus turned it into one of the most blessed places in the history of the world.  Situations:  The cross.  Covered in shame and pain and disgrace, the Cross has become the focal point of hope and forgiveness for all people and all time!

Jesus brings hope!  That’s what we are talking about in the sermon this weekend.  We all face (from time to time) frustration, fear, discouragement and devastation (and lots of other emotions).  Into EVERY ONE of those circumstances … EVERY ONE … Jesus brings hope!  You and I need hope.

Don’t Judge

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A great reminder in my Word for Today reading this morning. Jesus was non-binary and calls us to be the same. (By “non-binary” I mean that Jesus didn’t jump to judgement and condemnation. He loved first.) It is so easy to jump to judgment, point out faults and flaws, and tell (or think) that others are just wrong. Jesus didn’t do that. If it works for Him, I think I should try it. Which is probably a good idea since He pretty much commanded it. 🙂

Luke 6 …

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:37-42