We all, if we were honest with ourselves, long for our lives to be great! We long for our actions to outlive our bodies. We long for life to mean something! We are certainly at no loss, especially in our culture, for definitions of success. From media to marketing, to friends and family, to bosses and bureaucrats, everyone is pushing a definition of greatness! Books have been written to help us “reach our potential!” And we are assured, that if we follow these 20 easy steps, we too can be great!
But we are Kingdom people. We are a people whose citizenship lies in God’s country. So it stands to reason that if we long for greatness, we should seek for what greatness means in our homeland. What makes someone great in God’s Kingdom? Most of us have heard the answer, but how quickly we expatriates forget. Listen to Jesus’ words in Mark 10:43-45, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” It appears from this verse, and several others, that what matters to God is not a shiny new car, or big promotion, or fame. Quite the opposite, what makes us great in God’s eyes is to be like His son; compassionate, forgiving, and one who serves. Not only serves, but serves like a slave, expecting nothing in return.
Our homework this week is a little dangerous. This week, ask God with a simple prayer, “God, would you show me how you want me to serve others?” And God will be faithful to answer that prayer with visions of true greatness!
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching! I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the thanksgiving meal is my favorite of the year; closely followed by post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. This is the time of the year where we are able to reflect on the blessings God has given us. This last weekend, my fiancée, Kristin and I went walking through antique stores and I saw a cheesy little sign that said, “Don’t count your blessings, share them.” Now at first glance that little truism seems trite and a bit cliché. But the more I have thought about that, especially in the light of the coming holiday, the more it has struck me as essential. In Genesis 12:2 God tells Abram, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (RSV) We see here that one of the primary purposes for God’s blessing to Abram was that he would in turn be a blessing from God to the nations.
We as the children of Abraham have that same duty. In fact, we aren’t left in the dark about this task. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gives us instruction on how we are to bless others. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Your homework this week is both the simplest and hardest homework ever. Read Matthew 25:31-46. As you reflect on how God has blessed you, ask God how He would have you be a blessing to “the least” among us. As you pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” also pray, “How can I help bring Your Kingdom into this world?”
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” Matt 28:18-20
Paul called us ministers of reconciliation. Jesus called us his body, the physical representation of his ongoing presence in our present age. Anyway you look at it, we are people with a mission. And just like Jim Phelps of “IMF” it is a mission that we can accept, or deny. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make disciples of all nations. To teach them everything Jesus commanded. Lest we quickly return to the law, let us remember what it was that Jesus commanded of us. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Unconditional love is a light to a lustful world. Unconditional love is the salt the preserves the broken spirits of those around us and gives them hope for restoration. By loving the unlovely, we clothe ourselves with the character of God. This is one of the deepest forms of our worship to Him.
This week’s homework? Extol the character and acts of God in deed!
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
We are bombarded everyday with images of war, terror, death, corruption, natural disasters, famine, disease, and that’s just the six o’clock news! All day long, despair attempts to break in to our thought life. Yet, as Christ’s emissaries we are to be a light of hope in this world. How can we radiate hope when everything around us is oppressed by hopelessness? We start by choosing carefully what thoughts we give place to. Paul has provided a filter that, if we use, will feed the hope within us.
This week’s homework, consciously apply the “thought filter” from Philippians 4:8 to each thought that enters your mind, and choose to dwell on those thoughts which fit the list, while dismissing the others. Then sit back and watch how you increasingly become the light of Christ to your friends and colleagues.
“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Phil 2:5-11
This is perhaps my favorite passage of scripture! It is said that Paul is quoting one of the hymns that the early church sang. What a reminder this is that worship is not about the songs we sing, but about the attitudes of our hearts. Paul reminds the people of Philipi, Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. This puts a completely different twist on the common phrase “What would Jesus Do.” No longer do we ask that question to answer what would Jesus do if he were in my situation, but rather, we ask, “What should I do to put myself in the situations Jesus found himself in?”
This week’s homework: As you encounter life’s situations each day, seek to have the attitude of Christ. Worship with Attitude!