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.

Look Before You Leap

This morning did not start like I thought it would. I got up like normal, got ready for work like normal, jumped in my car like normal, backed out of the drive like normal….and bam! I backed right into my sister’s car parked in the street. I knew it was there but because I was on “autopilot” with my morning routine, I didn’t even think to look back again and ensure I didn’t cut my turn too quick…I just went.

Don’t we find ourselves in those kinds of situations all the time? We are in autopilot or find ourselves in situations we always do and even if they might present risks we don’t really think about it because we are “comfortable” or otherwise think “nothing bad ever happens” or “I have done this a hundred times”.

What came to mind was the phrase “look before you leap”. I certainly didn’t…and this was just a minor fender bender. It could have been much worse. What if there had been a child there? I was careless and though the payment for my folly was minor damage to two cars…it brought to mind how lucky I was it wasn’t worse.

How many times can that be said about my spiritual life? How many times have I not “looked before I leapt” and ended up in a bad spot? How much worse could it have been?

Jesus said to His disciples “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). The same is true for us…the world is a dangerous place and we need to be careful and the best way to prepare ourselves is to slow down and look (at God’s word) before we leap (go out into the world in our daily lives).

Paul says 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)

God’s word will lead us in the right direction if we take the time to read it, meditate on it, and then consider it when we make decisions, take action, open our mouths, etc.

The world is a dangerous place, especially for those prone to leap before they look. In every area of your life–physical, spiritual, financial, emotional–look carefully before you take a plunge. Compare the claims made by people or groups with what the Bible says. Never assume because they carry the name “Church” or “Christian” that they faithfully adhere to the teachings of God’s Word. Look before your leap. Be gentle, but by all means be wise!

I leave you with an admonition from Paul and encourage you to “look before you leap”!

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2).

What Needs to Go Down

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

The words of that hymn comfort many oft troubled hearts. In it, the petition for God to be near and the assurances that He will be near can make every darkness a light and every sorrow a joy.

And Scripture says that anyone can come. James says that anyone can draw near to God and that when they do, He will draw near to them (4:8). Peter said that anyone “in every nation who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). And Paul said that God is not far from anyone, wherever in the world they may be, for if they “grasp for Him, [they will] find Him” (Acts 17:24–28). Usually, it is the barriers that we create that broadens our distance from God. God wants fellowship with everyone since He aims to save everyone (1 Timothy 2:4). It is God who has forged the way for anyone who would come and be saved, “for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21) – and that means you and me.

So, what can we do to remove those barriers and find that true communion and closeness with God?

We only get close through humility. He’s no superstar Rockstar being harassed for a signature or a selfie. He’s the Creator of the universe who sees who we are before we ever come – and still calls us to come. That’s why James tells us to “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…” (4:7-10). He’s already there with hand outstretched to “lift you up” even when He sees who we are.

And that same humility will help us get closer as we overcome sin. We have been assured that when we resist the Devil, he will flee. But resistance is washing the scent of it from our hands. It is filling our eyes with the tears of its pain. And when we do, we find solace in the heart of God because we have seen sin in us fir what it really is (Gal 5:19–21; 1 John 2:3–4). Once forgiven, God will lift us to no longer regret, no longer remember, and no longer reminisce because in the light of His presence, we will welcome His brightness in our every darkness.

Humility is making yourself “low” in comparison and as Vine’s calls it, “lowliness of mind.” Just as mountains were “brought low” (Luke 3:5) and Christ “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7), Christians should lower themselves before God to draw near to Him.

Yet, in our culture as men, we have been taught to earn our place, position ourselves and never admit defeat.

And we wonder why closeness with God – in true communion and relationship – evades us?  When humility shows us our place before the Creator as sinners and exposes the needs of others in our view above and beyond our own, we can come down. Mind you, this is not to say we are “down on yourself” or any such thing. Instead, it is the awakening of spirit to see how far up we must go to be anything like God. But with each self-view before the Creator and with others, we inch ever closer – on step at a time – closer to God. And we will find Him.

So, start with humility. Scripture affirms it; recommends it; and commands it.

What needs to go down is me.  It’s the place to begin: Down. Because only in going down can it be possible that God will lift us up.

Beautiful Feet

Romans 10:14-15; NKJV:  14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”         (Cross-Reference:  Isaiah 52:7)

 This scripture came to my mind as I was thinking about what I might write about for today.  These couple of verses are from a portion of scripture in which Paul is teaching about the fact the Gentiles on the whole had been reconciled to God and had a covenant membership in God’s family by faith.  Along with this, Israel on a whole had not received the same righteousness.  There is a lot here in Romans 9-1 and I don’t want to take away from the bigger message or teaching but am going to pull out the above passage and offer a couple thoughts.

I like this passage because if we take verse 14 in reverse we understand how important it is we who believe Jesus is the only way to salvation and are in a right relationship with God not keep that blessing to ourselves.  This isn’t something we should keep to ourselves but something we should share with others…and we are here in this world to do just that as we shine our light into a corrupt world (Matthew 5:16).  We are sent to share our salvation story.  And because we are sent and we share, then others will hear and having heard with a good and honest heart will believe and they will call on God through their obedience in the Gospel…repenting, confessing Jesus as their Lord, being baptized, and through their faith are saved.  How awesome is that!  And how awesome that we have a part in it!

But we have to stay in shape, put on the right equipment, and get to work.  I chose the above picture because these are athletic type shoes.  Think about when you lounge around the house…maybe in slippers, slides or some other kind of comfy shoes.  Do you wear the same shoes to exercise?  I don’t.  If I am going to work out, I put on tennis shoes.  Same thing with the Gospel and why Paul wrote Ephesians 6:15…because we need to “shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”…a very important part of the Whole Armor of God so that we can run forward and preach, so others would hear, and hearing believe, and believing respond and in responding find what they need the most of all…forgiveness of sins.  We draw closer to our Father through His word and in doing so put our working shoes on and run about sharing the greatest story of all…the Gospel of Jesus.

With that in mind, the second thing I want you to consider is in vs.15.  “…how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace…”  I bring this to mind because I want you to think about those you know who dedicate their time (and some their professional life) to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.  We all have those in our lives who are committed to saving souls and fully understand the importance of the work that God has given us to do in Jesus.  Take some time, make a list, and make some calls.  Encourage them.  Pray with them.  Share in their work.  Let your life shine…run swift…and fan the flames of another’s light and work for the Glory of God!

 

 

Traffic Court

Back in April I was driving from Chicago to Lafayette, heading down I-65, excited to be looking at houses as we planned our move back to the great state of Indiana.  I was moving along through Crown Point at about 7 AM listening to music and anticipating the next rest stop when those dreaded flashing lights appeared in my rear view mirror.  Turns out I was moving along a little too fast and I just happened to be in a construction zone.  After a nice chat with an officer of the law, I received my citation and few weeks later I received my court date.

Before this incident it had been almost 20 years since I had received a traffic citation.  The nature of my work involves a company car and regular driving record verification so it is to my advantage to keep a clean driving record.

Well today was my court date so I made the one and half our drive up to Crown Point, found my court room, checked in, and took my seat on a hard bench next to some of the hardest looking criminals in the state.  This room was full of seat belt violators, broken headlight drives, and rolling stop sign non-stoppers.  You know, the worst of the worst!

We all waited for the judge to come in, stood up, raised our right hand and confirmed that we understood the rights that had just been read to us and that we would tell the truth.  I watched as a few people went up to the podium and had their violations read aloud for everyone to hear.  People would plead guilty and provide some kind of reason for their misdeed and the judge would lower their charge, fine them a few bucks and charge them half a million in court costs.  Then my name was called…

Now I need to pause here just a bit to explain some things about the kind of work I do.  I apologize if any of this sounds arrogant, that is not my intent, but I believe it will add weight to the story.  Within my company I hold a position of relative power and authority.  Most everyone in my business unit knows who I am and shows me a certain amount of respect.  As part of my job, I meet with Senior Leadership to deliver business plans, discuss strategy, and develop tactics.  I am often in situations where I’m defending my ideas or my team in front of very powerful people.  Additionally, my work requires that I meet with CEOs, CFOs, Medical Directors, Pharmacy Directors and other influential people within the largest health systems in the country.  I commonly negotiate and conduct business deals that are worth millions and millions of dollars to my company.  In all these situations my knowledge, experience, and expertise provide me a certain level of confidence and I rarely get scared or nervous.  Back to our story…

As I walk to the podium my knees start shaking and I start to perspire.  I can tell my throat is getting dry and all the eloquent words I had prepared have vanished completely from my memory.  My heart is beating so loudly that I’m quite sure the prosecuting attorney sitting at the table next to me can hear it.  I had one clear thought.  I should have called one of those attorneys that had sent me a letter offering to represent me.  How nice it would have been to have an expert by my side.

The judge reads my violation aloud for everyone to hear and simply asks, “How do you plead?”  I open my mouth and, at first, nothing comes out.  What can I say?  I’m guilty!  I did it!  Everything the officer wrote down is true.  Everything the judge read is accurate.  According to the law I don’t have a defense.  No excuses, no lies, no negotiations, throw the book at me I’m done!  This confident, experienced, knowledgeable, well-spoken man was turned to mush by the authority of that court room and my own undeniable guilt.

On the way home I reflected on my reaction to that situation and started thinking about another courtroom.  Imagine standing before the throne of God, the creator of heaven and earth, the righteous Judge as He begins to read your violations aloud for everyone to hear.  Imagine looking into His eyes and seeing the deep sadness and disappointment in His face as every lustful thought and harsh word and selfish motive is laid out before you.  Every excuse, every feeble attempt to rationalize your life of sin vanishes in the overwhelming, undeniable evidence of your guilt.  You are guilty!  Everything written down is true.  Everything the Judge has said is accurate.  All you are left with is your shame and the terror of the forthcoming punishment.  And then…

From across the room you hear someone speak up.  His voice is loud and confident and without hesitation He says, “I know him.  He’s one of mine.  I’ve paid his debt, I’ve fulfilled his punishment.  Dismiss the charges.”

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;”  Hebrews 9:24

Of course we don’t know what that scene will look like, forgive my literary license.  I do know that my most terrifying nightmares don’t compare to what it would be like to stand before almighty God alone and without Christ.  And I know that my wildest dreams can’t imagine the joy and exhilaration of having my Lord by my side coming to my defense.

My friends we must all appear before the judgment seat of God.  If you have not put on Christ and been washed clean of your sins you will be standing there alone.  I beg you, by the mercies of God, submit yourself to Christ.

And just in case you were wondering…I have to pay a few hundred bucks and keep my nose clean for 12 months and nothing will be added to my record.  I’m thankful for the mercy of the court but that is a subject for another article.

Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

Lessons from 9 and 10 year olds

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

Last week as I was part of a camp, I spent a lot of time with the 9 and 10 year old kids. One of my blessings last week was to teach their Bible class. I truly believe they taught me more than I taught them.

I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from them last week.

  1. They had a hunger for the word of God. Our Bible class was at 3:10 in the afternoon and these kids had been going strong with activities all day long in the very hot summer weather. Yet, they came alert, ready and excited to study God’s word. They were engaged; they participated, they asked questions. It reminded me of the story of Jesus at 12 (see Luke 2).
  2. Their understanding, knowledge and ability to apply the word of God was a beauty to behold. For a majority of these kids that participated in class, the understanding of God’s word was in no way elementary or shallow. It showed in their comments and questions, they were very familiar with the Scriptures and the principles God wants us to learn from it.

As Jesus said in the passage above in Mark 10, the kingdom of God is made from hearts like these 9-10 year olds. If these young men and women can have such a hunger for God’s word, then those who are older can have it too. If these 9-10 year olds can understand the word of God and what it takes to please God, then God’s word can be understood by any age group.

Don’t ever get caught thinking that those young men and women can’t understand the word of God and the truths you are trying to teach them. They are super smart.