Who is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:1–4 

Life is competitive, isn’t it? Even during the time of Jesus, people strove to be the best. Just look at the disciples’ questions, “Who is the greatest?”

Maybe the disciples were hoping that Jesus would name one of them as the greatest. Then the others would be jealous and jockey for position.

We all want to be great at something. I know I do. Here is how I know that I am competitive: I compare myself to others. 

I know I shouldn’t do it, but I do.

Pastor Paul reminds us in his letter to the church of Galatia not to play the “I am the greatest” game.

Paul writes, “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” Galatians 6:4-5

I shouldn’t be worried if I am the greatest at anything! First, I am not. Second, I am looking at the wrong thing. 

The question I should be asking is this, “Am I better than I used to be?” I need to compare myself with myself. Am I making progress in my faith walk compared to last week, last month or last year?

The disciples were asking the wrong question and Jesus clarifies.

Jesus picks the most unlikely person from the crowd and says, “be like them.”

Like I said, the disciples expected Jesus to point to one of the disciples and say, “He’s the greatest. Yep, its this guy.” Instead, Jesus finds a child and says this, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

That was not the answer they were looking for. They wanted Jesus to pick one of them. The one who asked the question secretly hoped it was him, I bet. 

Instead, Jesus uplifts humility as a core quality of the Kingdom of God. If you haven’t connected the dots, the question itself was prideful. 

In essence, Jesus was telling the disciples not to worry about who is the greatest. God doesn’t care about such things. Rather, to be humble and keep moving forward in life.

Jesus and Saint Paul remind us to worry about ourselves. To use slang, “You do you.” You will never be anyone else so stop comparing your life to someone else’s. Be the best version of yourself and give God the credit.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben

Article: Selfish Ambition

Sometimes I think we are wired to ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” We are motivated by advantage. We might weigh the benefit of doing something selfless before we act. The benefit might boil down to, “Will this act make me look like a good person in the eyes of others?” Not everyone is so calculated but it does happen. I am sure I have been guilty of this at some point in my life as well.

Luckily, Aaron Wylie experienced the kindness and generosity of complete strangers who had nothing to gain from helping him.

Aaron hasn’t seen his parents since Christmas 2019. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Aaron’s parents live in Saint John in New Brunswick. Although the trip is only four hours by car, the pandemic of 2020 kept them separated out of an abundance of caution. 

Recently Aaron found out that his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. All Aaron wanted to do was find a way to see her while there was still time. The pandemic travel restrictions in Canada and mandatory quarantine paired with budget constraints and lack of time off, it looked as if the visit might be pretty much impossible. As you might have guessed, Canada had different health protocols than the United States.

Then he got an idea.

Aaron, who drives a bus for Halifax Transit in Nova Scotia, has a Class-1 license—which allows him to drive a truck. Since truck drivers are classed as essential workers, he thought if he could score a gig delivering a payload to New Brunswick, he might just be able to make the trip happen after all.

Hoping for a miracle, he placed an ad on Canada’s popular classified network site looking for a truck driving job that would take him to Saint John.

He didn’t think he get would many, if any, responses. Boy, was he in for a surprise!

Aaron received over 5,000 responses to his online classified ad.

Although he has not received clearance to travel yet, he has a job lined up to drive a truck to Saint John. 

“It’s been an overwhelming response and an emotional one,” Aaron said in an interview with CBC News. “I was just blown away. These are people I don’t even know.”

Kindness is out there, thank God. 

I am reminded that Saint Paul wrote to the church of Philippi about this very subject. He wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

That is a reminder for all of us. Consider others better than ourselves. When we do that, we are more apt to serve others without asking, “What’s in it for me?”

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Life is Better Together

A woman by the name of Christina Fox visited some of her family in Alaska a while back. Upon arrival, one of her first questions was this, “What about the bears?”

“Attacks usually happen when people go by themselves,” the family member responded. “That’s what happened to a woman last week. She was running alone and got caught between a cub and a momma bear.”

“We don’t need to go hiking while we’re here….” Christina said.

“We are safer if we all go together,” the family member said.

The truth of that statement is profound. We ARE safer if we all go together. The sad reality of this past year and our cultural preference for uplifting “rugged individualism” chips away at a core truth of how God created us. 

Christian author Paul Tripp puts it this way, “Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So, we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within…”

We are safer if we all go together. 

I remember how much I disliked group projects when I was in school. Inevitably someone in the group would drop the ball and the rest of us would need to cover for the “weak link” on the team. 

Much later in life, I came to realize this is the exact reason we were created for community. Sometimes we are the weak link. Life is better and safer together. If you haven’t figured it out, all of life is a group project.

Last weekend, we opened our doors for worship. Vaccinations are responsible for that decision. I give thanks for scientists, researchers and the medical community who got us to this point!

I also give thanks for technology: cameras, video streaming, text messaging and emails!

We are blessed to be connected in so many ways, even if we need to stay at home or live in another part of the country. 

As we live into this new, cautious reality that we are in, let us not be cautious in our relational connections with one another. 

I have been blessed in these past few weeks reconnecting in person with friends since my vaccination. I cherish the time spent with others including worshipping God together.

I hope and pray you are connected to others as strive to find normalcy in 2021.

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: Blessed Be God’s Name

One of my favorite songs (and I have a lot of them) is “Blessed Be Your Name.” No, not your name, God’s Name. Why? I am reminded of Psalm 18:3 as the reason why. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise.

God is the reason for everything, and the gift of Jesus reminds us that we are loved without measure. I truly believe this.

The song itself isn’t from one place in scripture but many. However, the song reflects a way of living that I try to embody at all times: always praise God. 

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Of course, we should always give thanks to God when all is going well in our lives and we are “comfortable.” If we can’t praise God in the good times, when can we?

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

The greater challenge is to praise God when things aren’t so good, not so abundant. Yet, I still try to praise God knowing I am not alone. I trust God’s plan for me even when I can’t see the goodness.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

Every blessing You pour out, I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

I hope to give thanks for all that I have. I want to praise God for every blessing in my life. I am grateful for my wife, my family, our church, my home and the list goes on and on. I don’t want to fool myself into thinking they are of my own doing. God gets the credit.

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

I haven’t felt this sentiment in a while to be honest. I see the pain and brokenness of the world and it weighs on me. However, there are moments in my personal life that I am grateful for what I have and where I am at (with you here in Southern Nevada).  I understand the sentiment of the song: praise God when everything is going right in your life. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17  

When that happens, let us praise God for that.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

When I think about what Jesus went through on Good Friday for us, my troubles are small. God gave everything for us. Even when there is suffering, even when there is pain of any kind, Jesus understands and stands by our side. Especially in the most challenging circumstances of our lives.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

Blessed be the Name of God and praise be to the One who Saved us. 

God bless you,

Pr. Ben

Resurrection Power

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23

Jesus isn’t talking about our eyesight. He is talking about faith. Can you see what God is up to in your life or are you so skeptical that feel all alone?

Read this again from another translation…

Jesus said, “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” Matthew 6:23

Jesus encourages us to not only look… but to also see God’s activity in our lives and in the world. 

Doubt, fear and anger causes our “spiritual eyes” to go bad.

I want to be your spiritual eye doctor so that you may see clearly the most important things. 

Doubt subtly suggests that Jesus really is NOT the Son of God instead a great teacher. Many who have reservations believe Jesus was a great man but that is all.

I don’t know if you know this, but the Old Testament is filled with all sorts of predictions about the Son of God coming to be with us including his death and eventual resurrection!

Jesus fulfilled each of these predictions written hundreds of years before his birth.  It is difficult to be “just a normal guy” and fulfill every prediction written about a Messiah (a savior). 

Seriously, what are the odds of one person fulfilling all the prophecies written about them? 

Well, let me tell you…

Cover the state of Texas, all 268,597 miles of it with silver dollars, three feet high. This is about 7.5 billion cubic feet of silver dollars. 

Now mark one of those silver dollars with an “X” and throw it anywhere into the pile within the state of Texas. 

Now, let’s drop a blindfolded person from an airplane over Texas (with a parachute), and tell them to reach down anywhere, and pick up one silver dollar after he lands. 

The odds of them picking up the silver dollar with the “X” out of all those coins are the same as one person satisfying all of the predictions about the Son of God in the Old Testament. 

And that is exactly what Jesus did (fulfilled the predictions, that is, not the dollar thing)!

That helps clear up some of the darkness in our eyes, doesn’t it?

This past Sunday we celebrated the most important event in human history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Had that not happened, human history would be completely different, and I wouldn’t be writing to you in this moment!

Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? I do.

Do you believe that the same divine power that resurrected Jesus from the dead is available to us today? I believe that too.

That is the difference between belief and faith. Believing is knowing that divine power raised Jesus from the dead almost 2000 years ago. Faith is knowing that resurrection power is available to us as well. 

Belief is the first step… faith is the last step. Belief is good but faith is better. 

It is the resurrection power of Jesus that comforts me when I am sad or scared.

It is resurrection power of Jesus that gives me courage to lead.

It is resurrection power of Jesus that gives me the strength to share my faith and even serve others. 

Never forget: That power is only a prayer away. 

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: God’s Master Plan

Personal reflection is a hallmark of the Lenten season. Jesus spent 40 days reflecting on his mission to save the world. We too have the opportunity to spend 40 days reflecting on what God has done for us and for humanity. 

We often miss the “big picture” of God’s Masterplan. God’s plan took thousands of years to implement and involved many course corrections because of human error. 

Below is an extremely abbreviated guide of “God’s Masterplan” so that we may get a glimpse of what God has done for us… and at what lengths. 

Take some time to reflect on each of these.

  1. God Created – The Universe and Us!

God created everything there is, including us. What motivated God to take on such a big infrastructure project like this? Love. God is love and everything God does is done out of love.

  • Genesis 1:1
  • John 3:16a
  • 1 John 4:8

2. Humanity Rebelled – Against God’s Rule

From the earliest days of recorded history, we recognized our preference to do things our way and not God’s way. We created a rift between God and ourselves. Yet God never gave up on us and decided to repair the relationship we intentionally broke. We walked away. God will never give up on us.  

  • Genesis 3:2-7

3. God Chose – Abraham and Sarah to Build a Nation

In order to fix what we broke, God’s first step was to build a nation in which to share the most important principles of life and God’s will. God chose old, childless Abraham and Sarah. God gets all the credit for building this nation from two retirees. 

  • Genesis 12:1-4

4. God Instructs – The Nation of Israel 

Many years after God chose Abraham and Sarah, the nation of Israel is ready to move towards a clearly defined relationship with God. God not only gives them the 10 Commandments but also many other principles to help us understand how bad sin is and how to receive forgiveness. These laws will one day help the world understand what Jesus Christ did on the cross. 

  • Exodus 20:1-17

5. God Establishes – The Promised Land and a Place of Worship

More years pass and the nation of Israel is more than just a people, it also possesses a homeland! God promised the Israelites a place to call home all the way back when Abraham was alive. More years pass and the first temple to worship God is established in Jerusalem thereby cementing the practice of sacrificial atonement of sins. Once again, this plays a crucial role in understanding what Jesus did for us on the cross.

  • Joshua 1:1-6
  • 2Chronicles 7:11-12

6. God Sends – Jesus to the World

Another 1000 years goes by and it is now the right time for God’s greatest gift to be given (since creation). God sends himself and lives among his people. Jesus teaches, heals and loves all.

  • Galatians 4:4
  • John 1:14
  • Luke 2:10-11

7. God Repairs – The Damage of our Sin and Rebellion

Jesus knew that his mission was to repair the damage done by humanity when we chose to do things our way versus God’s way. Jesus came to repair the rift in our relationship with God caused by sin. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Yet, three days later he rose from the dead and reminds us that love wins in the end.  Because of Jesus, we are forgiven and promised to be reunited with him and other Christians at the end of our lives. 

  • Matthew 17:22
  • John 1:29
  • Mark 15:37-39
  • Mark 16:5-7
  • Revelation 21:1-4

8. God Gives – The Holy Spirit

God accepts us as we are but does not want to leave us in that condition. Jesus wants to transform our lives by giving us the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. It is the Spirit that causes us to grow in our relationship with Jesus and shapes us for service in this hurting world. 

  • John 14:26
  • Acts 1:4-5
  • Acts 2:17-18

God bless,
Pr. Ben