Archive for August, 2014
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
In order to model for his disciples that a life of service is the pathway to Kingdom greatness, Jesus gave himself over to the cross and death. It was of no selfish benefit but procured for “whosoever will” the gift of God’s grace and eternal life. He would never ask of others what he, himself, would not willingly endure.
“But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
A child lacks the skill set—the savvy, experience, knowledge, authority, wisdom, cleverness—necessary to achieve greatness as it has been defined by the world’s standard of success. Interestingly, none of these are necessary to serving the Kingdom of God with greatness. What a child does possess, however, is the capacity to follow direction. In fact, it is this willingness to serve obediently that the Kingdom’s law of greatness is accomplished.
“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
Perhaps it is to the simplicity of a child’s prayer that we should return…”God is great, God is good…”. By this we are reminded that next to Him no others are good or great. Not the famous; not the rich; not the powerful nor the popular. A child’s perspective keeps us from pursuing what these appear to have that we might be better postured to receive what He desires to give.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
I’m convinced that spiritual formation is akin to geological formation. It is accomplished through vast amounts of time and pressure. The faithful reading of God’s word has a cumulative effect. Just as I may not be able to quote lengthy recitations of what my wife has said in our thirty-one years together, I have, nonetheless, considered her words important and vital to our relationship, and foundational to the life we have lived and share together. God speaking through his word is vital to a lasting and meaningful relationship.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
That you are tempted carries far greater implications than just not failing. The very moment of your temptation is a reminder of the unique relationship that we have with God. Temptation is an indicator of who we are–created in the image of God; fearfully and wonderfully made. Unlike the animal kingdom we are not bound by our instincts and genetic predispositions. Temptation can lead one to settling for so little when we are created for so much more.
“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12)
The desires of the flesh that the world seeks to flaunt and arouse, we labor to subdue. As disciples of Jesus, the honor bestowed upon athletes, stars, and the wealthy no longer has any appeal. Do we, then, have a point of connection with those still captured by such things? Today’s text says, “Yes!” Goodness has universal appeal, recognition, and acknowledgement. Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit that overcomes all religious stereotypes and breaks down all barriers, culminating in God’s glorification.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
The true nature of sin is never plain and obvious but cunning and deceptive. It is never, simply, the pleasure of the moment but a progressive trap of diminishing returns evilly designed to create even more ravenous and destructive cravings. More and more delivers less and less. Thus, deeper and deeper into the quagmire one goes.
“But I say to you, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44).
The words alone remind us that we are at war; at war with a world that, while standing in opposition to God, has eternal longings, making them vulnerable to false Gods. It is into this world we have been commissioned as peacemakers; carpet-bombing our enemies with love and prayer. Yes, this gospel is hard work. Maybe the greatest battle isn’t with the world, but ourselves as we seek to practice what we have been transformed and empowered by the Spirit to be.
“And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Matthew 8:2)
Fingers curled, skin dried and cracked; reverently, humbly, politely; this unwanted castaway came to Jesus. This one, and others among the down and out, even sinners, came to him in their brokenness; in the hope of relief, redemption, and a brighter tomorrow. In contrast, the up and in, the wealthy, the affluent, the self-righteous, those with seemingly no needs, approached him to offer reminders of their traditions, preferences, and religious pedigree, in the hope of preserving their past and present state. How do you draw near to him?
“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play’” (1 Corinthians 10:7).
To deal with the issue of idolatry it must first be understood not in terms of graven images but captured hearts. Can you identify your golden calf? It is the passion that enslaves your desires; that distracts your worship; that convinces you it is no longer necessary to gather with the saints; that makes allegiance to our Lord a sometimes thing and not an all time thing. We will always bow to an altar–ours or His.