Putting you before me is just me being nice.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13
Are these verses really about dying for someone else? I look at these verses as the little choices which put others first.

Putting others first doesn’t come naturally to us. Our innate tendency is to reach for the biggest slice of pie rather than offer it to a family member. It takes a conscious effort to allow others to go before you or to let them have what you really want. This is why I have always been impressed at those who seem to do it regularly.

My mom whom took care of 11 children while taking care of the needs of her church and anyone else who came to her for help.

The people who I have seen at Starbuck’s who purchase a drink for the person behind them(pay it forward).

And also the men whom gave more, serving in the armed forces.

Most likely we won’t ever be called to make the ultimate sacrifice, but could we vow to put others first a little more often? To intentionally look for ways to meet their needs while we put ours on hold? To, in a sense, lay down a little of our lives daily for another?
When we do, we will be modeling Christ to a watching world as we learn to live a life that says, “No, you first.” If we ever meet in person someday, I’ll hold the door open for you with a smile.

Dear Lord, help me to be unselfish, to intentionally look for ways to put others first in the little things in life. Maybe even in making the ultimate sacrifice if ever I’m called upon. When people look at me, I want them to see You instead.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 John 3:18, “Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.”

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A Father’s Love

Today, I want to talk to you about a story many of us know by the title, The Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. I discovered that in the Middle Eastern Church the story goes by another name: The Story of the Running Father. The difference in the title reflects important cultural knowledge that the people to whom Jesus spoke would have known.
In the biblical story, the son demands his share of the family’s wealth, leaves home and breaks his father’s heart in the process. Eventually the young man finds himself destitute in a foreign land and determines to return to his father’s house with the hope of working as a servant.
Scripture tells us the father sees his son a long way off and runs to him.
First, it was considered extremely undignified for a Middle Eastern man to run anywhere. Running was for children. Also, running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful.
The reason he was running was even more significant. It was a very serious matter for a Jewish young man to lose his family’s inheritance in a foreign land. If he did, and he had the gall to actually return to his village, his entire community would then bring him to justice through a custom called the Kezazah. Once the community discovered the money was lost, they would surround him and break a pot at his feet. Then they would announce that from that moment on he was cut off from his family and community … as if he were dead.
But this young man’s father had been watching, and even though his son had broken his heart, he had been hoping for his return. He knew all too well what would happen when the villagers saw his boy. His son would be shamed and then the pot would fall, break, and his son would be lost. So, the father did what no first-century Middle Eastern man would do: he hiked up his robe and ran.
He ran through the village streets as his neighbors stared in horror. He ran as young boys began running along behind, shouting and mocking him in his shame. He ran ahead of all that was reasonable and fair. He ran ahead of justice, taking his boy’s shame upon himself.
When he reached the boy, the father quickly gathered his son into his arms, kissed him on each cheek and called for a banquet in his honor.

This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like.

Now whenever I think of God, I see Him running toward me, gathering up my shame in His wake, to redeem me with His costly love.

My Father, thank You so much for running toward me. Help me rest in Your grace and trust Your great love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Let the Life you live be as the Lamp on the stand.

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Much in our world is deceptive and dishonest: the rhetoric of political campaigns, for example, or the propaganda of advertising, with its slanted facts and testimonials. In a time that makes us wary, we long for honesty that breeds trust and nurtures hope.” Those are the word of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Straight talk is important in relationships. It is easy to distort the truth when we are doing the “dating dance” and wooing one another. We parade partial truths in hopes that some of our deeper secrets will stay hidden. The tipping point comes when we enter into the deeper relational stage we call “engagement.” An older term for that was betrothal, which literally means giving our troth, an earlier variation on the word truth. In other words, dating is playing games, but engagement, or betrothal, means we are now committing to truth. We are choosing to reveal more of ourselves so we can see each other wholly and love each other in wholesome ways. The outcome of a good engagement is marriage, when, as Adam and Eve discovered, we find ways to be “naked and not ashamed” before each other. This is more than just undressing; it is the psychological honesty that allows us to meet one another in truth, peering into each other’s souls without embarrassment or threat of one of us walking away.

There may be times when too much honesty harms a good relationship, but it is hard to know how secrets can be part of a healthy relationship. God does not turn away from us when the secrets of our hearts are brought into the healing light of divine grace. Nor should we turn from those who trust us with the intimacy of private faults, disappointments, needs and dreams. As Jesus reminds us in this brief parable about a lamp, “Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” Especially in marriage.

Mark 4:21-25 – He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

You are qualified !

Have you ever felt like a loser, I’ve got great news today! Jesus is looking for you, because He still transforms people who feel like failures into faithful disciples who change the course of history.

Did you know all of Jesus’ disciples would have been considered losers by their culture? No rabbi (or teacher) in the first-century Jewish world would have chosen any of the 12 guys Jesus called to be His followers.

For Jewish people, the education of their children was not only important, it was the key means of survival as the people of God. Beginning at age 6, children would begin to learn and memorize the Jewish Scriptures. Those who were particularly talented would move up the ranks and apply to become followers of a particular rabbi. Those who didn’t qualify would be encouraged to learn the family trade. Jesus took the very opposite approach. Instead of waiting for the best of the best to apply to be His students, He went after the dropouts and asked them to become His apprentices.Jesus dumbfounded the world and transformed the course of history through 12 individual “failures.”

In todays terms we would have called these guys, guys” Thugs, Punks, and Outcasts”. In the bible these guys were a murderous zealot, a money embezzler, a traitor, a second guesser, and a bunch of fisherman.

In Matthew 6:12-16, We find that Jesus has recently been tempted by Satan, and that he is now beginning his ministry. He is calling the Apostles to himself, and instead of Jesus choosing the Apostles, he prays to the Father in Heaven. Even Jesus – God Himself – prays, spending time with God and asking what to do and to show guidance on this important decision that would help set the course of His message throughout time. When Jesus got done praying and the father helped to reveal the Apostles to Him, do you think he looked at the bunch of ragtag men and asked God if he was joking? Seriously, if we take a closer look at the some of the Apostles, we see there is hope for us to be great teachers of Christ’s word.

As I look at my life and all the things God has done, I cry. How could I not drop the nets of my pain, my insecurities, my doubts and fears and follow Jesus, too?

Have you dropped your nets to follow Him? Or have you held back because you think you are unqualified?

The truth is, you’re not qualified to follow Him. And neither am I. But Jesus is calling losers and failures — like us — to become faithful followers of HIS!

Dear Lord, thank You for removing the labels my past has given me. Thank You for seeing my potential and for calling me to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a, “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”

Peace and Faith through Hearing

Why does life seem darker at night? Not just literally. It’s as though Satan and his minions are just waiting for me to be alone so they can begin the battle for my mind. Philippians 4:6a

Yes, worry is part of our human nature. Unfortunately when sin entered the world, emotions like worry did too. However, our fallen human nature always clarifies what being separated from God looks like. And it often looks like fear.

My heart longs to live in faith; however, at times this is difficult. But here’s the key: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). God’s Word reminds us to put the kingdom of God first and the things we need will be ours (Matthew 6:33,). In other words, when I devote myself to God first, all the rest will sort itself out, and this brings peace.

What is most pressing in your life right now? Whatever that is, put God’s Word there instead. Replace worry with the truth of God’s love and power.

Blessed are the Days we pray.