God’s Path To Greatness

God’s Path To Greatness

God’s path to greatness is described by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And he uses children as an example.

Of course, modern society has its ideas about greatness too and assigns it a special acronym: G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all time)

It means ranking the highest score. Attaining the pinnacle of pursuit. Excelling above everyone else. But Jesus turned the idea upside down and compared it to children. Here are three things I think he means about God’s path to greatness.

God’s path to greatness is unassuming and unpretentious

Jesus overheard his disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And their conversation was similar to modern ideas about greatness. Those at the top of the spiritual ladder. Who will be In charge in heaven. The best of the best. In a religious sense, that is.

But what drives this? Well, it probably starts as teenagers when we begin to wrestle with with self-image and comparison. How do I look? Do people like me? Am I popular? And this impacts our behavior and how much of our true selves we reveal.

Children, however, are unassuming and unpretentious. They accept what you tell them on face value and don’t hide behind superficial masks or seek recognition. What you see is what you get because they are unassuming and unpretentious. It’s a good example for all of us to follow.

Jesus is not saying to be foolishly naive. But to be honest and straightforward in all our relationships. To avoid comparing and competing and strive for authenticity.

God’s path to greatness gives others the benefit of the doubt

Children speak their minds without filters and express their thoughts and emotions openly. And since they speak honestly, they assume you do too and believe what you tell them. They also assume people have good intentions and look for the best in others.

Looking for the best in others is a trait you also see in Jesus. He regularly confronted people in their worst moments and yet he healed them, encouraged them with hope, and challenged them to behave better.

Jesus, like children, always gave people the benefit of the doubt. He saw their sin, but didn’t let it affect how he related to them. He saw clearly into their hearts, but chose to act towards them rather than react to them.

It is this aspiration that should drive those seeking greatness in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus taught that greatness means serving others

It was during his Last Supper with the disciples that Jesus presented one of the most counterintuitive teachings in scripture. It’s not natural even for children.

Why? Because despite all their innocence, they enter this world with a sin nature. Just like the rest of us. And one of the first words children learn when playing with other children is “mine.”

But Jesus clearly taught its importance for those who seek greatness according to God’s standard. It is putting the needs of others first and serving them. It is hard to do because it goes against our sinful, selfish nature. And often requires the very presence and power of God in our lives.

And still, we will regularly fail. But in Jesus’ willing, sacrificial death for our salvation, we have a perfect example to follow.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

Jesus Casts Out Mental Demons

Jesus Casts Out Mental Demons

Jesus casts out mental demons. We see an example of it in Mark 5:1-21 as Jesus restores the mind of a mentally deranged man. Of course, mental illness is not new. In fact, this story from 2,000 years ago has an eerily, familiar feel for today. Except, Jesus confronted it with the transforming, redeeming power of God.

Jesus casts out mental demons when you submit yourself to him

V.6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him…

The main character is a man tormented by demons in his mind. He is both mentally deranged and incredibly strong. A danger to others who inflicted harm on himself. He was too strong for anyone to restrain so he was ostracized by society and left to fend for himself. And his hangout of choice was the one place no one else wanted to go…the local cemetery.

But when Jesus arrives he has a moment of mental clarity driven by hope. He rushes to Jesus and falls at his feet in an act of submission. It is this mindset, this attitude of total surrender on God’s mercy that moves His compassion. When you’ve hit rock bottom, know you’re out of options and throw yourself completely in His hands. This is when God picks you up and covers you with grace.

Jesus frees you when you recognize his authority and power

V. What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

Demons are real spiritual beings and the direct cause of the man’s mental torment. And the demons immediately recognize Jesus for who he is, along with his authority and power. They must leave on his command. The only question is whether or not they could create any other havoc along the way.

I’m not suggesting that the mental illness we know today is all caused by demons. Or reject modern treatment methods that may call for medication and counseling.

But I am saying that the authority and power of God reigns supreme. And He is the absolute source of physical, mental, and spiritual wholeness.

The restoring presence of God’s Spirit and the renewing capacity of His word are powerful remedies as relevant today as the time of Jesus. To learn more about this from a clinical, Christian perspective, I recommend checking out books by Dr. Caroline Leaf.

Jesus casts out mental demons when you follow him

V.19 The man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him…

Jesus heals the man by commanding the demons to leave and letting them inhabit a herd of pigs that run down a hill and drown in the sea. Leaving the man now in his right mind. He begs Jesus for permission to follow him as a disciple but Jesus charges him to be an evangelist instead.

Although his desire to follow Jesus underscores the importance of discipleship for maintaining mental and spiritual wellness. Because sin surrounds us with an overwhelming oppression. To trip us. Ensnare us. And lose our way in the darkness. But when you follow Jesus he leads you towards the light. Which is the presence of God’s eternal glory.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

How Jesus Describes Righteous And Unrighteous People

How Jesus Describes Righteous And Unrighteous People

How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people is found in a parable in Luke 18:9-14. The story involves a Pharisee and tax collector who pray next to one another in the temple. Here are three differences between them that Jesus points out in the story.

But first, what does the Bible means by righteousness? And here is what it is NOT: A person who is morally superior to other people.

However, scripture does consistently describes righteous people as those who strive to follow God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus. In other words, they try to do the right thing according to scripture. But while righteous people strive to keep God’s law, they regularly fail. They know it, confess it, and then move forward to pursue it again.

How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people. A self-righteous person measures against other people. A righteous person measures against God’s standard

V.11 God I thank you that I am not like other men…

V.13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven

The Pharisee in the parable already considers himself righteous. And why does he qualify? Because he compares himself to other people he considers morally inferior to him. And let’s give him some credit. On the outside, his religious life was probably exemplary. He did all the right religious things and avoided the moral misdeeds of those sinful people he compared himself to.

But he neglected an important aspect of sin. It goes beyond our physical actions and is often committed in our minds and heart. And when God measures our righteousness, he looks at the heart.

The tax collector understood that his real level of accountability was to God’s standard. He was so shamefully below that standard he couldn’t even look towards heaven. But he knew something else too. And that’s what drove his prayer.

A self-righteous person celebrates their virtue. A righteous person confesses their sin and celebrates God’s grace

V.12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get…

V.13 God be merciful to me, a sinner.

The Pharisee lists all his virtues and they actually are pretty impressive. Some of the things you and I do are pretty impressive too. And when we compile a list and compare it to the horrific deeds of bad people, we may look morally superior.

But here’s the problem. God doesn’t grade on a curve. His standard is absolute perfection. And absolutely no one–except for Jesus Christ–meets that standard.

That’s what Paul means in Romans 6:23 when he says the wages of sin is death. If you are counting on your good works to earn your way to heaven, you aren’t going to make it.

The tax collector knew this and he cried out to God for mercy. And we can too. Because the good news of the gospel is that we are not saved by our good works, but by the grace of God.

How Jesus describes righteous and unrighteous people. A self-righteous person demonstrates pride. A righteous person demonstrates humility

V.14 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Nothing blinds us like pride. The Pharisee was oblivious to it. And as he itemized the good deeds that qualified him as righteous, he completely missed his sin. Or conveniently ignored it.

Sin is the white elephant in the room. We all recognize it. Acknowledge its often devasting consequences. But avoid even using the term. And instead we say things like, “nobody’s perfect” and “everybody makes mistakes.” But admit we often intentionally do things we know are wrong, and that deep in our hearts and minds are some pretty horrible thoughts? Well, we don’t want to go there.

But to be truly righteous, we have to. With honesty…vulnerability…and humility. Because God is not impressed with our virtuous actions, religious pedigrees or spiritual presentations. He’s looking directly into and surveying the condition of our hearts.

And when you willingly face your depravity and call on God’s mercy, He raises you up. It’s what he does in the story with the tax collector. And with you and me. So be real. Be broken. And healed by God’s grace.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?

What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?

What does it mean to be born again? When Jimmy Carter ran for president in 1976 he called himself a “Born Again” Christian. But Jesus first used the term in his conversation with Nicodemus recorded in John 3:1-21. Here are some thoughts on what it means for us today.

What does it mean to be born again? It means you recognize there’s an entrance requirement to heaven a lot of people are missing

V. 3 …unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

The term “born again” was a new idea when Jimmy Carter used it and it was new for Nicodemus too. His confused reaction proves it. Probably because he assumed he already met those qualifications. After all, he was a faithful Jew. Even better, a faithful Pharisee. But Jesus throws him a curve ball by saying that something else is involved.

The whole “born again” idea confuses people today as well. They assume if you believe in God and Jesus, maybe attend church and do good things it makes you a Christian. But here, Jesus says that is not enough. It actually involves a second birth.

What does it mean to be born again? It means you understand there are two different kinds of birth

V. 5 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

Jesus presents a spiritual idea that Nicodemus doesn’t even recognize as a spiritual idea. A bit ironic don’t you think? Here he is, an expert teacher in the Jewish religion, completely baffled by what Jesus says. He asks Jesus if he is talking about a physical birth.

He had to know that was not what Jesus meant. But Nicodemus was so blind to his own spiritual need, and so unaware of that blindness, he could not even consider the possibility that his spiritual life was missing something. What was Jesus talking about?

Jesus clarifies it in John 3:6-8 by talking about two births: a physical one and a spiritual one. And what Nicodemus lacks is spiritual.

There’s a similar spiritual blindness affecting people today. Rather than concede their good and virtuous acts are not what Jesus is looking for, they simply ignore this passage.

Jesus must be talking about the jerk who lives down the road. But look closer. He’s talking about all of us.

It means you believe in and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord

V. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Jesus chastises Nicodemus as a teacher for his lack of understanding, but then patiently reminds him that he came to sacrifice himself on a cross. And it makes you wonder. Why did Nicodemus not know this? Because Isaiah prophesized extensively about what the Messiah would suffer.

And the answer for Nicodemus is probably similar to many people today. It’s because we form our religious beliefs around our own opinions and lifestyles rather than the truth of scripture. The Bible consistently teaches about the existence of sin. And the result of sin is spiritual death. And that is an unpleasant thought we’d rather not face.

But Jesus suddenly switches to the positive. And rather talk about death he promises life with probably the best known and quoted scripture in the entire Bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

And that is what it means to be BORN AGAIN.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times

How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times

How God’s people navigate troubled times is demonstrated in the book of Ruth. How to remain faithful to God during a time of civil and moral uncertainty.

The story revolves around the Old Testament Jewish law of redemption.

According to the law, the nearest male relative was responsible for preserving the family name and property when there was death in a family. It included buying back property (Lev. 25:25) and marrying a childless, young widow to preserve the family name (Duet. 25-5-10).

How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They fully commit to following the one true God

The book of Ruth occurs during the period of the Judges. It was a time marked by a lack of civil authority and moral disorder (Judges 21:25).

The story begins with an Israelite man named Elimelech who moves with his wife Naomi and two sons to the foreign land of Moab. Then Elimelech dies, the two sons marry Moabite women, and ten years later, they die too.

Elimelech’s widow, Naomi, decides to return home to live near her family and she encourages her two daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their families in Moab. Orpah reluctantly agrees, but Ruth is determined to stay with Naomi.

She explains why with these words: “Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” (ESV Ruth 1:16)

Ruth’s family in Moab worshipped idols. But Ruth had committed her life to following the one true God that Naomi worshipped. She exchanged living among family and friends for living among strangers. Protection for danger. Comfort for hardship.

But that is what God’s people do. Because there is no true satisfaction apart from the one true God. And ultimately, no safer place than covered in the shadow of his hand.

How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They pursue righteousness despite an immoral environment

It was a struggle of survival for Naomi and Ruth. Two widows with no means of support. But Ruth remained faithful to her God despite the immoral environment around her. She demonstrated a godly character and walked a path of righteousness.

It was legal for the poor to glean wheat in the fields that was missed by the reapers. And Ruth worked in the fields of a Jewish man named Boaz. Although she did not call attention to herself, her diligent work ethic and reputable character caught Boaz’s attention.

And he invited her to stay in his fields where he protected her from harm. Of course, we acknowledge in today’s environment, there is no complete assurance of God’s protection in this life. And we grieve the injustice when evildoers harm the innocent.

Still, God calls us to pursue Biblical righteousness rather than cultural correctness. To seek His truth rather than social acceptance. And to please God over people.

How God’s People Navigate Troubled Times. They call on their redeemer for salvation

It turns out that Boaz was a distant relative to Naomi, and a potential kinsman redeemer by Jewish law. Ruth 2:1 calls him a “worthy” man. In other words, the kind of man that makes a good husband. And in Ruth 3:11, Ruth is called a “worthy” woman. It’s clear the two are meant for each other. And Naomi advises Ruth on how to move the relationship forward.

When Boaz goes to sleep at night on the threshing floor, Ruth sleeps at his feet as a signal to him she would like to be redeemed. So he takes the necessary steps and marries her.

The story not only shows God’s people how to navigate trouble times, but also weaves a beautiful love story. Because it symbolizes the love of God who sacrificed his son to redeem us from sin.

But there’s a final twist.

Because Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who was the father of Jesse, the father of David. In whose line was born Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A savior and redeemer. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (ESV Romans 10:13)

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

When Civil And Moral Order Disintegrate

When Civil And Moral Order Disintegrate

When civil and moral order disintegrate, chaos ensues. We see this happening today, but it’s not new. It shows up in an Old Testament story presented in Judges 19-21. Here are some thoughts for us to consider.

There are two key statements that drive the story.

  • In those days when there was no king in Israel
  • Everyone did what was right in his own eyes

They are like bookends. The first appears as the first verse in chapter 19 and the second as the last verse in chapter 21.

And the unfolding story between them reveals the most horrible acts that humans can inflict on one another. It demonstrates the moral degradation and evil capacity of a sinful heart with no civil or moral restraint.

When civil and moral order disintegrate and no one is in charge

During the period of the Judges, the 12 tribes of Israel were essentially 12 independent clans surrounded by enemies who raided and oppressed them. The Judges were military leaders that God raised up to unite the tribes during this time to fight these enemies. Essentially, the Judges kept the nation together enough so it wasn’t wiped out by its enemies.

But there was no civil law or governing authority except within each tribe. Or a consistent, moral standard guided by the Jewish religion.

Within this context is the story of a Levite man who takes a woman as a concubine. But when she leaves him and returns to live with her father, he follows to win her back. And during the return trip home, they stop for the night in the town of Gibeah in the region inhabited by the tribe of Benjamin.

When civil and moral order disintegrate and there’s no moral conscience

There weren’t many accommodations for travelers during this time. So the Jewish people had a hospitality custom. When you were in Jewish town, you waited in the town square and it was custom for a town resident to take you in for the night. So the Levite and his concubine waited in the square and finally, a man returning from working in the field offered to put them up for the night.

But worthless men of the city surrounded the house with evil intent for the Levite. Hospitality rules made the resident personally responsible for his guest’s welfare. So he pleaded with the evil men to stop, but they refused. And there was no one to call for help.

From here, the story recounts a list of moral atrocities.

  • Evil men from Gibeah ignored a time honored, moral custom
  • The sexual abuse and murder of the Levite’s concubine
  • Dismemberment of a dead body
  • The tribe of Benjamin refused to hand the perpetrators over to Israel for justice
  • A war is fought between Israel and tribe of Benjamin that cost thousands of lives on both sides
  • After the war, Israel had to make an unethical provision to keep the tribe of Benjamin from extinction

When civil and moral order disintegrate you are primed for destruction

Throughout the Old Testament Israel had a hot and cold relationship with God. When they morally disobeyed, God let enemies conquer and place them under subjection. But when Israel turned back to God, he delivered them.

Rome is another example of how immoral behavior weakens a culture. And many historians cite the increase of immorality in Roman society as contributing factor in its fall. Certainly, the growing level of unrestrained moral and criminal behavior in our nation makes us weaker and more vulnerable to our enemies.

Wonder why God left such a gruesome story in the Bible? Maybe so we can see where our current course is headed.

The Gospel writes a new story

The story in Judges 19-21 is tragic. But it’s not the end. Because a thousand years later, the gospel story brought hope. It’s the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who sacrificed himself for our sin. He redeems us, spiritually transforms us, and empowers us to walk in righteousness. The gospel writes a new story for every person who chooses to follow Jesus.

And as people change from the inside out, heart by heart, society changes for the better. And for a much happier ending.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.