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Humility Like a Child

In my morning Bible study with the residents on Matthew 18, I asked them to answer the two questions Jesus is asked by His disciples.  The first question is, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  The second is found in verse 21 and asked by Peter, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  I hoped to discuss both of these questions from Matthew 18 in one class, but Jesus’ answer to the first so consumed me that I took the whole class to discuss it ,and the first part of the next class and still cannot stop thinking about it.  His answer is simple yet profoundly overwhelming, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

We are all familiar with humility, but how often have we chosen it?  The Bible always calls us to the choice of humbling ourselves, yet our familiarity with humility comes more from a forced experience by  Humility’s bullying big brother, Humiliation.   We all know the experience of finding ourselves forced face first in the mud crying uncle because of some unforeseen or uncontrollable consequence of life. That’s humiliation not humility.  Humility is a will full choice.

As I reflect on my life, I’m not sure I have ever chosen humility.  But I know Jesus did.  In fact all His humility was chosen.  (See Philippians 2:5-11)  Everything from His lowly birth in a stable to peasant parents to His giving of His life on the cross for our sins.  His dying words were, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit,” and He yielded up His spirit.  His life was not taken, but given.  When has ours been given and not taken?  When have we chosen to truly, “Humble Ourselves”?  (James 4:10, I Peter 5:6)

Tom Reynolds

Sufferings & Glory

“..when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” 

I Peter 1:11

When Peter was physically with Jesus, he had a difficult time understanding the ‘sufferings of Christ’. He was ready for the glory, but didn’t like what it took to get there.

People, even Christians, are the same way today. It took Peter a while to figure it out, but here he is writing in his first letter that no matter how difficult or painful things seem now, the glory will follow. He’s encouraging his readers to embrace the sufferings now and wait for the glory later.

According the Peter (1:9), the goal of our faith is simple…”the salvation of our souls”.

Even Jesus Needed Affirmation

There are no more profound words in all a man’s life than to hear the voice of his father saying, ”Son, I am pleased with you!” or “I am proud of you!”.  Men crave that affirmation and unfortunately will do a lot of regretful things to get it.  And yet any other voice announcing approval will ultimately leave one empty until he hears it from his Daddy.  No woman, mother, friend, or boss will compare to hearing the voice of one’s father.

Interestingly as Jesus was prepared for His ministry, He heard the voice.  Matthew reports that Jesus went out to see John the Baptist.  When John saw Jesus he wanted to be baptized by Jesus, but Jesus insisted that John baptize Him.  John consented and baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.  Matthew states that, “immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16, 17)

Jesus at 30 years old heard the voice of His heavenly Father say, “Son, I am pleased with you.”  And this is apparently what He needed as he began His three year ministry.  Jesus needed affirmation not from His mother, Mary, or from His cousin, John, or from the crowds who heard His teaching or the religious leaders who heard Him in the temple courts, He needed to hear His Father’s voice.

One of the big, burly 30 plus old residents at The Way heard the voice of his father the other day.  The voice of affirmation he had been waiting for over 30 years.  God is probably preparing him for his ministry.

Every man needs to hear it from their Dad.  Yet even more significantly, we all need to hear it from our heavenly father.  John 1:12, 13 announces that we all have the opportunity to become a child of God by faith.  Then we can claim the promise of Galatians 4 that states we can call on God as “Abba! Father!” “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:7)

Listen for your Father’s voice.  We all need His word of affirmation.

Tom Reynolds

Second Chances

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…” 

I Peter 1: 3

Peter writes this letter as someone who understands what it’s like to mess up and make mistakes. Known at times as someone who would act before thinking through all the consequences. He forcibly disagreed with Jesus about his mission. Peter proved he could be a deserter, a liar, a betrayer, and a hypocrite.

Peter appreciated second chances. He rejoiced in the new birth.

Bill Neiland

Everyone Needs Affirmation

As we journey through the often too familiar annual Christmas experience, I was reminded how much of the story we assume from tradition, television specials, Christmas cards, and carols.  I took and shared a Christmas quiz with many of my friends, colleagues, and family only to discover how little we really know about the Biblically recorded Christmas story.   There were 21 multiple-choice questions and most scored in the low teens and even into single digits.  There is so much we assume.

Because the story unfolds in the pages of the Bible within moments of one another and upon the same page or with the simple flip of a page, we can easily forget the passage of time that the actual characters experience.  As we were studying the Christmas story in my small group this holiday season, I raised the question of why did God uniquely choose His angels to inform of all people dirty, smelly, rural sheepherders to be the first to celebrate the birth of Jesus with His parents.  Past the obvious of further expressions of Christ’s humility and God’s invitation to the outcast and peripheral, it occurred to me how much time had passed with no real communication from God.  The last time Mary and Joseph had heard from God either through a real live angel appearance or simply an angel in a dream had been nine months.  And I can’t but think there would have been more than a few times that question would have a rose for them.  I’m sure Mary may not have been keen on the idea of a trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth, away from all familiar family and friends, in her last few weeks of pregnancy.  They may have wondered about God’s plan when in spite of all of God’s eternal planning through prophesy and angelic visions and unexplained pregnancies that when they arrive in Bethlehem, God had failed to reserve them a room.

So when Jesus was born a normal, healthy Jewish boy but without the often depicted halo, I wonder if they began to wonder about God’s special plan?   So that when in that very evening the shepherds arrived telling them of angelic visions and choruses of praise Jesus’ parents needed that word of affirmation.  The scriptures state that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

As often as I need affirmation, it’s good to know God supplies it, even if it is from smelly sheepherders.

Tom Reynolds

Humility Like a Child

In my morning Bible study with the residents on Matthew 18, I asked them to answer the two questions Jesus is asked by His disciples.  The first question is, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  The second is found in verse 21 and asked by Peter, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  I hoped to discuss both of these questions from Matthew 18 in one class, but Jesus answer to the first so consumed me that I took the whole class to discuss it and the first part of the next class and still cannot stop thinking about it.  His answer is simple yet profoundly overwhelming, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

We are all familiar with humility, but how often have we chosen it?  The Bible always calls us to the choice of humbling ourselves, yet our familiarity with humility comes more from a forced experience by  Humility’s bullying big brother, Humiliation.   We all know the experience of finding ourselves forced face first in the mud crying uncle because of some unforeseen or uncontrollable consequence of life. That’s humiliation not humility.  Humility is a will full choice.

As I reflect on my life, I’m not sure I have ever chosen humility.  But I know Jesus did.  In fact all His humility was chosen.  (See Philippians 2:5-11)  Everything from His lowly birth in a stable to peasants parents to His giving of His life on the cross for our sins.  His dying words were, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit,” and He yielded up His spirit.  His life was not taken, but given.  When has ours been given and not taken?  When have we chosen to truly, “Humble Ourselves”?  (James 4:10, I Peter 5:6)

Tom Reynolds