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Ambition to Serve

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Ambition to Serve

Text: Mark 10:35-45

What a journey!  The disciples had been on quite the road trip with Jesus.  They were meandering their way south through Judea down toward Jerusalem for the final time.  Jesus was making his last trip there to accomplish his mission and our salvation.
But even more extraordinary was the spiritual journey the disciples were taking along the way.  Parents had been bringing little children to Jesus and the disciples rebuked them and tried to send them away.  Jesus was indignant with them.  Then a rich man runs up to Jesus and the disciples let him right through.  But they were amazed when Jesus told them how hard it is for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God.  Then Jesus began to teach them more specifically about what was coming, that he was going to suffer and die and rise again in Jerusalem.  The disciples were astonished.
And now this.  James and John approached Jesus and tried to secure seats of honor on Jesus’ right and left in the glory of heaven.  That made the others indignant with James and John.
What is going on here?  Up and down the disciples go in their journey of faith.  Mistake after mistake.  Wrong motives.  Weak faith.  Hidden agendas.  What kind of faith did they have here anyways?  Well they had a faith much like mine.  That’s certainly true of the story today. Read the rest of this entry

Something to Boast About

15th Sunday after Pentecost

Something to Boast About

Text: Galatians 6:12-16

Seventeen days ago, on September 4, 2014, comedienne Joan Rivers died.  Though she showed the battle wounds of countless plastic surgeries and several frantic decades of Hollywood life, it seemed to many that Joan Rivers was ageless and would keep going strong for years.  But after complications during a surgery, she finally passed away at the age of 81.  Not to worry though, Joan Rivers had her funeral planned out well in advance.

The funeral was two weeks ago at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.  Here are some of the details of the funeral.  Guests started arriving around 11am and were welcomed by the New York Gay Men’s Chorus singing “irreverent, fun songs” as they were described.  The Rabbi opened with prayers that were followed by Broadway star Audra McDonald giving a moving performance.

Next, several celebrities stood to honor Joan Rivers and share their fond memories and gushing compliments.  The last to speak was Melissa Rivers who read a touching letter that left the audience laughing.

Actor Hugh Jackman ended the service with another spectacular performance that ended with the crowd standing and cheering.  As guests left, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York was one of the songs played.

The funeral was apparently quite the event.  Hoda Kotb, co-host of the Today Show described the funeral this way:  “It felt like a Broadway show with tons of humor, lots of tears and it ended with a standing ovation.”  Hoda and countless other celebrities attended this extravaganza.  Although someone was conspicuously missing—Jesus.   Read the rest of this entry

The Unusual Path to Greatness

4th Sunday in Lent

The Unusual Path to Greatness

Text:  Matthew 20:17-28

Reality TV is ruining our country. That’s probably not a surprising or controversial statement. It seems pretty obvious that Reality TV is causing a lot of problems.

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are ruining the way Americans think about dating and love and marriage. There is very little on those shows that would be considered God-pleasing love or relationships.

Celebrity reality shows are ruining the way we think about our lives. When we see the homes and cars celebrities have and the carefree, lawless lives that celebrities live, all we do is crave things we cannot and will not ever have.

Reality game shows are ruining our work ethic. People think that they can just sing in front of a famous judge on American Idol or X-Factor or The Voice, or dance on So You Think You Can Dance, or present your business on Shark Tank and you’ll get the golden ticket to fame and fortune. Rather than putting in all the blood, sweat, and tears to work toward your dreams, people think they can get in front of someone famous and take the easy way to success.

Now it is certainly nice that certain people “get a shot” in life, like the small town Texas girl that might win American Idol. But for that one person that wins a reality show there are tens of thousands that do not win. It’s always humorous, yet somewhat annoying, to watch people’s pride on these TV shows when they don’t win. Most contestants feel like they deserve to win. They’ve been waiting. Their life has been tough. They need this. Then it’s even more humorous, and more annoying, to watch the people who can’t sing or can’t dance but think they really can. They get cut from the show and they blow up in anger because they really are great and they really deserve a chance and they really should be winners. Really? Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on James 4:7-12

Text:  James 4:7-12

The word submit does not echo well in the ears of Americans. When we hear submit, we think about bad things. We think of slaves being forced to submit to their masters in the 1860s. We think of MMA fighters tapping out and losing a bloody battle. We think of weakness and inferiority.

But in the Bible, the word submit means something much different. It means to show humble love and respect toward someone. Submitting has nothing to do with race or social class. Submitting is something that Christians gladly do toward all other people.

Why? Why would we want to do that? That won’t get us ahead in life. That won’t get us a big mansion. That won’t get us any magazine covers. This is a dog-eat-dog world! Submitting will only lead us to be devoured by the bigger dogs!

However, God himself came to this world and submitted to the laws and rules he had made. He subjected himself to the governing authorities. He submitted to all the sinful people who so regularly disobey and defy him.

So as Jesus showed humble love and respect for us, we most certainly can do the same for him. And as we submit to our King of kings and Lord of lords, that humble love will pour out and result in humble love and respect for one another.

Read the words of the devotion text from James 4 again today. When you read them thinking of what Christ has done for you, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to want to do these things for others.

Keep the cross of Jesus before your eyes. He is your motivation and your model for humble love!

Prayer: Loving Savior, as you have loved me and lived for me, please help me to love others. Give me a humble heart that puts you and others ahead of myself. Grant me joy in serving and submitting. I pray in your name. Amen.

Daily Devotion on Mark 9:30-37

Devotion Text: Mark 9:30-37

Are you proud to be a Christian?

On first glance, that statement seems foolish. Of course, we are proud to be Christians. We wear the name of Jesus proudly on our hearts as we let our lights shine and carry out his command to be the salt of the earth. We gladly put “Jesus fish” on our cars and cross necklaces around our necks.

Yet, the pride of a Christian can be a tricky thing. As we learn in our devotion today and as we have learned in sermons for the past few weeks, the life of a Christian is not described as something full of victory. Instead, Jesus tells us to “pick up our cross and follow him.” He reminds us, constantly, that our life here should be one of humility as we look toward our heavenly home

So, Christ reminds us today that his love is not a love of pride, but a love of humility. It would have been loving, certainly, for Jesus to remain here forever and take away all of mankind’s sicknesses and hunger. More loving, however, was Christ’s humble death on the cross to take away our sin.

We echo that humility as we live out our lives as Christians. “Every knee shall bow” to Christ our king on the last day. Until then, our goal is never to browbeat or humiliate others into faith. We preach Christ crucified in our speech and through our words and actions. Our faith centers around the Jesus’ cross as we carry our own. Our love is a pale expression of his, yes, but a love that shows itself in humility is more than anything this sinful world could offer.

Prayer: Christ Jesus, let my love reflect you every day. Let me reflect your love in my thoughts, words and actions as I seek not to be better than others, but to serve them as you serve me. Crush my willful disobedience and selfish pride. Strengthen my faith and lead me to seek your truth continually. Let my life be a fitting sacrifice to you as I walk heavenward and let my love brighten the lives of others as I share your word with them. Amen.