Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.

Set Our Minds on Jerusalem

17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” (Matt 20:17-19; NKJV)

This week, I would like to make some observations from Matthew 20 verses 17-28.  We will focus on what Jesus teaches regarding greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven and the implications to our own leadership and service.

Before we get into the conversation Jesus has with His disciples, I wanted to set the stage.  I think the context for the ask that is coming after verse 20 is important.

We read here that Jesus has set His mind to go to Jerusalem and more specifically He has set His mind to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and to fulfill what His Father had sent Him to do.  That is what is on Jesus’ mind…the full weight of the eternal, physical, and spiritual situation.  He even takes a minute to explain it to His followers.  He says very clearly that He will be betrayed, condemned to death, delivered to the enemy, mocked, scourged, and crucified!  Ultimately, He will rise victorious but think about how heavy Jesus’ heart must have been working through in His mind all that He would endure.  That is what is on Jesus’ mind and heart.

So what do the disciples get from that?  Now I am not being overly critical here because they did not yet fully appreciate the fact Jesus was not going to establish an earthly kingdom.  They did not fully understand all that He has taught them and probably couldn’t truly comprehend that their Messiah would “fail” like that…lose…fall to the enemy.  So let’s not be too hard on them but lets look at ourselves and ask “do we ever do that?”

What do I mean?  I am asking us to consider for ourselves if there is ever a time that God has put us in a significant situation for the furtherance of His gospel and the delivering of His people and instead of seeing what God sees, we get focused on what we see.  From this perspective, do we start asking “what’s in it for me?” or “how do I benefit in this?”  Maybe not.  Maybe this isn’t something you struggle with.  If you are like me though, you have and you do.

We are selfish and our spirit wars against our flesh.  It did for Paul…it does for us.  The work we are involved in for Jesus in our homes, within the Body, at work, with strangers…it is important work and the consequences of our not getting out of our own way and seeing as God sees is sobering.  It is sobering in terms eternity.  These are souls we are talking about.

Thankfully, we have Jesus.  We have His word.  We have each other.  We are not alone in this and though we might get overly focused on ourselves, we can find correction and encouragement in the Bible and from our brethren.  We aren’t supposed to get it perfect.  We are supposed to be perfected through God’s power in our lives.  It takes time and study to know, understand, and apply God’ word to our lives so that when moments like this come into our path, we can see it as God see’s it.  We can stoop down, humble ourselves, deny ourselves, take up our cross, follower our Savior and rise in the greatness of His work and His awesome power.

Let’s start here for the week.  Take some time and read Matthew 20 and look for the lessons that apply to your life.  We are going to look at how we can get out of focus, how Jesus teaches us to see things differently, to be the least results in greatness, and to do so because He is our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I am so thankful for Him and for you!

Hospitality

Hospitality is a word and concept we studied this morning in Bible class.  The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenos” which means love (philos) strangers (xenos).  We considered many things during class in regards to what hospitality is, what our motivation should be towards hospitality, what prohibits us (or we allow to prohibit us) from being hospitable, who we mean when we say “strangers”, and several other shared thoughts and examples.  To cover all of it in this post would not be possible.  With that said, take time and read Romans 12 and Hebrews 13:2 and meditate on this idea of loving strangers.  Think about who a stranger is in your life…not just those in the world but who do you need to get to know better and show love towards within your church family?

For the remainder of this post, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:9 where we find the word philoxenos.  In chapter four of this book, Peter continues teaching Christians how to live in knowing that the end of all things is near and more specifically how to live “the rest of their time” …not in the flesh but in the will of God.  Peter first commands them to keep their minds clear and alert and be prayerful.  Next Peter tells them to have fervent love for each other noting that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (Proverb 10:12).

In verse nine, Peter directs Christians to demonstrate love by offering hospitality without grumbling, or begrudgingly or in a selfish manner.  In class, we discussed the different ways this might take place and even though we might think it is limited to what we might see as the standard today in terms of having people in our homes, visiting others, serving those in the community, etc.  But God is saying here through Peter is that we should be prepared to love and we should love with the gifts that God has given each individual.  That is the awesome part of the body…that its parts are different but put together are powerful.  Well, in this case, if the individual takes their gift and uses it in finding ways to and then loving a stranger…that is powerful too…and that is hospitality.

In Peter’s day, Christian hospitality in great need of and could be a great burden.  Many Christians were forced to flee in persecution which often meant traveling without much to take care of themselves.  These refugees relied on brothers/sisters in Christ to share their homes, goods, food, etc. while hosting them as they traveled through to their destination.  This kind of hospitality could be risky.  It could have been that those sharing didn’t have much to begin with putting the host’s family at risk of running out themselves.  Those hosting could be taken advantage of if the stranger(s) they were inviting in were not who they thought they were.

Still, Peter reminds his readers—and us—that is how family loves each other. It’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people. We should embrace the opportunity to give that kind of sacrificial love, instead of offering such hospitality reluctantly.

We could spend a week or two thinking about all the different ideas we covered today in class and maybe we will in the future.  But for today, take 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12, and Hebrews 13:2 and read them, pray about them.  Take stock of what you are already doing and more, ask God to help move you out of your comfort zone, identify even more opportunity to love strangers, look within your brethren first, and love.  God loved us first when we were strangers to Him because of sin.  There is our example and motivation.  Loving like Him will encourage, reflect the gospel, and provide opportunity for growth in you and in others.

A Spiritual Giant

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering
the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

Early in the morning on Tuesday October 2, 2018, brother Claude Locke shed his
earthly tent and went home to be with the Lord. In the end, from an earthly
perspective, he wasn’t that impressive.

Claude died in a small room in an assisted living facility with a few meager material
possessions around him. There were a few pictures, some military medals, awards
from his time showing Dobermans, and various books and knick-knacks.

Physically he couldn’t really do much of anything. Over the last five or six years
Claude’s mobility had steadily declined, leaving him wheelchair bound. He relied on
others for his basic needs. Taking a bath or using the restroom was beyond his
reach without help.

Claude’s parents named him Claude Barton Locke the III but there is no Claude
Barton Locke the IV. He leaves behind very little family and virtually no inheritance.
I don’t believe there will be any squabbling over his estate. In fact, I’m not sure
there is anyone left to take possession of his family photo album.

From an outwardly “religious” perspective, Claude was rather insignificant. He
never stood in the pulpit and shook the rafters with his big booming voice. He
wasn’t a great theologian, mining the depths of God’s word and uncovering hidden
treasures. Claude didn’t have an angelic voice that had the ability to transport us
into heaven itself.

But to me, and many others, Brother Claude was a spiritual giant. He was humble
and kind and could lift the your spirits with just a few words. He faced his daily
physical pain with a smile and exuded hope and joy in Christ. Claude loved the Lord
with his entire being and loved the Lord’s people. He had a longing for heaven that
was contagious. But most of all, in spite of his physical limitations, he was always
working, always growing, always moving closer to our God.

I was blessed to get to know Brother Claude over the last five years. I watched his
outer man decay while his inner man was renewed day after day. The lessons I
learned from him will be with me the rest of my life and I will pass them down to my
children. He changed my life.

Claude was an avid reader of the Men’s Daily Briefing. The articles encouraged him
and gave him strength. In honor of this spiritual giant, we will dedicate this week to
the lessons I’ve learned. I pray that you will be encouraged and, that in a small way,
his life can impact yours as it has mine.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

Live Like You Are Dying

Tim McGraw is a famous country singer and a few years back he had a hit song titled “Live Like You Are Dying”. The song is about a man who receives a life-changing health diagnosis and how it changes his perspective, priorities, and lifestyle. His point is simple…live today like you are dying…don’t take life for granted. To be honest, I often changed the station when this song came on because it was hard to hear…it pricked my heart…frankly it convicted me as I looked at my life and wondered just how much I was squandering, especially with what God has taught me from His word on the frailty of life, the importance of my spirituality and the fact I am a sojourner here and my real home and hope is in Heaven. The bottom-line…to my shame, I wasn’t living like I was dying and more than that…I wasn’t living like Jesus died for my sins.

I bring this up because we started our meeting with Benjamin Lee yesterday and the series is titled just like the song…“Live Like You Are Dying”. Just like with the song, my heart was pricked as Ben brought the first lesson, “Facts of Life” with Ecclesiastes 9 as its foundational scripture.

His points were simple but the implications are soul shaking, life changing, and echo in eternity. The points are this…we are all going to die, time and circumstance happen to all, and we may die today.

I know as Ben was teaching that everyone in the room who was really listening was going through their own significant emotional response. I mean come on…he is hitting home right? We are doing to die, we aren’t in control and we might just die today. How does that not give you pause and what do we do about it?

The answer is Jesus. He had to die too…and He did…just as God purposed for Him to do and in doing so provided us hope through the saving power of His blood. We all have to die and it might happen today but as a disciple of Jesus we do not have to fear that. We can stand confident in God’ mercy, grace, and love. We can know for certain that our bodies will return to the ground (dust) but our spirit will return to God who created it and if we live a life where we revere Him and keep His commandments…He will welcome us home and we will enter into an eternal rest. That is not scary. That is awesomely hopeful!

So if you don’t feel hopeful…what is the problem? Well, if you are anything like me, dread instead of hope is a result of or symptom of a life not lived the way God has prescribed. Living in such a way that we are without God makes a death of like manner terrifying. But that is the point. God wants us to feel that so we will turn back to Him and run and get back to Him as fast as we can…while we are alive…because there will not be time or opportunity for that after we are dead.

God might let bad things happen to us if that means it will either bring us back to Him or keep us close to Him. He wants us to live like we are dying because we are all going to die and we don’t know when…but He does. So if you are struggling, don’t blame God but ask Him to give you an understanding heart and allow Him to turn your discomfort into a restful peace as you return to Him. Do it now…because we are all dying…and there is a point when it is too late.

Don’t change the station when you hear this song…turn up the volume to what God is telling you, take the action He is calling you to and live forever in His love and life.

Note: The Live Like You are Dying sermons will be provided on the South Macomb Church of Christ website (https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/). Take a listen and follow along in your Bibles…a lot of great material and discussion on what God’s word says about this important topic.

Sweeter than honey

A special thanks to Shane and Andy for writing the articles for the Men’s Daily Briefing for the last two crazy months. God bless you two for your help. Shane will be taking over managing of the Men’s Daily Briefing, and for that I’m so thankful. I’m looking forward to continuing writing and helping Shane and others produce helpful articles for your daily encouragement!

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
(Psalms 19:10)

We recently harvested our first batch of honey from our hives. Wow! What an incredible experience! God is so amazing in what He designed, especially in the honeybee. This little creature is so fascinating in how it builds hives, makes wax, makes honey, pollinates flowers, communicates with each other, etc. Just incredible.

As we were harvesting the honey, we were discussing how God’s word is compared to honey in the Scripture (see the above Psalm). The more I thought about it, the more I began to understand a few more reasons why God’s word is compared to honey.

Honey is sweet, I mean really sweet! Honey is nourishing and has healing properties. You don’t make the honey, the bees make it. We can’t come along later and brag about how we made honey. Those honeybees might come after you for that one! Also, honey lasts a long, long, long time! It does not go bad. In fact archaeologists have found 3,000 year old honey in the Pyramids in Egypt that was still edible!

God’s word is just like honey, except it is sweeter, more nourishing, more healing, and it lasts forever. And you and I had nothing to do with it. The word came because of the power of God, and we enjoy the benefits of God’s work just like we can enjoy in the benefits of honey!

Thank you God, for making a little creature like the honeybee that while it lives for just a short time on this earth makes such a wonderful substance for us to enjoy for the short time we are here on this earth. But even more that that Lord, thank you for your living, sweet, healing, nourishing and ever-abiding word that lives within us.

Only Steps Away

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:  28-34; NKJV)

Today the sermon at South Macomb was a continuation of our working through the four gospels and focused on lessons in Mark 11 and 12.  There were many points to be made but I wanted to focus on a section found in chapter 12.  I encourage you to read the chapter as I am not going to lay down much background but want to focus on this encounter between Jesus and the scribe.  I want to attempt to paint a picture in your mind that was given today and then keep that image in our mind as we work through this week.

The image I want to paint is of a safe place, a dangerous place, and someone caught in the middle.  You might have your own version of this, but I am going to offer one of my own.  Imagine you are in a building and a battle rages outside with gunfire and explosions all around.  There is a group who is safe in their reinforced concrete bunker, with no windows and made to survive the kind of chaos and destruction going on.  They are safe, but someone cracks the door to see what is going on and notices a young man running down the street…unarmed, confused, scared, looking for shelter…to be safe and live.  The one looking out also notices he is wearing the wrong uniform…the uniform of the enemy.  Even more, the one looking is wearing the wrong uniform in the eyes of the man outside…the clothes of his enemy.  But the one inside calls out to him anyways…beckons him to come and be safe.  He hears the call and he sees the caller and even starts making his way to the door.  He is hesitant and unsure what to do as he gets closer.  What if it is a trap?  Even though the bunker gets him out of the gun battle going on outside and everything he has been taught about fighting tells him this is a secure place…how does he know what is inside is safer than outside?  Still the call goes out to him, encourages him, tells him it will be safe.  Others from inside gather with the one and join and shout this same message of safety…of friendship…of hope.  He comes closer and it is clear he really wants to live and wants to be safe and wants to believe that he can be inside the bunker.  He is right there…just a couple more steps and he will be in and safe and can live.  Everyone calls to him but he stops…he looks at them…they want to grab him but the bullets are flying and they can’t quite reach him…if only he would take one more step…but he stops.  Now he is out in the open and all the danger of the situation is upon him though he is only a step or two from safety…he is unsure, and he hesitates.  Surely he was about to come those two steps…they sure want him to…but a bullet hits its mark and he is gone.  It is too late…he was so close to safety…the caller was there to save him…they had a place for him to be safe…they called out to him…they wanted him with them…but his hesitation…his lack of faith in the caller’s intentions, their actions, and the offer left him just a couple steps too far from being saved.

I know you get the point.  So let me just end today with this.  I want us to look at these kinds of situations from three perspectives this week.  Jesus is the one calling out.  We are the ones who join with hHim to encourage.  Those in the world or those of our brethren who are astray are the man in harms way.  You saw that coming right?  But don’t stop there.  Take another look.  Jesus is still calling out, our brethren are still joining in the call, but are we the man in harms way?  That could be a likely scenario…right?  Could it be that it depends in any given situation or stage of our lives or the lives of others?  Read chapter 12.  Paint this image in your head.  Meditate and pray about what we can do about those 2 last steps…whether we are in harms way or with Jesus calling others to safety.  Take some time and work that over in your head and heart and let’s see what we can learn and apply this week.  I love you all…and thankfully Jesus loves us more.

Fear

This week, I would like us to take some time and consider one word…”fear”.  I think this is a good word for men to take a good hard look at…especially in our relationships and lives.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we are going to find fear.

I am not talking about the healthy fear we have in our lives in which we use our God-given senses to be careful and make good judgement in avoiding hazardous situations.  Fear, for this discussion, is more in line with insecurity.  That takes on a whole different meaning and deals more about where we put our security and when others somehow (whether real or perceived) threaten us

So where do find fear or insecurity?  I submit a good place to find it in our relationships is by looking at when we get mad.

Why when we are mad?  Because I believe that fear or insecurity is a root of our anger.  It isn’t necessarily “the root” but is certainly a root…along with hurt, confusion, a whole lot of other things.  This is certainly true with my wife, my children, at work and even with the brethren.   There is a lot at stake in these relationships and sometimes there are a lot of things going on and some of them I do not understand and cannot control.  This brings fear…and my fear manifests itself in anger.  So with my teenage son (who by the way needs a father who is looking to be like The Father), instead of screaming “I am scared to death you are going to succumb to peer pressure and make a bad judgment and hurt yourself or someone else”…I just yell!  I go on the attack.  I put myself “back in control” and make a mess of it.  I pick something easy and start yelling and man can I get on a roll and oh boy the aftermath of hurt feelings can take days to unravel and repair…if at all.  But in the end…I blew it.

I got mad because I was scared and what I should have done was taken a breath, admitted my fear, and talked rationally about it with the mini-me standing in front of me.  I have done it a whole lot of times too…even after I learned some of the lessons I am sharing here.  Still, I am thankful that my God loves me and is patient with me…because He is the reason I can be better and not let fear dictate my life and how I live it.

So be reminded with me of God’s position in our lives and ability to take away our fear and replace it with love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, long-suffering.  Paul reminds Timothy and let us be reminded too:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7; NKJV)

The reason that is true…that we shouldn’t have a spirit of fear but of power and of love…is because we serve a Living God and He is our Abba Father hearing and answering our prayers according to our good.  In Psalm 61:1-4 David teaches us that we should call out to Him and in doing so we can have power and not fear.

But it isn’t always that easy.  What is easy though…is opening God’s book and learning what He has to say about fear.  Start there…look for that word along with afraid and see what He teaches you.  It will give you power and will give you a sense of being loved so you can love.  And it will help you deal with your fear properly…but boldly going to His throne of grace and shedding it at His feet while asking for Him to help and trust that He will.  This is such glorious blessing and brings such a relief to the heart.  You will find the strength to not fear and in that understand that God is with you in all your relationships so you don’t have to be afraid and hopefully will reduce the amount of time you spend angry.  Let’s look at that more closely this week…but for now consider these verses and start asking yourself “What am I afraid of?” or “Am I mad because I’m scared?” or “Why am I carrying this fear around all alone?  Why don’t I give it to God?  Why don’t I find a brother to help me?”

Let’s start there and see what we can learn about ourselves this week as it pertains to fear as we work to face fear in our lives, to find out what is really going on, and to figure out we need to do to be free of it.  We’ll learn and relearn together to search out and to find safety and power and love in our Heavenly Father, His Son, His Spirit, and His Word.

Pass the Ropes

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge shortly after take-off from Washington DC. It came to rest in the icy Potomac River, killing 74 people instantly. Arland Williams was one of six people to initially survive the crash.

News cameramen recorded the event from the bridge as bystanders attempted to rescue the survivors with a makeshift rope. Around 4:20 PM EST a U.S. Park Police helicopter arrived and began a rescue operation. They lowered a rope into the water and Arland caught the rope and passed it to another passenger. After pulling the passenger into the helicopter, they lowered the rope again and Arland proceeded to grab the rope and hand it to another passenger. This process was repeated until five of the six passengers were safely on board the helicopter.

As the rope was lowered for the sixth time, Arland did not grab the rope. He had succumbed to the cold and fatigue and drowned in the icy Potomac.

In life, Arland was not an extraordinary man. He was born and raised in Mattoon, Illinois and graduated from Mattoon High School in 1953. After graduating from The Citadel in South Carolina, he spent two years in the military and then went into banking where he worked as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve System in Atlanta. He was a divorced father of two and engaged to be remarried at the time of his death.

The only things I know about this man is what I can read on-line. I don’t know what kind of husband he was or why his marriage failed. I don’t know if he was an involved father or a workaholic that neglected his family. I don’t know if he sought after God or if he was consumed with the things of this world.

What I know is that in a terrifying situation, when he had multiple opportunities to save himself, he handed life over to a stranger. As the cold settled in and his arms and legs became weaker and weaker he made the choice to put the needs of someone else first.   I know that in death, he demonstrated the best of what humanity can be.

Stories like this always cause me to wonder. How would I react in such a situation? Would I grab the rope or would I pass it on? Would I hang on to my own life so tightly that I failed to consider the wellbeing of those around me? I really don’t know.

The likelihood of any one of us being in this kind of situation is almost zero. We will probably never have such a grand occasion to show our selflessness and love. Nevertheless, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the same spirit we see in Arland Williams on a daily basis. In that cluttered commute to work we can allow others to merge without a fight. When competing for the prime parking spot at the big box store we can take the space a little farther back. When that co-worker or brother in Christ really wants to have their way we can resist the desire to argue and prove ourselves right. We can get a little less sleep and help with the kids so our wives can get some well-deserved rest. We can turn off the game or put down the tablet and listen to our children. Every single day we are presented with multiple opportunities to put the needs of others first.

For most of us, it will not be the grand singular moment that defines our lives and secures our legacy. For most us, it will be the small acts of kindness and everyday selfless decisions that demonstrate our Christ-like character.