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3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4  ESV)

A dictionary definition of “humility” is, “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.”  I agree with this definition in part.  There is truth to this definition.  The Scriptures do remind us that we need to look not only to our own interests.  Because of sin we are moved to think only of our own interests.  We live as if we are the center of the universe.  We act as if others should organize their lives around ours.  Their interests should be geared toward ours.  We begin to think so highly of ourselves and our own interests that we begin to think less of others.  It’s just who we are.

We do think of ourselves more highly than we ought.

If I were called to define “humility,” I would begin with the dictionary definition, but I would make an addition.  My definition of “humility” would sound like this, “a modest or low view of one’s own importance and an elevated view of others.”  Jesus’ displayed this humble love in His earthly ministry.  When the community ostracized “sinners and tax collectors,” Jesus took time to get to know them where they were so He could share with them the true life that only He can give.

This is the call Jesus gives to us.  As Christians were are not better than others.  We simply have the one thing needful for abundant life and eternal life.  We have faith in Jesus.  Humility calls us to stoop to the lowest of our community and share with them the gift of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, You are so good to me in so many ways.  I thank You for the gift of faith You have given to my through the power of Your Word by the working of Your Holy Spirit.  Allow me the humility to be an influencer through my relationships.  I ask this to Your glory and the benefit of others.  Amen. 


Doubting Thomas

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24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
(John 20:24-25)
I wonder what I would have said if I were in Thomas’ place.  It was Easter evening.  The disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was taken captive by the Temple guards as if He were some heinous criminal.  It was then that Thomas and his cohorts ran off and locked themselves behind closed doors.  They were filled with fear.  They knew Jesus would be heading to the cross.  Their fear was that the same treatment would be coming to them—guilt by association.

That was three days earlier.  This was Sunday.  Thomas, no doubt, heard all the rumors about a resurrection.  Some of the women claim they saw Jesus—alive!  A couple of the disciples ran to the tomb, but found it empty.  That was still no proof that Jesus was alive.

Later on that Sunday, Thomas made his way out of the closed room.  Perhaps he was sent to bring back dinner.  Maybe he just needed to get out of the house for a walk.  Whatever the case, on his return he is met by excited disciples, shouting “We have seen the Lord!”  Right.  This was no time for practical jokes.  As the disciples are insistent that they saw Jesus alive, Thomas will ask for proof, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

And now we call him, “Doubting Thomas.”  It’s a shame, really.  It was much before Palm Sunday that Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem.  They warned Jesus not to enter that city, as there were many leaders of the church who sought to kill Him.  Jesus insisted.  This is the same Thomas, who, when Jesus told His followers He was going to Jerusalem, said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him (John 11:16).

How attitudes can change!  But we know that.  A simple examination of our own lives will bear this out.  How easy it is for us to proclaim our undying commitment to Jesus when things are moving along just as we planned.  But, when there is a bump in the road and life isn’t following our blueprint, it is easy for us to question God’s will, God’s plans—even God’s presence and love.  We become doubters. 

This may cause us shame, but the Lord still loves us when we question and doubt.  His love for us never ends.  The Good News is that our relationship with the Lord is absolutely based on His commitment to us, which moves us to hold to Him by faith.

Prayer: Father in heaven, You sent Your Son Jesus to be my Savior.  You sent your Holy Spirit to give me a living faith in my Savior.  Forgive me for those times my faith wavers and doubt creeps into my life.  Strengthen my faith that I may always be confident in Your never-ending love for me.  I pray this in my Savior’s name.  Amen.


Where Do You Start?

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But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:7-8

Where do you start? When you have an amazing story to tell, where do you start? Do you go all the way back to the beginning, even though nothing exciting happened back there? Or do you start with the punch line, the happy news? When you’re going to tell someone that you’re engaged to be married, do you just say it, “I’m engaged!” Or, do you hide the ring and draw out the story for a good ten minutes?

The women in our text didn’t know quite what to do. They had the best news ever—Jesus was alive, risen from the dead. But how do you tell people that the impossible has happened? How do you tell them that what Jesus predicted actually has happened? How do you reassure Peter that even after the denials, Jesus wanted him to know that he had risen?

Where do you start with news like that? Maybe we are all wondering the same thing this week. We can go right to the news itself. “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.” That says it and for those who know the message, that’s enough. It’s a celebration needed in this uncertain time.

But we might also start slow, telling the story from the beginning. Maybe in this week, people are seeking a teacher, a caring counselor, and one who assures them that they don’t need to be afraid. We can tell them that we know a Father who knows already what we need and provides it for us. And, then, best news of all, the Father’s Son was dead but now he is alive and death has lost its power. Tell the frightened that the comforter has more than words of understanding and empathy. He has snapped death in two, stepped out of his tomb and he waits to lift us out of our graves. No matter where we start, it’s all the best news.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you know our needs and have promised to provide what we lack. But especially thank you that you have given us the best news. Jesus lives and death is broken for all time. Help us to give this news to a world that certainly needs it. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Worthy of Praise

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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

In Paul’s closing chapter to his fellow Christians in the City of Philippi, he provides direction and encouragement.  He points them to set their minds on spiritual things.  In closing this verse he reminds his listeners to think about things that are “worthy of praise.”

So what are those things that are worthy of praise?

Things that are worthy of praise are the things of God.  Among these praiseworthy things are:

  • Holding the faith and living and sharing it each day
  • Forgiving others as God forgives us
  • Being generous with the gifts that God gives to us
  • Providing care to the least of our brothers and sisters

This list is not exhaustive at all, but they are among the praiseworthy things we should constantly ponder.  This means we should consciously be alert to opportunities to live out these praiseworthy deeds.

As God’s people we are privileged to be recipients of God’s grace and for this we praise Him.  One of the great ways we praise the Lord is by living out praiseworthy things.

Father of all mercy and grace, I thank You for the many blessings I have simply because You are both gracious and merciful.  For this I praise You.  Grant me Your Holy Spirit that my praise may be lived out in my daily relationships with others.  I pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.  


Moving Stones

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“And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.’” Mark 16:4-6
In an episode of the TV show Friends, the mother of Ross and Rachel hears a number of surprising and disturbing things about her daughter and son. When they get done telling on each other, she holds up her hand and says, “That’s a lot of information to get in thirty seconds.” In half a minute, her world had been turned upside down.

The women at the tomb on Easter likely felt that way even more. They took in a lot of information in thirty seconds at the empty tomb that morning. They came expecting a stone guarding a tomb which held their beloved teacher, Jesus. But in half a minute, think of all that they learned instead.

The stone, which had been their biggest worry, was rolled aside, completely out of their way. But they had no time to ask how or who did that, because immediately there is an angel, called a young man, but clearly no ordinary man. He has to assure them not to be afraid. But there was still one more surprise. The tomb is empty! If it was surprising to see what was new, it was the absence of the old that was the most striking. Stones can be moved and angels might come. But now the dead are alive.

That’s a lot of information to take in. I wonder if we don’t sometimes focus on the seemingly immovable stones of our lives. We wonder if the stones, the barriers, the symbols of hurt and loss, are ever going to move. We can focus on them so much that we might miss the real news. The stones are going to move. The grave stone that really mattered already moved on Easter. That stone was the first but it has started an avalanche of grave stones. All the stones over all our graves are going to move, cast aside by the resurrection. It started here in these few seconds. Let’s live by faith that all this was true—the stone moved, the angel came and Jesus has risen. That’s a lot to take in, but it’s the one message that we really need.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you have given us the message we need. The stone of Jesus’ grave has gone, the angel has spoken and Jesus lives. Help us to take that news in every day and to live in certain faith through it.  We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.