Servanthood is the path to Resurrection

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:13-17

In another moment, Jesus tells His disciples ‘If you want to be the greatest, you have to be last, and the servant of all.’ (Mark 9:35)

Servanthood is the opposite of what most of us think of when we think of being great. Great people get recognition, they pay for people to clean their houses and cook for them. Great people don’t serve, they get served. Yet the King of the universe humbles himself to the lowest position and washes the disciples feet.

If anyone had the ability and the right to ‘lord’ power over people, it was Jesus. However, He didn’t count equality with His Father as something to hold tightly to, rather He made Himself nothing, by becoming in nature a servant (Phil 2:6-7). He left equality with His Father to serve us, so that we could equally share in His inheritance.

Without Jesus serving us by laying down His life as a ransom for many, there is no freedom, there is no justification, there is no resurrection.

Therefore servanthood is the path we need to follow.

A servant does every dirty job that needs to be done. A servant is available at all times to do all things that the master wants done. A servant is never too good for anything.

But the only way to become someone who can serve like this without becoming bitter or resentful, is to never forget that Jesus left equality with His Father so that we could call His Father, our Father.

That means that everything we do should be done out of gratitude toward the ‘suffering servant’, and should be a reflection of His life on earth.

Servanthood is the path to resurrection.

Lord Jesus, we know that only through you can we be called righteous. May we righteously follow your example as a servant, for we know that you are far greater than we are, and we need your power to serve as selflessly as you did. May we be imitators of your divine nature in every way. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Power of Persistent Prayer

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up… 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:1,7-8

Prayer is one of the most mysterious aspects of our faith. It isn’t a formula with specified outcomes from other specific inputs. No one can tell you what to do to get the answer you are looking for. The reason it’s mysterious is because at the center of effective prayer is a heart that desires God.

But how can we have a heart that truly desires God so our prayers become effective? The answer may seem odd: to have a heart that truly desires God over and above His blessings you have to pray and never give up.

To pray well, we have to desire God over His blessings; we start to desire God over His blessings by praying more.

For the most part many of us pray for a blessing from God without truly wanting to love God, and then we blame Him for feeling far away. However when we start to truly love God for Himself, that’s when He knows we can handle and understand His answers to our prayers whether they are a no or a yes.

The Apostle Paul prayed multiple times for relief from pain, but God said no, ‘my power is made perfect in weakness’, and that led Paul to boast in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Pauls heart desired God, so when God answered his prayer with a ‘no’, Paul was able to handle it and understand the divine purpose to his pain.

Paul’s persistent prayer was effective because it came from a heart that truly desired God.

This truth is reflected in the question Jesus asks in verse 8. ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ That is a tough question to read, but it gets at an important point; prayer comes from faith. However sometimes our faith is in systems, rules and in getting justice rather than in ‘the Son of Man'(vs. 8). Even if our faith and hope are ever so slightly leaning to other things, that can directly impact the effectiveness of our prayers, no matter how persistent we are praying.

How can we desire God more and take to heart the call to persistent prayer?

Lord, examine our hearts and bring to mind the ways we may be holding onto our own desires and selfish ambition over You. We know that as we pray continuously our hearts will start to change. We ask in Your powerful name that we would be able to handle and understand the divine purposes of Your answers to us and that we would boast in our weaknesses so that your power will be made visible in us as we devote our lives to you. Be magnified in us Lord. Amen

What can Worry add to Your Life?

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:33-34

The passage above is a very common passage that multitudes of Christians have memorized. But it still seems that at least a dozen times a day we start worrying about the next week/month/year of life, work, friendships, and family.

For some of us we’re worried about what outfits to wear next week in order to look cool, or maybe we have meetings and other work functions that we wonder how we’re going to finish the rest of our work before the deadline. The list of things we could worry about goes on for a long time.

When we worry about the future we often add false obstacles and false commentary into some legitimate obstacles that we face. There are times when we let false commentary impact our attitude over an interaction that’s about to happen, or we anticipate feedback from someone over a decision, and have rebuttals already lined up for the comments we might get.

For most of us, our attitudes are so impacted by worry that we miss out on many (MANY) opportunities that the Lord puts in our path.

Worry takes away the ability to enjoy what God has given us.

Jesus didn’t worry about the reality of His upcoming crucifixion; He knew it was coming but it didn’t paralyze Him or cause Him to miss what His Father was doing on earth. He didn’t worry when people left Him because of His difficult teachings, He continued to love and serve the sinners and the least of us up to and through His death and resurrection. He faced so many tough situations, but He endured it all ‘for the joy that was set before Him.’ (Hebrews 12:2).

The truth is, if we continuously focus on the joy of His kingdom, we will never worry again.

What are some things you are worried about that you can bring before God in prayer? How can we seek first His kingdom together?

Dearest Lord, How often have we worried about our life and the things we can’t control and forgotten about you? It’s more often than we can know. Purify our hearts and minds as we seek first your kingdom as a family. May You increase in our lives as we decrease. Have your way in us! In Jesus name, Amen.

Build a Community of Strong Believers

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18b-21

One of the most essential tasks we must undertake as Christians is finding other people who want to seek the Lord intensely with us. It’s good to go to church and sit in the pews and volunteer at different events, but it’s another thing entirely to really find a place where people are encouraging each other as they read scripture, pray and recite or sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

It’s really easy to go into a church and hear complaints about the pastor, the worship and/or certain people. However one commentator, when talking about this passage, said ‘a complaining heart and the Holy Spirit just don’t go together.’

Therefore if we are being filled with the Spirit continuously results in praise and thanksgiving as we share our time and treasure with other people. If we are filling our hearts with the goodness of God, we will sing of the goodness of God in our hearts and to those around us.

But there will be days when we forget some truths we have known for years. There will be days when we are going through a hard time. That’s why we need other people encouraging us in our worship as we continue to encourage others in their worship.

We were made to be in community with other believers.

When we find friends who encourage us in our worship and thanksgiving, the amount of time we spend in the hard places will decrease and the amount of joy we start to see in our lives and in our relationship with God will increase. The increase of joy comes as our Christians friends see the good and ugly parts of our lives and they turn and praise God for His work in and through us.

If we don’t know anyone who desires to be filled with the Spirit so that they are reciting or singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to others, then maybe thats God’s call on us to spend more time with Him. And as we seek Him we can encourage others to seek Him more through our praise.

Lord, we want to seek you more intensely than we have before. We ask for a community of people to share your love with. Please empower us to address, sing, give thanks, and submit to each other out of reverence to you. You are our refuge and strength, you protect us and empower us. May we be a place where people can take refuge and be strengthend by your Spirit. In Jesus name, Amen

Jesus Justice

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:23-24

Have you ever wondered if going to church and singing songs pleased God? Certainly we need to praise God and gather together, but if it doesn’t impact the way we live then we might just be making noise to God.

Many of us clean ourselves up for church, sing the right songs and know the right answers, but the truth of God isn’t actually a part of our daily lives. There is a disconnect between what we know about God and how we live.

A correct knowledge of God is meaningless without a transformed heart and mind. And when our hearts and minds are transformed through Jesus, that leads us into the resurrected life.

The resurrected life pleases God.

A resurrected life is the life of Jesus. Did Jesus worship God without action? Did Jesus sing songs without doing good? Of course not. Jesus’ life was full of spending time with His Father and living justly. But did He bring about justice in the way we normally think about justice? No. He didn’t go into the court system and address the law enforcement (Roman rule was bad news), instead he showed love and grace to the outcasts and challenged the ‘self-righteous’ religious people to do the same (sometimes in very mean language). Therefore the resurrected life reflects Jesus in that way. It doesn’t mean that we neglect praising God, it means that we go about our lives worshiping God in a way that shows the immeasurable grace and love of Jesus to everyone. Loving like Jesus challenges the self-righteous, whether they are self- righteous religious people, self-righteous business owners, self-righteous politicians, or self-righteous friends/family, and so on.

Self-righteous people, on some level, trust in their works. But we must trust in the God who came not for the righteous but for the sinners.

How might that look for us this week?

Fighting Lies with a Renewed Mind

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

The mind is the scariest battlefield in the world. We never know what fight is going on in a persons mind, what lies are playing in their thoughts, on a given day.

A TV show once said that “9 out of 10 lies occur 6 inches from the bathroom mirror”. I’m not sure we can trust statistics from a sitcom, but there is truth there. Our minds often try to condemn us even though God is greater than our thoughts (1st John 3:21).

Lies that go unchecked in the mind are responsible for every awful act in history, as well as our own self-destructive actions.

Our minds need to be renewed.

Sometimes medicine can help clear out many lies from our minds, but our main source of renewal comes from God.

Along with a renewed mind from God, our body has to follow our mind with a sacrifice of its own.

Paul says that as we view God’s mercy (with our mind) we need to ‘offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is [our] true and proper worship.’

Some of us don’t offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God because our minds don’t fully grasp God’s mercy for us through Jesus. And when we don’t fully grasp God’s mercy for us, there is no anchor or reference point for our thoughts. Some thoughts get bigger or smaller depending on the mood we are in. Therefore, without the proper reference point, we entertain lies that lead our body to rebel against the Holy Spirits work in and around us.

However, most of us think that if we only knew God’s will for our lives we would be able to listen and obey. That is a lie that is covering up an unconscious, deeper concern in our minds. Our deeper concern is that God won’t come through for us when we obey what He has already revealed to us. We want an assurance that His will for us has a good outcome before we jump into it. But Paul says that the living sacrifice of our bodies and the renewal of our mind is how we know his ‘good, pleasing and perfect will.’

We can’t know his ‘good, pleasing and perfect will’ without our bodies being offered to God as a result of the God-inspired renewal of our minds.

How has your mind tried to lie to you? How can spending more time with God renew our minds? How can we offer up our bodies as living sacrifices?

Lord, thank you for your mercy! We pray that our hearts and minds would constantly view your mercies so that we can offer our bodies and minds to you, and be transformed in our true worship of you. Help us to walk confidently in your promises. In Jesus name, Amen.

Radical Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

Hebrews 11:1 is the only place in the Bible where we are given a very clear definition of what faith is. The writer tells us that faith is the substance of our hope and the evidence of the unseen spiritual realities.

The greek word for substance means to have actual existence or presence. And the greek word translated as evidence means to show proof. So Hebrews 11:1 could read, ‘Now faith is the actual existence of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen.’

In 2nd Kings the prophet Elisha was able to see and hear the plans of the enemy and communicate them to the King of Israel even though he wasn’t anywhere near the enemies camp. In 2nd Kings Chapter 6, when the enemy had surrounded the city Elisha was in, everyone was afraid except Elisha. He could see the Army of the Lord when no one else could (until he prayed for his servant).

In this case, Elisha’s faith in God allowed Him to know what physically took place in a secret meeting, and his faith allowed him to see something that was spiritually taking place that no one else could see.

Faith isn’t always a revelation of a physical reality, but it is a spiritual revelation of the unseen that will change our inner thoughts and our outward expression.

Therefore faith isn’t just hope for God’s eternal promise. Faith is also entering into a spiritual reality that is taking or will take place.

In America, we don’t experience this definition of faith on a regular basis. Consequently, it’s easy to write it off as being radical. But what if we don’t experience this faith because we are so distracted by the cares of this world that we don’t truly surrender ourselves to the heart of God?

What might be holding you back from full surrender to the will of God for your life?

The Difference Between Forgiveness and Justification

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 4:25-5:2

What is the difference between justification and forgiveness? Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Does that mean that, since we have been forgiven, that we are justified before God? No. Forgiveness wipes out all debts, but we’re not rich. In other words forgiveness means we are free to go, but it doesn’t bring us close to God.

The definition of justification is: someone who is declared or made righteous. A helpful way to explain justification is that God looks at you and me ‘just if I’d never sinned.’ Justification is what brings us close to God.

Forgiveness in Christ means we are no longer under the punishment of death, but our hearts are still bent toward sin. Justification in Christ means we are now Children through the resurrection of Jesus, and we are being purified from sin.

Jesus has given forgiveness to everyone. He took the sins of the world on Himself (1st John 2:2) so that everyone could have the opportunity to be justified, but only those who accept His forgiveness can be justified. But if we don’t accept His forgiveness and His justification, we have denied the Son of God and are back under judgement (Hebrews 10:26).

In Matthew 22, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a King who prepares a wedding feast for His Son. Everyone was invited into the banquet but some chose not to come in, others tried to come in but weren’t wearing the right clothes (so they were kicked out), and others were wearing wedding clothes and were able to stay.

In ancient culture, the king would provide clothing for his events, in this case he would have provided wedding clothes. In this parable the wedding clothes represent Christ’s righteousness. If someone wasn’t wearing the right clothes they were either a wedding crasher or they thought their clothes were better (they worked hard to be righteous) and therefore would have been kicked out. If they were wearing the clothing provided by the King that means they would have been justified to be there (made righteous).

Justification comes from life changing faith in the resurrected Jesus. Do our lives reflect both His forgiveness and justification?

Father, thank you for sending your son to die on the cross for each of our sins. We are so grateful for your forgiveness, may your forgiveness lead us to deeper faith in you so that we can put on your righteousness and enter into your banquet. In Jesus name, Amen.

Compassion Leads to Change

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

One evening I was hanging out with a friend when I realized that I was supposed to start my new job that morning. I was so embarrassed. How could I explain to my new boss that I went a whole day thinking it was Wednesday when it was actually Thursday? I called him fully expecting to have to find a new job, but to my astonishment he showed me compassion. He said, ‘I know there will be times when I need grace in the future, and I hope you will extend grace to me when I need it.’

The little compassion my boss showed me made me want to show more compassion to the people I interacted with. How much more should the compassionate forgiveness from God, through Christ, change me?

The compassion of Jesus is so much more powerful because He suffered so much more on this earth. Therefore he can relate to us in every way, no matter how much we have gone through.

God’s compassionate understanding for us stirs us up to show compassion to others. And the way we do that is by not focusing on what they have done, but rather focusing on why they did it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

Christ-like compassion sees through the action of the offender into the heart of pain, and loves the offender like Christ loves us.

How amazing would it be for the world to see Christ-like compassion in the way we interact with our families and friends?

Lord, we we are so thankful for your compassionate forgiveness to us, help us to always remember that you bore our sin and shame and showed us unimaginable compassion when you died for us. May we keep your compassion in mind as we are faced with situations when we need to show your compassion to others. In Jesus name, Amen.

Reconciled to God

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2nd Corinthians 5:11-21

One of the harder truths from the Bible to grasp is the truth of complete reconciliation to God. Many of us, if not all of us, walk around enslaved by a debt we think we owe. We think, ‘God has saved us so now we are indebted to Him’, when in reality we WERE indebted to Him and NOW (to those who completely believe and trust Him) He saved us from having to pay the debt. There was a gap, caused by sin, that has now been erased.

The word reconcile literally means ‘bring back together’. God and his creation have been brought back together through Christ. Reconciliation to God has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Christ’s righteousness in us, through the Holy Spirit. There has been a complete change in the state of who we were to who we are in Christ. We are a new creation.

Being a new creation that is reconciled to Christ doesn’t take away past or future hurt, but it allows us to stop running from our pain and face it head on – by the power of the Holy Spirit – without the fear of crumbling underneath physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. We can now face past and the future pain with the love, protection and wisdom of God as we turn and give it all to Him.

Through Christ’s reconciliatory work we have been given complete access to every resource He had while He was on earth. That means we can demonstrate His love through what would have been crippling circumstances before we knew of God’s love for us.

Have you ever known the love of God that reconciles us to Himself?