Monday, April 12, 2021

In a Desperate Search for Some Round TUITs

Do you or someone you know have a problem with putting off unpleasant or difficult tasks? I’ve been thinking of addressing this plague of procrastination for a while, but I’m just getting around to it. As someone has said, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” Mark Twain extended that thought: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”


I suspect that each of us has ventured into the realm of “procrastinator-ism” from time to time. Maybe you’re even reading this to put off doing something else, such as doing your taxes. (April 15 is right around the corner, in case you’ve conveniently forgotten.) Paying bills can be another of those undesirable, procrastinate-able duties, as are washing windows, cleaning the garage or attic, or other forms of spring cleaning.


If someone were to judge from our planning and subsequent execution of those plans, one might conclude there actually are eight days in every week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and…Someday.


Being a writer, procrastination has often become a close companion. The act of writing, especially because it’s a complex commitment of time and energy, can be daunting. I can relate to the wisdom of Bill Watterson, author of the “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon strip: “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.”

Years ago, I was telling an elder gentleman about a project I had been meaning to get to, but was finding trouble getting around to it. With a twinkle in his eye, he reached into his pocket and pulled out what seemed like a large wooden coin. He handed the round object to me and on it was etched the word, “TUIT.” He had given me the solution to procrastinating – a round TUIT.


What a handy, tangible reminder for getting on with something that you’ve been keeping in neutral. The best of intentions might be better than the worst of intentions, but ultimately, they’re intentions just the same until we take steps to move them into action. In his book, David Copperfield, Charles Dickens wrote, “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”


Perhaps this is why the Bible has much to say about this problem. Proverbs 10:4-5 says it plainly: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” And Proverbs 14:23 offers a slightly different slant: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Procrastination can have financial consequences.


Daydreaming is a favored pastime for procrastinators, conjuring up visions of what could happen if they actually did what they were thinking about – without actually doing it. “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (Proverbs 12:11). 


I have one writing project I’ve been talking about, thinking about and dreaming about for too long. As I write this, I’m preaching to an audience of one – ME. As soon as I’m done with this, I’m determined to shift to that. As St. Augustine of Hippo said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”


Ecclesiastes 9:10 exhorts us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might….” So if there’s something you’ve been putting off, put off the procrastination. Do it with all your might. Do it now. And when you do, reward yourself with a round TUIT! 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

‘Yeah, But What Have You Done for Us Lately?’

There’s a trait common to most humans, and that is forgetfulness. I’m not talking about Alzheimer’s or dementia, or the phenomenon of walking into a room and then trying to remember why you went there. No, I’m referring to the “what have you done for me lately?” type of forgetfulness.

We see this in every realm of life. In the work world, an employee is sometimes regarded only as good as his or her latest day of productivity. It doesn’t matter whether the work they’ve done in the past was exemplary – if they have a day or week of poor performance, their status might suddenly move to proverbial thin ice. You’re only as good as your last day’s work.


This can go the other way, too. We receive a raise or bonus, and for a week or two we’re ecstatic. But before long, the euphoria over extra compensation wears off and workaday doldrums resume. We go back to regarding the boss with a sneer, as the mean taskmaster, because after all, “what have you done for me lately?”


We often take that same attitude with our sports teams, civic leaders, name-brand manufacturers, restaurants, even friends and loved ones.


My paternal grandfather passed away when I was about 12 years old, but I still have fond memories of the times I spent with him. Short in stature, outwardly he could come across as a crusty old guy, but inside he possessed a heart of gold. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me – or for anyone else. But I remember a time when I fell into the “what have you done for me lately?” way of thinking.


I was at his home in Pennsylvania and had broken one of my toys. I don’t remember what the toy was, or how I had damaged it, but my grandfather – whose only fault was he failed to pass his handyman skills to me – volunteered to fix it. In my mind’s eye I still see him descending the steps into his basement, where his tools and workbench were located. 


After some minutes Grandpa reemerged from the basement, with the toy. But it wasn’t repaired. He said something about not being able to fix it. Being the spoiled little boy that I was back then, I simply replied, “You can’t fix anything.” Wow! Talk about ingratitude! That’s how we respond when we’re fixated on, “what have you done for me lately?” We don’t stop to think about all the kind and gracious things that have already been done – all we care about is what we want. Now.


My grandfather didn’t say a word in response, but I remember a look of hurt in his eyes. He just turned, again went down the stairs and didn’t come back up until the toy had been restored. Then he said, in his rich Hungarian accent, “So, I can’t fix nothing?” Thankfully, his love for me was much greater than my ingratitude.


This type of attitude is unacceptable, but it’s hardly new. The other day in my Bible reading, I came across a passage that showed the ancient Israelites suffered from the same kind of thinking. God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt; parted the Red Sea to enable them to escape the pursuing Egyptian army; guided them by a cloud during the day and gave them the light of fire at night; and had miraculously provided for their everyday needs in the wilderness, including water, and daily servings of manna and quail. Even their clothing and shoes didn’t wear out. And yet, repeatedly they wondered of the Lord, “what have you done for us lately?”


Speaking about the men of Ephraim, one of the tribes of Israel, Psalm 78:9-20 says, “…they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them…. They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert? When he struck the rock, water gushed out, and steams flowed abundantly. But can he also give us food? Can he supply meat for his people?’”


Sound familiar? Have you ever faced a crisis, something that seems beyond resolution, and thought, “Yes, Lord, you have come through for me in the past. Time after time. But this problem here, how are You going to solve this one?”


But it’s important – even crucial – that we continue to remind ourselves, and each other, of the wonderful things God has done in the past. We dare not forget the many incredible times when He deftly snatched victory out of the jaws of seeming defeat. As we remember those times, we must also realize that if God was faithful and all-sufficient for those times of need, why would He not be able to address our present needs, no matter how pressing.


I like the words of Asaph, concluding another of his psalms: “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise” (Psalm 79:13). I think God delights in doing the impossible, bailing us out sometimes just in the nick of time. Because then we can know that it’s all His doing, nothing we have done. And that will indeed inspire us to praise Him – not only in this life, but forever.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Tweet Unto Others As You Would Have Them Tweet Unto You

Social media. I have a definite love-hate relationship with it. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter have been great for staying connected with people I don’t see on a regular basis, as well as reconnecting with folks I hadn’t seen or talked with for many years. What a way to quickly reach out to old friends! 


But the social media also have their dark side. Behind the safety of their screens and keyboards, some people use these forums to say things they would never think of speaking in public, especially face-to-face with their “targets.” No wonder our society has become increasing negative, even snarky. With the flick of a finger, people can bully or demean without fearing repercussions. And social media definitely  aren’t the place to conduct a civil discussion or debate.

Which leads me to the topic for today: Most of us are familiar with the so-called “golden rule.” And I don’t mean the one that goes, “He who has the gold, rules.” I’m referring to what Jesus taught in His “sermon on the mount,” as well as His response when religious leaders challenged Him, asking Him to specify which commandment in Jewish law He considered to be the greatest, or most important. 


Addressing a large crowd of His disciples, as well as many curious onlookers, Jesus was teaching about relationships, especially with those they would regard as enemies. He taught that instead of responding to their unkind or even evil treatment with the same kind of behavior, instead they should pray for them and, whenever possible, do good to them.


He said, in the King James translation I heard as a young person, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). That’s clear enough, but I like the way a popular paraphrase, The Message, expresses it: “Here is a simple, rule-of thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them” (Matthew 7:12).


Jesus also stated this principle another way. After asserting that the greatest commandment of all is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” He added, “the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).


Imagine for a minute if, before they impulsively texted something hurtful, sent a nasty email, or crafted a nasty response to someone on a social medium like Facebook or Twitter, everyone paused long enough to consider, “Is this the kind of thing I would like others to say to me? Is this the way I’d want other people to treat me?” 


They could also check themselves by self-inquiring, “Is what I’m preparing to post (or text) a reflection of the love I have for myself – and what I’d like others to demonstrate to me?”


As I’ve read through the book of Proverbs, I’ve found many passages that concern how we communicate with one another. For instance: “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” (Proverbs 4:24). And Proverbs 11:12 states, “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” 


Proverbs 12:18 affirms, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” I could cite dozens of other passages, in both the Old and New Testaments, but the one I think sums it up is Ephesians 4:25, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”


Maybe, for communication’s sake, we should rephrase the Golden Rule to, “Tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you.” And if you think I’m preaching, even meddling, please know my No. 1 audience is myself.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The First One to Know Was … a Woman

Over the next several days, we’ll be observing Good Friday and Easter, commemorating the two most pivotal, critical days in Christendom. Without both of these days, we would have no reason for Christmas, or even Lent or Ash Wednesday. Without the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, why would we care to celebrate His birth?


The implications of both Good Friday and Easter are almost limitless. And many pastors and theologians far more qualified than I have spoken and written eloquently about them. But as a firsthand beneficiary of Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection – receiving forgiveness for my sins, an eternal relationship with God, a new life spiritually and the assurance of life after this one – there’s no way I can give these days a simple nod and then move on to some other topic.


However, with countless books, sermons, songs and even poems having been written about these holiest of holy days, with more surely to come, what is there to add to the discussion? Perhaps nothing, but there’s one aspect that’s not so often presented. It’s this: that the first person to know about Jesus’ triumph over death, and sin, was…a woman.


Matthew 28:1-10 tells about Mary Magdalene, a woman out of whom Jesus had cast out many demons, and “the other Mary” going to the tomb, planning to anoint the body with burial spices. Instead, they found the stone in front of the tomb rolled away, with no body inside, and only “an angel of the Lord” to greet them. “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell the disciples….’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples….”

The gospels offer somewhat different eyewitness perspectives of what happened next, but in John 20:10-18 we read about Jesus meeting Mary of Magdala as she wept outside the tomb, still not comprehending what had occurred. Initially mistaking Him for the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you put him, and I will get him.” Then Jesus uttered one word: “‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” She knew indeed, as the angel had declared, “He is risen, just as He said.”


What’s the big deal about that? It’s especially significant for two reasons. First, in those days women in Israel had little value or status in society. We can complain about that all we want, saying how wrong it was to denigrate women, but it’s the historical truth. Yet, God chose to entrust a woman with the most important news in history. Second, and closely related, this quickly debunks the claim by some that in Christianity, women are devalued, treated as second-class citizens.


Jesus had many followers, with 12 disciples accompanying Him almost 24/7. One of them, Judas Iscariot, had hanged himself after betraying Jesus, but 11 of the men remained. Two of them, Peter and John, had run to the tomb to see for themselves that the tomb was empty. Why, in God’s sovereign plan, was a woman the first to not only find the empty tomb in which Jesus’ crucified body had been placed, but also to physically see the resurrected Christ?


I believe this was a purposeful, counter-cultural act designed to clearly demonstrate God’s equal value and love for both men and women. As it says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”


Looking at Jesus’ ministry, we see how women figured prominently in many ways. His earthly mother, Mary, was given the unique role of bringing the Christ Child into the world. Jesus’ first miracle, at the request of His mother, was turning water into wine at a wedding celebration. Sisters Mary and Martha were given special roles of service and given special honor. 


A woman regarded by all as “unclean” because of an “issue of blood” that had plagued her for 12 years, was miraculously healed by Jesus. Then He brought back to life the daughter of a synagogue leader, and later raised a widow’s dead son. When He encountered a Samaritan woman at a well near Sychar, Jesus told her all about her troubled past, and offered her unconditional forgiveness. 


Throughout His time on earth, Jesus gave inordinate attention to women in a society that regarded them as little more than property. His time started with a young woman named Mary, and His resurrection, signaling His atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who would receive Him as Savior and Lord, was first proclaimed by another Mary. In some respects, Jesus can be regarded as the first feminist. So it truly can and should be a happy Easter – for all!

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Truth, the Half Truth, and the Varnished Truth

The other day I was listening to the radio when I heard a song with the recurring refrain, “Truth be told, the truth is rarely told.” For those not familiar with this tune, these words aren’t a musical critique of today’s media. Nor is it a song about politicians, although for some it might ring true for that arena.


Actually, the song by Matthew West is a comment about the Church. Founded by the One who declared Himself to be “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), it should be the one place where truth is paramount, where its members can be honest and feel the freedom to be open and candid with one another. Sadly, in many instances, it’s not.


Somewhere along the line, people have learned that they’re not supposed to tell how things truly are. We emerge from our cars in the church parking lot and spot someone we know who greets us with, “Hi! How are you?” We reply something like “Great!” or, “Couldn’t be better!” When in truth, we’re not be great, and things definitely could be a lot better.

It's because many of us have accepted the myth that if we’re followers of Christ, children of the King, life should be wonderful, problem-free. We dare not let anyone know our struggles, because if we do, what will they think of us? Strangely enough, those folks from whom we’re trying to shield our life’s challenges and hurts are probably trying to do the same with us. In actuality, we’re all a mess, in one way or another. But don’t admit it to anyone, okay?


A friend, Jimmy Lee, years ago wrote a book called Behind Our Sunday Smiles in which he addressed the facades we use to prevent people from peering inside and seeing our pain. His title captured it, because it’s like we hit a switch before entering the sanctuary or the Sunday school room. We’re convinced we need to look good, acting like we’ve got it all together – even if we’ve forgotten where we put it!


I’ve been guilty of this myself, understanding that when people ask, “How are you?”, they don’t always want an honest answer. They’re busy – we’re all busy – distracted, not wanting to get involved in one another’s lives, or just too weighed down with the burdens of everyday living. “Don’t tell me your troubles; I’ve got enough of my own.”


However, if we’re to be obedient to our calling as followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to minister to one another. “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). And James 5:16 admonishes, “Therefore confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” We can’t do this very effectively if we’re not truthful with one another.


Even a casual glance affirms the Bible’s emphasis on truth. Speaking to a crowd eager to hear what He had to say, Jesus declared, “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). And the night He would be betrayed, He prayed to Jesus to His Father, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).


This truth, ultimately, is the Gospel, that He came to become Savior and Lord to those who would receive Him, serving as the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Working this out means we can respond in truth not only to God, but also to one another.


West closes his song with the reminder we can always be honest with God: “There’s no failure, no fall, there’s no sin You don’t already know, so let the truth be told.” We can be honest, totally vulnerable with the Lord because He know all about us. 


And the Church – the body of Christ consisting of His children and followers – should be where He manifests His love, mercy, grace and compassion through each of us. As Ephesians 4:25 instructs, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” The truth be told, the Church should be the one sure place where the truth is really told. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

We Can Hear the Bells – and It’s Not Even Christmas

Christmas is still nine months away. I don’t want to cause you to panic. The Christmas decorations shouldn’t be up until May, April at the earliest. But I heard an account about a famous Christmas carol that can’t wait. It carries a poignant message that fits where we are today.

We all know the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a much-celebrated poet and literary critic. Longfellow’s probably best known for poems such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “Song of Hiawatha,” but his poem-turned-carol resonates with many of us. Considering the story behind this heartwarming holiday favorite, which traces back to the Civil War, makes it even more meaningful. 


In 1861, Longfellow’s wife Fannie died after her dress caught on fire. Henry, awakened from a nap by her screams, had attempted to extinguish the flames, first with a rug and then with his body. However, Fannie already had suffered severe burns and passed away the following morning. Henry’s own burns were so serious he was unable to attend her funeral.


While still mourning his wife’s death, Longfellow experienced more family heartache in March 1863. His 18-year-old son Charles Appleton Wadsworth (known as Charley), the oldest of the six children, left their Cambridge, Mass. home to enlist in the Union army to fight in the Civil War. Charley soon merited a commission as a second lieutenant, but before he could see combat contracted “camp fever,” one of several forms of serious illnesses, and returned home for several months to recover.


The young man overcame the disease and rejoined his unit in August 1863. His father was dining alone in December when he received word that Charley had been severely wounded in the Mine Run campaign in Virginia. Longfellow and another son, Ernest, went to Washington, D.C. to be by Charley’s side when he arrived from the battlefield for treatment. The initial grim diagnosis that “paralysis might ensue” was changed to a more favorable report that Charley would recover, but would be “long in healing.”


Back in Cambridge on Dec. 25, 1863, Longfellow, then a 57-year-old widowed father of six, began to write a poem to capture his depth of feelings, not only for his loss and the pain of seeing his suffering son, but also to capture his despair over the turmoil of a nation divided against itself in a bloody civil war. 


As he was reflecting on all of this, Longfellow heard church bells ringing and the singing of “peace on earth.” Here are the original words from his poem, which was later set to music:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, 
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said; 
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."


Can you visualize this emotionally tortured man, grieving for his wife, shattered by the narrow escape of his oldest son from paralysis or even death, and wounded by his beloved United States of America being torn apart by strife and disunity? But then he heard the ringing of the bells, lifting his spirits and renewing his hope. We need not wait for Christmas. We can all cling to the closing words of Longfellow’s poem, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.” 


In Luke 2:14, we’re told one of the reasons Jesus Christ came was to bring, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Another translation says, “on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” With discord and conflict so pervasive, we could use a huge dose of the peace that can come only a life-changing, transforming relationship with the Lord, the “peace of God that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). 


Jesus assured His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Years ago a popular song told of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Apparently, as Longfellow observed in his now-famous poem, many of us are looking for peace in all the wrong places, too.


By trusting in Christ, even in the most dire, seemingly hopeless moments, there is always eternal hope. As Titus 2:13 expresses it, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Maybe What It Takes to Be Great Isn't What We Think It Is

When you hear the words “great” or “greatness,” what comes to mind? Perhaps an individual comes to mind who deserves that label. In the business world we’ve had many great industrialists, great innovators, and great performers in their areas of specialty. If you’re a sports fan, you might immediately envision an outstanding athlete present or past, or even a team you believe ranks among the all-time greats.

There are great orators, great teachers, great preachers, great surgeons and great statemen/women). Great musicians, artists, singers, dancers, actors and comedians. Of course, greatness – like beauty – is largely in the eyes of the beholder. One person’s “great” is someone else’s so-so.

 What about you – would you like to be considered great? Some of us might aspire to one day become a household name in our favorite area of interest or expertise; others might settle for being a great mom or dad, or a great spouse. I’ve even heard parents say about a child, “she’s a great kid!”


But what is this “great” stuff really all about? Because greatness has its fickle side – someone who’s regarded as great one day and widely praised, can suddenly “fall from grace” and become a disgrace. We’ve all seen examples of that. Could it be that greatness isn’t actually what we typically think it is?


Jesus addressed this in a memorable scene when He was alone with His disciples. At that point, they were still clueless as to who He really was. Some thought Jesus planned to become the king of Israel, usurping the ruling Romans, and they wanted to get in on the action. Specifically, James and John, the sons of Zebedee – whom Jesus had nicknamed the “sons of thunder” – indeed created a great stir when they approached Him with a request.


“Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory,” they asked. Not sure whether Jesus did a double-take, but He responded,“You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:37-38). He was alluding to the mock trial and the crucifixion that He knew awaited Him.


“We can,” the two brothers replied, delusions of grandeur obscuring Jesus’ real meaning. When the other disciples heard about the audacious request, they became indignant. “Why them and not us?” they must have been thinking. So Jesus decided it was time to give them a dose of perspective. After commenting on Gentile leaders who loved to flaunt their positions and authority, He said:

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).


Say what? Be a slave to others? Serve? The disciples weren’t expecting to hear those words. They were expecting social standing, positions of honor. But Jesus wasn’t speaking metaphorically – He was being quite literal.


In fact, in another setting, Jesus did the unthinkable – washing His disciples’ feet, a task reserved for the most lowly of menial servants. Dusty conditions on the roadways and paths made for dirty feet, but to wash one another’s feet was a job beneath them, both literally and figuratively. And yet, there He was, with water, basin and towel, washing and then drying the feet of His followers.


After some discussion, Jesus explained, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:13-17).


What does that have to do with us? We have paved streets and cement sidewalks; we take baths and showers, but don’t need someone else to wash our feet. True, but there are myriad other acts of service we can perform for one another – and for people we don’t even know. These often require selflessness and humility, which was the point Jesus was making. He was indeed calling His followers – those of 2,000 years ago and each of us today – to greatness, but not from the world’s perspective. 


Those disciples served as Jesus’ first missionaries, preaching the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles, both in their homeland and lands they had never seen. But they also experienced persecution, and for most of them, martyrdom. But they never denied their Lord, because they had witnessed His example and were determined to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).


In God’s view, all greatness requires is humility and a willingness to set aside personal desires and ambitions. As Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Now, do you want to be great?