In Jesus’ Words: What do you stand for? (Matthew 20:17-19)

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                                          ~ Predictions of Jesus’ Death ~

While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately and said to them on the way:
“Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day.” (Matthew 20:17-19)

As they were meeting in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” (Matthew 17:22-23)

I recently had an interesting conversation with a man from the Unitarian Church while on my trip to Ireland.  That may seem a little strange in the land of the Irish, given they are predominantly all things Catholic.  But I was curious.

The man stood outside the church providing information to those passing by.  I found out that the Unitarians originated from Transylvania and they built this church in 1863 after escaping persecution in other countries.  The church looked very similar to a Catholic church with its stained glass windows and steeple.  But the façade stopped there.

The man was quick to tell me what they believed – or more accurately what they did not believe.  “If there is a God,” he began, “we believe in only one God, unlike the Trinitarians.  We believe Jesus was divinely inspired but not divineWe believe what Jesus said (his teachings) but not what others said about him.”

So… if you are not even sure there is a God, how do you know Jesus was divinely inspired?  And how do you differentiate between what Jesus said and what others said Jesus said?  All of the written documents about Jesus were written by others and not Jesus directly.  Would you believe your professor’s teachings but not what his closest friends and relatives said about him?

I thought Unitarians (or called Universalists in the U.S.) were supposed to be accepting of whatever version of God you wanted to worship, and they include atheists and agnostics too.  Their motto is Freedom, Reason, and Tolerance.  Reason seems to be lacking with their conflicting statements about Jesus, and there definitely is not a tolerance for the Trinity belief.  Even their informational pamphlets were all about how Jesus was not the Son of God.

Why would a religion be so adamant about criticizing one religion and not any of the others?  I guess there is only freedom within their definition of reason and tolerance.  But where do they get their definition of reason from?

The man ended our conversation with this statement.  “After all, we’re all just trying to be good.”  Or as I like to say, “They stand for nothing.”

feet with waves croppedLead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. Psalm 25:5

Rest in God’s Rest

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“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.”  Hebrews 4:8-9

God’s Rest… imagine for a minute what that feels like.  A pure and complete rest, absent from all your worries, nothing to fear, no rush, everything taken care of, just being in the constant loving presence of God, mercifully forgiven, and being with the One who wants nothing more than to give you that rest.

That’s a lot.

Every day, our bodies require more sleep.  Even after a full night’s rest, we still become tired again.  And the cycle starts over… morning coffee and caffeine, power bars and energy drinks.  This world can be so tiring.

But to rest in God’s Rest is an entirely different thing.  It is Rest with God.

This passage in Hebrews has a lot to say about God’s rest.  It refers to the Israelites’ disobedience to God which kept them away from His rest, and the promise from God of another day of rest (second chance) that is still to come.  There is a lot more that can be studied here, but for now, I am content with just being in God’s rest, taking in His goodness and warmth, knowing that my soul is settled in His presence and it is a good place to be.  I begin each morning with the prayer that I may ‘Rest in God’s Rest’ as I go about my day.  When things get stressful or hurried, I go back to that point of Rest, and know that God has it under His control.  My wish is that you too will know and experience God’s Rest.

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…”  Hebrews 4:11
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Beyond You

Once a year I take a vacation day from work, spend a couple hundred dollars and trek across Atlanta in the early morning traffic for two hours.  It is so that I can attend Leadercast, a motivational event that focuses on leaders worth following.  We all need that.  The world needs it.  And I like seeing all of the good that can come from our human potential – the creative, the imaginative, the kind, the funny, the brave.  It’s worth a day of my time and a couple hundred bucks.  If you get a chance to attend the yearly event live or at one of the 800 simulcasts that are broadcast over 25 countries, I highly recommend it.  Take a day – fill your cup!

Every one of us are leaders.  It is not a position reserved for the rich and powerful.  The individual leader in each of us is a far more powerful influence on this planet.  We are parents, friends, mentors, teachers, students, givers, and encouragers.  And at the core, it is not about the leader, but about those we are leading.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s theme Beyond You.  Do something that will last beyond yourself!

Andy Stanley, Communicator:
A good leader empowers those around them as well as those coming along behind.

Regardless of who gets the credit, we should leave the next generation stronger and more focused as a result of our leadership.

 The value of a life is always measured by how much was given away.  Funerals don’t celebrate accumulation.  They celebrate generosity and selflessness.

 If your leadership is not all about you, then it will live beyond you.

Dr. Henry Cloud, Psychologist:
The brain is always determining if someone is for or against them.  Trust comes when people feel you are connected to them and you understand them.  Influence is a result of that trust.

 Create spaces for people’s lives – birthday parties, time together, celebrations.  Don’t be too busy.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate & Human Rights Activist:
You are you because of others.  We are made for each other and for human connectedness.  We are dependent on others.

 If we have loved well while we were alive, our love will go on for generations.

 Good leaders are servants.  They are not caught up in the trappings of power. 

Simon Sinek, Author:
The one characteristic needed to lead is courage. 

Leadership is a responsibility not a rank.  Take responsibility for your actions at the time you do them, not when you get caught.

You can also read some of my highlights from last year’s conference at Simply Do.

Be beyond you.  Be a leader worth following!

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The answer is…

It’s frightening sometimes, definitely sad, and it can leave you feeling down or hopeless. The events of just the last few months are enough to keep us at nights wondering. A missing Malaysian plane with 239 souls on board, a sinking South Korean ferry carrying an entire high school of students on a field trip, the search and rescue efforts for the sudden mudslides in California, earthquakes all over the world, ravaging tornadoes that leave many people dead within seconds, and that does not include the countless shooting scenes in malls and schools that seem to take place almost daily.

Phew…, that’s not a fun, feel-good, positive topic to write about, but I just could not ignore it this time.  It shouldn’t be ignored.  It is important to people’s lives.  But it can shake you. Even the most fearless will stop and ask why.  Why the suffering, why the bad, why the innocent?

First, don’t blame God.  Blame evil.  Give credit where it’s due.  Get mad at evil, so mad that you want to counteract it with good.  Only good things (God) can take away evil and win.  Everything else is only temporary.

There is only one answer that can satisfy all that is wrong in the world and make it right. Only one word is more powerful than anything else – Jesus.  Not Allah, not Buddha, not yourself, not your money or where you live, not your work, not your spouse, not even where you go to church or who you vote for.  All of those things are temporary and will fail you at some point.  When facing death, money won’t save you.  Even our best accomplishments only take us so far in this world.  It only takes one costly mistake to bring someone down in this high-tech 24-7 world.

No one else offers complete grace, forgiveness, and eternal assurance than Jesus.  It is what He stands for, and that’s why it makes others mad.  Jesus does not play favorites.  It does not matter what country you are from, your background, your race, your education, what you’ve done or not done, Jesus is the answer for all.  He is not exclusive, but inclusive. There is not one question you can ask where Jesus is not the answer…

Sick?Jesus will help you through it
Depressed?Jesus will be a true friend
Dying?Jesus will be there to welcome you home if you put your trust in Him.
There is a reason Jesus says in the Bible that He is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life”.  It is so we can be sure.  No guessing required.
Injustice?Jesus will judge the wrong
Suffering?Jesus can give you a peace unlike anything else.  Jesus said “Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, and the meek, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven”.  He said that for a reason.
Messed up life?Jesus cares.  There is nothing so bad that you cannot go to Jesus.
Worried about tomorrow?Jesus knows the future. He is our intercessor, praying   for us.  You will never go wrong by following Jesus.
Lonely? –  Jesus will be by your side. There is no better person to have with you.

No matter how much we try to control our lives, we cannot.  Yet, I cannot imagine trying to go through this life without Jesus by my side.  It truly would be scary.  Knowing Jesus is the only real assurance in this life and for eternity.  Nothing else compares.  Nothing else matters as much.

If you read Jesus’ words from the New Testament, you will be amazed at what He says.
Here are a few:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.  John 6:37

Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

There remains a rest for the people of God.  Hebrews 4:9 (Paul)

And from the last verse of the Bible…
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.”
Revelation 22:21

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The hospital bill

Twice in my lifetime the doctors have been wrong.  Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in doctors and have a great respect for their intelligence, training and sacrifice.  I thank God for them every time I have to go under the knife.  But it’s just that I also know God is the ultimate Healer and He has the final word.

It was my 37th birthday as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard those words: “You will never be able to run again.”  The cartilage in my knee was gone.  I sat there in silence. Running has always been a big part of my life; it is where I draw my confidence; it is my time alone with God and my thoughts.  And it had always been a lifetime goal of mine to run a marathon.  But more than the doctors words, I also knew from where my strength came, from God alone, and I decided I would not give up that easily.  After two months of pain-staking physical therapy followed by some very careful training, I ran across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon – before my next birthday.

The other time the doctors were wrong it was a more personal one.  I was a few months away from my wedding day when I had an emergency surgery.  I heard the doctor’s words once again: “You will probably never be able to have children.”  I understood the complications of my situation, resulting from a life-threatening appendectomy years earlier.  But I also knew that God, the Creator of all life, could give me a child if he chose to.  When that time came later on to start a family, the doctors words seemed to come true.  I decided I would try another surgery in hopes of increasing the odds.  I began the process of finding a doctor and pleading my case for surgery, but I soon faced another obstacle.  The insurance would not pay for the surgery, as it was considered infertility surgery and therefore was “optional”.  Again I sat in silence.  Looking down at the sheet of paper with the estimated costs for the doctors, surgery and hospital, I wondered how we would be able to pay for it on our own, or if we should even try.  We were still newly married and did not have much money saved.  This would take all of our savings plus a little more.  Even so, I decided it was worth the try and I could not imagine anything more that I would rather spend my money on.

As the day came, the one-hour simple surgical procedure turned into a five-hour operation.  The anesthesia alone was more than my body could handle and I threw up all the way home from the hospital.  I laid in bed sick for days.  The doctor had said my best (and only) chance of getting pregnant would be in the first six months after surgery.  Well, six months came and went with no news.  But I also noticed during this time that I never received the bill from the hospital for the surgery or the anesthesia.  It did not show up as a claim on my insurance either.  No co-pay or deductible was ever paid, and I never received a second bill in the mail or a phone call.  It seemed to disappear.  And, about a year later I delivered a healthy baby boy.  He truly was a gift.

God is the giver of all good things.  James 1:17

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