A new hope

Read: Genesis 36-37, Matthew 12:1-21

A look at any news outlet these days will let you know that there are an awful lot of people who have no hope. Even those who think they do, don’t. This is nothing new. Hopelessness has plagued the human race since the very first humans walked the earth. Our own weaknesses and insecurities often overshadow anything or anyone who may be able to shine a little light into our lives.

This is what the Jews were feeling in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Pharisees had interpreted the law to a point that there was absolutely no hope in ever being able to keep it. In the first few verses of Matthew 12, we find Jesus and his disciples accused of breaking the law simply because they were hungry. If the need for a midday meal was enough to break the law, how much more did the Jews struggle in their daily life to keep up with the strict parameters the Pharisees put on them?

Yet Jesus fought against these man-made restrictions. While still keeping the law, he explained the freedom in it. Certain exceptions could be made within the boundaries of the law. Jesus emphasized his point by healing a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees considered healing work and thus, decided it was unlawful to do so on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand established that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).

Matthew 12:21

Jesus’ ministry was not to publicly put the Pharisees in their place, but rather to show the average person that there was hope beyond what they’d been taught. Their faith wasn’t all about the rules, but the freedom that could be found in them. The law was not given to stifle humanity, but to benefit them. And Jesus, in fulfilling the law, came to do the same.

It is in Jesus’ name that our greatest hope is found. It is in his name that demons must flee and sickness must vanish. It is in his name that we are set free and in his name that we find life everlasting.

Where there is no hope, there is Jesus. Where hope has faded, he brings a new hope.

God wants you!

Read: Genesis 27-28, Matthew 9: 18-38

All over Israel, Jesus went with his disciples. He taught and he healed. There are no accounts of Jesus refusing healing to anyone who asked. Everywhere he went, crowds followed and Jesus had compassion on them. So he told his disciples to do something. Pray. Pray for workers because the harvest is plenty.

Matthew 9:38

We can assume that they prayed.

How often have you prayed this prayer? How often has your pastor asked you to pray this prayer? We all know that there is a great harvest of souls out there in the world and the only way that they can be brought into the body of Christ is if people go out and get them. So we pray. And we pray. And we pray.

But take a look at the next verse:

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Who did Jesus ask to pray for workers? His disciples. Who did Jesus send out as workers? His disciples.

When he told his disciples to pray for workers, he wasn’t asking them to pray for a group of complete strangers. They were praying for each other. They were praying for themselves.

Chances are that, if you feel a burden to pray for workers to reap the harvest (and even if you feel no burden whatsoever), you are the worker God wants in the field.

Anything

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, Ask anything in my name, and I will do it!

John 14:13-14 (NLT)

This verse almost sounds like Jesus is giving his disciples carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. Many people today look at this verse that way and then end up bitter and disappointed when Jesus didn’t give them the boat they’d been lusting after for months.

While Jesus didn’t place stipulations on what anything means, the next few verses offer a little more clarity.

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth.

John 14:15-17a (NLT)

The anything Jesus talks about in verses 13 and 14 is part of the truth that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t a genie in a bottle waiting for us to rub the lamp and invite him to perform a few magic tricks. He’s telling his disciples that, as Jesus has been speaking the words of the Father, so we—with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit—will also be able to speak the words of the Father.

The Spirit leads us in all truth. Jesus is the Truth and the Truth is the way to the Father. We are able to do the greater things Jesus spoke of in verse 12 because we have the full power of the Truth living inside of us. Greater things come when we align ourselves with the Truth. When we are one with the Truth, we can ask anything in Jesus name and he will do it because the words we speak are not our own. They are His.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14 

Love each other

What does it mean to love each other? Is it warm, fuzzy feelings? Is it passion? A mutual respect? When we think about Jesus’ command for us to love each other, what is the context we put it in?

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 (NLT)

Yesterday, we looked at how Jesus switched positions with his disciples. He intentionally placed himself in the position of a lowly servant rather than Lord and Master. He washed the feet of those who had faithfully followed him. He served them.

Then he told them to love each other as he loved them.

How willing are you to wash the feet of the person who sits next to you in church? I have smelled the feet of some who sit beside me in church. I’m not sure I’d want to go so far as to wash them.

I don’t expect the church to suddenly install a foot-washing station for those who want to take these words literally. But I do expect us to think a little more about how we serve each other. Jesus said that our love for one another, how we serve each other as he served his followers, will prove to the world that we are his disciples. For the most part, I only see church people at church on Sunday. I don’t know much about what goes on in their daily lives or if they’d need help doing it.

However, I do think that we should know more about what goes on in the daily lives of the people we attend church with. We should know how they can be served and then we should strive to serve each other with the same love that Jesus displayed.

Sometimes a little dirty work can go a long way—it can go far enough to prove to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12, John 13:18-38

Servant

Last weekend, we had a work day at the church. The men were lured in under the guise of a breakfast meeting and, after pancakes and sausage, were immediately put to work doing an assortment of tasks around the building. Most of these men are leaders in the church. Our head usher spent much of the morning hauling branches and trees into the back of a truck to be taken to the dump. Our sound man/bass player/greeter was put to work building lockers in the basement. A board member mowed and trimmed the lawn. And our pastor was armed with a chainsaw cutting down the last of the trees damaged in a winter ice storm.

For our church, this is normal. When there’s work to be done, the leadership team is first to arrive—no matter what that work is.

At the end of the day, when everyone was tired, sweating, and hungry again, I was set to leave and someone pointed out that one of my tires was rather low. The pastor was cleaning off his tools with an air compressor. I thought I’d see if he had the right piece so I could put air in my tire. Rather than hand me the piece so I could do it myself (which I was completely prepared to do), he got down on his artificial knees and did it himself.

For me, having my pastor do that extra small task of putting air in my dirty tire, was akin to Jesus getting down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples.

We often look at the story in John 13 as Jesus humbling himself to bless his followers. He did do that, but that wasn’t all he did. The moment Jesus got down on his knees, he not only blessed, but he empowered his disciples.

In Jesus’ day, the caste system was alive and well. Servants served and lords lorded. Lines were defined and no one dared to cross them. But in order for God’s plan to work, Jesus had to put himself in the lowest position possible. The job of washing the feet of guests went to the lowliest servant in the house.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

John 13:13-17 (NLT)

By taking the position of the lowest servant in the house, Jesus not only showed great humility, but he put his disciples in a position greater than his own. Had Jesus remained sitting and allowed someone else to wash his feet, his followers would have always seen him as Lord and Teacher and never servant. But because they saw him as a servant, they could suddenly see themselves as master. Jesus was preparing them to hear his next words.

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

John 14:12 (NLT)

A servant could never do greater things than the master. In order for the disciples to do greater things than Jesus, Jesus had to become the servant, and they the master. Jesus not only humbled himself, but he empowered his followers.

When my pastor got down on his knees to put air in my tire, he was following the example Jesus put forth. What would seem to be a menial task that someone of a lower position should be doing showed me that my pastor—a man deserving of great honour and respect—is willing to humble himself and put those who serve under him in a greater position. By emulating Jesus’ humility, he empowers his volunteers to do greater things.

It is great to be a master. But it is better to be a servant.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Be strong

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.”

1 Chronicles 28:20 (NLT)

We, the Church, have the great task of building the Kingdom of God. We are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. That is a sizeable task. It can be daunting if we take the entire work upon ourselves as individuals or even individual churches.

But it is not our responsibility alone. While we should feel a great sense of responsibility to carry out the Great Commission, the pressure to complete it does not rest on any one individual, but the Church as a whole.

Jesus said that he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If he promised it, he will perform it.

Like David instructing Solomon on building the Temple, Jesus instructed us on building the Church. David’s words to his son are as applicable to us in our endeavour to build the Kingdom of God as they were to Solomon in his to build the Temple.

We must be strong and courageous, and do the work. God is with us. He won’t fail us. He won’t forsake us. He has called us to work with Him and will equip us with all we need to complete the task as we need it.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 11:47-57