Pray for Our World: Georgia

Georgia is located on the Black Sea between Russia, Turkey and Armenia.  It is regarded as the world’s second-oldest Christian nation.  The Georgian Orthodox Church dates back to AD 150 and is considered almost a peer to Jesus and the apostles time period.

Georgia became independent in 1991 after centuries of dominance by surrounding empires.  They still have some regions of the country where Russia remains a significant influence.  Since their independence and the collapse of communism, they have continued to make progress in positive social, economic and political changes.  Many have returned to the church, but it is more about an expression of nationalism than of true faith.

Pray for the churches there, that they will once again become a place of hope for the people, and help for the almost 100% unemployment or underemployment in the villages.  The churches need more resources to do this.  The Jesus film has been translated in Georgia, Russian, Ossetian and Mingrellian (which is the first film ever in this language), and it continues to be well received.

In Jesus’ Words: You know not what you ask (Matthew 20:20-28)

james-and-johnThen the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Jesus with her sons. She knelt down to ask Him for something. “What do you want?” Jesus asked her.

“Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.”

But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking.  Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

“We are able,” they said to Him.

He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup. But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

When the 10 disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
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Here was a mom who loved her two boys and was full of pride for them.  Sounds familiar for today.  We all want the best for our children.  But instead of Jesus getting mad at her or her sons, He answers them differently.  This is the crux of Jesus’ ministry.  He responds differently, and in a way that could not be challenged.  This passage was not written to chastise James and John, but it shows just how effective Jesus’ answer was.  Jesus was about to be killed and they knew it.  They were trying to secure their place.  But soon everything would change for these two sons.

James and John were known as the sons of Zebebee or often called the sons of Thunder by Jesus himself.  They were the second and third disciples chosen after Peter, and were part of Jesus’ close circle.  James was the first disciple to be martyred after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and John was exiled and wrote Revelations.  That is a far change in behavior from their mother’s initial request.

So what changed?  It might possibly have been changed by Jesus’ reaction to their request: You don’t know what you ask.  He didn’t rebuke or criticize them.  Instead, He gathered them all together and taught them what they did not know.

I hope I remember this story the next time I am prone to respond in anger.  It’s a hard thing to do, but who knows what rippling affect my own actions could have on the future.

feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: A Speech to the Apostles (Matthew 10:5-42)

apostles

Can you imagine hearing a speech like this one that Jesus gave to the twelve apostles?  Today when we go to church, we only want to hear the positive, uplifting messages. Otherwise we may not come back.  Clearly from Jesus’ speech below, He was not just a motivational speaker or teacher.  He had serious business to attend to.  Our very lives are at stake, and he had twelve ordinary men to tell the entire world.

~ Matthew 10:5-42  Jesus’ speech to the Apostles ~

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.”

“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment that for that town.”

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight;  What is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofsDo not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Three times in Jesus’ speech he says the words, Do not be afraid”.