“I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us.” - Revelation 1:9
We like the idea of "partners". Business partners. People who share with us in new endeavors. Its the idea of people we share something significant with. It carries a connotation of shared risk too. We both contribute something and we share the risks and the rewards.
God stirred John to use the word here in much the same way: "partner in suffering" (the risk) and "in God's Kingdom" (the reward). Can we have one without the other? Can reward ever come without someone facing risk? In the same way, you today may be facing some uncertainty - some risk. Things might not go as hoped. The best case may not turn out to be the actual outcome you hoped for. You can pull back and play it safe. Or you can recognize that things might get rough before they get better. However...
That's NOT the nature of this partnership spiritually - its NOT a gamble - the outcome is assured. The only risk is that you very well may have hardship in the short term but you can absolutely count on great reward in the long view. Christ has faced the ultimate suffering - we just share in identifying with him. Maybe standing in your faith today will make someone uncomfortable. In some places around the world today, it may cost someone their life. I think you're going to be okay. ;~) Be John's - and Jesus' - partner today. Don't shrink from the suffering - you are guaranteed part in His Kingdom.
"So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised." - Hebrews 10:35-36
Spark. Use it to light the way in dark places.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” - Ephesians 4:2
The holiday season can be a source of great joy… And frustration. We get together with family and friends we love and hopefully have a great time, but sometimes we get so annoyed. To be in relationship is to be subject to frustration. People can be frustrating sometimes!
As followers of Jesus, take this verse to heart and make allowance for others faults because of your love. Jesus said we would be known by our love. Do it Jesus’s way - love them, and give them grace.
Spark. Small but full of potential for warmth.
“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.” - Ephesians 3:7
Short and sweet today: Did you catch what this verse said?
Nothing else you are going to do today is of more value than listening to and acting on what the Spirit of God is going to be telling you. Serve Him by sharing the Good News today as He directs you. It's a privilege.
Spark. Careful - this one's hot! Spread the flame!
“Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money” - 1 Thessalonians 2:5
I grew up here in the Charlotte area. One of the more vivid memories I have from my teen years was the rise and fall of the tv evangelist who made a fortune manipulating people with twisted scriptures and fake tears. It left a deep impression on me and led me to a lifelong commitment to make sure people know this is about giving Jesus their life, not the preacher their money. People really seemed to up their cynicism after a few weeks of the money-grabbers being all over the airwaves. It made sharing Jesus just that much more of a challenge. Its in the Bible too, this struggle to overcome the cynicism sown by con men. That’s what Paul was addressing to the people of Thessalonica.
So whats this got to do with you? Three things:
Paul had an additional thought on all of this in 1 Corinthians 4:
So if you’re dealing with sourpuss cynics today, relax, take a breath… and get on it. They may have a point or two, sure, but don’t get discouraged along the way. Leave it to Jesus to sort it all out in the end - you just keep being His person right there where you are today!
Spark - flame - maintain.
“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria” - Acts 8:1
God tells us he’s going to do great things through our lives as Jesus’ followers. He may do it l often in ways that we don’t expect. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus told the apostles they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth - here we have that being fulfilled. Did you notice, It sure didn’t come about in a comfortable way? The believers started in Jerusalem, but it was persecution that took them to the places Jesus had promised!
God has things he wants to accomplish for your life, no doubt. The challenge is trusting the unexpected means he uses to get you to that end. I’m sure you probably are aware of the bit in Romans 8 that says God uses all things together for good for those that love him and are called according to his purpose. That would be you. That would be now.
Your challenge today is to see hardship as a means God can use to get you to his best in and through your life.
Spark. Jet fuel. Potential for acceleration if combined.
“So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus — from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.” Acts 1:21-26
Remember how kids will pick teams to play a game? I do. I remember the lineups where two kids get to be the captains and then they take turns going through all the kids until there’s just two left and everybody is cringing for the kid that gets picked last - or in reality, the one who actually didn’t get picked - he’s just the leftover kid. I wonder if Justus felt anything like that?
The disciples are choosing a replacement for Judas. There’s something interesting here - and it’s all just speculation at first so bear with me a moment. Some have pointed out, they spotted Judas’ betrayal in scripture and also with that, Peter notes the phrase “and let another take his place” (that’s Psalm 109:8). So based on their understanding of the Bible, they set out to replace Judas. They prayed (good idea) and then cast lots (an old method, unsure if this is a good idea or not) and Matthias gets the choice. Here’s the speculation part: Was Paul the Lord’s own chosen instead? It’s been suggested. Either way, none of this does anything for poor Justus who gets an honorable mention but gets skipped anyway. And yet…
Here we are nearly 2000 years later discussing this guy. Why? Because his peers thought enough of his character and qualifications to recommend him for consideration into an exceptionally unique group of people. He’s not merely an “honorable mention” or a “runner up”. God saw to it that his name gets recorded as someone that the people Jesus knew best were willing to trust most. That counts. A lot.
So you there - you feel overlooked sometimes? Didn’t get picked first round for kickball today? It’s okay, Justus would nod understandingly. But there’s more to us than position or status, right? Learn from Justus - be the person that your peers can point to and say “Yeah, they’d be a great one to consider - they are made of good stuff!” You, go after the character, the good and lasting stuff that counts. Maybe you don’t get picked today - it’s ok. God’s watching. He’ll take note and keep record. Trust in that.
Spark. There's a flame in there if you work with it...
“Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene...” - Matthew 27:32
Most of my life as a follower of Jesus, I have heard of this guy and heard him portrayed as this compassionate guy who steps in to help Jesus. Well I don't know how I ever got that idea b/c each and every version of this says the same thing:
So let's set aside the romanticized fiction and learn something from the actual facts:
I don't know what's coming your way today - maybe something you'd rather not do at all. But Simon had no choice and sometimes we don't either. What you can choose is your perspective on it. Simon is forever linked with Jesus in the midst of Jesus' great passion and suffering. Simon gets an unmatched part in Jesus saving the world. No - Simon's not saving anybody. But more than anyone in history, he can relate to Jesus and Jesus' Cross in an absolutely unique way.
Find the blessing in unexpected and unwanted burdens today. You might discover some unique perspective on Jesus in the process.
Spark. Mmmm - toasty!
“They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” - Mark 1:32-34
“I DON’T NEED ANYBODY BUT THE LORD!” Wow - how many times have you heard people say something like that? Thing is, Jesus didn’t act like that - so why do we?
“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
It sounds brave and bold - “Look at how tough I am: I don’t need anyone! I can do this, just me and Jesus!” But saying that and believing it means you think you are stronger than Jesus b/c He most certainly did tell the disciples He needed them near when things were really getting intense. “Gethsemane” (the garden where He uttered these words) literally means “The Press” as in the press used to get the oil out of olives. The imagery points to a press where pressure is applied to bring out the goodness. Its the olive oil that was most valuable to them (although we love ‘em on pizzas, but I digress…) Jesus knew the end result of what was coming - salvation for the world. But He also knew what the process would bring before reaching the finish line - pain. Great pain. Suffering beyond any that any has ever experienced - before or since. And in that moment, facing that oncoming storm, Jesus says “Hey guys - I need you with me, ok?”
Learn from Jesus. You need people. Speak up and ask for them to sit with you, to listen, to be with you through this. It’s ok. The Lone Ranger was fiction. Real people need real people… um… really. Follow Jesus.
Spark. Flame. Spread it.
“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. ” - John 17:3
Don’t you just cringe when you get an email with “DISCOVER THE 7 KEYS TO BURN BELLY FAT” or “UNLOCK THE SECRETS TO SUCCESS WITH THE 5 KEYS TO (insert meaningless goal here)”. We are so prone to falling for simple shortcuts and the charlatans that try to sell us the “keys” to getting what we want. Shortcuts are usually dead ends - and yet…
Here’s Jesus cutting to the chase and making a bold clear statement: You want to have eternal life? Then get to know the Father and the Son. Sometimes it IS that simple. We make spiritual life so complex - yet Jesus clarifies it to it’s simplest core: Just watch Him. Learn how He lives. How He responds. What moves Him. What motivates Him. Do what He does. Learn Him. Aim for Him. Follow the Leader. Yep - this is one rare time where you CAN learn “the key” that really does unlock something deeper. Hebrews 12:1-2 (MSG) “…get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it…”
Hey, we can all get discouraged feeling like there’s so much to learn and change and aspire for. Do yourself a favor today. Simplify it all. Eternal life is found in keeping your eyes on Jesus. Aim to know Him more today. Watch Him. Everything else is secondary.