Question for Today: What Does it Mean Today to Love Our Neighbors as We All Love Ourselves? Mark 12:30-31 [28-34]

Mark 12:28-34 Amplified Bible

28 Then one of the scribes [an expert in Mosaic Law] came up and listened to them arguing [with one another], and noticing that Jesus answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is first and most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ 31 This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] [a]love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Admirably answered, Teacher; You truthfully stated that He is One, and there is no other but Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to [unselfishly] love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully and intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one would dare to ask Him any more questions.

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Sometimes, the most important things aren’t difficult to grasp. 

If they seem difficult to grasp, it is most likely because we ourselves, in our all too clumsy humanity have made it so because we ourselves have deemed it to be infinitely more important to be complex than simplified – it just feels “better.”

God desires us to be exclusively devoted to Him with all of our being, and to also be loving to others who surround us. 

The covenant demands of God placed square upon our character boil down to the observance of these two fundamental principles that go echelons beyond laws and reveal God’s character [God IS Love] to the very hearts of all people.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Mark 12:29-31Authorized (King James) Version

29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

We learn many rules growing up:

Brush your teeth,

Look both ways before crossing the street,

Always tell the truth.

Which of these is most important?

What do you believe is the single most important Truth you have ever heard?

Rabbi Jesus was asked a similar question by an expert in the Mosaic Law: Of the many commands and regulations in the law of God, which one tops the list?

Jesus did not hesitate: “Love God above all”—and he quickly added the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And what kind of love does this refer to?

In connection with God’s love for us, this is unconditional, unconventional, love—totally gracious, totally generous, and totally with no strings attached.

Notice especially that Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This means that if we are to love our neighbors unconditionally and generously, we will be required by God to love ourselves that self same way too!

God does not make junk.

God does not make mistakes.

We are created in God’s image; we are his masterpieces.

It’s not to just okay to love myself: God expects me to celebrate the person he created me to be – every moment celebrate God exactly as God celebrates us!

The Golden Rule Jesus gave us—“Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12)—is another way of saying this command to love God and honor God and love and honor our neighbor as we love and honor ourselves.

Loving others well depends at least partly on our capacity to love ourselves.

What Does it Mean to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself?

Would it, Should it, Could it, surprise you to learn that loving your neighbor as yourself is found eight times in the Bible.

Not once, Not even twice but Eight times.

Go ahead and search for them – Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.

Loving your neighbor as yourself is so important to God that He not only repeats Himself, He makes it a command.

And not just one in a list of many commands.

Rabbi Jesus coupled the command to love your neighbor as yourself with loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and with all of our strength. 

James calls it the royal law.

It sounds beautiful, and it is when we obey it.

But loving your neighbor as yourself isn’t always easy.

That’s why God made it a command.

He knew we’d struggle.

Making it a commandment is actually to our benefit.

How is that?

We have to be reverently and deliberately obedient

We have to do it on purpose.

We have to be intentional about it.

Sometimes even out of our need.

But if we love God as God love us … obedience just flows from us naturally.  

This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself:
1. Loving your neighbor means receiving God’s love.

Too begin to love your neighbor as yourself, you need to know two things:

you need to know what love is and that you are loved. 

The Bible tells us “this is love. Not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son as a propitiation…” (1 John 4:10).

You and I are the object of this love.

God loves you.

God loves me.

Knowing this is imperative.

And not just that we are loved in a general kind of way, but deeply loved and unconditionally and unconventionally loved.

We tap into this when we understand that God loved us first. [John 3:16-17]

He’s the source of our love.

God loved us even before Jesus gave Himself for us.

God the Father is the source of all love.

Before we can give this love we need to receive it for ourselves.

You cannot give to someone what you yourself do not have.

2. Loving your neighbor means loving ourselves as well.

To love your neighbor as yourself as commanded, you need to measure love correctly.

The measurement within this command is—as yourself.

To love your neighbor as yourself you need to love yourself.

This is something that gets badly misunderstood in the body of Christ often.

It gets mixed up with dying to self and denying self as if we need to destroy our self.

This is not true. 

Jesus died for each and every one of us.

If Jesus valued us enough to go through what He went through, we each have a sacred responsibility to Him to value what He values exactly as He valued it .

We need to love what He loves – us.

The Bible tells us the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:20-23).

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. [Authorized King James Version]

When we dare to simplify it: How dare we not love what the Father loves?

Learning to love ourselves prepares and helps us to love our neighbor.  

3. Loving your neighbor means showing grace.

Knowing God is love and that this love is for you is not enough.

It needs to be developed and matured.

Imagine if you had a field of good soil and a bag of top notch seeds.

Would they produce a crop all by themselves?

No. The seeds must be planted and cared for.

Grace takes the seed of His love and the soils of our hearts and souls and creates fruit for the kingdom of God. 

The Bible says, “it’s God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2.13).

Loving Him and our neighbor pleases Him.

Grace helps us do this.

Grace teaches us proper love, honor and respect for ourselves and for our neighbor – our freely receiving His grace empowers us all to freely give it.  

4. Loving your neighbor means acting with compassion.

From Luke’s Narrative of the Gospel, when Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He responded with a story: the Good Samaritan [10:25-37].

Even those who have no love for God see the value of the story.

What is the bottom line of this story?

Who did Jesus say was being a neighbor?

The one who had compassion. 

Compassion is not simply a warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts.

Compassion does something.

A heart moved by compassion cannot sit idly by while someone suffers a need.

Loving God and Loving your neighbor as you are Loving yourself is being moved by God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to help to the full extent of your ability.

5. Loving your neighbor means looking out for their wellbeing.

The NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 says, “love protects.” 

In Philippians 2:4 it says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Loving your neighbor as yourself is to look out for other people’s wellbeing. 

To look out for them is to pay attention.

You notice if they need something and then you help.

For example, their clothing tag is sticking out or they have food on their face so you let them know.

Or something more serious like when a neighbor has surgery or becomes sick.

Concerned for their health, well-being, I head over to their home with a meal or a loaded gift card so if they aren’t able to cook, they won’t have to cook, can eat.

6. Loving your neighbor means serving them.

Serving from the heart is kindness in action.

Kindness is one of the attributes of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13.

The surprisingly wonderful thing about kindness, though, is you can do acts of kindness without kindness residing in your heart.

If the kind thing is done out of duty then it isn’t love. 

Jesus said he came to serve (Mark 10:45, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28).

God, who is love, came to serve.

Love serves.

For you to love your neighbor as yourself, you’ll have a heart to serve them.

Let them know you’re there for them.

If they need a ride somewhere, you drive them.

If they need their dog or cat checked on while out of town, you do that for them.

Other examples are getting their mail for them or taking them a meal if they’re not well.

Examples in a public setting are to let people in front of you in line at the store or in traffic.

7. Loving your neighbor means speaking kindly.

The childhood rhyme about sticks and stones versus words is not true.

Words build up or tear down.

God created the world using words.

The Bible says Jesus IS the Word (John 1:1). 

To love your neighbor as yourself is to use words to build them up.

Speaking words of encouragement to someone who’s down is the most obvious example but there are hosts upon hosts and myriads and myriads of others.

We can be more intentional with our words by looking for and magnifying the good.

We can always find something good if we’ll take the time to look for it.

Examples of this are giving someone a simple smile, a simple compliment and simply telling someone how much you genuinely appreciate them.  

8. Loving your neighbor means making allowances for other people’s humanity.

We live in a day and age when offense is as common as breathing.

Criticism is running rampant.

Love is not easily offended or critical.

Everyone does dumb things; no one is always right or knows everything.

We’re all a work in progress. 

I remember sitting through a green light.

I wasn’t trying to inconvenience anyone.

I got stuck in grieving daze because a family member might die.

I remember that when I encounter people driving too slow, sitting at lights, or even cutting me off.

Maybe they have a reason.

Maybe they’re just being human.

We’re imperfect beings that do perfectly dumb things often. 

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is loving your neighbor.

For example, I had someone honking their truck horn flailing their arms and cursing because I didn’t speed through an almost red light.

They were behind me and so they got stuck at the red light with me.

I don’t know why they were so angry but they may have had other pressing circumstances surrounding them that day – I prayed for them.

9. Loving your neighbor means sharing in their joys and sorrows.

The Bible says we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). 

Celebrating can be difficult for us at times, especially if our neighbor is getting something we have longed for.

For example, a new job, a raise, or a pregnancy.

Celebrating with them in spite of our own pain is a strong show of love. 

Likewise, mourning with our neighbor can be hard if we don’t know what to say, or have recently lost something or someone ourselves.

Loving God, Loving your neighbor as yourself is showing up and being there with your heart open, allowing them to be what they are, and support them.

10. Loving your neighbor means forgiving.

Forgiveness is a big deal to God.

Bible says He planned it for us from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Jesus frequently spoke forgiveness over others that resulted in the healing of their bodies. 

Forgiveness is freely given to us and to love your neighbor as yourself you’ll pass the forgiveness on.

Jesus highlighted this in His story in Matthew 18 when Peter asks how many times is he to forgive.

He tells the story of a king who forgave an enormous debt to one of his servants.

This servant failed to pass the forgiveness on.

He demanded payment of a small debt from his neighbor.

When the king heard of it, he had his servant remanded for his debt, revoking the debt cancellation.

Jesus’ story tells us that love always forgives.

We all need forgiveness, so loving your neighbor is to forgive them as you have been forgiven.

In both the Hebrew [Old] and New Testaments we are commanded by God to love our neighbors as ourselves.

On several occasions Jesus himself says that is a part of fulfilling God’s law.

Again and again God shows us how to love others.

The call to love our neighbor is not complicated, but it can be challenging to follow.

It means more than being hospitable, tolerant, patient, and kind.

It means more than showing respect and honoring others.

It also means more than just being civil with people you disagree with—even though it also means all of that.

Loving our neighbor implies that the well-being of others matters—so we should work for justice, protection, and opportunities for others to thrive.

It means listening to others.

It also shows that the possibilities for showing love and care for our neighbors is endless and could leave us overwhelmed by all the needs for neighborly love!

Yet all of us can love our neighbors in the name of Jesus Christ.

We can honor, love and respect them enough to show how the love of Jesus is forever shaping us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

As you are loved, Jesus says, so love one another (see John 13:34).

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear God, thank You for Your unconditional love. Lord, help me to know myself and to love myself. If I don’t feel self-worth, how can I expect someone else to cherish me? Help me to develop a healthy self-identity, remembering that I am a child of the King, created in Your image. Help me know who I really am, what I really want from life, and what I want in the person I will spend my life with. Thank you, Lord, for loving me so completely that I am being completely changed! Help me to be more aware of your Love so I may love my neighbor with the love you have for the world.

Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum

Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

What Does it Really Look Like to ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’? Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16

    Honoring your father and your mother is the only commandment out of the Ten Commandments that is followed by a promise, Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

    Exodus 20:12Amplified Bible

    12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    Most Christians are very familiar with the verse “honor your father and mother”, but few actually know of it’s origin in the Bible.

    The command to honor your father and mother actually comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus 20 in the story of the 10 Commandments.

    However, it is also a command that is repeated several times in both the Old and New Testament. 

    Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus serves as a powerful reminder of the intimate relationship God has with humankind.

    This passage specifically reveals the intense care and concern that God shows toward His Children.

    Today this chapter remains popular because of a very special occurrence – the Ten Commandments.

    At eighty plus years old, after venturing up to Mount Sinai, Moses, a father, brought down the Ten Commandments, rules given Him directly from God.

    The Ten Commandments described ten precepts for how God expected His people to behave.

    This monumental moment follows after the Israelites fled Egypt. 

    Chapter 19 in the Book of Exodus details how the Israelites camped in the wilderness, now living a life outside of slavery for a few months.

    God informs Moses that He desires to bless the nation of Israel.

    However, He also wants them to keep a covenant with Him (Exodus 19:5-6).

    The Ten Commandments serve as part of that covenant.

    One of these commandments spoke to the relationship between a child and parent and is a guideline we as Christians still ought to be following today.

    Exodus 20:12The Message

    12 Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.

    The reason this commandment in addition to the other nine is still relevant today is because Jesus indicated such to later believers (Matthew 5:17-20).

    Jesus did not abolish the law, but rather came to fulfill it.

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the followers at the church at Ephesus;

    Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

    Be Imitators of God

    Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

    We are to do our part yet today in abiding in Jesus, by these commandments.

    Today, I do not believe there is little to no controversy about whether or not the Ten Commandments are still relevant.

    What has been up for rather contentious debate in the meaning of “honor” in the context of parents and children.

    There are many instances of children being the victims of incest, abandonment, neglect, or other severe and seriously exploitive forms of ultra damaging abuse.

    In these situations, how does a child honor a parent, when the parent lacks any concept or context of abiding in God, His Son Jesus and have honor for the child.

    To understand this commandment, we have to examine the original context.

    What Is the Original Meaning of Honor Your Father and Mother in Exodus 20?

    The commandment to honor our father and mother is the fifth of the ten mentioned.

    The commandment to precedes this one is honoring the Sabbath, followed by the commandment to not murder.

    Scripture explains the reason why the commandment should be followed.

    Exodus 20:12Amplified Bible

    12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

    The benefit of abiding by this commandment is longer life, specifically for the Israelites venturing on toward the Promised Land.

    Dennis Prager [] emphasizes that though this could be viewed as a reward, this is also a reason.

    And many of the other commandments are not given explicit reasons to be followed.

    Prager suggests in a society where parents are honored by children, the society is bound to survive longer, than a society with a weaker family structure.

    This commandment in Exodus is mentioned a number of other times in the Bible, each time as an admonishment to God’s people to better establish them. 

    Deuteronomy 5:16 tells us, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

    Ephesians 6:2 states: “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise”

    God blesses the people when their parents are honored, but the people are punished when they do not.

    To honor is to hold someone in high regard or reverence.

    The word honor does not mean agree with or even obey, but does suggest in this context a child should hold the highest utmost respect for both of their parents.

    Now that we better understand the original context and interpretation of the commandment to honor thy mother and father, we can try to discern how this precept applies to modern-day life.

    How Can Christians ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’ Today?

    With an understanding of the word honor, there need not be a change in how parents are respected by children today.

    However, with modern cultural shifts, this commandment for some has taken on a different interpretation.

    We can perhaps better, more prayerfully understand the proper ways of honoring parents by first understanding how honoring should not appear.

    As Dennis Prager discusses in his video analysis of the commandment, some parents yearn to be loved, rather than honored.

    The visual example given in his video is that of a parent showering their child with gifts in order to receive affection.

    This same parent when trying to discipline their child instead receives severe retaliation from them.

    This is definitively not an example of a child honoring their parent because instead of respecting them as an “authority” figure, they are simply seeking what else, exactly how much more they can manipulate, gain from the parent.

    Much like the Bible commands us to love others, the call to honor our parents is an outward action – something we do for others.

    Honoring our parents is therefore not contingent upon what they give in return.

    Within the Ten Commandments, verse 12 of Exodus 20 gives no clarification as to what parents are to be honored or even how.

    We can conclude then that all parents are deserving of honor, and we can use the context of love within the Bible to discern appropriate ways to show honor.

    We can even in some instances see how people have honored God as Father as an example.

    Ways we can appropriately honor our parents include:

    Expressing Gratitude
    Parents invest time and effort into raising children.

    Those reasons alone are enough to show them gratitude for the sacrifices they make.

    Parents provide shelter, food, clothing.

    For every action they do in their support of their child is in itself a far more than sufficient reason for expressing their appreciation and gratitude.

    Spending Time Together
    When physically possible, children can and should get together with their parents.

    This acknowledges their existence and places a level of importance upon the relationship.

    If being together physically is not an option, calling a parent on the phone for a check-in is also beneficial.

    Dennis Prager shares with fellow believers he called his parents once a week.

    Another way for children to honor their parents is to find creative ways to serve their desires, wants and needs, much like parents perform on behalf of children.

    To Honor or Not to Honor

    It goes without saying and preaching to the choir that modern parenting is not equivalent to the parenting in ancient biblical Jewish culture.

    Children today learn differently and have certain responsibilities such as owning a cell phone [I never did], which was not true for past generations.

    No matter the time, parents should always be honored.

    One concern followers, nonbelievers have with the commandment is the issue of bad parents, individuals who have abused their children by various means.

    The Bible does not qualify which parents deserve honoring.

    Additionally, Jesus mentions we are to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to bless those who persecute us (Romans 12:14).

    We, therefore, know that even when seemingly impossible, we should all do our best to express love for our parents, our children as we express love for our God.

    This fifth commandment, however, does not advocate for putting ourselves in danger with bad parents.

    Applying this commandment for children who have been abused will look different in terms of how they show their honoring.

    Spending time together may be an impossibility but talking on the phone or writing a letter could prayerfully be an option depending on the circumstance.

    Sometimes we have to set boundaries in relationships, and whenever that is the case we have to pray unto our ABBA God for wisdom, so that we may honor His commandment and honor our parents while keeping ourselves safe (James 1:5).

    There are no easy or set human answers how to be complete, perfect parents.

    As Mom’s and Dad’s together …

    The very best we can do is diligently consult the Word of God for His Children.

    Study it …

    Like Jesus did, intentionally plumb its depths, its ways, its truths and its life.

    Pray without ceasing over every aspect of it, revelation from it …

    Koinonia, Fellowship with our ABBA Father, His Son Jesus, Holy Spirit, other Parents …


    Be Still, Be Quiet, know only God is God, and can, should be, exalted as God.

    Matthew 6:25-33New King James Version

    Do Not Worry

    25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one [a]cubit to his [b] stature?

    28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not [c]arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

    31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Heavenly Father, thank You for my parents and for giving me life. Thank You for the pleasant and harsh lessons I have learned and the good times and the bad we have shared together. Forgive me for the times when I have not sufficiently honored my father and mother as I ought – for I am now acutely aware that this is dishonoring to You. From this day forward, I pray that I should honour You in all my interactions with my own family and with my friends, and may my life be honoring to You.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    The Fourth Commandment: Our Rest, Our Witness. Remember the Sabbath. Exodus 20:8-11

    Exodus 20:8-11 Amplified Bible

    “Remember the Sabbath (seventh) day to keep it holy (set apart, dedicated to God). Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock or the temporary resident (foreigner) who stays within your [city] gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested (ceased) on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy [that is, set it apart for His purposes].

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    Keep the Sabbath [verse 8]

    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

    Throughout history there have been well-meaning, earnest Christians who have, perhaps without their ever knowing it, who have come to functionally believe the Ten Commandments are really only the Nine Commandments.

    Somewhere along the way, some have decided the fourth commandment is not like the rest of the commandments but rather as a relic that belongs in the past.

    In truth, though, the ancient command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy has abiding significance for us all, even today.

    Why has this simple command fallen on such hard times?

    Some have claimed that its regulations and penalties were tied to the old covenant, so it must no longer be relevant.

    Yet we do not treat the other commandments this way.

    Others have said that the way Jesus spoke of being “lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8) diminished the commandment’s significance and force.

    What about Jesus’ apparent intent here?

    What the man Rabbi Jesus sought to overturn was not the Sabbath itself but the host of hypocritical external rules of the Pharisees.

    I have long suspected what keeps most Christians from thinking of the fourth commandment as we ought to is simply that we do not like its implications.

    We do not like, nor appreciate all of the subtle and not so subtle ways it intrudes into our lives, into our leisure and whatever else takes precedence in our hearts.

    So we act as though this command is in a different category from the other nine.

    However, If we truly want to grasp the significance of the Sabbath and respond to it in a God-honoring way, we must all embrace, as a conviction, the real truth that God has intentionally set aside the Sabbath day as distinct from the rest.

    This was the case in the week of creation, with God resting on the seventh day and declaring it sanctified.

    The church, in the age of the new covenant, then changed the day from the seventh day of the week to the first day to mark the resurrection of Christ.

    In both cases, we see that the distinction of the day is woven into God’s work of creation and redemption.

    With that conviction in place, we can see that the day is not simply a day set apart from other days, but it is, in Gospel Truth, a day set apart unto the Lord.

    By not seeing it this way, we’ll be tempted to view our spiritual exercises on the Lord’s Day as something to “get over with” in order to “get on with” our week.

    If this is our mentality, we stand condemned by the fourth commandment.

    The Sabbath ought to be treasured for what it is: a gift of a day on which we enjoy, uninterrupted by leisure commitments or (if possible) by employment, the privilege of God’s presence, the study of God’s word, and the fellowship of God’s people.

    Seen like that, this command becomes an invitation: not only to just something we should do but something we will each come to learn how to love to do.

    If this is not how you have been viewing God’s Sabbath, then ask yourself:

    What’s preventing you from honoring the Lord’s Day?

    Take stock of your habits and receive the gift of the Sabbath.

    From that next Sunday, be sure that your priority is not to make the Lord’s Day convenient but to make the Lord’s day exclusively about God, to keep it holy.

    Keep the Sabbath [verses 9-10]

    Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock or the temporary resident (foreigner) who stays within your [city] gates. [verses 9, 10]

    Having established the fourth commandment remains what it has always been—a commandment of the Lord—and as such it is relevant to our lives, we can now turn our hearts, souls, minds, to thinking profitably about how to keep it.

    But we must be careful as we get specific about honoring the Sabbath.

    The Lord Jesus, after all, had some very harsh, strong words for the Pharisees regarding the way their moral specificity had become a means not of obedience but of self-righteousness (Mark 2:23 – 3:6).

    With “quaking and trembling knees” and maturing humility, let’s take some quality time to consider how are we to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

    Let us try to explore: How do we prevent worldly concerns—those of leisure, recreation, and work—from infringing on our enjoyment and worship of God?

    Let’s think first of public worship.

    What kinds of conversations do you typically have prior to the worship service?

    Are they concerned at any point with exclusively the things of God, or only ever with sports – making it to the home team game, family, and every other thing?

    It takes a conscious and a thoroughly intentional act of the will to give eternal matters the very highest measure of maxed priority in our minds and mouths.

    If you were to determine that in your preparation for worship you would set aside every priority which looms, loomed so large on other days, I guarantee the focus of your time at church would be changed.

    The same goes for after the service.

    When the last song has been sung and the service is over, how long does it take for your mind and conversation to return to worldly matters?

    If we were instead to:

    commit to spending time after the service speaking to one another about the greatness of God, the truth of His word, and the wonder of His dealings with us,

    and praying with one another about the week ahead and the trials we face, then we would begin to understand better the “one another” passages in the New Testament about:

    encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25),

    speaking the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25), and

    building one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

    —for we would then be prioritizing ourselves to actually living them out.

    Similarly, in our private affairs on the Lord’s Day, spiritual improvement should still take priority.

    That may mean additional family worship, reading edifying books, prayer, discussion of what was preached that morning, and more—but whatever it means, we should make it our aim not to let the cares of the other six days push into our efforts of growing our spiritual enjoyment of the first day of the week.

    If we want to profit from keeping the Sabbath, and if we want to take the fourth commandment more seriously, then our convictions must fuel our actions, and our daily aspirations must turn into daily practices.

    Avoid making unique rules that only serve to foster self-righteousness, but consider whether anything worldly needs to change, be re-prioritized Godly.

    How would, should, could you change to keep the Sabbath holy the next time Sunday comes round, then Monday, then Tuesday then Wednesday and so on?

    Our Sabbath Rest as Our Witness

    [sermon illustrations]

    The college student broke down in tears over his coffee.

    Driven by competition for limited space in a pre-law program, he had just poured himself into studying virtually nonstop, eight hours a day seven days a week. After seven months he found he lost the ambition for learning—and nearly for life itself.

    Driven by the desire for promotion and the prospect for more money for him an his growing family, [……….] takes extra work home every single night to get the one up on his fellow workers – he stays up till midnight every night for weeks. Taking no time for dinner with his wife or leisure time his young kids, he hears them crying.

    Our reading today states that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth … but he rested on the seventh day.”

    The ambition and creativity we bring to work is a reflection of our mindset on our Creator’s sovereignty over our lives and over the lives we genuinely value.

    It’s part of how we reflect his image and a big part of how we serve as witnesses for him.

    God also rested on the seventh day, however, and he calls us to do the same.

    For us, good work hinges on good rest.

    Without good rest our good work suffers.

    The discipline of regular rest is a witness in our fast-paced world, especially when that time is focused on enjoying our Creator.

    It speaks of God’s love to command what’s good for us.

    Our ambitions would otherwise serve only to distract us from him and drive us into the ground if we let them.

    How will you take our rest the rest of this week and this next weekend?

    For the sake of good work later, let’s rest.

    For the sake of sanity, let’s rest.

    For the sake of glory to God in regular worship and fellowship, let’s rest.

    God blesses those who “work hard” at resting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Let’s trust him to establish the work and rest of our hands (see Psalm 90:17).

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    God, grant us and all our loved ones true rest on this Sabbath Day. May Your Holy and Sacred Presence drive out from among us anger and fear, worry and regret. Send your blessing upon us, that we may be people of the Word. Lord of work and of rest, thank you for these gifts. Help us to work hard and rest well. Please provide work where we need it. Please also bless whatever years of retirement rest we may have.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    The Second Commandment: Have or Make No Image Engraved or in Mind. Exodus 20:1-4

    Exodus 20:1-4 Amplified Bible

    The Ten Commandments

    20 Then God spoke all these words:

    “I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    “You shall have no other gods before Me.

    “You shall not make for yourself any idol, or any likeness (form, manifestation) of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth [as an object to worship].

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    The Ten Commandments

    The Ten Commandments are the supreme expression of God’s will in the Old Testament and merit our close attention.

    They are to be thought of not as the ten most important commands among hundreds of others, but as a digest of the entire Torah.

    The foundation of all of the Torah rests in these Ten Commandments, and somewhere within them we should be able to find all the law.

    Jesus expressed the essential unity of the Ten Commandments with the rest of the law when he summarized the law in the famous words,

    “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). 

    All the law, as well as laws of the prophets, is indicated whenever the Ten Commandments are expressed.

    The essential unity of the Ten Commandments with the rest of the law, and their continuity with the New Testament, invites each and every on us to apply them to today’s ministries broadly in light of the rest of the Holy Scriptures.

    That is, when applying the Ten Commandments, we will take into account related passages of Scripture in both the Hebrew [Old] and New Testaments.

    “You Shall Have No Other Gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)

    The first commandment reminds us that everything in the Torah flows from the love we have for God, which in turn is a response to the love he has for us.

    This unconventional, inexpressible miracle of love was demonstrated by God’s deliverance of Israel “out of the house of slavery” in Egypt (Exodus 20:2).

    In our heart of hearts, from within the deepest depths of our souls, nothing else in our lives should concern us more than our desire to love and be loved by God.

    If we do have some other concern stronger to us than our love for God, and who of us does not have other “stronger concerns,” they are not so much that we are breaking God’s rules, but that we are not really in relationship with Father God.

    The other concern—be it money, power, security, recognition, sex, or anything else—has become our god.

    These gods will have their own commandments at odds with God’s, and we will inevitably violate the Torah as we try to comply with these god’s requirements.

    Observing the Ten Commandments is only conceivable for those who start by being determined to diligently study, to pray at having no other god than God.

    In the realm of work, this means that we are not to let work or its requirements and fruits displace God as our most important concern in life.

    “Never allow anyone or anything to threaten God’s central place in your life,” as Dr. David W. Gill [] puts it. 

    Because many people work primarily to make money for their and their family’s future, we might just conclude that an inordinate desire for money is probably one of the most common work-related dangers to the first commandment.

    Jesus warned of exactly this danger. “No one can serve two masters…. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

    But almost anything related to work can become twisted in our desires to the point that it interferes with our love for God.

    How many promising up and coming, careers come to a tragic end because the means to accomplish things for the love of God—such as political power, financial sustainability, steadfast commitment to the job, status among peers, or superior performance—become their alpha to omega ends in themselves?

    When, for example, recognition on the job becomes simply far more important than character on the job, is it not a sign that their reputation is displacing their love of God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, as ultimate Alpha to Omega concern?

    A practical touchstone in balancing life lived in the world of man and God is to just ask whether our love of God is shown by the way we treat people on the job.

    “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 John 4:20-21).

    If we put our individual concerns ahead of our concern for the people we work with, for, and among, then we have made our individual concerns our god.

    In particular, if we treat other people as things to be manipulated, obstacles to overcome, instruments to obtain what we want, or simply neutral objects in our field of view, then we starkly demonstrate that we do not love God with all our heart, soul, and mind as required by the Word of God for the Children of God.

    In this context, we can begin to list some work-related actions that have a high potential to interfere with our love for God.

    Doing work that violates our conscience.

    Working in an organization where we have to harm others to succeed.

    Working such long hours that we have little time to pray, worship, rest, and otherwise deepen our relationship with God.

    Working among people who demoralize us or seduce us away from our love for God.

    Working where alcohol, drug abuse, violence, sexual harassment, corruption, disrespect, racism, or other inhumane treatments mar the image of God in us and the people we encounter in our work – our co-workers and our neighbors.

    If we can find ways to avoid these dangers at work—even if it means finding a new job—it would be wise for us to seek God, study, pray, to consider to do so.

    If that is not possible, we can at least be aware that we need help and support to maintain our love of God in the face of our work.

    “You Shall Not Make for Yourself an Idol” (Exodus 20:4)

    The second commandment raises the issue of idolatry.

    Making and then Naming our Golden calves then marketing them for all to see.

    Idols are gods of our own creation, gods that have nothing to them that did not originate with us, gods that we feel we control.

    In ancient times, idolatry often took the form of worshiping physical objects.

    But the issue is really one of trust and devotion.

    On what “shirt” do we ultimately pin our hope of well-being and success upon?

    On whose “lapel” should we ultimately pin our hopes of well-being and success upon?

    Anything, Anyone, which is not capable of fulfilling our hope—that is, anything other than God—is an idol, whether or not it is a physical object, even a person.

    The story of a family forging an idol with the intent to manipulate God, and the disastrous personal, social, and economic consequences which then tragically follow, are memorably told in Judges 17-21.

    In the world of work, it is common to speak of money, fame, and power as potential idols, and rightly so.

    They are not idolatrous, per se, and in fact may be utterly necessary for us to accomplish our roles in God’s creative and redemptive work in the world.

    Yet when we then imagine that we have ultimate control over them, or that by achieving them our safety and prosperity will be secured, we have begun the so inevitable “foot to shovel to earth to digging our grave” descent into idolatry.

    The same may occur with virtually every other element of success, including our preparation, hard work, creativity, risk, wealth and other resources, and favorable circumstances.

    As Christian workers, we have to recognize how important these are.

    As God’s people, we must recognize when we begin to idolize them.

    By God’s grace alone, we can overcome the temptation to worship these good things in their own right.

    The development of genuinely godly wisdom and skill for any task is “so that your entire trust may be in the Lord alone” [Proverbs 22:19].

    The distinctive element of idolatry is the human-made nature of the idol.

    At work, a danger of idolatry arises when we mistake our power, knowledge, and opinions for reality.

    When we stop holding ourselves accountable to the standards we set for others, cease listening to others’ ideas, or seek to crush those who disagree with us, are we not beginning to make and shape, obsess over our graven idols of ourselves?

    No Image Engraved or in Mind [eXODUS 20:4]

    Exodus 20:4 Amplified Bible

    “You shall not make for yourself any idol, or any likeness (form, manifestation) of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth [as an object to worship].

    If the first commandment

    “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)—deals with the object of our worship, the second commandment deals with the manner of our worship.

    What the second commandment tells us is that it is not enough that we worship the correct God; we must also worship Him correctly.

    The crystal clear and immediate meaning of the command is that God is to be worshiped without any visual symbols of Him.

    Why the prohibition?

    Because God is spirit: infinite and unfathomably great.

    No physical representation could ever do justice to His glory and grandeur.

    The problem with statues, shrines, and pictures is not that they don’t look good but that no matter how good they look, they will all inevitably severely blur the truth about God’s nature and character.

    Such images will tend to distract men and women from genuinely worshiping the true and living God, [John 4:20-24] instead leading them to naively worship whatever physical representation of God is placed before them in the sanctuary.

    Yet the second commandment takes us beyond mere images and idol-making and into our own thought life.

    Our hands may be innocent of the skills and craftsmanship of hand making graven images, but our thoughts and imaginations are so seldom unskilled.

    Any conception of God in our minds and hearts that is not derived from Scripture runs foul of this command.

    When God gave strict instructions for the building of the temple, He ordered that the ark of the covenant, on which His presence would dwell, should reside in the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:34).

    What was inside the ark?

    Perhaps most significant is what was not in it: it contained no visible, physical, hand shaped representation of God.

    Instead, there were the two tablets of the Ten Commandments.

    It was as if God was saying to His people, as He says to us, Don’t look for Me in shrines, paintings, or statues. I’m not there. Look for Me in My word.

    So we take our cues from God. If we want to worship Him—if we want to meet with Him and know what He is like—we must conform our minds to His word.

    Our own attempts to conceive of God apart from divine revelation will utterly, invariably fail.

    He has published His truth in His word, and so we are to tether ourselves to what is revealed there.

    What’s at stake in this is the integrity not only of our worship but also of our lives—because when people go wrong in their worship, they’ll end up going wrong in their living.

    Anything and anyone that encourages us to worship the correct God incorrectly will prove to be a detriment to our spiritual growth.

    What an absolute tragedy it would be to embrace an image and miss the person of Christ, to sit at a shrine and miss the Savior, to worship a misconception and fail to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the Holy Words of God.

    Instead, resist the temptation to modify God in your mind or to conform Him to your own graven image, and be sure to KNOW Him as He has revealed Himself.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    The Joy of Integrity Prayer

    God, my Father, my Guide and Guardian of my life, illuminate my mind so I can better understand just how you want me to live. Your Living Word tells me that people of integrity who diligently follow after your instructions are joyful. You have said that those who obey your laws and search for you with all their hearts are blessed and happy. I plead with you for my own share of that indescribable joy! Intercessor Holy Spirit, please guard me and my thoughts against allowing evil to influence what I believe and do. Help me walk only in your paths. May my actions, and my worship more consistently reflect what you have said is right, good.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    What is God Like? He is Merciful and Gracious, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Steadfast Love, in Goodness, and Truth. Exodus 34:5-9

    Exodus 34:5-9Amplified Bible

    Then the Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with Moses as he proclaimed the Name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers].” Moses bowed to the earth immediately and worshiped [the Lord]. And he said, “If now I have found favor and lovingkindness in Your sight, O Lord, let the Lord, please, go in our midst, though it is a stiff-necked (stubborn, rebellious) people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your possession.”

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    What is God Like?

    A little boy was working hard on drawing a picture from his Sunday School and his daddy came up from behind, asked him what he was working so hard on.

    The son replied, “Drawing a picture of God.”

    His daddy said, “You can’t do that, son, Nobody knows what God looks like.”

    But the little boy remained undeterred, continued to draw for several minutes.

    Without stopping his work, he looked at his picture with satisfaction and said very matter-of-factly, held it in his daddy’s face : “They will in a few minutes.”

    We may never know what God’s physical features are, but from the beginning, He does reveal His attributes to us so we can each know what He is about, like.

    In Exodus 34:6-7, rather than painting a picture a visual description of God, he writes a list about God’s invisible qualities.

    From this, we learn God is merciful and gracious.

    Keeping mercy and lovingkindness for the thousands.

    He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

    He is abounding in goodness and truth

    He is longsuffering and willing to forgive.

    Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.

    We also learn that God will not spare the wicked from punishment.

    We also learn that God expects us to automatically respond to who He is with an attitude of repentance and with worship that is worthy of being in His Presence.

    “Show Me Your Ways Lord, That I May Find Favor”

    Exodus 33:12-13Amplified Bible

    Moses Intercedes

    12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly] and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight. And consider also, that this nation is Your people.”

    In Exodus 33:12-13, Moses asked God to teach him more about God’s ways.

    Moses said,

    “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”

    In gracious response to Moses’ request for God to show him more about who He was, God shows Moses favor, God passes by Moses and proclaims the attributes about Himself, revealing to a much humbled Moses more about His character.

    God wanted Moses (and us) to know that He is not an angry, impersonal God.

    Instead, He is a God that loves us, unconventionally, while also being a just God who will hold His Children to account for their words and deeds and punish sin.

    The result of God’s revelation to Moses was that Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped God because Moses knew all he needed to accomplish the task God had called him to do was to be in and remain in, the presence of God.

    “Hear My Cry Lord, Show Me More of Your Ways”

    When was the last time we cried out to God and said,

    “Lord show me more of your ways?”

    Just as God answered Moses, God will answer us today.

    It might be through the Words of truth and life found through scripture that you read and study or in a sermon from your pastor or a song on the radio.

    When our desire to know more about God is a longing that is from the heart, God will most abundantly, decisively, definitely and directly reveal Himself.

    Where are the “Crying Christians?”

    Isaiah 2:2-3 Amplified Bible

    Now it will come to pass that
    In the last days
    The mountain of the house of the Lord
    Will be [firmly] established as the [a]highest of the mountains,
    And will be exalted above the hills;
    And all the nations will stream to it.

    And many peoples shall come and say,
    “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    To the house (temple) of the God of Jacob;
    That He may teach us His ways
    And that we may walk in His paths.”
    For the law will go out from Zion
    And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

    “All nations” is one of my favorite phrases in the Bible.

    God is an inclusive God. When he established a beachhead in our fallen world by starting a little nation called Israel, he was already thinking big.

    God’s plan was to reach out through Israel to call all nations to himself.

    Now, in 2023, Revival has broken out quite literally all over the world.

    Thousands upon thousands are responding … they are crying out to God …

    Onto the street Corners, into the streets of cities all across the globe …

    Into College Campuses …

    Into Churches whose pews had more accumulated dust than congregants.

    Into malls and supermarkets …

    Into the maximum security prisons …

    Into the incarcerated for life hearts of violent life long criminals …

    Into countries where Jesus Christ is not necessarily the most favored name.

    The Word of God for the Children of God goes forth …

    Repentance and Baptisms …

    “Show us Your Ways, O’ Lord, that we may find Grace and Favor IN THY sight.”

    Transformations …

    The Message of Salvation through Christ and Christ alone.

    God has a Plan …

    Jeremiah 29:11-14Amplified Bible

    11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. 13 Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

    Jeremiah 29:13 says,

    “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

    How bad do you really want to know more about the Exodus 34:6-7 God?

    How badly do you want people to know more about the Exodus 34:6-7 God?

    How much do you long for the presence of the Exodus 34:6-7 God to lead you to what He’s called you to do?

    With what effort do you seek the Goodness and Mercy, the Slow to Anger and abounding in Steadfast Love, the Faithful and Forgiving and Max Truth of God?

    What effort do you bring your Worship, cry out to God: “Show Me Your Ways?”

    What strength of plea arises from your heart and soul: “If I have found Favor?”

    What percentage of your prayer life includes … “That I May Know God’s Grace?”

    What percentage of your heart is “firmly prostrated” before the Lord, your God?

    What percentage of thy soul is “squarely grounded” in the life of Savior Christ?

    Percentage of thy only hope is saturated in nothing less than the blood of Jesus?

    God’s promise of a gospel that reaches “to the ends of the earth” is being realized (Acts 1:8).

    All nations are streaming toward the mountain of the Lord’s temple—not by pilgrimage to a physical temple in Jerusalem, but by coming to Jesus, the one alone who fulfills the temple’s deepest meaning of God’s presence among us.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing right now within us.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing right now among us.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing within our homes.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing within our families.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing among our friends.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing among our neighbors.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing within our schools.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing upon, within our streets.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing upon, within our prisons.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing within our communities.

    Praise God for all the amazing things He alone is doing within our country.

    Praise God for the amazing things He alone is doing right now in our world.

    And thank Him that in a tragically shrinking world we can yet experience, be a thriving community with fellow believers from across all cultures and nations.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Psalm 150 The Message

    150 1-6 Hallelujah!
    Praise God in his holy house of worship,
        praise him under the open skies;
    Praise him for his acts of power,
        praise him for his magnificent greatness;
    Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
        praise by strumming soft strings;
    Praise him with castanets and dance,
        praise him with banjo and flute;
    Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
        praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
    Let every living, breathing creature praise God!

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    Psalm 46 Be Still and Ponder Upon the Importance of How We Each View God.

    Psalm 46 Amplified Bible

    God the Refuge of His People.

    To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to soprano voices. A Song.

    46 God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable],
    A very present and well-proved help in trouble.

    Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
    And though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas,

    Though its waters roar and foam,
    Though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah.

    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    The holy dwelling places of the Most High.

    God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved;
    God will help her when the morning dawns.

    The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved;
    He raised His voice, the earth melted.

    The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah.

    Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    Who has brought desolations and wonders on the earth.

    He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
    He breaks the bow into pieces and snaps the spear in two;
    He burns the chariots with fire.
    “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”
    The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah.

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    Be Still and Know that I Am God.

    We will tend to believe of being “busy” as something positive—something of a measure of our true success in life, maybe even a compliment—especially when we consider the negative implications of its opposites, being “idle” or “lazy.”

    But we should not always assume, consider “busyness” as a Christian virtue.

    Have you ever thought that busyness might just be a sign of Christian betrayal rather than Christian commitment?

    We should definitely be thankful that many believers are busy for the Lord.

    Giving, sacrificing our time and ourselves in service to God’s kingdom is an absolutely essential part of the believer’s life and the Christian experience.

    But mere busyness does not necessarily equal faithfulness in the Christian life.

    In a time of great social economic political upheaval and national crisis, God emphatically urged his people to simply “be still” and know that he was God.

    Twice in Psalm 46, God’s people heard the assurance that the Lord Almighty was with them.

    He would be their comfort and mighty fortress.

    The key to experiencing that assurance, though, would be to approach God with a stilled heart and quiet trust.

    When we actually withdraw from our busy lives to spend time with God, we find ourselves discovering, enjoying, experiencing the truest reality of his presence.

    While we are not called by God to be either lazy or idle, neither are we called to a life of non-stop activity and service.

    God’s gently emphatic invitation, “be still” unlocks for us the opportunity to experience the maximum allowable joy of actually, genuinely, knowing him.

    What a blessed comfort this verse has been to multitudes of believers in Christ, down through the ages, who have heeded God’s invitation and rested on these words of the Psalmist and had their hearts stilled in the presence of the Lord.

    What refreshment these simple words have bestowed on many little lambs who have listened to the voice of their Good Shepherd – that Great Shepherd of the sheep Who opens His arms wide to embrace all who will truly trust in His name.

    But in context, we see another component to these words of reassurance.

    We see a genuine plan to glorify His Name and to exult His Person among the nations of the world who rage against the God of heaven and His anointed King.

    He is our Defense and our Defender against the enemies of our soul, and all who rest in Him find courage and strength.

    He is our impenetrable refuge from the storms of life and our shelter in the midst of oppression, and we are called to be still and to know that He is God – for His purposes will never fail, He will be glorified throughout the whole earth.

    It is of the greatest encouragement, both to His people Israel, and to His children of every age, that men who follow their own atheistic ‘will’ and construct their own anti-God plans, will finally be brought to nothing.

    For God, and God alone will be exulted among the heathen and His purposes alone will come to fruition – but we who have trusted Him for salvation are to sit serenely in His presence, in quiet assurance, confidence and in godly trust.

    Like the people of Israel in times past, Church-age believers are invited, called upon to ponder, remember the mighty deeds that God has done and to recall the myriad beyond myriads of miraculous, wondrous works that He has performed.

    We are to rest confidently in the knowledge that He is our faithful God – the supreme Creator of all and Commander of the armies of heaven Who redeems us by faith in the shed blood of Christ, and will never leave us nor forsake us.

    We are to:

    rest peacefully in the truth of His Word and be still in His holy presence.

    We are to know in our heart, by faith with thanksgiving, that He is the Lord our God Who alone pardons all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, Who redeems our life from the pit, and Who crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion.

    He alone is our God Who satisfies our years with good things, renews our youth like the eagle.

    He performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed.

    The LORD is compassionate and gracious… slow to anger and abounding in steadfast and immovable lovingkindness.

    He is our Redeemer our Saviour and Friend.

    He alone is our hope and strength, He will be exalted, for it is He who has made us, not we ourselves, for we are His beloved people, the sheep of His pasture.

    Although the nations rage like the billows of the sea and the people imagine a vain thing against the Lord God Almighty, we are invited, called to be still in the presence of the Lord and to know Him in our heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

    May we ponder what it means to be still in His presence and cease from all our strivings… and truly be at peace in His company – Whom to know is life eternal.

    The Importance of How I View God

    In light of the past few weeks’ of worldwide revival events, I have been taking more time to reflect and ponder.

    My emotions have created a mixed bag, from skepticism to doubt, disbelief, questions, and indescribable awe. 

    On one hand, I decisively, definitely praise God if He is using these services to truly speak and to deeply ignite and inspire and move to transform lives.

    I have not been to any of the services, but I have watched many of the streams and videos and I have been “stilled” and moved to tears of indescribable joy.

    I know that God is powerful and can do anything He chooses, especially when we are not expecting it – but witnessing those students, images of people into the streets of our nation’s cities, into prisons and many international cities?

    Such an inexplicably powerful experience to see the people acting on their belief that God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is “on the move.”

    On the other, however, I think it’s a good and righteous thing to be cautious and careful with what we quickly interpret as come to believe to be the Spirit of God. 

    Even the Bereans in Acts 17 do this when Paul presents the gospel message to them.

    Though eager to hear Paul’s teachings, they move to test them themselves in the Holy Scriptures, Study, Pray, Ponder, and then decide what is from God. 

    “As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:10-12, NIV). 

    Paul was known as an excellent teacher and an even better friend.

    He truly cared that every person heard and had access to the Bible after his conversion from Saul to Paul.

    This is why Paul felt called to attend as many missionary journeys as he did!

    But no matter how great the speaker, one’s credibility and ability to represent the gospel should always be prudently studied analyzed in light of the Bible.

    People are not the source of light themselves but are the ones pointing to the Light. 

    For this reason, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 further notes,

    “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (NIV). 

    While I am not one to debate or judge if these revival services are real or not, their appearance has caused me to think about how I view God.

    And more importantly, if I understand Him. 

    How Do You View God?

    I was born into the Evangelical United Church of the Brethren.

    Growing up, I was raised in a traditional EUB Church until 1968 when the churches merged to become the United Methodist Church.

    I remember every service, worship session, and layout for an event looked exactly the same.

    Over time, I didn’t know why I was doing or saying what I did.

    Being so young as I was [7 years old] I didn’t even understand the Apostle’s Creed that I recited by heart every Sunday.

    Quickly, God and my relationship with Him became routine, just rehearsed words that needed to be prayed to maintain my perfection status. 

    By the time I reached high school, my father had remove us from the Methodist Church and we then became members of a local conservative Jewish Synagogue.

    My view of a God as my father became fractured was immensely distorted, and I truly started to wonder and ask, where is God, Jesus in the midst of my separation? 

    Verses that call God our Abba, or Father, have been an enormous challenge for me to understand and accept.

    I have wrestled for years with how God can be “One God,” for everyone, angry and loving, forgiving and punishing, reachable, yet above and beyond us all. 

    But it wasn’t until a recent “live” revival streaming session that I realized I should give my current view of God so much more contemplation – and that led me to todays verse, to ask these questions: “Be Still?” “Do I Understand Him?”

    Do I Understand Him?

    While I might dare to believe we would all like to say we know and understand God fully, from how He works to why things happen the way they do, I do not think nor do I believe that “understanding God” is even remotely possible. 

    It is possible to know and have an intimate, close, and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    This is why Jesus came and died for us, so we could partake in this personal relationship with Him.

    That’s the core essence of the gospel message.

    However, God never expected us to try and figure out all His ways. 

    Isaiah 55:8-9 notes, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV). 

    1 Corinthians 2:15-16 furthers this point when it says:

    “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (ESV). 

    While we can obtain a mind like Christ’s, in purity, hope, and love, this does not mean that we will know and understand all that He does.

    He is still God, and we are not.

    He is still all-powerful, and we are not.

    His ways are not our ways, and that is for a reason.

    Should We Know It All?

    When I was younger, and far more naïve than I am right now, I used to believe that if I knew “everything that would happen to me”, my life would be better.

    If I always knew exactly what God wanted me to do, where He wanted me to go, and what He was doing, my life would be easier.

    I look back now over the course of the last 43 years and I can only laugh. 

    As an anxious person, not only would I find all of this information to be rather overwhelming and paralyzing, but I’m confident that if I indeed “knew it all,”

    two things would happen:

    one, I would not rely on God to get through them,

    two, I would try to convince Him, like Moses or Jonah, that I was never ever going to be the right person for whatever task He “dared” called me into. 

    In Jonah 1, beginning in verse 1, Jonah runs from God because of his fears.

    God calls him to a high-caliber task, but Jonah doesn’t feel up for the journey.

    Even later, when he runs back to God, he becomes angry at God for His grace, the same grace that was given to him earlier in the chapter. 

    Countless people in the Bible tried to understand God.

    From Abraham, to Moses to Aaron, Job, and David and all the biblical writers.

    But if I’ve learned anything from their interactions, it’s that God cannot be entirely understood, and while we can have a close fellowship with Him, He will still be above and beyond anything we could fully comprehend here on earth.

    What Have I Learned About How I View God?

    So what have I learned about how I view God?

    I have learned that while God is a loving Father figure.

    He is also so much more than I will ever be able to grasp. 

    He is unpredictable. 

    He is unlikely. 

    He moves in ways we’d think He would and ways we wouldn’t. 

    He is a quiet, still whisper but also a mighty and powerful storm.

    He’s an oxymoron to those who don’t believe in Him and a mystery to those who do.

    Today, I am learning that I have many more years of learning to go.

    I will not understand Him entirely, but I’m choosing every day to grow closer to Him through prayer, reading the Bible, studying, meditating, and experiencing Him as I live – and something tells me that it’s okay-This is a life-long process.

    How I view God is still growing.

    I anticipate your view of God is growing as well.

    I want to know Him as a Father.

    I want you the reader to know Him as a Father.

    I’ve known Him as a Friend.

    I want you the reader to know Him as a Friend.

    And I want to know and view Him for all that He is.

    And I want you the reader to know and view Him for all that He is.

    Even if it takes the maxed our entirety of a thousand lifetimes to experience:

    “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah. [Psalm 46:10-11 AMP]

    The predicted and the unpredicted. 

    The known and the unknown.

    However He is, that’s how I want to know and view Him.

    Why ever He is, that is how I want to know and view Him.

    Whenever He is, that is how I want to know and view Him.

    Where ever He is, that is how I want to know and view Him.

    Perhaps, you the reader, from wherever you are, will join in the joy?

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Lord God Almighty, we rejoice that you are with us. Teach us to be still so that increasingly we can experience your presence in our lives through your Holy Spirit within. Father, I praise You that Your Word stands fast for ever and ever and that Your precious promises encourage me to rest in Your love and drink deeply from the Rock of my salvation. Draw near to every member of Christ’s Body and protect Your people Israel against the increasing roar of the nations. I pray for the salvation of the lost and for Your soon return, when Your name be exalted throughout all the earth and the nations will KNOW that You are God. I ask in the name of my Savior Jesus.

    “Stones of Remembrance!” God’s Call to Remember Revival. Joshua 4:4-7, 19-24

    Joshua 4:4-7 Amplified Bible

    Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross over again to the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel, so that this may be a sign among you; when your children ask later, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall become a memorial for Israel forever.”

    Joshua 4:19-24 Amplified Bible

    19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth [day] of the first month and encamped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. 21 He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is mighty and extraordinarily powerful, so that you will fear the Lord your God [and obey and worship Him with profound awe and reverence] forever.”

    The Word of God for the Children of God. 

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    The Christian life is, in a sense, one big call to remember.

    Our Lord Jesus, speaking of the new-covenant meal of Communion, told us, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, emphasis added).

    Every Lord’s Supper, then, offers us the opportunity to remember together all that is pictured in the bread and wine.

    Deuteronomy similarly envisions a scenario in which a son asks his father;

    “What is the meaning of the testimonies and statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” (Deuteronomy 6:20).

    The father responds by telling Israel’s story of redemption, highlighting that what God instructs is “for our good always” (v 24).

    The book of Joshua, too, commends the same kind of commemoration when the Lord instructs the people to set up 12 memorial stones at the Jordan River, so the stones would become revival “to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

    God wanted His people then—and wants His people today—to ever remember His faithfulness and to tell, testify, confess, to teach others what He has done.

    Such remembrances and memorials have always been a significant time to worship and praise for the miraculous works only Himself demonstrates.

    But in a day [like now] with endless competing claims on our attention and affections, we need more reminders of God’s faithfulness than ever before.

    It’s notable that the examples above are concrete and interpersonal.

    We participate in the Lord’s Supper together, and it offers us a multisensory experience to help us remember.

    The twelve stones at the Jordan River constituted a physical memorial.

    The instruction of Deuteronomy encourages us to have conversations about God’s faithfulness and goodness in our homes.

    Please note that the word “conversations” is PLURALIZED.

    Meaning more than one –

    But not just conversations … but full blown WORSHIP and PRAISE and PRAYER.

    But not just one person conversing with the Lord, but a whole bunch of people, putting themselves in front of their “memorial stones” to remember the Lord.

    For today’s Christians, every Sunday presents us with the opportunity to gather and remember with God’s people.

    But we are going to need more than a weekly touchpoint to sustain ourselves.

    Ask yourself: 

    What habits can I cultivate to remember God’s goodness?

    How can I catalog His faithfulness to me and share that with others?

    What “memorials” can I set up so that I can remember how God delivered me?

    Opportunities to continuously see, instantly recall God’s faithfulness abound.

    All we need to do is constantly, continuously look and instantly remember.

    Revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky – 2023

    I do hope and pray that Christians have stable and established faith in Christ. 

    I feel prayerful. Hopeful.

    In fact, I’ve gotten choked up more than once over the last couple days at the thought that a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit could be happening among our Methodist brothers and sisters.

    So I have mainly been praying two things:

    1. Oh, God. Let it be. Let your mercy pour down in genuine revival, and let these reports be true. And let it not end in Wilmore.

    2. Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by. Savior, Savior, Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.

    Maybe you will be moved mightily to pray, praise and worship this way as well.

    It is of the nature of revival that we cannot know the true extent of it until days, months, and even years afterward.

    Acts 5:33-39Amplified Bible

    Gamaliel’s Counsel

    33 Now when they heard this, they were infuriated and they intended to kill the apostles. 34 But a Pharisee named [a]Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law [of Moses], highly esteemed by all the people, stood up in the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court) and ordered that the men be taken outside for a little while. 35 Then he said to the Council, “Men of Israel, be careful in regard to what you propose to do to these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody [of importance], and a group of about four hundred men allied themselves with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up, [and led an uprising] during the time of the census, and drew people after him; he was also killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men [merely human in origin], it will fail and be destroyed; 39 but if it is of God [and it appears that it is], you will not be able to stop them; or else you may even be found fighting against God!”

    The distinguishing marks of revival may begin with an outpouring of the Spirit of grace, but that is only the commencement if the work of the Holy Spirit is to prove real and to be authentic and unstoppable, and a major mover of people.

    “How do you tell if it is really a work of God? It’s not how high you jump, it’s how straight and how far you will walk when you finally land.”

    The last great spiritual awakening in America took place during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    It was a nation divided by war, and things were very dark.

    But when things are really dark, God’s light can shine brightly.

    Cover headlines from Time magazine went from “Is God Dead?” in 1968 to “Jesus Revolution” in 1971.

    What a difference a few years can make, especially when God intervenes.

    America needs a spiritual awakening, and the church needs a revival.

    The World needs a spiritual awakening ….

    An awakening takes place when God sovereignly pours out His Spirit and it impacts a culture.

    That is what happened during the Jesus Revolution, and that is what happened during multiple spiritual awakenings in the long history of these United States, predating its establishment as a nation.

    A revival, on the other hand, is what the church must experience.

    A revival occurs when the church comes back to life, when it becomes what it was always meant to be.

    It’s a returning to passion.

    I think many times we overly mystify the idea of revival.

    We don’t really need to.

    Another word we could use for revival is restoration, and that is what the church needs.

    Speaking at a conference in 1917, R. A. Torrey gave this prescription for revival:

    Let a few of God’s people, they don’t need to be many, get thoroughly right with God themselves—the rest will count for nothing unless you start right there; then let them band themselves together to pray for a revival until God opens the heavens and comes down. Then let them put themselves at God’s disposal to use them as He sees fit. That will bring a revival to any church, any community.

    We can’t organize a revival, but we can agonize for it in prayer.

    We can call on God to send it.

    We can call on the people to come, to consider and to receive God [Acts 2:37-47]

    Draw near unto the Lord our God and the Lord will draw near to us.

    Psalm 73:28 Amplified Bible

    But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge and placed my trust in Him,
    That I may tell of all Your works.

    Ecclesiastes 5:1Amplified Bible

    Your Attitude Toward God

    Guard your steps and focus on what you are doing as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the [careless or irreverent] sacrifice of fools; for they are too ignorant to know they are doing evil.

    Matthew 11:25-30Amplified Bible

    Come to Me

    25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [I openly and joyfully acknowledge Your great wisdom], that You have hidden these things [these spiritual truths] from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants [to new believers, to those seeking God’s will and purpose]. 26  Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son [deliberately] wills to reveal Him.

    28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

    James 4:8Amplified Bible

    Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].

    Where is our Hope for Revival and Remembrance?

    Psalm 85 Amplified Bible

    Prayer for God’s Mercy upon the Nation.

    To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

    85 O Lord, You have [at last] shown favor to Your land [of Canaan];
    You have restored [from Babylon] the captives of Jacob (Israel).

    You have forgiven the wickedness of Your people;
    You have covered all their sin. Selah.

    You have withdrawn all Your wrath,
    You have turned away from Your burning anger.

    Restore us, O God of our salvation,
    And cause Your indignation toward us to cease.

    Will You be angry with us forever?
    Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?

    Will You not revive us and bring us to life again,
    That Your people may rejoice in You?

    Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord,
    And grant us Your salvation.

    I will hear [with expectant hope] what God the Lord will say,
    For He will speak peace to His people, to His [a]godly ones—
    But let them not turn again to folly.

    Surely His salvation is near to those who [reverently] fear Him [and obey Him with submissive wonder],
    That glory [the manifest presence of God] may dwell in our land.
    Steadfast love and truth and faithfulness meet together;
    Righteousness and peace kiss each other.
    Truth springs from the earth,
    And righteousness looks down from heaven.
    Indeed, the Lord will give what is good,
    And our land will yield its produce.
    Righteousness will go before Him
    And will make His footsteps into a way [in which to walk].

    In a worship song from the early 2000s, singer/songwriter Brian Doerksen sings,

    “Jesus, hope of the nations/ Jesus, comfort for all who mourn/ You are the source of heaven’s hope on earth.”

    As believers in Christ, we recognize and worship Jesus as the true hope of the world, and yet it’s astounding how often we pin our hopes on ­human beings.

    In all of our history books, it is clear that people are far more inclined to find hope in leaders, politicians, and celebrities rather than in the one true God.

    Why do we do this?

    Proverbs 11:4-8 warns that placing hope in humans is futile because any human power will come to nothing.

    As the apostle Paul tells us, “There is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).

    By saying this, Paul is assuring believers that in all situations, even in the midst of national turmoil’s and global crises, God is the one who holds all ­authority.

    Any human who has “power” has it only because God allows it to be so.

    2 Chronicles 7:1-3Amplified Bible

    The Shekinah Glory

    When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the [[a]Shekinah] glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter the house of the Lord because the glory and brilliance of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw how the fire came down and saw the glory and brilliance of the Lord upon the house, they bowed down on the stone pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.”

    In other words, through our continuous praise and worship, all our hopes and all our desires must lie with the Only One who is on the throne of the universe.

    Our prayers and our worship must be oriented toward Christ, for he is truly the only hope—the only one who can change minds and transform hearts, disperse powers, and bring edification, and redemption and restoration, to bring revival.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray ….

    Creator God, you made every living thing, and you hold all things together. Lord, we your Children now pray for you bring restoration to this world that desperately needs your leadership and authority. Please use Your church and their lives as catalysts for renewal, restoration and revival. We have heard of Your great works; please do them again, “stones of remembrance” in our day. And all for the glory, honor and praise of Jesus Christ, our only crucified, Resurrected and returning Lord, Savior and King.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    Utterly Unconventional Love of God and Saint Valentine’s Day. Ephesians 3:17-19

    Ephesians 3:14-21Amplified Bible

    14 For this reason [grasping the greatness of this plan by which Jews and Gentiles are joined together in Christ] I bow my knees [in reverence] before the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ], 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth [a]derives its name [God—the first and ultimate Father]. 16 May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality]17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; 19 and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].

    20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    God gave us Jesus as a way of saying, “I love you and you are special to me.”

    That is a really great gift, isn’t it?

    Much better than Valentine’s cards, or candy, or flowers.

    Still, we have those special people in our lives whom we need to give our fullest possible attention to – our wives, our sweethearts, our very good friends, those co-workers who work with us and beside us and those whom we may supervise.

    Treat them special because they are special – who and what and why they are is absolutely 100% irreplaceable – every single one of their lives utterly matters.

    They need to know that they are truly respected, loved and deeply appreciated.

    God’s Unconventional Love versus Valentine’s Day

    Ephesians 3:14-19The Message

    14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

    Everyday is a special day when we open our eyes, take that next breath, set our feet upon the floor, walk forth into the kitchen get that very first cup of coffee.

    We look outside, greet the morning, are welcomed by the dawn’s new sun.

    A hand that raises the blades of a Venetian blind to look out the window at the sky of a sunny day.

    Tomorrow, however, is a wee bit more of a special day.

    Yes, it is Valentine’s Day.

    But does everyone know the origin of this day?

    It is a very old tradition which started because of a Bishop named Valentinus.

    He lived back in the days of the Roman Empire.

    Long ago, Roman officials were against young people getting married in the church.

    Many young Christians wanted to be married by the priest, in the church, with God’s blessing.

    Valentinus was sympathetic to these people and continued to help marry them, even though he was often threatened by the government authorities.

    Sadly, he was taken to Rome and put to death for his faith and his defiance of the Emperor’s rule.

    In memory and honor of Saint Valentinus, young couples started talking about choosing a Valentine, when they were actually talking about choosing a bride.

    Now we call this day, Saint Valentine’s Day.

    In the modern era, many people give their sweethearts Valentine’s Day cards with hearts all over them.

    Some people give candies or flowers.

    A red carnation or a red rose means “I love you.”

    These are all ways that people show their love.

    But God also gave us a gift to show us that He loved us.

    It was Jesus. God gave us Jesus as a way of saying, “I love you and you are special to me.”

    That is a really great gift, isn’t it?

    Much better than cards, or candy, or flowers.

    Today, let us meditate on biblical love, the greatest love of all time.

    There once was a very old pastor, who was suffering from a long battle with cancer.

    A few days before his death, he continued to hold on to a special verse that was the source of his inspiration.

    He placed a bookmark where his favorite scripture passage was written:

    “Who shall separate us from the love Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:34-35 KJV).

    Despite facing such a trail in his life, the old pastor was most certainly blessed with the power “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ;” a love that surpasses knowledge.

    As children of God, we understand the fact that the root and foundation of creation is love.

    It “surpasses knowledge.”

    We know about human love.

    Human love comes with the understanding that love comes as a reward for being good, for being faithful, being trustworthy and true, for being kind, for giving gifts, and for acting and for responding with appropriate behavior.

    But this is not the same as the love which is embedded in the foundation of creation.

    This is not the love that surpasses knowledge.

    This is not the love that Paul prays we might have the power to grasp.

    God’s love flows freely, without consideration of reward or any plan of equal or unequal or non-existent compensation.

    This is a love that is not inherent to human nature.

    We are more inclined to return love for love.

    But the Scripture says,

    “… how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:20-21).

    If we are to approach love in the way of biblical love, we must meditate on what it means when the Bible says, we must love God and each other as ourselves.

    “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:13-17)

    Today, I would like to meditate on 3 questions about this amazing kind of love.

    The first question is this:

    Where does Love come from?

    Where Does Love Come From?

    Now some of you would answer, ‘that’s easy–it comes from within.’

    Some may say, ‘It’s something that happens naturally as we mature as human beings.’

    However, remember how hard it is to teach children to share?

    That sharing instinct is not natural to them, but it is taught.

    A human instinct is: self-survival.

    C.S. Lewis, the famed English scholar, studied the various Greek words for love.

    He came to distinguish the difference between what he called “needed love” and “gift love.”

    Needed love is described as self-evident.

    It is the most common kind of love in our world.

    It is a mortal and human concept of love.

    I love you, BECAUSE you love me.

    I love you, because you provide for me, because you support me, and because you meet my needs.

    Mr. Lewis illustrates that when we humans say to another, “I love you,” what we are really meaning is, “I need you, I want you. You hold value in my life.”

    Now in contrast to “needed love” Mr. Lewis describes “gift love.”

    This form of loving is born of fullness and wholeness.

    The goal of gift love is to enrich and enhance the person whom it loves.

    It does not require anything in return, nor does it hold requirements.

    “Gift love moves out to bless and to increase rather than to acquire or to diminish. Gift love is more like a bountiful, artesian well that continues to overflow than a vacuum or a black hole. (C.S. Lewis)”

    Mr. Lewis concludes this is what God’s love is all about. God’s love is gift love, not needed love.

    This, of course, is the meaning of agape love; unconditional love.

    Are we capable of agape love– loving as God loves?

    To an extent we are.

    But, we must go to the source of love, and the source of all love is God.

    Jesus says in John’s narrative today, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. (John 15:13)”

    Perfect love does not come from within, it only comes from above.

    And when God lives within us, we become capable of expressing perfect love.

    Please take secure hold of your BIBLES and turn with me to 1 John 4:7-11.

    In his first epistle, John writes,

    “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So, that is the answer to the first question: where does love come from? It comes from God. Then John adds, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-11).

    The Second Question is ….

    What does this Love look like?

    A young girl came home one day bursting with good news.

    “Mom, Dad, I know why we had to learn grammar!” she exclaimed.

    “It is so we can understand God.”

    Her mom and dad gave her a puzzled look, so the young girl explained.

    “God is love, and love can be a noun, an adjective, an adverb, or a verb.”

    What a powerful concept!

    Now doesn’t that preach a sermon or three lasting all the live long day!

    Love isn’t just a vague feeling.

    It is an action, an attitude, a spirit, and a character trait.

    Since Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God, his every attitude, thought, word, action and deed was motivated by the love of God for Him and too, vice versa.

    He was motivated completely and without reservation by love.

    So, what does love look like?

    Gift love is best illustrated with Jesus, a blameless man, hanging on a cross simply and solely because of God’s love for us.

    We cannot meet any of God’s needs or even all of God’s commands.

    But God’s nature is to give love, unconditionally, unconventionally, even at times when we do not deserve it.

    As John writes,

    “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

    God’s gift love is a pure and perfect love.

    It is an unconventional, never-ending, and everlasting kind of love.

    It does not ask for you to meet up to requirements, and it does not ask for compensation.

    No matter how many times we sin or fall short of the Glory of God, His love never left us.

    No matter how many times the world rebuked Him, His love never left us.

    What does love look like?

    There is no Greater and more Powerful image than Jesus on the Cross.

    That is perfect love.

    Perfect love looks like God, for He is love.

    God and love are not two realities; they are one.

    God’s infinite power of being is: the infinite power of love.

    In every movement of love we are dwelling in God and God in us.

    And when we accept the Holy Spirit into our lives, we allow God’s perfect love to be pictured through us.

    We can also illustrate perfect love through the way we live.

    Through every attitude, thought, word, and deed, we have.

    Christians are called to be a reflection of the image of God.

    We reflect God’s perfect love so that others can also see what true perfect love looks like.

    Love unconditionally, unconventionally to all.

    Now, the third and last question is:

    What does such love require from us?

    Jesus answers this question in John 15:13-17,

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

    Jesus has issued the command: “Love each other as I have loved you.”

    We are required by God’s command to love others as he has loved us–not with needed love, but with gift love.

    Not because of anything they can or have done for us, but because of what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done for us.

    Luke 6:27-32Amplified Bible

    27 “But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: [a]Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, 28 bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever [b]strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other one also [simply ignore insignificant insults or losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity]. Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. [c]Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you [only] love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

    The world lives by the philosophy: “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

    To do good for people who are incapable of doing anything for you in return.

    This is gift love, agape love. It is the love of God.

    And of course, dear brother and sisters, this is the hardest form of love to give.

    It is hard to love someone unconventionally when they cannot or will not or refuse to do the same for you.

    But when the Spirit of the Lord is within, He will give you the strength to love.

    The strength to be patient and compassionate.

    The strength to reflect agape love to others who do not know God.

    For the greatest command was to love God, and the second greatest command was to love one another.

    Concluding Reflection’s: Love That Surpasses Knowledge

    Ephesians 3:16-19Easy-to-Read Version

    16 I ask the Father with his great glory to give you the power to be strong in your spirits. He will give you that strength through his Spirit. 17 I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. 18 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you.

    Love is commonly considered an emotion—a feeling, inclination of the heart.

    Love involves knowing the person we love, and yet even that knowledge is not the end of love.

    Paul reminds his readers of this basic truth when he prays that they may “know this love that surpasses knowledge.”

    Paul is talking here about the love of God, and he’s saying that it’s not enough to know about God without having love for God.

    The standard of love that believers strive for is to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

    That’s a high standard indeed!

    God is, in every way, far beyond what our minds can comprehend or our hearts can contain.

    We will never achieve this total fullness!

    But what a powerful prayer this is—and what a wonderful goal to guide us in living our life!

    To be continually growing in this “fullness of God” and his love is the delight of discipleship.

    This is a wonderful prayer offered for us—but it’s also a prayer to offer on behalf of others.

    What a transformation of our relationships when an entire community of Christ’s disciples experiences together a growing fullness of God’s love.

    It’s beyond our ability to imagine!

    Valentines Day is known as the day of love.

    But God’s love lasts for eternity.

    It is a perfect LOVE that loves unconditionally and unconventionally.

    Where does perfect love come from?

    It comes from God alone, and works within us when we become His children.

    What does perfect love look like?

    It looks like Jesus, a blameless man, hanging on a cross, for a world which did not deserve Him.

    And as His children we reflect that image through our actions, our attitudes, thoughts, words, and deeds.

    And what does such perfect love require out of us?

    It requires us to move beyond “needed love” and give “gift love”.

    To look around at others who are in need of God’s love and to give it to them–not asking what they can do for us, remembering what Christ has done for us.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    We bow our hearts before You, Father God. You are the Creator of everything we see in heaven and on earth. We pray that out of Your glorious, unlimited resources, You would strengthen our hearts and minds through the power of Your Holy Spirit. May Your love be the rich soil in which our lives are rooted. May Your love be the only firm foundation upon which we build, so that, together with all Your people everywhere, we would come to truly understand how long, how high, how wide and how deep Your love really is—how it far surpasses anything we can imagine. God, fill us with the fullness and the power that comes from You alone, so that our lives would reflect your goodness and grace to the world around us.  Lord, fill us to overflowing with the knowledge and the wisdom of your fullness so that we love you more and serve you better. Help us to keep offering this prayer for others, that we may all grow in you.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    “Ambitious” Guests of Honor: Jesus Teaches About Humility and Service. Luke 14:7-14

    Luke 14:7-14 Amplified Bible

    Parable of the Guests

    Now Jesus began telling a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been selecting the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down [to eat] at the place of honor, since a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by the host, and he who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place,’ and then, in disgrace you proceed to take the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down [to eat] at the last place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; and then you will be honored in the presence of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled [before others], and he who habitually humbles himself (keeps a realistic self-view) will be exalted.”

    12 Jesus also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or wealthy neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind, 14 and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the [a]righteous (the just, the upright).”

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    Parable of the Honored Ambitious Guests …

    The guests and host of a banquet met Jesus.

    At the banquet, the guests tried to sit in seats of honor, near the place where the host would sit.

    This was common in that society, which cared about honor for people who were respectable and had status in the community.

    It was also common to invite people over who would invite you back, because you could then benefit socially from attending another dinner party hosted by someone else.

    But Jesus introduced a different kind of world by what he said to the guests and the host.

    He told them to sit in the least honorable seats, and to invite guests who were too poor to return the invitation.

    In this way Jesus revealed a way of life in which status doesn’t matter, and in which shame and honor are erased.

    Jesus revealed this way of life in his teachings, and he made this way of life possible by becoming the most despised outsider of all.

    He died on a cross and bore the worst of all rejections in order to make God’s kingdom a reality in our world.

    God’s kingdom is the only place where the only status that matters is that we are “loved by God.”

    God’s kingdom is a gift that Jesus Christ gives to us.

    Jesus Teaches About Ambition, Humility, Service

    Ambition can be a powerful ally or a destructive enemy.

    If your ambition is misplaced and fueled by shallow wants and superficial desires, you will find yourself perpetually dissatisfied, ultimately discontent.

    The Bible talks about that type of ambition in Matthew 6:24, warning against greed and the insatiable desire to earn more money than you could ever spend.

    If wealth and riches and status are your ambition, you will never be satisfied.

    There is nothing wrong with ambition or about being ambitious ….

    There is nothing wrong with Christian or with a Christian being ambitious.

    There’s nothing wrong with making money, but you have to own the money; you can’t let it own youlove of money is not supposed to be our ambition.

    You and I have to have a more sacred purpose that’s greater than money.

    The money will come to you through hard work and God’s blessing.

    Your greater purpose should be what your ambitions push you towards.

    Matthew 6:33 affirms this by giving us the insight that God knows our desires.

    God knows what fuels us, and if we aren’t scheming and plotting to send someone to ruination, He wants to bless us with the things that we seek.

    Jesus advises that if you and I seek first the Kingdom of God then He will give you and I everything that you and I need, and more.

    Humility and service are just two of the other values that Jesus not only taught but exemplified during His earthly ministry.

    On so many occasions in the Bible, we read Jesus teaching His disciples to always consider others before themselves. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance of self-denial and service to others.

    In Luke 14:7-14, Jesus used the occasion of a banquet to give insight into humility and service.

    He addressed the guest regarding humility in verses 7 to 10, And in verses 12 to 14, He spoke to the host about serving others.

    Luke 14:7-14The Message

    Invite the Misfits

    7-9 He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Embarrassed, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

    10-11 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around all high and mighty, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

    12-14 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

    Be Ambitious and Humble Yourself and Be Exalted …

    Jesus’ teaching is clear – do not think so highly of yourself that you always come expect the very best treatment at all times.

    No matter who you think or believe or perceive yourself to be when you are in public or in society, remember that there’s always somebody higher than you.

    Being ambitious might be good at times but certainly not on many occasions.

    Imagine a famous big city mayor who went to a wedding banquet along with his bodyguards and servicemen.

    Upon his arrival, the host was too busy attending to other guests so he could not personally welcome him.

    Thinking he was the most highly regarded guest, the mayor naturally walked into the dining hall and sat, took the best seat and made himself comfortable.

    When the host noticed his presence, he came and whispered to his ear that the seat he occupied is reserved for the governor.

    At this very public event, the mayor had no choice but to get up so the governor could take his rightful seat.

    With all of the media outlets present, and their cameras following his every move, what a huge embarrassment for the mayor knowing all eyes are on him.

    Humility and the “Ambitious Famous” Christian

    Humility is a fundamental grace in the Christian life, and yet it is elusive.

    There may be times when we think we deserve VIP treatment because of who we are in the church or society.

    We are the Pastor – therefore we are entitled to the very best parking space.

    Head of Table: We were the chairperson for the building committee and we just carried out the most successful capital campaign in the history of the church.

    The Matriarch and the Patriarch of the Church – Head of the Line meal tickets.

    Or perhaps there have been times when we ourselves exhibited false humility.

    Do you think you have this “I am all this, that and the other, ergo…” virtue?

    Please allow me to say, “If you know you have it, you have already flaunted it!”

    As someone rightly said, “Humility is not thinking meanly of ourselves; it is simply not thinking of ourselves at all.” 

    Jesus is the greatest example of humility, and we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to more imitative of Him and significantly less of ourselves.

    A True Act of Ambitious Charity

    The Lord Jesus also emphasized the importance of treating people equally regardless of their social and economic status.

    Unfortunately, when we are the one’s who are hosting a banquet, we prefer to invite rich and powerful people – trying to increase our status and self esteem.

    But Jesus told the host of the banquet that when he holds a feast, he should be extraordinarily radical and also invite the poor, the lame, and the blind.

    Why should the host do what Jesus said?

    It’s because these people won’t be able to repay him.

    They could not invite him back because they couldn’t afford to host a banquet!

    However, the host will raise his standard of living in the eyes of the community he is living, showing true compassion, receiving his reward at the resurrection.

    The reality is that whenever we host a party, we just prefer to invite our friends, relatives, and the rich and famous.

    We want to have people who can bring the very best, most expensive gifts or those who can invite us to their party in the future.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with inviting these people.

    When Rabbi Jesus said, “Do not invite your friends, brothers, relatives, or rich neighbors,” He did not mean absolute prohibition.

    Such language is common in Semitic discourse and is used for emphasis.

    Jesus’ point here is that inviting one’s friends and relatives cannot be classified as a spiritual act of charity.

    It may also be a rebuke against those prone to reserve their hospitality for rich neighbors.

    They intentionally do this knowing that these guests will automatically feel obligated to return the favor.

    And if they fail to automatically invite us back we take an automatically offense and as an excuse to discontinue the relationship – bear an everlasting grudge.

    Greatness and Servanthood and Ambition …

    Matthew 20:20-28Amplified Bible

    Preferred Treatment Asked

    20 Then [Salome] the [a]mother of Zebedee’s children [James and John] came up to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down [in respect], asked a favor of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit [in positions of honor and authority] one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus replied, “You do not realize what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup [of suffering] that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink My cup [of suffering]; but to sit on My right and on My left this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

    24 And when the [other] ten heard this, they were resentful and angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].”

    In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus taught His disciples that greatness is parallel to servanthood.

    Jesus said in response to the request of James and John’s mother for them to be given high places in God’s Kingdom.

    In his reply, Jesus poignantly highlighted about being a “servant.” 

    The word here means a “slave” and our English word “deacon” comes from it.

    Not every servant was a slave, but every slave was a servant.

    The Lord was teaching His disciples that the style of greatness and leadership for believers is different.

    The Gentile leaders dominate in a dictatorial fashion, using carnal power and authority.

    Believers are to do the opposite.

    They lead must by being servants and giving themselves away for others, as Jesus did.

    Sadly, in the church today we have many “celebrities” but so very few servants.

    There are many who want to “flaunt” their authority but few who want to take the towel and water filled basin and get on their knees and wash “dirty” feet.

    But while there are people who are still willing to serve, it’s interesting to note that they also have their motives.

    Some are sincerely serving only to glorify God but others serve for honor and place and recognition of their “ambitious,” “obviously superior spirituality.”

    What’s your motive for serving God and others?

    Some final reflections and ambitious thoughts …

    In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul uses the example of Jesus’ humility and service to encourage believers to do the same.

    He uses the word “selfishness” which is sometimes rendered “strife” because it refers to “us versus them versus everybody, anybody else” rivalry.

    It speaks of the pride that prompts people to push for their own way.

    And then Paul encourages the church to have humility of mind.

    It was a term of derision with the idea of being low, shabby, and humble.

    The basic definition of true humility is regarding others as more important than yourself.

    Our motive for being humble and serving others must be the praise of God and not the applause of men.

    We must care significantly more about our eternal reward in heaven and not the temporary “we cannot take it with us to the grave” pseudo recognition on earth.

    Remember, “You can’t get your reward twice” (Matthew 6:1-8).

    On the day of judgment, many who today are first in the eyes of men will be last in God’s eyes.

    And many who are last in the eyes of men will be first in the eyes of God (Luke 13:30).

    The story is told about a wise man who shunned publicity.

    He would speak every once in a while and when he speaks everyone listens to him.

    After speaking he would immediately hide away into his own private place.

    There would be rare times that he granted interviews and when he does he would always point to God as the giver of whatever wisdom that he possesses.  

    Many of us may be tempted to own to ourselves the wisdom or material wealth that we presently have.

    But we should not allow ourselves to be possessed by that temptation, for who are we to own to ourselves what we have?

    We have to always remember that we are mere vessels of God, whatever we have comes from God.     

    In our gospel text, Jesus highlights the great virtue of humility.

    Jesus tells us to always be humble and not to crave for attention and adulation.


    For the simple reason that the more humbler we are the more that Jesus is seen both with us and within us and emanating outward into the world from us.

    The humbler we are the more the we become His effective vessels in this world. 

    The humbler you are the more that you allow Jesus’ light to shine upon you.

    The humbler you are the more that you allow Jesus’ light to shine out from you.

    The more light which emanates from us, more the light of Savior Jesus shines.

    Maybe in some part of the earth we still walk on, the light of His Salvation;

    Overly Ambitious Thoughts and Overly Ambitious Christians

    Matthew 5:13-16 Amplified Bible

    Disciples and the World

    13 “You are the [a]salt of the earth; but if the salt has [b]lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery].

    14 “You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.

    Do we walk/talk the kind of “shining” humility, our Savior now requires of us?

    We walk/talk the kind of “shining” servanthood our Savior now requires of us?

    I am pondering the imponderable possibilities if the answers are actually: YES!

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Lord God, we are shocked and awed by the kind of kingdom Jesus has introduced—it seems upside down and backwards to us. Its simple wisdom is wonderfully radical to us, the possibilities which would come from actual practice are enormous. We thank you for the great love that your kingdom reveals when we allow it to shape our lives.

    Hospitable God, you invite us to a banquet where the last may be first, where the humble and the mighty trade places. Let us share your abundance with no fear of scarcity; let us greet strangers as angels you have sent! Send your Holy Spirit now so that we may find a place at your table and welcome others with radical hospitality. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus, Guest at all our tables, we pray.  Amen.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum!

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    5 Ways to Truly Engage, Enjoy Christ. Luke 24:28-35

    Luke 24:28-35 Amplified Bible

    28 Then they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as if He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him [not to go on], saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening, and the day has just about ended.” So He went inside to stay with them. 30 And it happened that as He reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were [suddenly] opened [by God] and they [clearly] recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking with us on the road and opening the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up that very hour and went back to Jerusalem, and found the eleven [apostles] gathered together and those who were with them, 34  saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter]!” 35  They began describing in detail what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread.

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

    The disciples had been with Jesus for three years.

    They had sat at his feet and seen him as their Teacher.

    They had followed his instructions as their Lord and Master.

    Jesus was also their Friend, and they loved sharing their hearts with him.

    Jesus was their Messiah, and they enjoyed being with Him, in His presence.

    But, as Henri Nouwen puts it, “His body and blood and their body and blood had not yet become one.”

    Now, after his resurrection, Jesus broke bread with two of his followers, and this brought their relationship to a whole new level.

    Jesus revealed Himself through the Scriptures, showed them the way by going before them and opening up a whole new realm as he is explaining his mission, Father God’s redemption plan for sinners, as told throughout Holy Scriptures.

    As Jesus gave them the bread, they recognized him.

    They realized that their Lord, Master, Teacher, and Friend was with them again.

    He was alive!

    He was with them!

    They carried on an engaging conversation with Him for several miles.

    When evening had come, they stopped and rested with Him and ate with Him.

    He broke bread and shared the bread with them – and their EYES were OPENED!

    The revelation: “The Lord Jesus had risen from the dead!”

    This revelation brought them to their feet.

    They returned (ran back as fast as they could) to Jerusalem to tell their story, and they found the other disciples saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen …!”

    The reality of Christ’s resurrection brings the community of faith together to celebrate and enjoy the One who NOW walks with us, NOW lives within us!

    Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
    God of glory, Lord of love;
    hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
    opening to the sun above.
    Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
    drive the dark of doubt away.
    Giver of immortal gladness,
    fill us with the light of day!

    Luke 24:28-35 The Message

    28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

    32 Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

    A Ghost Doesn’t Have Muscle and Bone

    33-34 They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!”

    35 Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

    Now, I want to ask you some very important and rather personal questions:

    Why did Jesus walk all those miles with those two folks on the Emmaus Road?

    Why did Jesus first choose to come close to those two raging skeptics?

    Why did Jesus choose to come to your skeptical self and reveal Himself to you?

    Why did Jesus first choose to reveal himself to those two raging skeptics?

    Why did Jesus choose to reveal Himself to your skeptical self through Scripture?

    In that most unexpected of moments, what did you feel when your eyes opened?

    Why do you believe Jesus chose to “open your all too skeptical eyes?”

    Why did Jesus save you?

    Some might think it’s to take us to heaven or to bless us. (Psalm 23:5-6)

    While these things are part of it, they are not the main reason.

    The main reason Jesus revealed Himself to you, opened your eyes to His life and saved you is so He could be in a BFF intimately personal relationship with you.

    I know that may seem mightily overwhelming when you think of who Jesus is and where you were, who you are and where and who we are, but it is 100% true.

    For the joy which was before Him, and is now before you, since Jesus saved you for relationship, how can you make the most of it and truly enjoy Jesus Christ? 

    5 Ways You Can Enjoy Christ

    1. Engage His Presence

    Enjoying Christ means being able to enjoy his presence.

    The best way to enter his presence is through worship. 

    Psalm 22:3 says God inhabits the praises of his people.

    This verse means God sits among the people who praise him.

    When you worship, you get God’s attention, and he draws near to you.

    The one thing God desires more than anything else is to be close to you. He desires this because He wants, deeply desires for you to enjoy his presence. 

    There are so many Scriptures that invite us into his presence and the beauty of his presence is everything we need is there.

    You will find joy, peace, comfort, freedom, and the ability to leave every worry and care behind you.

    If you really want to enjoy Christ, then you must spend time in his presence.

    Spending quality time in his presence does not always mean you always have to open your mouth and say something.

    Sometimes sitting quietly, in His sanctuary, in private before him and allowing his Spirit to minister unto, you is exactly what you need. (2 Samuel 7:18-29)

    You cannot enjoy Christ without being in his presence, so make quality time for it – take every advantage of it and God in Christ promises you will not regret it.  

    2. Engage His Promises

    Part of building your relationship with Jesus is studying and praying, getting to know what he says, reveals in His Holy Scriptures, and promises He has made.

    Sometimes we like to focus on the promises of blessing, but what is greater than those are his promises to be with you.

    If it comes down to making a choice between having the One who blesses or the blessing, His wisdom says choosing the One who blesses wins out every time.

    One way to really enjoy Christ is to think of the many promises he has made to walk with you through life.

    “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

    “So do not fear, for I am with you: do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

    When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

    43 1-4 But now, God’s Message,
        the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
        the One who got you started, Israel:
    “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
        I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
    When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
        When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
    When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
        it won’t be a dead end—
    Because I am God, your personal God,
        The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
    I paid a huge price for you:
        all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
    That’s how much you mean to me!
        That’s how much I love you!
    I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
        trade the creation just for you.
    (Isaiah 43:1-4 Message)

    “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

    I know God has promised to provide and bless and those things are wonderful.

    But knowing he will be with you is the greatest of all the promises because if he is with you and for you, then who can be against you (Romans 8:31)?

    The comfort, the place of Shalom, knowing there is nothing in this life that can ever separate you from His love sets a foundation for you to love, enjoy Jesus. 

    3. Engage and Value His Purpose

    If you want to enjoy your relationship with Christ, then you need to value the things he values.

    His purpose for your life and your purpose for your life must align.

    If these two things don’t agree, then you will never enjoy Christ.

    Part of his purpose for you is to walk in obedience and avoid sin.

    There was a 30 year period of time in my life where I allowed sin to rule, which was clearly never in alignment with even .001% of Jesus’s purpose for my life.

    I can assure you those were the most miserable times in my life. 

    I have discovered the best place to be in life is walking in the center of his will.

    When you innately know you are doing what God has called you to do, there is a definite place satisfaction and a decisive source of enjoyment that comes that is utterly, fully and completely unmatched by anything, anyone else on this earth.

    This has nothing to do with how big or small your family is, how much money you o an do not make or how successful, how big a failure you are in your career.

    Those things are not germane nor are they the foundation of enjoying Christ.

    When you walk and talk with Jesus, listen to His Words with intent to align your life with His life, His purpose, there is no greater joy you will ever experience!

    4. Engage His People

    You cannot enjoy your life with Christ if you do not engage with and enjoy his people.

    A friend I know who is married and has one kid recently told me this story.

    He and his wife were invited to share a family dinner with another couple.

    They could find no one to watch their son and asked if they could bring them.

    They were told they were welcome, but we don’t really want kids in our house.

    That dinner never happened. 

    A friendship was damaged …

    You cannot say you love Jesus if you don’t love the ones he calls his own.

    It is simply not possible.

    Here is how the Bible puts it.

    “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).

    Make a friend, Be a friend, Bring a friend to Christ ….

    If you are going to enjoy Christ, then you must learn to enjoy his people.

    So often we focus on the faults and failures, failings and imperfections we see in others, and most of the time they are quickly obvious and easy to spot, mention.

    I know mine are.

    But guess what?

    So are yours.

    We are all imperfect people who are reflections of a perfect Christ.

    Sometimes we get it wrong and mess this up, but as the expression goes, you do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    If you want to enjoy Christ, you cannot separate that from enjoying his people.

    By the way, you better get used to His people because you are going to spend eternity with them, so you might as well enjoy them now.

    5. Engage His Position

    The last thing you need to enjoy Christ is to engage the position he must have in your life.

    He must be Lord of all.

    The truth of walking and talking with Jesus is either He is Lord of absolutely everything, or He is Lord of absolutely nothing.

    There is no in between.

    People that never make Jesus Lord of their life never experience the full joy of walking with Jesus.

    When Jesus is Lord, and he sits at the center of your life, then life takes on a whole new perspective.

    You will face many of the same challenges, but you will do so with Jesus at the helm of your life.

    Knowing this alone can free you from anxiety because if He is at the wheel, you will arrive safely wherever He wants you to go. 

    Build Your Relationship

    Enjoying Christ is all about the relationship you and I share with Him, and if you and I miss this, then you and I miss it all.

    The fact is you and I have someone we can be completely transparent with, who knows everything thing about us good and bad, yet still desires to fellowship.

    This is truly amazing.

    I encourage you to lean muchly into your Koinonia relationship with Jesus.

    Be intentional about spending time with Him, make him the center of your life.

    If you do, you will discover your walk with him will get sweeter and sweeter every day.

    I will leave you with the words from a song by the Heritage Singers.

    “I just keep falling in love with Him
    Over and over, and over, and over, again
    I keep falling in love with Him,

    Over and over, and over and over again
    He gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by,

    Oh, what a love between my Lord and I
    I keep falling in love with Him
    Over and over, and over, and over, again.”

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Psalm 100 The Message

    100 1-2 On your feet now—applaud God!
        Bring a gift of laughter,
        sing yourselves into his presence.

    Know this: God is God, and God, God.
        He made us; we didn’t make him.
        We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.

    Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
        Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
        Thank him. Worship him.

    For God is sheer beauty,
        all-generous in love,
        loyal always and ever.

    Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

    Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.