Thursday, January 28, 2016

Small Things, Big Results

Kelly Clarkson is a pop star known for her powerful singing voice. Though Clarkson is known for her “big” voice, she is tiny in stature. She stands five feet, two inches tall. Many have heard her sing and wondered how a sound that “big” can come from a person so small.

Kelly Clarkson is not the only small thing to yield big results. According the scriptures, God works through the small things of the world, to bring about big change. In Mark 4, Jesus says, “…What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.” In other words, the kingdom of God imbeds itself in the world in small ways like a seed. It takes root. It grows. It spreads and spreads. It ends up making a powerful impact on the world.

It is not hard to see this at work in Christianity. Two thousand years ago, Roman authorities easily executed a little known Jew named Jesus in a backwater part of the Roman Empire. Jesus’ less-than-loyal followers began telling people that Jesus was alive, reigning as Lord over heaven and earth. They spread this “good news,” by word of mouth, on foot, in the face of persecution.

To me, that sounds like small beginnings to say the least. Yet, that small Jesus movement and its message took root. It grew. It spread and spread. Now, faith in Jesus Christ spans the globe. Many have wondered how something that big could come from something so small.

As you got through the coming week, look for Jesus and His kingdom at work in the little things. See where Jesus might be taking root in a family dinner or your co-worker’s cubicle at work. As you do, you will find that God is indeed present in the small things. You will also find that Jesus can make something very big out of something very small.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jesus Plays Favorites

As kids, people are told to not play favorites. We are encouraged to share with others. Friends are supposed to be treated as equals. No one person should be privileged over and above others.

For the most part, the lessons are good. Treating others like we want to be treated is downright biblical (Mark 12:31). The desire to bless all people is foundational to the gospel and the mission of Christ (Exodus 19:6, Revelation 7:9). So, I see how “playing favorites” can lead to behavior that every child should avoid. Fair treatment of others is a good lesson for children to learn and even better to practice.

Because of those lessons, we assume God would never play favorites. Yet, the scriptures tell us otherwise. Christianity worships a God who indeed plays favorites (Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13). Jesus privileges some at the expense of others (John 12:1-11). In fact, Jesus’ approach to playing favorites really upset people of his day (Luke 4:14-30).

The scriptures tell us that Jesus favors people the world doesn’t. Jesus feasts with the sick while avoiding the healthy (Mark 2:13-17). Jesus blesses the poor (Luke 6:20) and warns the rich (Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 6:24). Jesus embraces little children while correcting His “mature” disciples (Mark 10:14). Jesus celebrates the persecuted (Matthew 5:10) while admonishing the powerful (Luke 18:18-23). Jesus puts the last first (Matthew 2:16). Jesus plays favorites and privileges those the world disdains.

As you go through the coming week, praise the Lord that He has favored unfavorable people like us. Look for people who the world tends to devalue and do something special for them. As you do, you will catch a glimpse of the heart of Christ. You will also experience the God who indeed plays favorites.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Time to Pray

Time and experience have a way of pointing people to God.  The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life reports that the longer Americans live, the more we pray.  The study surveyed members of Generation X in the early 1990s, asking them how often they prayed.   Forty-two percent reported that they prayed on a daily basis.  When asked the same question in 2010, fifty-four percent of Gen Xers reported daily prayer.  Members of the baby boomer generation were similar: forty-seven percent reported that they prayed on a daily basis during the 1980s.  But, in 2010, sixty-two percent reported that they prayed every day.  Time and experience have a way of pointing people to God.

It makes sense.  The longer we live, the more we learn that we can’t control things like thought.  In fact, we find that we have little control over the things we value the most (life, love, relationships, et cetera).  Recognizing this, we begin to talk with God and petition God, asking for care and comfort.  We see God show up. We find care.  We find comfort.  We learn more and more about God’s goodness.  Many people like us give our lives to faith in Jesus because of it.

The Psalm writer from the Bible learned this too.  Psalm 116 says, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”  Time and experience have a way of pointing people to God.

As you go through the week, take a moment to think about things you have prayed about in the past.  Make note of the many ways Jesus provided.  As you do, you will be reminded of the faithfulness of Jesus.  You will also find yourself turning to the Lord in prayer more and more.