“Becoming Great”

Mark 10:41-43  Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.

There have been may times that something I have said has made another person, or even a group of people, angry or upset. I have gotten upset over words from another person (hearing a voice or via written message). We can easily allow what people say to upset us and let our emotions determine how we act.

This is how I imagine the disciples mindset at this point in time. I cannot blame them for feeling the way do at this point. It is easy to understand what might be going through their minds at this point. If they would have taken time to talk with James and John, would they have gotten angry? Would they be able to understand the brothers’ background and meet them where they were? Did the other ten disciples want to have the same position of greatness and were angry because they did not ask first?

I wonder if James and John understood why the other disciples were angry.

Jesus teaches his disciples about true greatness. He tells them that earthly position and authority are fragile. We should not strive to gain earthly recognition, but to strive for the glory of God.

To live for the glory of God means we live our life for something bigger than we are. When we do this, we become more humble. Becoming more humble means we begin to be a servant rather than a master. It seems backwards. Becoming a servant to become great. I think this makes good sense when we think about it. We cannot just jump to becoming an owner, we have to work for it. We have to be able to do the lowliest tasks in order to become ready for the bigger tasks.

“Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”

Get ‘Em

James 5:19-20 “My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

James has been a great series to be in for this month. The ending is not what we might consider “normal.” After all, what has James been doing the entire letter up until these verses? Getting the community of faith to live their lives in the manner they speak and worship.

There have been ups and downs, as with all aspects of human life. Living to a higher standard, is difficult. It is possible to try and live a decent life through good works; but it is because of our faith and living out our faith are the works we do elevated to give God glory.

Prayer is a communication between man and God and God and man. This is one of the most powerful things we can do in our lives. When people get together as a community and pray, souls are aligned. This is one reason I believe Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” (Matthew 18:20). There is just something special and powerful when we get together as a community.

There are times when there is a rift, a division within the community of faith and a person has abandoned the faith. People will run off and do there own things. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that he handed people over to Satan for their benefit so they would come back to God anew. When someone decides to walk away, James says to go get them!

Now, we do not go bring them back so numbers will be higher, or giving will increase. We go because God desires all people to have a saving knowledge of Him. We grow in our faith because of the community of faith we are part of. If a person walks away, it becomes easy to hold on to the parts of our life we are ashamed of. We miss out on the opportunity to take the burden off our hearts and confess sins, confess wrong doings.

Confession, repentance and forgiveness is something powerful that we cannot ignore. Going to get people who walk away, or who have never known the faith helps us maintain relationships and walk with people through their hurts, their joys, their life.

Who do you believe God is leading you to go get?

Individual yet Collective

Romans 12:4 In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. 

Being part of a group, yet retaining our identity is important to us. We all would like to leave our mark in the world, yet remain part of a group fellowship. From the beginning of Romans 12, the Apostle Paul is helping his readers understand it is important to be different from the world but remain in the world and use the gifts that God has given to make a difference around us.

If we read this verse in the context of the passage we’re looking at this week, we can get a broader sense of how we can work together even with our different gifts and show the love and glory of God.

Romans 12:3-8 Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

So, what stands out to you? I think it is incredible how we can and do have different gifts and talents; but we are still part of the same body. The piece that holds us together is God. We all have been given different gifts, but we are hopefully working toward the same goal, bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.

I love this about the writing of Paul in this passage. Basically I hear that we have the opportunity to be in relationship with many types of people and work toward a common goal. We have the chance to show the mighty power of God in our individual lives, and in our lives in community.

God works in and through people. There is most likely something that God is leading you to do right now, but you are not alone. It may feel lonely at times but there is a whole faith community in Christ praying and working in other areas to show the good news of Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a world in desperate need of his love and grace.

It is because of our faith in Christ that we belong to each other. We are a family. This means that we are connected. I am not sure about you, but “In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.” is a huge challenge. We will want to work by ourselves, sometimes; but we have a responsibility to bring others in and work with them to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Who do you believe would make a good ministry partner for you? What gifts do they bring? What gifts should you personally nurture?

Cookie Cutters?

Romans 12:4 “We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had the same function, same mindset, same gifts and talents as each other? Wouldn’t that make life easier? I know we say (and hopefully tease), “If only [insert name or group] would think (or act) just like me, then everything would be right.” After all, I am the one that is always right, correct?

Sometimes I believe we slip into the mindset and attitudes that it would be so much better if everyone else acted and thought just like we do. One of the beauties of the creativeness of God is how much diversity is out there for us to enjoy. Let’s be honest, we like diversity and can get a little bored of the same thing over and over. We like to make choices.

We are not all “cut out of the same mold.” We are all created individually with specific gifts, talents, interests, preferences, etc. This is one of the beautiful parts of our world – how much diversity there is. Yes, we all have differing gifts and talents. Yes, we live in different communities and countries. But I believe this shows the creativity of God.

What this tells me is that we are all part of the same “body.” I also think of this as community of faith or universal church. The body of Christ is the church here on earth. Each part of the body has different functions, and this is what makes the body work.

The challenge I think we have today is to think about the diversity there is around us and how we are really all (hopefully) working toward the same goal. There are people we do not agree with; but this is an opportunity to be thankful and praise God for their gifts and talents being used to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. You and I have a great part to play, even though we may have different functions.

God should be praised daily for the diversity.

Strengthened in Christ

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Colossians 1:9-14 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins. 

Yesterday, we looked at the prayers that Paul was praying for people while he was in prison. He was filled with joy how God was working in the lives of the congregations he formed. As we continue with Colossians 1, we get to see more of Paul’s prayers for the people. He prays for those reading this letter to be strengthened by God. Who do you think is praying for you to be strengthened in your faith? Who should you pray for to increase in strength in their faith in God?

Why should we pray this? If we trust that God is working in people, we will be more attentive to their faith life and can be more encouraging in their walk with Jesus Christ. As we do this, we get to be the ones to walk with God alongside them to help them grow the seeds of God’s grace that will produce a fruit. This fruit will allow the person to do even more good works for the Kingdom of God.

Paul also makes a statement that, if just read quickly, can be missed. He says “so that you endure everything and have patience.” In this statement, Paul is saying that life is not going to be easy, but we can be strengthened by God to endure anything we go through. It will hurt at the time, but in the end we will be able to develop patience through life. What a great promise to hold on to. Imagine how much different the world would be if we allowed patience to develop in each of us and this fruit of the spirit takes over our lives!

For us to be strengthened in Christ means that we look to the light to guide our path. We seem to be more comfortable walking in the dark (doing things and traveling paths that actually lead away from Christ) than we are walking in the light (moving with and toward Jesus Christ with our lives). Why are we this way? It can be painful for our weaknesses and sins to be exposed to the light, but this is how God takes care of our sins. God brings them into the light so we can see what we need to do and how we should live a life that is worthy of Him.

We are set free from the paths that try to keep us in the dark; the paths that lead us away from Christ. The darkness creeps in and can make us believe lies and dark things about us. Letting the light in and moving toward the light really gives us the freedom to believe the best things about us because that is what God believes about you and I.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Praying in Confidence

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Ephesians 6:18-20 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan of the gospel known. I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say. 

Now we are getting toward the end of the book of Ephesians and Paul is shifting his focus on teaching the people to asking for prayers for himself and his ministry. Normally when we ask prayers for ourselves, we will ask about physical healing and for circumstances to improve. This was not the case for Paul. Not once does he ask to be free from the prison he’s been placed in or asking for people to pray for any physical limitation or condition he may have or may be going through. All he says is “Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time.”

Our lives should be constant prayer. We should have lives that reflect constant communication with God. What kinds of things should we pray for? We should pray for our situation and for God to be known through the situation. We should pray for healing: physical, emotional, spiritual, relational. We should pray for other people, our leaders, our family, our friends. We should pray for and about anything. Praying keeps our focus and attention on Christ and we are better able to see the world through His eyes than solely through our own eyes.

Paul asks for something unique, in a way, that he would like people to pray for. He doesn’t ask for his situation to be improved in the way that we might. He asks for the confidence to speak the message of Jesus Christ to any and all people he encounters – especially the guards. His life is in prison, at this point, and he is asking to be able to speak the peace of Christ to those who are guarding him and all those he is able to encounter.

So, who is it around you that needs to hear the message of Jesus Christ? Who is it that you will encounter that you will need the courage and confidence to speak the truth about Christ? The truth is all people need Christ. Many people just don’t know that’s who they need. Maybe there is a part of you that doesn’t feel confident enough in the gospel. This may be God reaching out to you right now to show you that He is with you and is giving you the confidence and the words to speak when they are necessary. The only “magic formula” for presenting the gospel to others is trusting in the power of Jesus Christ to help give you the words and equip you at the time you need it.

The power of the gospel is that is changes everything about us, especially about what and who we pray for.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Guarding

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Ephesians 6:10-17 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 

As Paul is wrapping up his letter, he teaches about the most important thing we need to do in our lives.He has already talked about the relationships we have with those around us, and those in our families; now he is talking about our relationship with God. So in this, Paul is showing what it means to keep God as our guide and power of strength to live this life in a manner that is worthy.

How can we keep our hearts and minds focused on the power of God as we go through the day ahead? We have the opportunity to put on the tools and “armor” that will protect us, save our hearts, and guard our minds against those things and attitude that take our focus away from God. What is really fascinating, to me, is the manner in which Paul describes how we can allow God’s power to be our guiding force in our lives. We simply “put on the full armor of God.”

This imagery may conjure up negative images for some people, but this is really an important thing for us to do each day. When we get up for the day, we put our clothes on to protect our physical being, so why not put on the clothing that God provides to protect us emotionally and spiritually? So, Paul goes into the items that we should “put on” to help us allow God’s power to work in us and around us. There are so many forces around us that we are battling and that are fighting for control of our minds, emotions, spirit, relationships; but God provides a way to protect us from those things that are trying to pull us down and go against God.

We should put on the “belt of truth.” This means that we are allowing God’s truth to be wrapped around us so we constantly are reminded it is God’s truth that is holding us together and keeping us intact. Over our hearts, we wear the “breastplate of justice/righteousness” to guard our hearts from following those situations and ideals that culture can and does embrace but is not as God intends. Then we always have to have the “shoes” on our feet. This is what allows our feet to move so that we can travel to those who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. We can pick up the “shield of faith” to block those attacks that attempt to destroy us. The “helmet of salvation” protects our minds and allows us to meditate on God’s word and presence around us. The “sword of the Spirit” means we have the word of God ready within us so we can speak truth to people in love.

Putting on this “armor/clothing” is us allowing God to transform our lives and to be the light in the world. Since we are to be the light of the world and reflect God’s image and grace to those around us, why not put on shiny armor that reflects light. The Gospel of Jesus Christ protects us and changes our lives from the inside out.

#TheGospelChangesUs