Listen to a sermon by Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Snow

Civil rights leader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned 91 on January 15. Today, the United States observes this hero’s birthday with a national holiday (third Monday of January). I was thinking about him today, and I thought it’d be interesting to hear a complete sermon of his. This is one I found over at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Reverend King delivered this sermon on February 4, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia – two months to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Known as the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, it took place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Reverend King was co-pastor with his father.

The sermon, which I recommend hearing in full, covers a wide variety of topics still very applicable nearly 52 years later. As its core, Reverend King uses Mark 10:35-44. James and John ask Jesus if they can sit at His right and left hands in His Kingdom. Ultimately, Jesus tells them it is not up to Him, but to His Father. When the other apostles complain about James and John’s question, Jesus also notes that the true leaders among them will serve everyone else.

As Reverend King notes in his sermon, “[W]e have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.”

The sermon is only about 38 minutes, yet covers:

  • Human ego
  • Advertising
  • Compulsive-buying/keeping up with the Joneses
  • Finances
  • Crime
  • Classism
  • Church
  • Racism
  • War
  • Service
  • Jesus’ life
  • Death

As I mentioned, Reverend King was assassinated two months later. Eerily, he concludes this sermon with how he would like to be eulogized at his funeral. This would prove to be his last sermon at his home church. [Read his actual eulogy by Dr. Benjamin Mays.]

Credit: JC

I want to close out today with a couple of verses chosen by JC in Reverend King’s honor that speak to the kind of harmony that everyone should be fighting to achieve here on Earth:

“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”
from Revelation 7:9

“And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.”
Revelation 14:6

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

On introversion and recharging

By Snow

In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned introversion. I want to clarify that being an introvert is not a bad thing. For introverts like me, it is simply part of how God created us – like having brown eyes or blue eyes. The same goes for extroverts, for that matter.

I once had an extremely extroverted manager at work who seemed to view my introversion as a kind of sickness, but I completely disagree with that view. Oddly enough, we actually worked well together because our polar opposite personality types allowed us to fill the gaps of the other.

I don’t know if there are truly more extroverts in this world or if it just seems that way because they have the loudest voices. I think some natural introverts act in an extroverted fashion as their coping mechanisms, so that would also tend to increase the apparent number.

What exactly is an introvert anyway?

Despite perceptions to the contrary, we generally don’t want to lock ourselves permanently away from society in a log cabin in the mountains somewhere to write poetry or whatever – though there may be times where we feel like doing just that.

We don’t hate people. No more than any other group unfortunately does, anyway.

We don’t think we’re better than others are, though our quiet tendencies can sometimes be misinterpreted as aloofness.

We don’t feel the need to fill every moment of silence with talk, especially small talk. There is such a thing as comfortable silence. That is one way God manifests His presence among two or more people. It is hard to hear Him (or anyone) if you are always talking. The best way to listen is by being quiet.

The clearest explanation I have heard about introversion and extroversion went something like this:

  • An extrovert’s energy is drained by being alone. To recharge, she or he must be around people.
  • An introvert’s energy is drained by being around people. To recharge, she or he must be alone.
  • Both extroverts and introverts can flex as needed to various situations.

As an introvert, I am not always able to be alone when I need to recharge. For example, in the middle of a busy workday. If I see those situations coming, I try to mentally prepare myself for them. Essentially, I try to get an extra charge so that my energy (and tolerance) lasts a little longer. Beforehand, I do a lot of praying, reading of scripture, or listening to praise music.

In the middle of the situation, I also have similar mechanisms to get mini-charges until I can be alone. It only takes a few seconds to say a quick prayer in your head: “Thank You, Jesus” or even “Help me, Jesus” or one of my favorites, “Please make them stop talking, Jesus.”

You can also keep a favorite verse somewhere you can easily see it – on your phone or a notepad, for instance. If you can’t do that, then memorize one and repeat it in your head.

When JC was helping me overcome the anxiety that used to control nearly every facet of my life, she suggested I repeat “Be still and know that I am God!” in my head as soon as I began to feel anxious (from Psalm 46:10). This often calmed me.

Again, this is not to say introversion needs to be overcome, like anxiety. Far from it. Introversion can actually be a superpower when used wisely. However, introverts do have to learn to function around people without letting their batteries go completely dead.

So, find a verse or two that speaks to you and spiritually charges you, and try using them in the midst of a draining situation. Here are a few potential examples:

“Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:2

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4

“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.”
Psalm 62:2

“Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.”
1 Chronicles 16:11

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Romans 8:14

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:39

Finally, here is an external article about coping with being an introvert in an extroverted world that I recommend.

May Jesus bless you. Thank you for reading.

Credit: Snow

Smile

By Snow

I was a little under the weather last night, so I ended up not doing a post. I will do two on another day to make up for it. I don’t have an idea yet for today’s post. I guess we’ll see where things go.

I am traditionally a very introverted person. I have to make myself talk to people, rather than relying on my instinct of slinking past them and hoping they don’t see me. I have become better at talking to people since I was saved, though. That’s not to say I am some kind of expert, simply that I have improved.

One thing I have noticed is that smiling and saying “hello” to random people can often produce a smile in return. I see it as a small way of putting a little more joy into our world. The other aspect of it is the acknowledgement of “Yes, you are there, I see you.” We all too often ignore each other.

Credit: JC

Something else I have gotten into the habit of doing is saying, “Have a blessed day” instead of the more routine “Have a nice day.” I find this particularly effective when interacting with over-stressed people who work in retail or food service industries. This brings a smile 99% of the time, followed by an enthusiastic, “Thank you, you too!” Similar to above, it is a way of saying, “Yes, you are here. What you do is appreciated.”

My third example of ways to make people smile actually appeals more to my introverted side. When people do something for me or do an exceptionally good job for me, I give them handwritten thank you notes. Some of them have been pleasantly shocked by this. I also use these opportunities to include a verse of scripture. In fact, I try not to send any card without including scripture.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.


“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:34-35

The miracle of Rahab

By Snow

In the lead-up to the battle of Jericho, Joshua, leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, sent two spies into the city. There, they spent the night at the house of Rahab, a prostitute. The king of Jericho found out about the incursion and sent word to Rahab that she was to oust the Israelites. Instead, she hid the men and claimed to the king that they had already left (see Joshua 2:1-6).

The passage below begins with a quote from Rahab as she talks to the spies:

“‘Now swear to me by the LORD that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you. Give me some guarantee that when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.’ ‘We offer our own lives as a guarantee for your safety,’ the men agreed. ‘If you don’t betray us, we will keep our promise and be kind to you when the LORD gives us the land.’ Then, since Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, she let them down by a rope through the window.”
Joshua 2:12-15

Using a scarlet rope, the men descend the wall of the city from Rahab’s window. They return to camp and report to Joshua (see Joshua 2:21-24).

Credit: JC

The Israelites mount an offense, crossing the Jordan to Jericho (see Joshua 3). The Lord gives Joshua specific instructions on how to conquer the city in seven days (see Joshua 6:2-5). Following the Lord’s instructions, on the seventh day:

“When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, ‘Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.’ The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel.”
Joshua 6:20-23

What I love about this story is not that the Israelites lived up to their promise of sparing Rahab.

No, it is God who saved Rahab. For her house was built into the walls of the city – the very same walls that collapse in the above passage. Only after the collapse did the spies retrieve Rahab and her family. For her house to survive collapse was nothing short of divine intervention – a true miracle.

In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews includes Rahab in the faith “hall of fame,” noting:

“It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down. It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
Hebrews 11:30-31

James also references Rahab, placing her faith in the context of her actions:

“So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
James 2:24-26

What an amazing God! Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Darkness and light

Credit: Snow

By Snow

I grip my flashlight a little tighter, wishing for the millionth time since I was a little boy that it really was a lightsaber. I’m in the middle of my daily walk, which I started much later than usual, and the sky is black. I’m entering a long stretch of dark road between the comforting illumination of my apartment complex and the lights of a busy street somewhere up ahead.

In the daylight, the only real concern I have in this area is dodging droppings left on the sidewalk for me by my Canadian friends – beautiful geese who gather to honk and laugh as I dance around their little presents.

In the dark, though, everything seems different. My flashlight is bulky and metal, chosen specifically because it resembles a lightsaber hilt. No little plastic flashlight would do. Yet, the light it produces seems frail. Barely penetrating the void.

Through the mist of rain, I see a shape ahead. Someone coming towards me?

My heart begins thudding. For a moment, I am afraid.

Then, I remember two things.

1.) I’m a child of God, and
2.) God sees just as perfectly at night as in the day.

I bravely press on. I pass the ominous shape.

It’s not a person at all.

Not even a goose.

It’s the back of a sign pointing the way to my apartment complex.


I thank the Holy Spirit for reminding me last night that I don’t need a lightsaber. All I need is God.

May Jesus bless you. Thank you for reading.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

“To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
from Psalm 139:12

Credit: Snow

Too great to understand

Credit: JC

By Snow

In the course of our lives, there are people who touch us, inspire us. People who help us become who we are. Perhaps a teacher…a grandmother…your mom…a best friend…a coach…a co-worker…an uncle…a sister…a pastor…an aunt…a brother…maybe even a niece…a nephew…a son…a daughter. Whoever your special people are, these people who have touched your heart, have you told them how you feel? Have you thanked them?

If they are still alive, seek them out. Call them. Write them. Visit them. Do anything to let them know.

Life being what it is, it may seem it is “too late.” Perhaps they have passed away, for instance. In that case, you can still write them a letter only you will ever see. Still express to them what they meant to you. Still thank them. Or, perhaps, seek out a close member of that person’s family. He or she would probably love to hear what their relative meant to you.

I’ve had a number of people who have been critical in my life so far, who have touched my very soul. I’ve talked about a couple of them on this blog, and there are others. I am blessed, very blessed to have had many loving, caring people in my life.

I realize, however, that not everyone feels that way. Maybe your life so far hasn’t been what you hoped it would be. Maybe you can’t think of even one example of someone you’d like to thank right now.

And that’s okay.

Because I have an example for you. Someone that loves and cares for you unconditionally. And that is Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest love ever, whoever you have loved or has loved you the most, and you are not even close to how much Jesus loves you. His love for you is infinite, as vast as the universe.

He knows everything you ever did (John 4:29) and ever will do. Think about that for a moment. The power of that. Jesus knows everything about you, yet He still loves you. Fully.

You may have broken every single commandment, but He still loves you.

You may have hurt every single person in your life, but He still loves you.

Every single person in your life may have hurt you, but He loves you.

He gave up His life for you, died for your sins and mine. The sins of all humanity, past and future.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

If you already know Jesus, then you know what I’m talking about. Take a moment to thank Him. For everything good in your life. For all of your blessings. Are you praying to Him every day? Are you reading the Bible every day? Are you listening for Him? Don’t just bide your time here on Earth, make the best of it. Spread joy. Spread the light. Spread Jesus.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, then I ask you, I beg you to take a moment to consider this gift He is offering you.

You need only to believe in Him as God’s Son, who died for you and rose three days later, accept Him in your heart as your Savior, and He will forgive your sins and grant you eternal life in the Perfect Place – Heaven.

While this locks you in for a wonderful afterlife, it also gives you an opportunity for a new life right here, right now in this world. Open your heart, and He will use you. Open your heart, and He will show you His plans for you. Open your heart, and you will know the depth of His love.

You will be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You will see the world in a whole new light. What was dark before, you will fill with His light. What worried you before, He will battle for you – indeed, He has already won.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Who will you inspire?

Credit: JC

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

An opportunity for great joy

By Snow

As mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be writing daily posts for the next couple of weeks. I usually won’t decide the content in advance – though I do have a few ideas I’ve been tossing around for some time now that may show up.

Today, I want to take a look at an excerpt from one of my favorite books of the Bible, James.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:2-8

I love the outlook on life this passage promotes. We are not promised easy lives, and some seasons will be harder than others. When we hit obstacles, though, James says we should learn from them in order to build our characters.

However, what if you don’t know what to do? The answer is simple: Ask God.

This is one of the reasons it is so important to pray and read the Bible daily. When a crisis comes up in your life, you will already be used to speaking with Him and hearing His Word. If you do not already read and pray daily, I encourage you to do so. Start with a few minutes a day and see where it goes. In our fast-paced world, taking time to speak to Him as well as read scripture is a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress.

Credit: JC

Before I was saved, I very much believed in God. I prayed to Him mostly for “big things.” I remember in high school, for instance, praying over and over in my head, “Please don’t let my mom die” during a surgery she had where there were serious complications and she lost a lot of blood. I did come close to losing her that day, but God indeed saved her, and I was blessed that she lived nearly another 30 years – brightening so much of my life.

One of the things I failed to do before JC led me to Jesus, though, was pray to God daily in order to establish a personal relationship with Him. I sure was missing out. Connecting with Him in this way brings so much joy and peace. I can feel Him in a way I never could before.

In addition, while I had attempted to read the Bible once or twice as a kid, I only made it as far as Leviticus in the Old Testament. I do remember reading some of the New Testament, though – as I found the red ink for the words of Jesus fascinating.

Once I was saved back in June 2018, reading the Bible became part of my daily life, just as much as praying. This quiet time makes all the difference. I have read the full Bible three times since then, with two more read-throughs in progress on various plans. I do not claim to be an expert, far from it. However, I feel it is important that we all read and absorb the Word for ourselves.

Before I was saved, my priorities were all wrong. I loved God, sure, but He was that powerful figure I went to when I needed something. As far as my day-to-day life, I didn’t see how He fit in. I was serving the wrong masters – trying to fill holes in my heart and in my soul with stuff, food, and other destructive habits. I am sure He wanted to help me. In fact, I know He did, but I was too disconnected. Until Jesus.

As we encounter challenges in our lives, we must seek Him out. Find Him in the situation. Take a moment. Take a breath. Listen. He is there. And when we encounter similar circumstances again down the road, we can say, “I’ve seen this before. I’ve got this,” and face the situation with more confidence. Because, after all, Jesus has you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

He is my strength

Credit: JC

By Snow

Nearly six months ago, Jesus blessed me with a rest from working. He extracted me from a toxic environment and provided for my needs. I remember doing quick math in my head the day I lost my job and thinking, “I’ll be fine, as long as I find something by October.”

October came and went. No job. No sign of a job. Yet, He continued to provide.

While looking for work, both JC and I prayed that God would “open and shut doors” so we would know His will. In the past, I would apply for two or three jobs, and one would come through for me. This time, I applied for more jobs than ever. Dozens. For a few of them, I admittedly would have been a stretch, for others, I was overqualified, but for many, I appeared to be a perfect match.

Only one door ever opened, though.

One of my initial concerns about this particular job was that the absolute maximum annual salary they would be able to offer was $X, whereas I had already figured out I needed a minimum of $X + 5,000 to make ends meet, and preferably $X + 10,000. However, I went forward with the process anyway. After all, it was the only door. While I was certainly not challenging God, I did have the stray thought that “If the offer comes in at $X + 10,000, I’ll know that is God at work and He wants me to take this job.”

When the call came on Tuesday, I was on the way to a park. I let it go to voicemail. I knew I would probably find out whether I had gotten the job when I called back. Rather than immediately return the call, I decided to take my walk first and spend time praying to God. Though pelted with freezing rain, I managed to get in nearly three miles of walking.

Back in my car, my fingers were numb. Once I warmed up, I called back. I was the successful candidate.

The offer? With absolutely no negotiation on my part, it came in at $X + 10,000. I almost cried.

He provides.

When I think back on this rest, the main purpose was for me to learn to trust God – to realize that I rely on Him for everything. All of the wonderful aspects of my life are blessings from Him.

I am blessed that I was never in danger of missing a rent payment or even a meal. Though eligible, I never had to file for unemployment. God was right there, every step of the way.

I am grateful for my new job, which I am starting near the end of this month. In the meantime, I want to wrap up a few personal tasks. I also want to continue my spiritual focus while I have this extra time. I have recently been walking every day, which is one way I connect with Him. He now tells me that He wants me to write every day leading up to my start date as well. I have no idea what I will be saying, but look for daily posts from me for the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

“I love you, LORD; you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”
Psalm 18:1-2

For He shall save His people from their sins

By Snow

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
Matthew 1:18-25

It is Christmas morning. I am running late for a family gathering. I just finished wrapping the last of the presents. I haven’t even showered yet. With absolutely nothing planned in advance, what better time to start writing a blog post after nearly three months of silence on my part?

This is my first Christmas morning “alone.” Of course, I am really not alone. I always have Jesus. I always have God. I always have the Holy Spirit. I have even felt my mom, who passed away in May, flit in and out a couple of times today.

While I cannot be with them today, I have also been looked in upon by my beloved and by my friends. In fact, when I was feeling down a few minutes ago, I instantly received a text message from a friend, followed by another from my beloved. Like I said, Jesus is with me and looking after me. I am blessed.

Some of us will spend time today with family and friends. Gifts might be exchanged. The shopping frenzy just ended, and the return frenzy is about to begin.

Let today, though, be a moment of peace. For today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Breathe.

Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends.

And if you find yourself “alone,” remember, that you are not truly alone. Jesus is with you. Feel Him.

Once you have accepted Jesus in your heart, no one can separate you from Him and His love. For that is the ultimate gift, His gift to us.

Jesus came here to our sinful world not to receive gifts, not to take residence in a grand palace and rule from afar, but to serve others. His life and death, indeed, was in service to all of us. His life is a perfect example of the loving humans we are all capable of being, as creatures designed in His image.

While we cannot achieve the perfection of Jesus, we can strive to improve ourselves and how we treat others every day. In this world, we are faced with many temptations. It is easy to take the route of negativity, but what does that accomplish? Look on this world with positive eyes. Find the good in others. Find ways to spread love. Find hope.

No, we are not perfect. Even the best of us is still a sinner. That is why it is critical to understand the importance of the birth and death of Jesus. He came here not only to serve as an example but to sacrifice His life for our own. Through His death, all of our sins are forgiven and eternal life with Him is ours — as long as we believe in Jesus and accept Him in our hearts.

No matter where you fall on the scale of sin, you need Jesus, and He is waiting for you. Even if you have broken every commandment at least once, Jesus will still forgive you and grant you eternal life.

Even if you consider yourself a “good person” who does many good deeds, you still need Jesus to forgive you, for you are still a sinner. You could never do enough good deeds to make up for your sin. Only Jesus can pay that price, and He already has.

If you already know Jesus, then stop for a moment.

Feel Him.

Feel His love.

Thank Him for the many blessings in Your life. Every breath is a blessing.

Breathe.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not reach out to Him today? Pray with me. Use my words or your own. He will know what your heart wants to say.

Jesus,

I open my heart to You, the Son of God. Thank You for dying on the cross for the sins of humanity, including my own. Please forgive me my sins. You were resurrected after death. Please grant me eternal life to be with You always. I need You, Jesus. Please make me a new creation and open my eyes anew. I give my life to You, Jesus. Please fill me with Your love and the Holy Spirit.

In Your blessed name I pray, Jesus.

Amen

Credit: JC

I am thankful to Jesus for making me a new creation. For forgiving me my many sins. For showing me the potential He sees in me. For showing me the depths of a love I never knew possible. For Mom. For my beloved. For my family. For my friends. For His provisions. For every breath. I thank Jesus.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you!

Sunlight and rain

Credit: JC

By Snow

“When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
from Luke 23:33-34

The above is a powerful statement. Jesus has been beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross, and tortured in various other ways as well. However, He asks God to forgive His tormentors. While He is suffering, dying for all of our sins, Jesus thinks not of Himself but of those who are killing Him. He thinks not of vengeance but of mercy.

This sets Jesus apart from any other would-be deities – at least the ones that I’ve ever heard about, anyway. Looking at Greek mythology, for example, would Apollo have asked his father, Zeus, to forgive humans who were torturing him? No. The lightning bolts simply would have started raining down. End of problem.

Not Jesus. He asks His Father to forgive His tormentors. Stop and think about that action. The beauty of it. It is the inverse Kingdom come to life. What an incredible example Jesus sets. He lives up to His own words, for during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated:

“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
from Matthew 5:44-45

Do you want to break the chains ensnaring you with your enemies? Love them. Though it is difficult to achieve, if you love your enemies, they no longer have any control over you. They want you to react, to stray from your values, from your God. Instead, you love them, and in so doing, you rise above and declaw them.

Paul explains in a much more eloquent fashion than I can:

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. […] Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Romans 12:14,17-21

It is only natural to want revenge in certain situations, but you are misplacing your energy. Do you really think any revenge you come up with is going to be superior to what God can deliver in His righteous anger? “I will take revenge,” He says. Let Him handle it. Trust Him.

I try not to label people as “enemies” in my life, for even that gives them energy, but there are certainly some individuals that come to mind who have, from my perspective, either hurt or attempted to hurt me or loved ones over the years. Inspired by the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, I have started praying for them. No matter what they did or attempted to do, none of them have committed atrocities like the tormentors of Jesus, so surely I can be as forgiving as He was?

Easier said than done, though, and I struggle each time. My Bible Study Partner suggests one approach is to pray to see them as God does. How can we see them through the eyes of God, rather than our human eyes? Doing so can lead to a new perspective and a different heart when dealing with them. You may find pity or sadness for them, rather than responsive hurt or anger.

Even if I am able to accomplish the above, I must admit, however, that I doubt I could have the presence of mind to be as gracious while in the midst of undergoing torture like Jesus did. “Jesus is perfect, so of course He responds perfectly” I think to myself, looking to excuse what I suspect my own failings would be in such a situation.

Then, another Biblical example flashes to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit). In the early days of the church, in the aftermath of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Stephen is persecuted for being a follower of Jesus. While in the process of being stoned to death and becoming the first Christian to die for his faith, Stephen – as imperfectly human as you or I – follows the example of Christ:

“He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.”
Acts of the Apostles 7:60

Jesus and Stephen have set a high standard for us. As with many of the ideals of the Bible, loving your “enemy” is best achieved by starting small and working at it each day. Think of someone who “torments” you in some way. Begin praying for that individual today. Feel how it changes your perspective of him or her. Feel how it changes you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.