A Perfect Reflection…

SCRIPTURE

“As the Father love Me, I also have loved you, abide in My love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15: 9 – 10

OBSERVATION

As I continue to read through John, I notice that whenever Jesus speaks, He makes references to His Father – it’s a major theme of an inter-relational connection.  Whatever Jesus is doing, His Father is doing also. Whatever is God’s will, is also Jesus’ will.  Equally, whatever Jesus experiences, for example ‘hate’ then God also is ‘hated’.  It’s almost as if Jesus is looking into the mirror and seeing God looking back and all of their desires, thoughts and actions are the same – it is a perfect reflection.

If we abide in Christ, then we will be mirroring this relationship also, between Christ and ourselves, with our thoughts, desires and actions mirroring His.  In so doing, we also have an inter-relational connection with God.

APPLICATION

Looking into the mirror of our lives and who we really are is not an easy process. When we look at Jesus, we become more acutely aware of our sin and the brokenness that is within us, because in all honesty we really do not reflect His true nature.  There are some days when I do not want to come before Jesus because I am painfully aware of how far removed I am from that reflection of His character.  I am broken, and if it wasn’t for Jesus, my mirror would be broken too, and there would be no way of communing with God.  But Jesus continues to look at me, and as long as I continue to look at Him, He teaches me what I need to do to become more like Him.

The beauty of this relationship is when God looks at me, He knows who I really am. But because I have accepted Jesus and I am trying to abide in Him, the blood of Jesus covers me.  Though I am broken, because of Jesus, my mirror reflects His sacrificial love, His Grace and Mercy. Jesus is our Mediator and He stands between myself and God.  God sees Jesus first – a perfect reflection of His love.

PRAYER

Dear God

I am thankful that You are Perfect in All Your Ways.  I am thankful that you sent Jesus to show us how to abide in You, as He does.  I am also thankful again for the sacrifice Jesus made to cover me with His blood.  Without this blood, I would be broken and my relationship with You would be broken too.

Thank You that Jesus is our Mediator, who stands before us now, and at judgment, talking to You on our behalf and I pray that we can continue to learn Your ways through  the mirror of His reflection.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Show God’s Love to Your Children

SCRIPTURE

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”  John 9: 1 – 3

OBSERVATION

For a long time, dare I say up until very recently, I used to think that God rewarded me for obedience and punished me for my disobedience.  After all, it’s a common model perpetuated by my parents to which I became conditioned.  It was the same model that the Jews believed in too, that if something bad had happened to someone, whether it be an illness or accident, it was because they or their parents had sinned – God had punished them.

Jesus saw the blind man as He walked by.  His disciples wanted to know why this man was blind, was it because of his sin or his parents.  Jesus’ answer was that it was neither, but that this was an opportunity for God to be glorified. Moreover, it was an opportunity for God’s love for man to be truly exposed.

You see, this man was a sinner,  he was not even a believer in God.  He didn’t even ask Jesus to heal Him and in many ways we could define him as undeserving of God’s help.  But Jesus was willing to heal Him not because this man was obedient, but because He wanted to show people what His love is really about.

APPLICATION

God had to send Jesus in order for us to really get to know God.  We had already perpetuated untruths about God in relation to punishing people with sicknesses because of their sins. By Jesus’ example, we were able to really know who God is and dispel some of those myths.

So, how are my children going to know God if I perpetuate the same myths by punishing my child when they make mistakes.  After all, am I not God’s representative on Earth for my child?  Surely they will relate to God in the same way that they relate to me.  If I’m an angry tyrant, who shouts and punishes them for the slightest mistake, surely they will view God the same way.  They will also be afraid to try, fearing that they will fail and may be punished for it.

Even when our children make mistakes, sometimes we just need to give them another chance, even if they are undeserving, after all this is what God does for us, every day.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for showing us Your unconditional love.  Please help us to teach our children about Your love through our own example.  Help us to teach our children that there are consequences that happen to us because this is a sinful world but God does not wait around for us to make mistakes in order to punish us. Please help us to how grace, mercy to our children when they make mistakes.  Help us to clearly explain the guidelines we have set for them so that when they make mistakes we can lovingly steer them back onto the right path and to give them the opportunity to correct their mistakes.  We really want our children to know You and to be able to turn to You when they make mistakes.

Thank You Lord for being a safe place for us to succeed and to fail, please help us to be that safe place for our children too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen.

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For 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

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

The Florida Boycott-Right Concern, Wrong Course Of Action.

The weather forecast for Florida the Sunshine State has been cloudy due to the racial injustice and travesty over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Many people are understandably shocked, outraged, numb, skeptical, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of disbelief as many in the Black community are saying out loud “Not Again!!” As a result of the verdict, Stevie Wonder among others has promised to boycott Florida until the “Stand Your Ground” Law is repealed. I must preface this by saying, I have the highest level of respect for Stevie Wonder. His humanitarian efforts and musical talent are second to none. I admire his passion, but I think the boycott is the wrong approach for him to make the kind of lasting impact that necessitates change.

Stevie Wonder
Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

Now granted, Florida has seen some rough days. You have the presidential election uproar of 2000 where the nation was introduced to terms like “Dimpled chads” and “Hanging Chads”.  Even when the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections came about, you can sense that the entire nation was giving Florida the side eye saying, “Don’t screw this up THIS time!” And now Florida is threatened to be boycotted. Florida seems to have had an identity crisis (Is it in the South? Or considered East Coast?) Truth be told though, Florida is hurting. Florida has had to deal with this tragedy since February 2012, specifically Sanford. People are angry, tensions are high, and Stevie Wonder is the antidote to this. That’s right, he’s the antidote. Stevie’s music spans at least 30 plus years and he is one of the rare artists that still command huge crowds wherever he performs.  However, Stevie’s music is what Florida needs right now. Stevie’s music is what this nation needs right now. His music is about love, unity, empowerment, uplifting one another, being insightful, yet evoking a mood of having a great time! You are hard pressed to find ANYONE that does not like his music. Florida needs love, Florida needs unity, Florida needs a cathartic experience to release the tension and anger, and Stevie’s music is the antidote. To deprive Florida of this, in my opinion, is a travesty.

Now imagine if you will, in an alternative universe, Stevie decides to do a free benefit concert in Florida to bring awareness to the masses about the importance of repealing the Stand Your Ground laws. Admission would only require your signature and valid email address to sign a petition to abolish this law. Can you imagine if you will, thousands came out to support this effort? Can you imagine Trayvon’s parents among other parents who lost their children to senseless violence as a result of the “Stand your ground law”? Thousands of supporters would have to get lawmakers attention. Can you imagine if each concert goer was only required to send one email per week to each lawmaker asking them to repeal this law? Do you think a boycott would actually be more effective than this??? Between the emails, the signed petition, not to mention the unifying concert experience of the Stevie Wonder, change can happen. This could be a catalyst for artists to do similar “awareness enhancing/grassroots level” concerts in their own communities. Now will this Kum-ba-yah moment end racism, end judicial injustice, end the racial stereotypes we have of each other? No not at all, but it will bring people together who otherwise would not even associate with one another, but who are together in one place for a common cause.  As Marvin Gaye once sang, “Mother, mother…there’s too many of you crying/Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some loving here today.” The opportunity to spread unity and love should NEVER be boycotted.

To many, this acquittal was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Black people seeking some semblance of the promise in the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance. Let’s not turn our backs on Florida now. The entire state did not shoot Trayvon, the entire state did not delay in pressing charges, and the entire state did not deliberate for hours just to render a “not guilty” verdict. Let’s look at the bigger picture here and see the opportunity that is right in front of us. Let’s not let the actions of a few have damaging consequences on the many. Looking back, MLK, Jr. never called for a statewide boycott of Alabama when Rosa Parks was arrested for not sitting in the back of the bus. MLK knew to hit them where it hurts and it worked. Boycotting an entire state in the hopes of repealing a law that may not have any impact on its economic viability is very shortsighted. Some people say they do not have a problem with the law; it is the selective enforcement of it.  It seems that skin color is a prerequisite in determining how it is to be enforced.  Having Stevie come to Florida would do wonders in bringing healing to a racially wounded state.

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin

In closing, a great man once said, “The truth is that — for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world — we can’t bring them back,” he said. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.” The man that said this is none other than Stevie Wonder himself. If this man who had the vision to spearhead the movement to have the aforementioned MLK, Jr. be honored to have a federal holiday in his name, how much more powerful would it be for him to spearhead this movement to repeal this law? If anyone can do it, it’s Stevie. I really hope he reconsiders his boycott; it would never have the impact he hopes it would have, because it would only galvanize a nation to be reactive and not proactive. We don’t need any more Trayvon Martins losing their lives so young, and we definitely do NOT need any more George Zimmerman’s taking those lives away AND getting away with it..It MUST STOP NOW!  The Martin family has already been through enough and to boycott their home state is like turning our back on them when they were minding their own business just like Trayvon was minding HIS own business walking home from the store NOT looking for an altercation or confrontation. If you must boycott something, boycott ignorance, boycott racism, you could even boycott hate…but please do NOT boycott a singular state!