Serving God and Blessing Neighbors, Should be a Family Affair. Psalm 128

Psalm 128 Amplified Bible

Blessedness of the Fear of the Lord.

A Song of [a]Ascents.

128 Blessed [happy and sheltered by God’s favor] is everyone who fears the Lord [and worships Him with obedience],
Who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments.

For you shall eat the fruit of [the labor of] your hands,
You will be happy and blessed and it will be well with you.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within the innermost part of your house;
Your children will be like olive plants
Around your table.

Behold, for so shall the man be blessed and divinely favored
Who fears the Lord [and worships Him with obedience].

May the Lord bless you from Zion [His holy mountain],
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life;

Indeed, may you see your [family perpetuated in your] children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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

Psalm 128 tells us, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.”

And then it uses the picture of an ideal family to teach us about that blessing.

The ideal family in Psalm 128 is similar to the ideal man in Psalm 1, the ideal wife in Proverbs 31, and ideal love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

We sometimes read these passages and are tempted to say, “Get real!

That’s not the way life is.”

Well, perhaps nowadays that is stating a more contemporary truth, it may not be the way life is, but these passages tell us it is the way life can be – with God!

In other words these passages of the ideal man, the ideal wife, the ideal family with the ideal children and with the ideal love are not meant to discourage us as being unachievable, unrealistic, but rather to inspire us to greater possibilities.

And so Psalm 128 paints the picture of a happy home and presents the home as the center of God’s blessing.

Who doesn’t want a happy home?

Happy and God-fearing, God Loving, God Serving, Neighbor Serving Homes and Serving communities too are, according to Psalm 128 an essential part of edifying, building up God’s kingdom right where we are, here on our earth.

So let’s get into the Psalm now.

Psalm 128 breaks into two main parts.

The first part is a statement of blessing.

The second part is a prayer of blessing.

I. Blessed are all who fear the Lord (1-4)

Psalm 128:1-4 English Standard Version

Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

128 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lord.

Let’s take a look at the statement of blessing first in verses 1-4:

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.

2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.

4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:1)

The psalmist begins by stating the theme of the psalm: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.”

To fear the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God so we run away from him.

Rather it means to be in awe of God’s majesty so that you approach him with great reverence and respect.

It means you take God seriously, and you put him first in your life.

After stating the theme, the psalmist then further defines it: those who fear the Lord are those who walk in God’s ways.

In other words a right attitude towards God leads to right actions in your life. Jesus said something similar in John 14:21:

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)

God has laid out his ways for us in his Word.

Do you and I want to understand how life works?

Then we read the instructions!

God has laid it all out for you in His Word.

John Phillips calls this the center and the circumference.

First put God at the center of our life.

That’s the fear of the Lord.

And then let God’s law mark the circumference of our life.

Let God’s Word mark the limits of what we will and will not do.

And if you do that, if you put God at the center of our life and make his law the circumference of our life, then God will take care of everything else in between.

You and I will be blessed by God in all that you and I do.

The word blessed means happy.

In fact in the Hebrew the word is in the plural, so you could even translate it, “Happy, happy!” True happiness, Real happiness in life is found only in those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

As Charles Spurgeon says: “We must reverence the ever-blessed God before we can be blessed ourselves.”

This blessing from God is not for everyone, but only for a certain subset of people: those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

However, although God’s blessing is not for everyone, it is for everyone within that subset.

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord.”

There are no exceptions here.

If you will fear God in your life and walk in his ways, you will be blessed.

Psalm 128 gives us the example of a father and husband in the following verses, but verse one tells us up front that this psalm applies to us all who fear the Lord.

So whether you are male or female, married or single, with or without children, know this blessed truth – blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

We find this truth confirmed for us in other Scriptures as well.

For example compare the opening verses of two other wisdom psalms:

Psalm 1 and Psalm 119.

Psalm 1 says: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

Psalm 119 says: “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:1-2)

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways”

This is the foundation on which to build a family life that is blessed by God.

A. God will bless your work.

And then Psalm 128 goes on to share specific examples of the ways God will bless you as you fear him and walk in his ways.

First of all, God will bless your work and your service.

Look at verse 2: “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” (Psalm 128:2)

This does not necessarily mean we will become wealthy or rich, but rather we will find fulfillment in our work and that our work will provide for our needs.

God’s promise to bless our work is especially striking when we recall God put a curse upon human work and labor after Adam and Eve sinned back in Genesis.

Too often in life we work hard but we still don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

Is it because we are not fearing God and walking in his ways?

It is certainly something to consider.

The prophet Haggai in the Old Testament warned the Jews who returned to Jerusalem:

“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:5-6)

The Jews were working hard but not getting anywhere.

That is the opposite of the blessing God offers to those who fear him and walk in his ways.

God wants you and me to enjoy the fruit of our work.

That was his plan from the start.

We read in Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

Before Adam and Eve sinned they worked the garden and knew God’s blessing on their work.

It was good work with good rewards.

Psalm 127 English Standard Version

Unless the Lord Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.[b]

Psalm 127, without God work becomes toil.

We will not find true blessing or satisfaction in your work apart from God.

As Ecclesiastes 2 says: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)

B. God will bless your marriage.

So first of all, God will bless your work.

Secondly, he will bless your marriage.

Look at verse 3: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house.” (Psalm 128:3a)

This speaks of both fruitfulness and faithfulness.

The vine is a picture of fruitfulness.

Remember God’s initial blessing on Adam and Eve when he first created them? 

Genesis 1:28 says: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:28)

God’s blessing is related to productivity and fruitfulness.

And this doesn’t just mean bearing children, but it means having a full and productive life.

The picture here is of a beautiful vine that is thriving, flourishing, fruitful and productive.

And then there is faithfulness.

The fact that the vine is “within the house” speaks of faithfulness in marriage.

This is in contrast to the adulterous wife described in Proverbs 7 who is never at home: “She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.” (Proverbs 7:11-12)

What’s the sign of a happy marriage? Fruitfulness and faithfulness. Who could ask for anything more?

Marriage is one of God’s great blessings in life. 

Proverbs 18:22 says: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”

(Proverbs 18:22) We could also turn that around and say: “She who finds a husband also finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”

Marriage is a blessing from God, but God also wants to bless your marriage.

Husbands and wives, how you live your life has a huge impact on whether you will know God’s blessing in your marriage.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

C. God will bless your family.

God will bless your work.

God will bless your marriage.

And then thirdly, God will bless your family.

Look at verse 3 again: “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.” (Psalm 128:3b)

The olive tree is a basic part of agriculture in Israel.

In the Bible it is also a picture of productivity and blessing.

For example we read in Isaiah 52:8: “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” (Isaiah 52:8)

Images of olive shoots around the table is the picture of a mature, established olive tree with young shoots springing up out of the soil all around it.

This was a common sight in Israel.

The olive shoots represent youth and energy and, above all, promise.

When you sit down to eat with your family, your children are the hope and promise of the future sitting around your table. 

Psalm 144:12 offers a similar image when it says:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.” (Psalm 144:12)

The olive is a slow growing tree.

It can take ten to fifteen years before it bears any fruit, but once established the olive tree needs little maintenance or supervision, and it will produce fruit for decades to come.

It’s the same way with your children.

It will take some time before they grow to independence and maturity.

As parents we need to be patient with our children as we raise them in the training and instruction of the Lord.

But all our discipline and training will pay off. 

Proverbs 22:6 tells us: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

I love that Psalm 128 uses the image of the table for the family.

The family table or mealtime is especially important for us as families.

It’s where the family gathers together and shares about their day, where stories and experiences and values are passed on.

It seems it’s getting harder and harder for families to get together even for a few meals a week these days.

I would encourage you, no matter what the age of your children, no matter what the makeup of your home, carve out the time in your schedules and make family mealtime a priority in your home.

This first section of Psalm 128 paints a beautiful picture for us.

A godly husband, a faithful wife and eager children full of promise – all this is a great sign of God’s blessing in the home.

Once again, what more can we ask than God’s blessing on us and those we love?

Notice this first section of Psalm 128 highlights God’s blessing on our work, our marriage and our family.

All three of these were God’s provision for us in creation.

All three of these were also cursed by God following our fall into sin.

But now here in Psalm 128 we see God reverse the curse and bring blessing in all three of these areas when you fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

These verses do not mean that God grants marriage and family to all, but rather this is one of ways he blesses the godly.

“Make [God] your home, and He will make your home a happy home.” 

Psalm 128:4 says: “Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:4)

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

II. A prayer of blessing for those who fear the Lord (5-6a)

The first part of Psalm 128 is a statement of blessing for those who fear the Lord.

The second part is a prayer of blessing for those who fear the Lord.

Look at verses 5-6 with me now: “May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem. And may you live to see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.” (Psalm 128:5-6)

The first part of Psalm 128 presents God’s blessing as his reward for those who fear him, but this second part reminds us that God’s blessing is not automatic.

We do not earn it from our obedience.

Even God’s rewards are all gifts of his grace.

God’s blessing must be received as a gift from God.

And we receive things by asking for them in prayer.

A. May God bless you all the days of your life.

There are three parts to this prayer of blessing.

First of all, may God bless you all the days of your life.

Verse 5: “May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life.” (Psalm 128:5a)

This is a prayer of blessing not just for a time or a season, but for the duration of your life.

It picks up the language of Psalm 23 which says: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

God is the source of all blessing, and this prayer is a reminder that every blessing comes from God

Notice the psalmist prays for the Lord to bless you “from Zion.”

Once again Zion is the place where God dwells.

It is the place where God meets with his people.

Blessing in your life comes as you meet daily with the Lord in his presence.

Psalm 48:1 says: “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God [that is, Jerusalem], his holy mountain [that is, Mount Zion].” (Psalm 48:1)

It was a blessing for the Jews to be in Zion for the feasts, but Psalm 128 asks for God to bless you from Zion all the days of your life.

It’s a peek ahead to the very last psalm of triumph in the Psalms of Ascent –

Psalm 134 which says: “May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.” (Psalm 134:3)

For God to bless you from Zion means that God’s blessing extends to you wherever you go.

This is fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit for the believer today.

As Jesus said in John 14: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)

God the Father and God the Son are present with you through God the Spirit at all times wherever you go.

B. May God bless you within the community of his people.

So first of all, may God bless you all the days of your life.

And then secondly, may God bless you within the community of his people.

We see this in the second half of verse 5: “May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 128:5b)

God is not only concerned with individuals.

He is concerned for all his people.

And therefore so should we.

One of the greatest blessings for the believer is to see all of God’s people prosper.

The church is bigger than you, and God’s blessing on the church is your blessing as well.

This part of the prayer looks back to Psalm 122 and its particular focus on the gathering of God’s people.

We read in Psalm 122:

Psalm 122:6-9 English Standard Version

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
    “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
    I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your good.

This is not only a prayer for Israel and Jerusalem.

We need to be praying for Israel and Jerusalem, but it is also a prayer for all of God’s people – it’s a prayer for the well-being of God’s church.

Psalm 122 was the first of the psalms of triumph in the Psalms of Ascent.

Psalm 128 is the middle of the psalms of triumph.

We see how Psalm 128 looks ahead to Psalm 134 which is the last of the psalms of triumph.

And so this middle psalm of triumph looks back to the first psalm of triumph in Psalm 122 and also looks forward to the last psalm of triumph in Psalm 134.

C. May God bless you with a long and fulfilling life.

May God bless you all the days of your life.

May God bless you within the community of his people.

And then thirdly, may God bless you with a long and fulfilling life.

Look at verse 6 now which says: “. . . and may you live to see your children’s children.” (Psalm 128:6a)

In the fifth commandment God promised a long life and a good life to those who honor their mother and father.

Now here in Psalm 128 the blessings of the fifth commandment are applied to all those who fear the Lord.

These prayers of blessing for those who fear the Lord not only stretch outward to the community of God’s people but also onward towards future generations of children.

Verse 6 is a prayer both for long life and the continuation of your family.

This is part of God’s blessing or reward for those who fear him. 

Proverbs 10:27 says: “The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.” (Proverbs 10:27) 

Proverbs 17:6 says: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged.” (Proverbs 17:6)

Many of you know the blessings of having grandchildren.

Psalm 128 reminds you that they are God’s blessing on your life!

So make sure you tell others not just “I love my grandchildren!” but also, “I thank God he has blessed me with my grandchildren.

I thank God that he has blessed me with length of life to see and know my children’s children.”

Also make sure that you pass on your faith to your children and grandchildren.

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

What a rich blessing you leave for your children and grandchildren when you live a godly life in fear of the Lord!

What a blessing to pass on a godly heritage to your children’s children!

Proverbs 22:4 says: “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

And so we find this beautiful prayer of blessing in Psalm 128 for those who fear the Lord.

May God bless you all the days of your life.

May God bless you within the community of his people.

May God bless you with a long and fulfilling life that you may live to see your children’s children.

In Conclusion … Our Actions Will Speak Louder Than Our Words

Psalm 128 is a beautiful psalm that speaks of God’s blessing on all those who fear the Lord, and it describes this blessing in terms of the ideal family.

You might be wondering this day or season, “That’s all well and good, but what if I don’t have an ideal family?”

Well, first of all, welcome to the club!

But secondly, in holding up the ideal family, the psalm points beyond our broken, sinful families here on earth to the beauty and perfection of God’s family in heaven.

None of us have a perfect family here on earth, but we will all experience the blessing of an ideal family in heaven.

God may or may not bless you with marriage or children in this life.

But either way the promise of this psalm remains.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord. God has promised to bless all those who fear him and walk in his ways.

When you long for the same things God longs for, you will see you desires fulfilled.

Psalm 128 teaches us that there is a direct relationship between your attitudes and actions and God’s blessing in your life.

God’s blessing is available to everyone.

You can choose to either welcome God’s blessing in your life or you can choose to chase it away – it all comes down to fearing the Lord and walking in His ways.

Psalm 128 teaches us that how you live your life matters, both for you and for so many other people in your life.

There is a ripple effect in each of our lives that flows outward.

Your attitude and actions have an impact not only on your personal life, but also on your family, on your community and on future generations.

Psalm 128 teaches us that the influence of the godly person is great, that God’s blessing flows outward from the individual, to your family, to your church, to the whole people of God.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ became a curse for us, so that we might receive the blessing of God. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

He took the penalty that was due us.

He took the curse of God for sin upon his own flesh.

He paid it in full so that we could come and know God’s blessing.

So don’t miss out on God’s blessing!

Fear God and walk in his ways that you may know the fullness of God’s blessing in your life.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

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

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, You are my God and my Savior. Thank You for your free gift of grace, which I receive by faith. Thank you for my family. May we reverence Your name forever and walk in Your ways all the days of our lives. All our blessings are permanently rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus my Lord, in Whose name I pray.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen

Our Love’s for God’s Most Generous Expression: Our Learning, Growing, Living, Doing, in the Family of Faith. Hebrews 13:1-3

Hebrews 13:1-3 Amplified Bible

The Changeless Christ

13 Let love of your fellow believers continue. Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body [and subject to physical suffering].

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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

Love’s Generous Expression

Hebrews 13:1-3 Common English Bible

Our acts of service and sacrifice

13 Keep loving each other like family. Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place.

Keep Loving each other like family.

Do not neglect to open your homes to guests.

Remember the prisoners as if you were in prison with them.

What an incredibly interesting array of both ancient, contemporary ideas!

Loving each other like family – respecting and honoring one another!

Respecting the home, respecting the life of the family and their belongings.

By showing kindness to strangers, you could be showing kindness to a messenger of God.

Paying it forward, buying an extra burger to share with a homeless person, helping someone change a flat tire on their car, offering a ride to a colleague who needs one—in these ways and countless more, our God often gives us all opportunities to show hospitality and compassion for someone who has a need.

As I encounter people who are not part of a faith community, it saddens me when they describe Christians as less-than-compassionate people.

Words I often hear in these conversations are that Christians are aloof,not friendly or forthcoming; cool and distant. and judgmental and condescending.

Many people see church buildings in their communities as little more than social clubs, entertainment centers or worse, only occupied on any Sunday.

Any other day, the parking lots are 99.99% empty of cars and any activity.

They hear church people speak out mostly about what the members oppose.

Where is that sound of “little children of all ages” glorifying God and Jesus?

The world needs to see the Body of Christians as people of compassion—good-news people who minister and act like Jesus.

That will happen only when we finally nurture a habit of practicing compassion.

It is not by accident that the writer of Hebrews urges readers to love each other and to look out for the needs of strangers.

It’s easy to overlook the unusual or the unfamiliar.

It takes the love of Christ to step out, move out and reach out to the stranger who might just bring a singularly unique blessing that you never saw coming.

Learning, Growing, Living, in the Family of Faith

There’s all the difference in the world between describing what it means to ride a bicycle and actually helping somebody learn to get on the seat and pedal away.

Making a layer cake seems to be fairly straightforward when I look at the recipe books, but I haven’t had much success in making one that actually tastes right!

What I need is hands-on guidance: somebody to actually take the time to teach me to do it in front of me and then patiently allow me to try my hand at it too.

The moral instruction provided for us in Hebrews 13 is to be trained and formed in our lives not by learning to apply abstract principles but as a result of seeing these principles successfully or erroneously worked out in the family of faith.

We can read, for example, about what it means to love one another, but it is far better to observe such love in the lives of loving people.

We can understand that we are supposed to care for strangers, but we can experience it firsthand if we are brought up and raised in a home where such care, consideration and compassion for one another is faithfully practiced.

We can extend ourselves into areas of ministry and mission which are quite challenging – church prison ministry ( or Christian Prison Ministry (Kairos

We can read the principles and hear sermons, demands for sexual purity, but we will do far better if we are raised in a flourishing home where they are modeled or we are even able to sit in such homes as we visit other families in our church.

Praise God, the list of mission and ministry opportunities goes on and on.

Establishing these ethical norms is demanding.

It takes the first love of God, our time, effort and patience, and involvement.

The miracles wrought through purposeful discipleship, transformation cannot be achieved by searching the internet, watching a video or reading an article.

If information was enough to bring about transformation, then all we would need to do is write it down or say it.

But you can’t learn love, honor, and faithfulness from the content on a screen.

No, if you are to be content, pure, loving, and hospitable, then that is going to have to be proactively discovered and actively worked out in the family of faith.

Look, then, to your brothers and sisters who exemplify Christ-likeness in these ways.

Read Hebrews 13:1-3 again, praise God for those you know who live these verses out, then be sure to learn from them so in these ways you become like them.

Make it your aim to follow their example that you, like Paul, might humbly be able to say to others, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Easter is but a short time away.

Celebrating the ultimate act of agape love and sacrifice and service.

What will your efforts at discipleship and transformation in preparation for this coming Easter look like, sound like, be more Christ like in these coming weeks?

I have heard repeatedly: “it takes an entire community, an entire village.”

According to Wikipedia, the original quote “it takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb meaning it takes a whole community of people interacting with a child to ensure he or she grows in a healthy and safe environment.

Regardless of which stage of life we are all in: parents raising children, married with no children, single, or late adulthood, even a church, we need community.

In these times of recovery, perhaps we need to go back to the essential basics of the Gospel to learn it all over again – to teach it unto each other all over again?

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

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You that while we were yet sinners You loved us and gave Christ to be the propitiation for our sins. Help us in word and deed to increase and abound in brotherly love for one another, just as we also do for You. Give us wisdom as we enter into mission and ministry to our brothers and sisters in Christ and may we speak the truth in love to Your praise and glory. This we ask in Jesus name, AMEN.

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.

What is the Witness of Our Churches? Churches With No Heart for, Nor any Memory of their ‘FIRST’ Love for God? Revelation 2:1-7

Revelation 2:1-7Amplified Bible

Message to Ephesus

“To the angel (divine messenger) of the church in [a]Ephesus write:

“These are the words of the One who holds [firmly] the seven stars [which are the angels or messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands (the seven churches):

‘I know [b]your deeds and your toil, and your patient endurance, and that you cannot tolerate those who are evil, and have tested and critically appraised those who call themselves apostles (special messengers, personally chosen representatives, of Christ), and [in fact] are not, and have found them to be liars and impostors; 3 and [I know that] you [who believe] are enduring patiently and are bearing up for My name’s sake, and that you have not grown weary [of being faithful to the truth]. But I have this [charge] against you, that you have left your first love [you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me]. So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me]; otherwise, I will visit you and remove your lampstand (the church, its impact) from its place—unless you repent. Yet you have this [to your credit], that you hate the works and corrupt teachings of the [c]Nicolaitans [that mislead and delude the people], which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who [d]overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant [the privilege] to eat [the fruit] from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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

Throughout the first century A.D., Jesus’ followers fanned out across the Roman Empire to spread the good news of God’s salvation in Christ.

They formed communities to support and encourage each other in life, faith, and witness.

Yet by the end of the first century, persecution came to many Christians in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and they needed support.

The Apostle John, the one whom Jesus loved to the utmost, one of the exiled leaders, took the people into his heart, wrote the book of Revelation to them.

It’s filled with words meant to encourage the hearts of men and visions of eternal hope from Jesus to the churches, whom he calls golden lampstands.

What a comfort to know Christ the King walks among the churches he loves.

In the first of seven messages to different churches, Jesus tells the church in Ephesus that he knows their deeds, hard work, and perseverance.

He also directly challenges them, giving compliments before critique.

That’s a pattern we can definitely follow in our families, schools, workplaces, and churches: which is to edify, build each other up before naming challenges.

Church communities are filled with blessing because Jesus walks among us!

Christians which gather together, Koinonia, Fellowship, Care for each other, hear biblical preaching and teaching, Love God, praise God, and pray together.

We host programs, help community causes, and contribute to Local missions causes which demonstrate how much we love God, our neighbors and selves, we serve and respond to natural disasters international relief and World missions.





But ….

And envision this very real possibility ….

Exceedingly and Abundantly and Carefully and Critically and Realistically,

Diligently, Prudently, with 20/20 Hindsight and with Prophetic Foresight,

A church which seems to model exactly the opposite of that Ideal Church?

What About A Church Which Exhibits No Heart, No Love for God?

Love is definitely a many splendored thing or at least the essence of the words and lyrics were popularized into culture by the movie of the same name in 1955.

Crooner Andy Williams and the Four Aces continued to make the song popular.

While love can, and indeed, should absolutely be viewed as a “many splendored thing,” ultimately it’s defined, splendored by what a person does with that love.

Saying one loves another is an important step to building a relationship but love is found and demonstrated in and through our daily actions, not just by words.

Many Splendored Love is an infinitely deeper emotion than just liking a person.

To like another is to share in common pursuits on a casual basis but love is a bond which cements a multitude of hearts into one with steadfast, immovable devotion, deep abiding care, absolute fidelity, commitment, and allegiance.

It is important in marriage to be friends but marriage is deeper when love is at the root of all feelings – which is especially true with our relationship with God.

We so casually say and preach it is easy to like God and to view Him as a friend.

This does not require any commitment or allegiance.

Having a friendship with God likes various aspects of His character but never covenant obligates the individual to a linked mutual commitment of devotion.

Many people are friends of God but never grow to love Him.

Sometimes, relationships blossom with passionate love but wane in time and space to become a “manufactured” vision of 2 people living in the same house.

Love fades into Friendship which gradually, subtly, “takes over” and while the relationship is, remains “civil”, there is little prophetic vision or no true love.

Proverbs 29:18 Amplified Bible

Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained;
But happy and blessed is he who keeps the law [of God].

The growing trouble with many in the church is they are more comfortable being friends of God rather than having a “deeply devoted” love for Him.

What little is known about the church in Ephesus comes from the writings of Luke, Paul, and John.

Dr. Luke describes the history of the church in the Acts of the apostles, Paul writes a wonderful letter to the saints at Ephesus and Apostle John’s revelation reveals the church in Ephesus had gone through many changes over the years.

The beginning of the Ephesian church was filled with great promise and hope.

Paul spent three years working with the people of God in this great city and there were many saved through the preaching of the gospel.

The letter of Ephesians is a treatise on the majesty of the church and character, testimony and witness of the Church there and witness of its kingdom citizens.

In the final book of the Bible, Jesus commends the saints in Ephesus for their work, their diligent labor, and patience in defending the cause of Savior Christ.

They had preserved through difficult times and were to be commended.

However, the church had lost something over the years that threatened its existence – The church at Ephesus had fallen out of love with the Lord God.

There is no doubt the church was doing all the right things in the right way.

It was evident they were a working group, laboring mightily in the work of the kingdom and withstanding all those who would oppose the teachings of Christ.

While these were indeed very commendable traits, what they lacked was the love they once had – The Lord challenged them because of their lack of love. 

Sometimes in marriage, love will decline and grow tired.

Two people live together in the same place but have little or no interest in the needs, the hopes, the dreams, the wants, the deep requirements of the other.

This can likewise happen to the Children of God.

They can like God and obey His commandments but have no real love for Him.

Their hearts are filled with the socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political world and they have a deeper, greater interest in worldly matters than spiritual.

Love, as a “many splendored thing” must absolutely, be cultivated daily.

Steadfast, Immovable Devotion for the Lord does not come by simple osmosis but a very constant, hardcore, effort to learn more, grow more and love more.

It must be continually built upon through a heart of seeking the love of God.

Revelation 2:4-7 The Message

4-5 “But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you’ve fallen? A Lucifer fall!

“Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I’m well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle.

“You do have this to your credit: You hate the Nicolaitan business. I hate it, too.

“Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I’m about to call each conqueror to dinner. I’m spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God’s orchard.”

It is easy to fall out of love with the Lord when the spiritual becomes routine.

A church leaving their first love is forgetting the grace of God and His mercy.

Regaining the first full measure of God’s first love comes from committing our spirit once again to knowing, understanding, longing to be drawn closer to God.

Jesus knows each church community and each person in it.

He knows every single one of our strengths.

He knows every single one of our faults, failures, failings and weaknesses.

The community of believers at Ephesus received praise from Jesus for their persevering in the truth.

Yet there was a definite character flaw needing their immediate attention.

They had lost their first love.

This is a powerful revelation.

Church communities can be faithful defenders of God’s truth, but their first love for God can become clouded with cultural minutiae can also grow cold.

“God Splendored” Love is what happens when the amazing grace, mercy, and love of God wash over us, cleansing us, flooding our souls, and making us new.

It seems incredible, almost impossible to wrap our hearts and souls around, but God absolutely loves us without limit, though we do not deserve any of his love.

Every church community and every member of it needs to labor in the utmost, linger to the outermost tolerance and live in the wonder of God’s gracious love.

We need to always strive to envision new ways to remember and celebrate this “God splendored” love in our studies, the songs we sing, the prayers we raise, the stories we share, the sacraments we celebrate, the care we give to others.

Jesus uses a word in this letter that brings us back to the way he started his public ministry: “repent.”

This is a call to turn around, change direction, and get back on course.

For church communities to be Spirit-filled, “golden lampstands,” the passion of God’s very first love for each of us needs to be pulsing throughout our veins.

The more “many splendored” deposits of God’s first love for us, made into the divine love bank, the greater the eternal dividends received from our Lord God.

It takes much labor and even greater sacrifices to make a marriage “work,” to never let our “first love” diminish, never allow “splendored” love to grow stale.

It is unacceptable to leave behind the first love experienced in the family of God.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit, to revive our first vision of our first love for God!

Let our first love for God grow more and more, draw closer unto God every day.

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

Let us Pray,

God who is Love, Lord of All, life is a journey full of stumbling blocks and challenges. With each hurdle, there is growth. With each setback, a valuable lesson. Lord, I ask that You give us the wisdom and presence of mind to learn from our mistakes and pitfalls. by thy Holy Spirit, Remind me and Your Church of our very first love for You, Help us to approach these things with maturity, so that we can live closer to You.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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

Are We Asking Ourselves the Hardest Questions? Broad Road to Narrow, Do We Know How to Move Past all of our “Epic” Failures? Hebrews 4:15-16

Hebrews 4:15-16Amplified Bible

15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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


How often have we heard that line from our parents, our teachers, our coaches?

It is one of those infamous statements which serves to drive us, our competitive natures in life: “to succeed is everything, failure will never learn you anything.”

To fail is to fall short, to be perceived as weak, to break down, to fall, to not strive for “being good enough”, to not reach your purpose, to lack success.

No wonder we are so afraid of anything which minimally connects us to failure!

When it comes to failure, we must decide whose rules we are playing by.

Would you and I rather be a success in business and a failure as a parent, or vice versa or would I/we rather be successful by the world’s standards or by God’s?

Now is the time to decide what definitions of success and failure you will live by.

Hebrews 4:15-16The Message

The High Priest Who Cried Out in Pain

14-16 Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Believe it or Not ….

Contrary to popular belief, counter-cultural to the maximum ….

Failure is the most important step to reaching success, but it can still feel like it’s crushing your soul.

To make failure your friend and not your enemy, you must overcome it.

Here are some strategies for moving on after a tough break….

Identify: What is Failure

Failure is defined as a lack of success, but its true definition is really up to you.

Small things can be failures.

Maybe you blew an easy task today at work, or forgot to grab something important when you left home for work in a hurry or when at the store.

We all make mistakes, and the mistakes we make that have some weight to them — big or small — the weight of them make us feel like we’ve failed.

Normally, we reserve the word failure for the bigger things.

The times when we’ve let others down, and, more importantly, ourselves.

Trying our hardest, every ounce of effort, our maximum best to do something important and then failing is when it really stings, and shakes your confidence.

Sometimes failure can leave a huge and visible scar — but it doesn’t have to.

Even our successes can be interpreted as “epic” failures ….

In the National Football League, the competition for the worst record and the right to draft the “#1” player out of the College ranks is highly competitive.

Our desire to win never really goes away despite all the epic failures and losses.

This season 2022, two teams were vying for that “#1” game changing player.

Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears.

All Houston had to do was fail to win their final game of the season – and the #1 pick of the 2023 College draft was theirs: the opportunity to change everything.

Except their competitive nature that Sunday lead to a come from behind victory.

The end result, however, was they had a 1/2 game better record than the Bears.

The end result of their hard fought success was their failure to achieve being the number one failure for the 2022 regular season – and the first 2023 draft pick!

Judging a Good Failure or Bad Success will have to wait for time to pass us by.

And how the two teams work and coach and mentor their ways through them.

Succeed or Fail, Feel What You Need to Feel … It is Okay with God!

Failure can take a hefty emotional toll, and that’s okay with God.

What’s important is getting the negative feelings you have out of your system so you can regroup and tackle what’s next.

Don’t keep how you feel trapped inside of you like a shaken up soda.

Bottling your emotions can lead to two things:

  • An emotional outburst: Eventually the pressure will build and it will be too much for you to contain. In a moment of weakness, everything you’ve kept inside could explode and set you back even further. This not only affects your mental state, but it can affect your relationships too. When you have an outburst, the people you care about often end up in the crossfire.
  • Creeping negativity: If you only loosen the cap, the negativity will slowly and persistently enter your mind. You need to openly confront the mistakes you made and give yourself the chance to feel it all. Otherwise, anxiety will start to linger in the back of your mind and the soft hiss of failure will continue. TBT, Constant anxiety is incredibly unhealthy and can lead to even more problems.

So, how do you let it all out?

There are a few ways to get the bad,

and — most importantly — retain the knowledge you gained:

  • Set aside some time: It’s ok to feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. Completely ignoring what happened isn’t helpful, so set aside a specific amount of time to wallow as much as you want. Take some time to be angry, upset and frustrated so you can get it all out. If it’s something small, all you may need is an hour to pace around or cry in a pillow. For something larger, give yourself a full 24 hours to let it all out and wake up the next day with a clean slate. If you need more than a day, that’s OK, but make sure it’s an amount of time set by you and that you stick to it. You get that time to be as mopey as you want, but when it’s over, move on.
  • Talk about it: Talk to somebody you know about how you’re feeling. It’s well known that just talking about something can make you feel better. Take a load off and express yourself. Chances are whoever you talk to will try to make you feel better, but even if they do not, saying and processing how you feel out loud puts that information out somewhere besides taking up residence in your brain.
  • Don’t let it become a part of your identity: Failure is something that happens, not something you are. Just because you haven’t found a successful way to do something doesn’t mean you are a failure at that thing. Be careful not to blur the lines between making mistakes and being that someone who only makes mistakes. Our actions may define us, but our failures do not. The actions you take to move past failure and reach success will define you in the end.

Failure, left unaddressed can leave an open wound and it’s unwise to ignore it.

Without acknowledging it, wounds will continue to hurt, take longer to heal.

Look at the Failure of Others

Don’t think for a second that you’re the only person on the planet to nose dive.

Often we look at other’s success, assume they have everything together when the reality is that they assuredly encounter failure just as much as anyone else.

Some are better at hiding it than others, but failure is universal.

Before you start bashing yourself for not hitting the mark, explore the world of failure and see how vast it truly is.

What successful person do you look up to?

Take a look at the failures they have encountered in their lives and work.

Read biographies, blogs, and listen to witness talks, testimonies and speeches.

Successful people talk about failure just as much as they talk about success, and it is because they respect how important it is to embrace it.

Even the greatest people in our world have fallen, and fallen hard at one point or another –

Ask yourself, “What if these people had let their failure shut them down?”

  1. Basketball Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school team.
  2. Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper early in his career–they said he lacked imagination.
  3. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times.
  4. John Grisham’s first book, “A Time to Kill”, was rejected twenty-eight times.
  5. Albert Einstein had the label “mentally slow” put on his permanent school record.
  6. Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed.
  7. Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early job as a television news anchor.
  8. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance.
  9. Sir James Dyson suffered through 5,126 failed prototypes before he landed on the first working Dyson vacuum.
  10. Elvis Presley was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and was told to go back to truck driving.
  11. Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC fame was rejected over 1000 times before finding a franchise partner.

You will Fail, I will Fail and Your friends and family will fail too.

We will all inevitably fail at something ….

Think about failures they have encountered, remember that you are not alone.

It is never to point and laugh, but to reveal to yourself that failure is ok.

You are human, I am human …. just like everybody else.

Feel better?

You should.

We have all been there.

It’s all in our frame of reference and determination to keep moving forward, to move off of the broad road to destruction to the narrow road leading to Life that is lived in the presence of God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

It is choosing to redefine our frame of reference which is always in our control.


Changing our Frame of Reference, our Conceptualizations about failure ….

According to today’s devotional Bible text in Hebrews chapter 4:15-16, there is Someone who does understand – infinitely more than we do: Our Savior Jesus.

He came to earth to live our lives from beginning to end.

Came down, Born as a human being who dealt with all kinds of struggles and challenges just as we do in life, he identified with us—and much more, because he also gave his life so that we can have new life and be reconciled with God.

As Hebrews assures us, we have a high priest who can feel what we feel.

As The Message puts it,

“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.”

When no one else understands or knows how we feel, the Lord Jesus knows.

If you feel alone and misunderstood, isolated by failure, by your failures, come and talk to him – He 100% knows how you feel, what you have gone through.

Have I mentioned that failure is a good thing?

Re-Read and ponder carefully the Beatitudes …. Matthew 5:1-16 (Amplified)

Pay careful attention and consideration to what is said between the [_____]

The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His [a]disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].

“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the [b] gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.

“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.

“Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.

10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for [c]doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. 12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Disciples and the World

13 “You are the [d]salt of the earth; but if the salt has [e]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.

It can be hard to reframe your thinking to that “Beatitude way”, but changing your definition and worldly vs. heavenly perception of failure can help us cope.

Failure is God’s Gift to us, a gifted chance of learning and growing opportunity, spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity in God, that is necessary for growth.

John 21:15-19The Message

Do You Love Me?

15 After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”

17-19 Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Peter knew he had failed Jesus.

No one had to tell him.

But Jesus used that failure three times to help Peter focus on Him and grow.

How can Jesus use failure for our spiritual growth?

Failure is not fatal in the eyes of Jesus.

Failure teaches us that we need a Savior.

Peter heard the word “love” from the lips of Jesus again, again and again.

Jesus was not testing him but reaffirming his love for Peter by asking him to see his life lived out far beyond the depths of his failures, reaffirm his love for Jesus.

Peter also learned that Jesus had not given up on him.

Jesus came directly to him and called him to lead again.

Jesus gifted Peter a singularly unique opportunity to lead by dying to himself –

Jesus even predicted in his death, Peter would quite successfully glorify God.

Peter had wandered, so Jesus had to get him back on track.

As Lord and Savior, failures or successes, He calls the shots in our lives.

Failure can bring us back to the Lord, who by His grace and mercy finds us “out fishing naked with the boys” and gives us another opportunity to follow him.

Every mistake is a learning opportunity, and after we have moved past our emotions, it’s important to revisit your mistakes with a new perspective.

Look at what we did that went wrong, but also look at what we did that was right, and what we can do better next time – failure is rarely so black and white.

Come to him boldly, with confidence, and tell him exactly how you feel. And when you do, you will “receive mercy and find grace” in your time of need.

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

Let us Pray,

Psalm 16The Message

16 1-2 Keep me safe, O God,
    I’ve run for dear life to you.
I say to God, “Be my Lord!”
    Without you, nothing makes sense.

And these God-chosen lives all around—
    what splendid friends they make!

Don’t just go shopping for a god.
    Gods are not for sale.
I swear I’ll never treat god-names
    like brand-names.

5-6 My choice is you, God, first and only.
    And now I find I’m your choice!
You set me up with a house and yard.
    And then you made me your heir!

7-8 The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake
    is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I’ll stick with God;
    I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.

9-10 I’m happy from the inside out,
    and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
    that’s not my destination!

11 Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
    all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
    I’m on the right way.

Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

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

Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood Selfless Service inside a Selfie World.

How many selfies do you think you take a day?

“Selfie” was a word of 2013.

Oxford Dictionaries named “Selfie” the word of 2013.

It was defined as “a photo of yourself that you take, typically with a smartphone or webcam, and usually put on social media.”

Since then, we also got the word “Selfitis,” meaning “an obsessive-compulsive desire to take photos of oneself and post them on social media.”

June 21 is the national selfie day.

In 2022, the national selfie day happened on Tuesday. In 2023, the national selfie day will occur on Wednesday.

How many selfies do you think are taken in any given day?

How many selfies are taken a day?

According to Photutorial’s data, 92 million selfies will be taken daily across all devices in 2022. This number coincides with the fact that 2.3 billion photos are taken every day, 4% of which are selfies.

4% of all photos taken are selfies.

People take 2.3 billion photos daily, equating to 1.72 trillion annually in 2022.

In 2021, the number of photos taken was significantly lower due to pandemic restrictions–1.2 trillion.

Connect yourself to this link and the “selfie” numbers are just staggering.,adults%20have%20taken%20a%20selfie.

The Guiness Book of World Records currently recognizes the most self-portrait photographs (selfies) taken in three minutes as being 168 and was achieved by James Smith (USA) aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship on 22 January 2018.

Our children are growing up in what has been dubbed “the selfie generation.”

Most photos kids take these days are of themselves.

The accessibility of digital cameras, the ease of taking self-portraits, and the rise of social media have all led to the popularity of “selfies,” the modern-day term for digital self-portraits.

Personally, I take my idea of “plenty” of selfies with the intention of sharing my life with my wife and our social media friends who are also people of faith.

When we take a selfie and post it, we let the world know what we are up to.

However, as many sociologists have noticed, the word selfie has taken on a meaning that goes far beyond the object of the camera lens. It’s not just in photos that children are often the focus — it can extend into their lives.

The selfie culture turns people’s focus onto themselves

— how they look, how many “likes” and “loves” and “hugs” they get on social media, what kind of clothing they wear, how much fun they all have, and so on.

However, what started out as a harmless, fun activity has now been linked to growing rates of depression — and certainly an increase in narcissism.

The great irony, of course, is focusing on ourselves doesn’t always equate to the idea “selfies make us happier; rather they can also serve to robs us of our joy.

Our worldview can become biased and divided, deeply prejudiced and skewed.

The challenge for parents today is teaching our children to take the focus off themselves and turn the camera around so they can see the diversity of others.

We need to teach ourselves and our children how to see the people around them.

First and foremost, this includes their friends, their siblings, their parents, and their teachers, those in the neighborhood with authority over them – the police.

But it extends beyond to the people they encounter in daily life: the bus driver, the janitor, the widow, the orphan, the homeless person on the street corner, people of all races and ethnicities, our world cultures and diverse nationalities.

Only when our children begin to see in others’ their God-Given intrinsic value and human ‘suffering’ can they begin to understand how they can help others.

When we take a selfie and post it, we let the world know what ‘joy’ we’re up to.

Whether we’ve just tried the new coffee shop on the corner, or decided to dye our hair red, the selfie shows who we are, what we are doing to the online world.

Selfies gives us a great view into the intensity of our “joyful” virtual existence.

However, “joyful virtual existences” are not the whole of God’s story in God’s neighborhood. His neighborhood is a good deal more “diverse,” and “ugly.”

The intensity of that “Virtual Reality of that “Selfie?”

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display …. indescribable!

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display … beyond impactful!

The intensity of that diverse ugliness as put on full display … highly dangerous!

Those are the “Selfies” we seldom see on social media – they are censored or come with the poignant warning – “may not be suitable for young audiences.”

I always had the thought “Selfies” are a lot like the Bible should be in our lives.

The Bible should be showing us who we are, what we ourselves are to be doing.

Consider taking this “Selfie” and spreading it all over social media ……

Matthew 5:13-16Amplified 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.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

OK, how many of us get really excited when we see that media ad with a person holding up a bag of potato chips or a box of crackers, saying “reduced sodium”?

Well, probably not too many of us – potato chips are considered “junk food.”

Because salt is delicious.

Salt is needed for many essential functions within our bodies – being our hearts and their need to keep beating and us alive plus our muscles and our kidneys.

It’s why chips and crackers, French fries and pizza and many other things taste good. Salt exists to make food better. That is one of its God-given purposes.

In this passage Jesus says

we are “the salt of the earth” . . . and “the light and also “the critically essential internal balances which keeps our bodies working in God’s much necessary and healthy harmony and our hearts beating so we can remain alive” of the world.”

He doesn’t say we “can be” or “should be” these things.

He says we already are, by way of our new identity in him. Jesus expects us to bless people, to build them up, and to do what we can to help meet their needs.

He expects us to use our words and our actions to stick out in this unhealthy, unbalanced, biased, divided dark world, pointing people to the kingdom of God.

This isn’t limited to formal ministry in the church.

The ways we treat our spouses, talk to our coworkers, and use our resources or engage with social media are all examples of how we are called to be salt and light. Every single sphere of life presents us with salt and light opportunities.

If we walk in step with Christ, putting his desires ahead of our own, we are like a welcome seasoning, a source of critically needed, critically essential balance to enhance the taste of food, or like a beacon of light shining in this dark world.


The Bible shows us who we really are. If we need a self-esteem boost, the Bible shows us our great worth to God. (1 Cor 6:20)

If we are afraid, the Bible shows us that we are bold. (Proverbs 28:1)

If we feel we can’t make it, the Bible shows us we can. (Phil 4:13)

Just like a selfie, the Bible shows us who we are.

We are Selfless Servants of God – Selflessly Sent into God’s Neighborhood.

Mark 10:35-45 Amplified

35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He replied to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit [with You], one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory [Your majesty and splendor in Your kingdom].” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism [of suffering and death] with which I am baptized?” 39 And they replied to Him, “We are able.” Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared [by My Father].”

41 Hearing this, the [other] ten became indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their powerful men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 43 But this is not how it is among you; instead, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first and most important among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a [a]ransom for many.”

We might not do a very good job, or take that “quality selfie,” “separating our selfish selves, from our selfless selves” or by our “selfie we’re worth much, are bold, or we can make it, but our feelings don’t matter. What matters is what is true, and the truth is found in God’s word. God’s word shows us who we are.

Our best “selfie” both with and against God’s greatest “selfie” taken together with our engagement of God’s Word in His Neighborhood also shows us what we truly look like to ourselves against who we are serving, what we are doing and how well we are projecting ourselves, projecting our ‘selfies” plus God.

Reading the Bible can open your eyes to habits that you and I need to get rid of, or things in my life and your life that need to change. We should be constantly striving for “selfies” to be more like “selfies of God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit.”

So, when we take a “selfie” of an attitude or moral or an ethic in our life that doesn’t line up with the Bible, we truly need to address that habit or attitude.

A Selfless Call

The more we think of ourselves, the less we think of others, and the more self-centered we become.

Jesus tells us the GREATEST commandment is “Love the Lord our God, with all of thy heart, and with all of thy soul and all of thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to “love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Which means we “Love ourselves better, best, greatest – 100% LAST!”

Again, our default affection is for ourselves.

We love ourselves and care for our bodies by eating and sleeping. We rarely ignore our own needs. Jesus says to think of our neighbors with the same affection. We must care for them, give to them, and seek to meet their needs.

Paul, through the authority given to him by God, explains Jesus’ command further. Not only do we need to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we also need to value them more than ourselves. He says this in Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.

A Selfless Savior

How do we get past such self-centered thinking and lifestyles as we see (or post) selfie after selfie on our screens each day?

The ongoing self-glorification on social media may not have directly caused you to stumble into the sin of selfishness today.

But the social acceptability of this self-worship feeds our tendency to make light of such sin in our world today.

When we feed our minds constantly with thoughts of ourselves, we easily disregard others, justify our own sin.

Paul continues in Philippians 2 with this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v.5-8)

To love our neighbors, think of them above ourselves as the Lord commands us to in Philippians 2:3-4, we must have the mind of Christ—a humble mind.

The way to fight the sin of selfishness is to ask God to renew our minds so that they become like Christ’s.

With “perfect joy,” in perfect selflessness, he regarded the greatest need of every human—forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God—and the will of his Father as infinitely more important than his own glory, even to the point of laying down his life for us at the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Turn Your Camera Around

Hebrews 12:3 Amplified Bible

Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We must turn the selfie lens away from our faces—away from our needs and wants—onto others, and onto Christ. We must not grow weary and lose heart, pray that he will humble us enough to care for our neighbors above ourselves.

When turn our cameras around, our “selfies” point of fixation changes, we will start using our resources differently by uniting, inviting others into our homes, giving more than we receive, helping others succeed, admiring others’ beauty, and doing more GOD activities for the sake of lost souls, not just lost “likes”.

Humility will never be our default attitude on our own, but it is Christ’s.

Hebrews 4:14-16Amplified Bible

14 Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].

Let us discipline ourselves to study and ponder the Word of God muchly, keep running boldly to his throne of grace in our time of need and ask for help. We need help from the only one who is perfectly selfless, and he promises to give it.

So, the next time you raise a “selfie stick or two or three” snap a selfie or pick up your Bible let it be a reminder of how important the word of God is. God’s Word is living, powerful, can change our thoughts, actions if we let it. Challenge yourself today to go deeper into God’s word and let His words transform you.

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

Let us Pray,

Lord, as Your Children, we humbly pray that you would renew our selfhood as the People of God – we are not to be the remains of a goal-less club rather, the Body of Christ, the Church- the Bride of Christ, the King who is over all things.

Father God, through your power and through your people,

Let your kingdom come.

Help us to show the world the true “selfie” of your Church: by faithfulness to the Master; by love for him and his creations; by participating in his work of global mission and servant ministry giving flavor to the world, in his humility.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,

Let your kingdom come.

We ask you to give us the privilege, through your grace, of regaining our role as renewers of our world, as the people who serve our neighbors, our community, heal our society, who improve our surroundings, who improve circumstances.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

Give us the discipline to read and study and ponder your Word. Give us the power to obey your will for our lives, for each other, for others, in acceptance, that understanding comes by a spirit of obedience to you, and that the source of life is your salt and your light, your heartbeat, your blood which gives to us life.  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

Let us learn to make neighbors and how to love them. Let us expect great and miraculous things from you. Let us always learn; let us persevere through the process of extending and inheriting God’s kingdom; let us be called ‘repairers of the breach’ and ‘restorers of streets of our towns and cities to be lived in.’  

Father God, through your power and through your people,
Let your kingdom come.

The Gospel of our GOD in a Nutshell: Servants of Freedom. Exodus 3:10-15

There’s the story, I am sure you have heard it before, of the college professor who always began his first day of class at the University dramatically telling his students he could unequivocally prove that God absolutely did not exist.

Looking up toward the ceiling he would shout, “God if you are real, then I want YOU to knock me off this platform. Come on, God, I will give you 15 minutes!”

Over the next several minutes he kept taunting God, saying things like “Here I am God, I’m still waiting and still standing” and smugly smiling at the class.

Then – all of a sudden – a burly 240-pound halfback for the football team came rushing forward from the back of the classroom and collided with the professor, knocking him full head over heels over his desk and into the chalkboard behind.

More shocked than hurt, the professor sputtered as the young man helped him back to his feet, brushed the chalk off of him, “Why on earth did you do that?”

The football player smiled as he walked away… and replied,

“Well, Professor, I guess God was busy; So, He sent me with your answer!”

Exodus 3:10-15Amplified Bible

The Mission of Moses

10 Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and then bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve and worship God at this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers (ancestors) has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “[a]I Am Who I Am”; and He said, “You shall say this to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” 15 Then God also said to Moses, “This is what you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Israel), has sent me to you.’ This is My [b]Name forever, and this is My memorial [name] to all generations.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

In our text this morning, we find God saying to Moses:

“I will SEND YOU to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10

God was SENDING Moses to confront Pharaoh and free Israel from their slavery.

But as I was studying and preparing today’s Fourth of July devotional today, a staggering question and thought just rushed unto the forefront of my mind:

Why did GOD send Moses or anyone else for that matter?

Why not just do it Himself?

Did God really need the help?

Was He busy or something?

No… God was not busy.

But there was something about sending Moses on this task that speaks to us about God’s plans for our lives.

First, we need to realize God doesn’t need us.

It’s true.

He owns the sheep, the cattle, every other animal on a thousand, thousand hills.

He has an army of angels at His beck and call.

And as Amos 4:13 put it

“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name.”

If God HAS all that, and can DO all that,

what’s He need with me… or you… or Moses???

Psalm 8:4 asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

But, the fact of the matter is:

God IS mindful of us.

He DOES care for us.

And when it comes to doing His will, God graciously allows us to take part.

One of the most intriguing promises (for me) that Jesus ever made was this one:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even GREATER THINGS THAN THESE, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Jesus promised that WE would do GREATER THINGS than He did on earth?


But Jesus quite literally fed thousands with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.

He healed the sick.

He raised the dead.

Have you ever done any of those things?

Me neither.

In fact, I have NEVER done anything even remotely like that.

And yet Jesus clearly says to me: “I’ll do greater things than those?!!!”

How’s that possible?

Well, consider these two stories out of the book of Acts.

The first story is found in Acts 8:26 where we’re told:

“AN ANGEL of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road— the desert road— that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’”

As we read the rest of the story, we find that Philip does as he’s told and goes down to that road and sees a man riding in a chariot.

He begins running alongside the chariot and hears a high official from Ethiopia reading from the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah (famous chapter predicting many things about who Jesus would be), and he asks the man if he understands what he’s reading.

The Ethiopian replies ““How can unless someone explains it to me?” Acts 8:31

So, Philip climbs up into the chariot and begins talking about Jesus, and the conversation turns to how the Ethiopian Servant can become a Christian.

As they’re riding along, the Ethiopian says:

“Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36) and they went over to the water and Philip baptized this “Queens Servant” man into Christ.

Now, a couple of questions:

1. WHO sent Philip to meet the Ethiopian Eunuch? (An angel)

2. WHY didn’t the angel go themself?

Hold that 2nd question in your mind for a second as we go the next story.

In Acts 9 we read about the conversion of Saul (who we know of as Paul).

Now, at the time, Paul was an enemy of the church.

He hated Christianity and did everything in his power to undermine and hurt those who belonged to Christ.

So committed to this task that, when he heard there was a body of Christians meeting up in Damascus, he led several men up there to take those Christians prisoners back to Jerusalem in chains for trial and their suitable punishment.

But on the way to Damascus, Jesus confronts him, blinds him and knocks him to the ground.

And he “heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” (Acts 9:4-6)

Then after three days, Jesus goes to man named Ananias and commands him to go and teach Saul/Paul what he needs to know about being a servant of Christ.

And amongst the things Ananias told Paul was this:

“… what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

Now: a couple of questions

1. WHERE was Paul when his sins were washed away? (Damascus)

2. WHY didn’t Jesus’ wash Paul’s sins away when He met him on the road to Damascus?



Because this is what Jesus meant when He promised that “greater things you will do than I have done.”

Philip (in baptizing the Ethiopian) and Ananias (in baptizing Paul) were given the honor of serving Christ and freeing others of the chains of their sins.

They were given the privilege of being the agents of God’s salvation to those around them.

On each occasion, Jesus or an angel COULD have led these men to salvation.

But in both cases, it was a mortal Christian who was given that honor to serve.

It’s not that the angel and Jesus COULD NOT have directly saved those men.

The fact is – they WOULD NOT do that.

That privilege was reserved for men and women who belonged to Christ.

You see, God doesn’t NEED us.

But He WANTS us… to be His partners in SERVANT ministry.

Just like Moses who led his people out of the darkness of slavery into the light God’s light, it’s a high honor we’ve been given. And a great privilege to serve.

But there are times when people aren’t sure they can do that.

Just like Moses… they don’t feel up to the job.

They might even think they’ll mess it up and make God mad or something.

But as you notice from our story, the only thing Moses did that made God angry.

You know when that was?

It was when Moses tried to turn God down.

He tries telling God he can’t talk very well.

God says, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12

Then Moses simply says: “Send someone else”

“Then the LORD’s ANGER BURNED against Moses…” Exodus 4:14

I tell you – if you’re going make God mad, you don’t want to do it by turning Him down.

It just doesn’t seem like a good career move.

Besides think of all the adventure and excitement and honor Moses would have missed if he’d just walked away from God’s Servant commission.

To this day, Moses is highly revered in both Judaism and Christianity, and Moses’ name is mentioned nearly as many times in Scripture as Jesus.

But God didn’t just send Moses to the people unequipped to do this task.

He gave Moses three tools to help him get the job done.

And what we’re going to do today is look at them in the reverse order in which they occur in Scripture.

The 1st tool God gave Moses (and the last in the story) has to do with the issue of Moses’ fear he did not think he could speak well enough to get the job done.

“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10

I know a lot of Christians who say that.

They don’t believe they know enough or can present the Gospel of GOD well enough to speak to others. AND you may be one of those people here today.

Now, I guess it should be enough for us to accept God’s statement to Moses:

“Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12

But sometimes that just not enough for some folks.

I believe there are a whole lot of people who struggle mightily with that fear.

And that fear just shows me that many are NOT all that different than Moses.

Moses was one of the greatest men that ever walked, but even he was afraid to share with the people exactly what message God wanted him to communicate.

But God did give something to Moses to help him overcome his fear.

You know what God gave him?

That’s right – God gave him a helper.

“What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.” Exodus 4:14-15

God gave Moses a helper.

He sent Moses’ brother (Aaron) to speak for him.

Do you have a “brother” who might help you share your faith?

Yeah? Who might those “brothers be”?

That’s right – you have a whole bunch of Christian brothers and sisters right in your churches and communities and neighborhoods.

And I bet that if you had someone, you’d like to talk to about Christ they’d be more than happy to step up and go with you.

You have got servant helpers

– Elders and Deacons and Laity, Sunday School teachers, all kinds of Godly women and men who would be your “Aaron” and help you share your faith.

They’re your backup team.

As Servants of Christ, they can help you share your faith for the “first time” or they might be able to step up and help you try a different angle on friends or relatives who you HAVE witnessed to, but who won’t listen to you anymore.

Have you ever been to a car lot to buy a car?

Did you ever notice that you first meet with a floor salesman?

Then if you show interest, they’ll pass you along to another “higher up” in the company… and maybe even a 3rd person to talk to about your potential sale.

Do you know why they do that?

Because they know if you’re genuinely interested, the chances of their making a sale go up dramatically depending on how many people they get you to talk to.

In the same way, the more of your “back up ‘Servant’ team” at church you get talking to your family and friends and neighbors, the higher your chances of courageously communicating your faith in Christ to the people you care about.

The 2nd tool God gave Moses was the opportunity to have some “skin in the game.”

The LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So, Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So, Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Exodus 4:6-7

When I first read, pondered that, I wondered, what do these verses say to me.

And then a phrase came into my mind: “Skin in the game.”

In focusing on Moses’ hand God was getting Moses to put his skin in the game.

Then I went on the internet to look up exactly what that phrase meant.

According to one on-line dictionary, this was the definition:

Skin in the game means “To have a personal stake or investment.”

In other words, to have “skin in the game” means that you, I, are committed to the success of a project or cause, and we’ve shown that by investing something incredibly valuable and intimately personal in struggling, achieving its success.

So, when it comes to Servanthood,

how do you and I know if you and I have “Skin in the game?”

Well, someone once boiled it down to 3 issues:

How much TIME, TALENT and TREASURE do you have committed to Christ?

How much TIME have you invested in God each week?

Some folks would say… “well, I show up for church 1 or 2 hours a week.”

And that’s nice… but that’s hardly what you’d call “investing”.

That’s more like dabbling.

No, to really have “skin in the game” when it comes to the amount of time you spend for God each week, you and I have got to do so much better than that.

We’re talking about –

how much time do we spend talking to others about our faith during the week?

How much time do we spend reading our Bible on our own?

How much time do we spend throughout the week praying, talking with God?

How much time do we spend during the week serving in God’s neighborhood?

Then there’s the topic of how much of your TALENT do you give to the church?

What talent do you have that you can use for God?

I recently passed by a church sign of a congregation, and I was a little jealous about something they put on their marquee… mostly because they thought of something completely original and so 100% immensely useful before I did!

Their marquee sign read if your car could not afford to pay for inflation, they were offering to freely change the oil in your car to keep it ready for its work.

That was a GREAT idea!

I am just sorry that my former auto mechanics heart did not suggest it first.

Somebody at that Church was using their talents for serving their neighbors.

There’s the matter of putting genuine ‘kingdom value” on our ‘TREASURES’.

Mark 10:17-22 Amplified Bible

The Rich Young Ruler

17 As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 18 Jesus said to him, “[a]Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not testify falsely, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he replied to Him, “Teacher, I have [carefully] kept all these [commandments] since my [b]youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him, and He said to him, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 22 But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].

How does this poignant Gospel text speak to your allegedly “Servants Heart?”

If we don’t have any ‘genuine’ “skin in the game” as far as our “treasure” goes, are we or are we not ready to become ‘fully’ invested serving God’s kingdom?”

What does it mean to fully commit ourselves to the success of God’s kingdom?

Matthew 6:19-21Amplified Bible

19 “Do not store up for yourselves [material] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also.

The last thing I want to point out… is the first thing God asked Moses:

“Then, the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’

‘A staff,’ he replied.” Exodus 4:2

What have you got in your hand Moses? God had asked.

Well, what did Moses have in his hand?

A staff.

(Pause) That’s a dumb question.

Of course he has a staff in his hand… he’s a shepherd.

But this was more than just a staff.

This staff symbolized everything Moses was and everything Moses owned.

This staff represented the totality of Moses’ wealth.

He may not have had much, but this staff represented all he had.

At one time Moses had been a prince of Egypt, with power, prestige and palaces.

Now, he was lowly shepherd living out in the middle of the desert in a tent that’s moved whenever they needed to find new pasture for the flocks.

Even the sheep weren’t his – they belonged to his father-in-law.

Moses had little that was really his own… except his staff.

“So, (God asks) Moses what is your hand?”

As long as the staff belonged to Moses, it was just a staff. But once Moses gave it to God, God used it shake an empire. With that staff of God,

• Moses struck the Nile River and turned it to blood (Exodus 7:17)

• He stretched it over the waters of Egypt and brought a plague of frogs upon the land (Exodus 8:5),

• He struck the dust of the earth and up from the dust rose a plague of gnats (Exodus 8:16),

• He stretched it toward heaven and down came fire, thunder, and hail (Exodus 9:23),

• He waved it in the air and a horde of locust invaded the land (Exodus 10:13),

• He stretched it out over the Red Sea and the waters parted for Israel to pass on dry ground (Exodus 14:16),

• He struck a rock and water poured forth to quench the thirst of God’s people (Exodus 17:6)

• And when he held it high in the air, the Israelites prevailed in battle over their enemies the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16).

Once that symbol (of who he was) was given to God, it was no longer a mere shepherd’s staff.

Once it was given to God, it was as though God had placed in Moses’ hand the very power of the universe.

Had any part of the nature of the wooden staff changed even in the slightest?

No, it was still the same shepherd’s staff – but with a difference.

Now, it was no longer a mere piece of wood shaped by the hands of man.

Except now, as was shaped by human hands it belonged exclusively unto God.

Except now it had been consecrated by God to serve ALL OF God’s Children!

A Servant’s Attitude and Character

How do we advance in our careers?

How do we receive the recognition we think we deserve?

For many, the logical strategy is through self-promotion and our bringing attention to ourselves. Seeking credit for successes and pointing the blame at others for failures are other strategies often employed for advancement.

It’s being sure others know us by name and being aggressive to lobby for the best seat, the greatest rewards.

The Bible describes these attitudes as claiming honor “in the presence of the king.”

But the Bible gives us another, godlier model: to have the attitude of a servant in everything we do, to seek to serve God and others with a selfless attitude.

We are not to be proud or focus on ourselves but to stay humble.

We are always to work as unto the Lord, being max sure that GOD above all others is pleased with what we do and how we do it.

We are urged to remember that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12 NLT).

If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10).

This year I will live the Gospel Life by:

Committing to at least two new spiritual practices to deepen my faith. – Philippians 2:1-4, Philippians 2:12-18

I will share radical hospitality by:
• Making my heart a welcoming place for God.
• Inviting a friend, colleague, classmate or family member to attend worship.
• Warmly welcome all who attend.

Welcome one another, therefore just a Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God. – Romans 15:7

I will be passionate in worship by:
• Preparing my heart and mind for worship.
• Attending worship regularly.
• By finding a daily devotional that works for me.

Let us not give up the habit of meeting together,
but let us encourage one another. – Hebrews 10:25

I will be intentional in my faith development by:
• Praying regularly.
• Being part of a group for discussions, study, or prayer.
• Discovering my spiritual gifts and talents.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and prayer. – Acts 2:42

I will be risk-taking in mission and service by:
• Listening more closely for God’s call on my life.
• Making a positive difference in the lives of others.
• Being willing to risk failure for Christ’s ministry.

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. – Matthew 25:40

I will be extravagant in my generosity by:
• Offering more of my heart, my hands and my feet and my soul for God
• Supporting the church in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ
• Giving regularly, with tithing being the aim.

You will be enriched in every good way for your great generosity.
Job 42:10-15, 2 Corinthians 9:11, Jude 20-25

Remember others may see outward appearances, but God looks at your heart.

Remember to seek first His kingdom.

Sow seeds with the gifts and talents you have been given.

Be confident GOD ALONE will provide all you need and bless you abundantly.

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

Let us Pray,

John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things
To your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
You are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen

The Gospel in a Nutshell: The Son of Man Came to Serve. Mark 10:35-45.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all on top of the world! The glittering prizes of “our wealth and honor – our fame and fortune – of intellectual prowess our great importance” is highly prized in today’s world system but can too often bedazzle the eyes of believers as well, and even Christ’s own disciples were not exempt.

How petty and self-serving can we get? How petty and self-serving were these two disciples – James and John? They wanted special favors from their Rabbi.

They were arguing about who was to be the most important in their little group and were jostling for the highest and best position in Christ’s coming kingdom.

James and John? They thought more highly of themselves. But what a shocking silence must have descending on each person, when Rabbi Jesus stunned them into silence with these head scratching words: that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life -as a ransom for many.


How are the decisions we make impacting those around us?

Rabbi Jesus said that we should seek to love others as we would love ourselves (Matthew.22:39). Nothing could be more central to that command than for us to spend more time considering how our plans, actions, and words will either serve us or serve others, help, hurt, hinder, the people in our circle of influence.

As Christians we no longer “live to serve ourselves” (Romans14:7)—or at least we shouldn’t. God’s will for us is to see our lives as instruments of Christ to aid, build up, positively enhance the well-being of all the ‘neighbors’ in our lives.

Having been called by the humility of our Savior Jesus, to no longer simply look out for our own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), we should instead be driven to carefully ponder how pursuing our desires in that purchase, this move, or that meeting is going to affect and benefit others.

The world will continue to tell us to “Look out for number one!”

I’m all for that—as long as we remember that we’re not number one! Christ is.

And he has directed us to look out for the interests of the people with whom he has sovereignly surrounded us. Yes, every day we will make decisions for our own good, but they should all be evaluated with a willingness to modify them or even abandon them as we prayerfully consider their impact on others.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to think we are the centre of the universe. We get so wrapped up in our own world and issues of daily life, we forget about others and their struggles. The incredibly little word ‘me’ becomes most important. We somehow think all of ‘everything’ revolves (or should revolve) around ourselves.

All too often we think all of our feelings and ideas are the most important in all of the world. But guess what: often times, others probably have better ideas than we do. Life has a habit of jolting us into reality, and a lot of things don’t work out as we expect them to. We need to learn we can be wrong sometimes.

Some people love to talk, mainly about themselves, and can be quite dismissive about the point of view of others.

They are not all that interested in what you’ve got to say—they have already worked out their response before you can say too much.

You know people like that?

Does my opinion matter? Probably not.

The New American Webster Dictionary has a really great definition for selfish people: 

“they are much too busy absorbing their whole selves into themselves.”

It’s like everything revolves around them, and no-one else. It’s all about me, myself and I. The self-centered person loves no-one else except themselves.

James and John, Sons of Thunder, tried to bargain with their Rabbi for quite the most prominent places in the Kingdom Jesus is leaving behind, for themselves.

James and John, sons of Thunder, were in pursuit of all the wrong things – and even after they heard the words of their Rabbi, could not begin to understand the staggering implication of His words: “Give my Life as a Ransom for Many!”

Mark 10:35-45Amplified Bible

35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He replied to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit [with You], one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory [Your majesty and splendor in Your kingdom].” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism [of suffering and death] with which I am baptized?” 39 And they replied to Him, “We are able.” Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared [by My Father].”

41 Hearing this, the [other] ten became indignant with James and John. 42  Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their powerful men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 43 But this is not how it is among you; instead, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first and most important among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a [a]ransom for many.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We are going to take a step back in time today to conceptualize, contextualize what Jesus meant when He asked Bartimaeus: “Come. What Can I Do for You?”

Jesus was asking Bartimaeus, “How will you, then, serve the Kingdom of God?”

When Bartimaeus receives his miraculous healing from Jesus – whom will he be most grateful to, whom will he follow and serve – His Savior God or himself?

45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Here is the heart of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, given in one simple statement.

The foundation and basis of servanthood is giving – and Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all who believe in Him.

No one “took” His life – He willingly gave it up. 

Jesus, with all of His power and might did not come to be served as He deserves, but by His love and grace, came down to serve us. 

He served us by giving us a way to spend eternal life with Him even though we do not deserve it, nor can we earn it on our own merit. 

He gave His life freely so that we might have eternal life. 

He served us by being the payment for our sins.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, but Jesus paid the price for us. He was our “ransom.”

The word “ransom” refers to the price one paid in Jesus’ day to release a slave.

We are slaves to sin, but Jesus’ life became our ransom that set us free from the bonds of sin.

To be a servant of Jesus, as Jesus himself modeled servanthood, means we must be willing to give up all rights to our life and to do anything God wants us to do.

When we look at Jesus’ ministry, we can see how Jesus served others, just as the disciples had seen Him do: they saw Him touch those that were unclean.

Without any partiality or bias, they saw him heal the sick, deaf, blind, and mute.

Without any partiality or prejudices, they saw Him raise people back to life.

Without any single thought given as to how they were different from him, they saw their Rabbi Jesus feed thousands with just a small amount of bread and fish.

Without biases or prejudices, knowing all their hearts down to the most finite of details, even knowing who would betray him, they saw Him wash all their feet.

They saw Him beaten and nailed to a cross.

Face to Face, Eye to Eye, Soul to Soul, Heart to Heart;

they quite literally watched Him die – for them.

Over and over again Jesus – the only Son of God – for the JOY, which was before Him, placed Himself in humble service to others – even death on a CROSS!

After he was arrested in Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter after Peter had struck the Temple Servant, Malchus:

“He had ten thousand angels at His disposal if his true intention was to call them down to ultimately “Subdue, and then Lord Himself over his Captors.”

He was in the Beginning! He was the Creator of the world!

He shared in the glory of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Yet He gave up all of Heaven to come to earth, born to a poor virgin girl in a stable with only an animal feeding trough for a bed.

He gave up his own majesty for the humility of needing his diaper changed. 

For JOY, He willingly accepted the humiliation and torture of the cross.

And we esteemed Him not?

And He went to the Cross ANYWAY?

Luke 16:15 AKJV 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Romans 5:8-10 AKJV But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Why would He do that for you and me?

Why should He do that for you and me?

Why did He do that for you and me?

His only reason for doing so, was to utterly and completely minister, utterly serve all of humanity throughout all the ages through His willing sacrificial death in our place so we could all one day spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

The greatest servant of all gave us the greatest gift of all because of His greatest expression of unconditional love for us. (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34)

We often talk today about our desire to utterly and completely “serve” God.

And certainly, we should be completely obedient to do what He asks us to do.

But we also need to remember Jesus did not come to earth to be ministered to.

He came so that he could utterly and completely minister unto us.

He still wants to utterly and completely minister to us today.

We don’t have to do life on our own.

He ready to utterly and completely help us.

When we are utterly and completely exhausted or anxious or fearful,

He tells us to cast all our care on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

When we need wisdom, He tells us to ask Him for it and He will give it to us generously (James 1:5).

When life gets busy and overwhelming, Jesus says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).

Whatever it is we face in life, Jesus utterly, completely, stands ready to minister to us.

If He utterly and completely loves us enough to die for us, you can bet it all He stands completely ready to help us through every single moment of our life.

How utterly humbling it is to know the Son of God longs to serve one like me.

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Jesus is speaking in broad terms as he describes what people in power can be like. They can freely coerce, intimidate, bully, threaten, and seek to control.

In contrast, Jesus says, we are called to live differently.

We must not follow the way of the world with its structures of riches, privilege, race, class castes, culture, nationalities, influence, politics, or religious elitism.

Jesus says we are to be counter cultural servants, following HIS example. He came not to be served but to serve and “to give his life as a ransom for many.”

All our relationships—parent-child, wife-husband, pastor-congregation, teacher-student—need to be refreshed from tendencies to control and manipulate. Instead, the focus should be on serving others, helping people to flourish, and empowering everyone to honor, worship, and follow Christ.

Are you a servant in the example of Christ in your circles of influence?

In what ways are you serving others as a neighbor, friend, spouse, parent, family member, teacher, or church member?

We are children of the heavenly Father and disciples of Jesus, who did not consider glory a thing to be grasped, but who humbled himself to die on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11).

Christ’s life was the exemplary witness to the truth of these words.

He was the eternal Son of God – the King of kings and Lord of lords.

All power in heaven and earth had been entrusted to Him, but He did not demand the service of others but knelt to wash His disciple’s feet.

The One before Whom all creation will one day bow in humble adoration, came to be Servant to all…

and His final act of Service to the children of men, was to become the pivotal point in the history of the universe –

when for the JOY which was before Him, He gave His life as a ransom for many.

Because of Jesus, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices so that the name and kingdom of God are made known.

His words must be our legacy. His example must be the pattern for our lives.

By His death and Resurrection, Jesus bought us out of Satan’s grasp and brought us to an everlasting freedom through the ransom price he paid.

We are now called to follow his example and live his life in our world. We are to serve and sacrifice for others. Living to serve others is the Jesus-way of life!

May we, in these radically challenging contemporary times we must navigate, be endowed with the mind of Christ – for although He was the Son of God,

He learned obedience by the things that He suffered – and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, to pay the price for the sin of humanity – and to ransom ALL of those who trust in His name.

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

Let us Pray,

Jesus, thank you for you dying in my place so that my sins could be forgiven. Help me to live my life so that it brings honor and glory to you. May I learn from your example of servanthood to serve others that you have placed in my life so that your love shines through every act of service and every spoken word. Help me, please, Holy Spirit so to remember you stand ready to serve, to minister to me in every situation, I face in life. 

Lord God, Author of my life, I pray for wisdom and grace to know how to suffer with You in this life and to give my life in service to others and to You. Keep me from my hankering after every glitz and glamour of this world and may I, like Christ humble myself, become truly obedient to Your word, selflessly follow in Your footsteps – so that Your name may be glorified, in Jesus’ name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.