“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.” —Anonymous
Popular culture makes a big deal out of what it considers physical beauty. Every day we are bombarded with messages that we are not thin enough, or too thin. Our skin is too dark or too light. Our hair is too curly, or too straight. Our eyes are the wrong color. We are flooded with advertising for products guaranteed to “correct our flaws” and make us “beautiful.” And those of us who do not measure up are bullied, shamed, and sometimes even physically attacked. This is especially heartbreaking when it happens to children.
But I have news for you. True beauty comes from within. No one is ever more beautiful than when the light of God shines through them.
On this New Years Day let’s take a break from thinking about resolutions and how we want to change ourselves. Let’s start 2020 thinking about true beauty.
Every year on New Years Eve I invite you join me in praying for world peace.
We pray to change ourselves so that we may become instruments for peace.
We visualize a peaceful world which works for all.
We see peace.
We become peace and the world is changed.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” — Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16 NIV Accessed from Bible Gateway
Jesus said “you are the light of the world.” Yes, the light of God shines through you. For too long we have focused on the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus and ignored the life in between. By doing so we have missed the lessons Jesus came to teach us about how to live on this earth. Don’t hide your light. Let it shine!
I would like to wrap up our study of the life and teachings of Jesus with a final thought.
Christmas has come and gone. But this year don’t take the baby out of the manger and put him away till next year. Celebrate Christmas every minute of every day. Welcome the Christ presence into the world by living in conscious awareness of the presence of God within us all and following Jesus our great example by living his way of life and teachings.
Dig a Little Deeper: How do you shine your light into the world?
“Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. Its that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it..” — Scot McKnight
For more information on Scot McKnight see: https://www.theopedia.com/scot-mcknight
Dig a Little Deeper: How do you take up the dream of Jesus and work for it?
“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” — Matthew 8: 23-27 23 The Bible, NIV, Accessed through Bible Gateway.com
In this story we see those four little words Jesus said often during his time on Earth. “You of little faith.” I can hear the exasperation in his voice as I read them.
I learned a lesson about trusting God in the middle of a storm in August when a major storm hit our community. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of trees falling all around me and headed toward Bob’s study where he was working. When I got to the living room the lights went out and I could hear the ominous low growl of thunder and see the flashes of lightning. I could also tell the wind was blowing very hard still hearing trees crashing down.
It was at that point that I had my 30 second panic, screaming and crying, sure it was tornado and that we would die. Bob finally made his way to where I was in the dark and guided me to the couch where we sat with our arms around each other and the cat on our laps riding out the storm. As a sense of calm came over me I started singing, “blessed quietness, holy quietness…” I remember how Jesus had rebuked the storm and told our storm to “cut it out.” It finally ended and we learned it was likely not a tornado but straight line winds of 120 mph. Although the area around us looked like a war zone we had no real damage.
If we trust in God storms will be calmed. So when those physical storms rage around us or internal storms rage within us let us take a few deep breaths and remember the words of Jesus to his disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Dig a Little Deeper: How have you experienced calm in the storm?
Today we are looking at the story of Jesus and “the rich young ruler” from the Gospel according to Matthew.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. —Matthew 19:16-30 NIV accessed from BibleGateway.com
This is another one of those teachings of Jesus no one wants to hear. After all we all want to be materially rich, don’t we? Some churches even teach that God wants you to be rich. Not achieving material wealth may even be seen as a sign of spiritual “failure.”
But what did Jesus have to say about material riches? He said that it is very difficult to follow him and to enter the Kingdom of God because you have to give up everything. Not only material wealth and possessions but also earthly relationships and responsibilities. Why? Because these things not only distract us from our relationship and dependence on God, they may even replace it. When this happens all those other things become our god to be not only sought after but worshiped.
Verse 30 is the clincher in this whole teaching. “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Those who work to claw their way to the top may find that in the end they have nothing spiritually. Likewise those who are poor in the eyes of the world may have amassed great spiritual riches.
This is an area where I believe many churches have been led astray and have led their followers astray. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus’ disdain of the rich. Jesus did not teach the “gospel of wealth.”
Dig a Little Deeper: Following Jesus is costly. It may require you to give up your money, your possessions, your job, even relationships. Are you ready to do this?
“14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Many times we get so caught up in the divinity of Jesus that we forget that he was human in every way as well. I can relate to the humanity of Jesus, especially when he gets really ticked off. It is a great comfort to me that Jesus also experienced frustration with the world. In addition to the “how long shall I put up with you?” I hear something like this. I try to teach these people, but they don’t listen. I try to show them how to live, but they don’t believe they can do it. They could be healing people like they see me do, but they can’t because they don’t believe. How long O Lord, am I going to have to put up with these people???
The way of life exemplified by Jesus is meant for all. The teachings, the lifestyle, the faith, love and peace, the healings — all of it. So why aren’t we doing it? Jesus said it over and over during his ministry. You do not believe. You do not have the amount of faith of even a tiny mustard seed.
Somewhere along the way we lost sight of Jesus as teacher and way-shower. Jesus became a god to be worshiped and following his way became seen as impossible.
When Jesus healed what did he say? “Your faith has made you whole.” We have faith in education and teachers, medicine and doctors, money and those who control it. So why can’t we have faith that the power of God can flow in and through us to bless, heal and live the way we were meant to?
The cultural indoctrination we go through that teaches us that we are powerless, limited, weak and sinful and can be very hard to overcome. I struggle with it daily. It is important for us to remember we are God’s children, created in the image and likeness of the creator of the Universe. We believe that we were stripped of our power and position in the family of God with the fall in the Garden of Eden. But Jesus came to remind us that there is still a better way and we can follow it if we only will.
Dig a Little Deeper: What keeps you from being able to follow the life of Jesus? What limits your faith?
The disciples were always jockeying for position. They all wanted to be the first, the best, the closest to Jesus with a high position in the Kingdom. So we can imagine their surprise at the answer Jesus gave to the question in Matthew 18:1, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Jesus, Matthew 18:1-7, New International Version, accessed from BibleGateway.com
Children are a blessing from God and parenting is a sacred trust and a great responsibility. Jesus welcomed children.
We have seen throughout our study of the life and teachings of Jesus so far that it is not the rich and powerful who will be first in the Kingdom of God. It will be the meek, lowly, humble, peace-loving and childlike who have overcome the temptations of this world to become hardened, angry, greedy and violent who will lead the way into the kingdom of God.
Dig a Little Deeper:
What have you learned about the Kingdom from watching children”