Chit Chat with the Messiah

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside…” Matthew 20:17

Have you ever wondered what Jesus and his disciples talked about when they were walking to places? They would regularly walk 2, 5, 10 or more miles to get to the next town so they had to talk about something. Obviously we’ll never know this side of Heaven how those conversations went, but He had gained the trust and confidence of twelve men.

I had a professor in Bible School that was a great man of wisdom. He was often slow in communicating that, but when he did we wrote down everything he had to say. Everything. We hung on his every word. I imagine it was like that for the disciples of Jesus too. When he spoke, people listened intently. Picture them gathering around Him even as they walked (and walking backwards if they had to).

And yet, I’m not sure they fully grasped who He was or what He came to do. I find that I do that often enough. I doubt and question and wonder. It’s the valleys and peaks of our Christian experience. They are normal and can be expected if we hope to mature in the Christian faith.

But I can say with certainty, “Yes, it has been worth it all.” 

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How’s Your Serve?

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:26

James, John, and the remaining ten disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. Actually, the ten were upset at James and John for trying to secure a special place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Though the text doesn’t say it, I presume at least a few of the ten were indignant because they weren’t quick enough to ask! It’s a very human thing to want.

But Jesus set them all in their places. If you want to be great, serve others. That’s it. It’s certainly not what the world teaches. The world tells us to be great first then you’ll be able to serve humanity. Or “look out for Number One because no one else will be looking out for you.” What an upside down kingdom we’re a part of.

It’s a very basic lesson to us all: if you want to be great in the Kingdom, serve.

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Name Dropping

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Matthew 20:29

Have you ever seen a famous person on the street? It’s kind of a cool experience. To this day on occasion you’ll probably “drop a name” if given a chance. “Yeah, I rode the elevator with that guy.”

In the previous passage, we see the mother of James and John vying for her sons to take seats of honor in the coming Kingdom (and the remaining 10 disciples becoming angry about it). They all knew who Jesus was. The very thought of the Messiah being in their presence every day was phenomenal. I’m certain they too were name droppers.

“I walked to Jericho with THE Messiah.” That kind of story just begged a response: “What was it like? What did you talk about?” Then, the disciples could tell the full story. What an opportunity!

We too walk with the Messiah. We talk. We listen. We argue. We laugh. Then we have an opportunity to “name drop.”

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Finding Strength

Sudan map, courtesy of BBC NewsDavid was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:6

At this time in David’s reign—to put it mildly—he wasn’t well liked. We’ve all had those kinds of days. And to be fair, there are times that we haven’t liked people that much. Those who were against David wanted blood. Amidst all that anguish and strife, David could say that he found strength in the Lord his God. The correlation to our own lives is obvious but I think we need to step it up a notch.

As I’ve written in this space before, millions of Christians face situations similar to David’s. Many want the blood of Christians. We need to pray for our Brothers and Sisters that they will find strength in the Lord their God. Their very lives may depend on our prayers.

Pray for the nation of Sudan. Darfur gets most of the attention out of all the news coming out of Sudan, but Sudan is a very large country. After 20+ years of civil war, there is trouble once again. Pray for those in the towns of Wau, Bir Di, Bor, Rumbek, Waat, Akelo, and the capital of the South, Juba (to name a few).

Pray that they too will find strength in the Lord their God.

Voice of the Martyrs

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Sing for Joy

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Psalm 5:11

Here are two related questions. (1) How do you sing when no one is watching? It could be a song on the radio or a worship tape or a song that just pops into your head. (2) Now how do you sing when people are around, say, perhaps in a congregational setting? Are the two manners different? (sorry, that was 3 questions)

This evening the barbershop chorus I sing with went to a nursing home. We sang to two different audiences: the first was to “regular” residents as they were dining, and the second in the Memory Care Section (Alzheimer’s Unit). What a contrast. The regular residents were polite and cordial. Then we sang to the Memory Care residents. One woman in particular took it upon herself to join in with us to the tunes she knew. She was off key, shrill, and a half second ahead of us in our singing. No problem.

Then it happened. A quartet began a medley of three Gospel songs and I watched this woman in amazement. She sang (almost) in tune and in tempo with the quartet. The words came alive to her. She was halfway between tears and smiles. She wasn’t singing for our benefit, even though we were all standing in front of her. No, she was carefree and joyfully singing for the Audience of One.

And I suspect He was pleased with her worship.

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God of Comfort

I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass. Isaiah 51:12

When God is our comfort, what do we have to fear? Nothing. And yet, we fear a lot.

  • We fear about not having enough money “to make ends meet.”
  • We fear about the type of society our children are growing up in.
  • We fear that the global economy will come crashing around us.
  • We fear old age.
  • We fear death.
  • We even fear that God doesn’t love us sometimes.

We could easily add to the list if we're honest with ourselves. The list is as real as our fears. However, the God who set the mountains and lakes in place, the God who threw out the stars in the heavens and sprinkled the sand on the beaches, the God who knows the number of water molecules in all of the oceans, yes, that same God will comfort us.

Sometimes we just need to ask. Often it’s the hardest thing to do.

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Everlasting to Everlasting

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1

Have you ever wondered if the God who created the universe is capable? I know, it sounds like a foolish question. I ask this because I think that we often treat Him as if He were a “if you can” God versus a “I know you can” God. We doubt God. We think that with a billion Christians praying at one time, what’s the likelihood that He even cares for us let alone will answer our prayers?

But as today’s Scripture states, He’s been around a long long time and He isn’t going away any time too soon. From the beginning of time until it is no more, God will be. He’s heard the prayers of the saints from of old and He’ll hear the prayers of His modern-day saints. Nothing is beyond His grasp. No one is unimportant. And no prayers go unheard (you may not like His answers but He does hear them).

So, today is a day to just think about His greatness. Think about the God who talked to Adam in the garden, Noah as he was building the ark, Moses in the burning bush, Paul on the road to Damascus, and any number of Biblical characters. Same God. Different eras. And after we perish from this Earth, He will be here for the saints who follow us.

Stability through the generations is what we need in this rapidly changing world.

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You Must Be Born Again

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:5

A religious leader came to Jesus in the dark of night because he was fearful of what his other leaders would think of him if they found out. Nicodemus was a truth seeker. He was putting a lot on the line to meet with this radical named Jesus.

Then Jesus told him he had to be born again. After Jesus briefly explained the concept, Nicodemus was still puzzled. Jesus’ next words must have shook Nicodemus to the core: “You are Israel’s teacher and you don’t understand these things.” It probably upset him because as a teacher, he was certain to know a great deal about the Law and the Prophets. But he never came across anything about being “born again.” He would have remembered that!

But the rebirth Jesus was talking about was (and is) spiritual. It was all about dying to oneself, sacrifice, trusting in a God you couldn’t see, turning from your evil and wicked desires, acknowledging to that same God that you couldn’t do it on your own. And yet, it began with one simple step: surrendering your life to Christ.

Most reading this will have had that experience in one form or another, but I think it’s prudent to remember where we’ve been and what it was all about. Back then it was fresh in our minds and exciting. The message is still the same: you must be born again. It’s as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago when a troubled religious leader came to Jesus with deep questions.

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Let Nothing Move You

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Those in the ministry know the joys and pains of helping people. It’s often a thankless, sleepless, and tireless job. People don’t always act the way they should or the way you want them to act. People can be downright stubborn and ornery!

But this verse gives us all hope. You see, if we were in the ministry for the money or the prestige or the fame, it wouldn’t last. But we’re in it for the people. Yeah, they’re stubborn, but we also know that God must love them and is getting ready to do something in their lives, because why else would you be ministering to them?

Take heart. You know your reward is a heavenly reward and the work you’re doing on behalf of other people isn’t in vain. It’s nice to be reminded of that when you’re in the thick of things.

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