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True Greatness

Living out the gospel day in and day out is what it means to live a life of true greatness.

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In our homeschool this year, my children and I are reading a fiction book that takes place during the time of Jesus called The Bronze Bow. It is about a group of Zealots who longed to fight against Rome and free the Jews from its tyranny. Many of Jesus’ original followers thought he might be their ticket to freedom. They followed him, expecting Him to march right into Jerusalem and take over. Though the book is fiction, it paints a clear picture of what the Jews expected and hoped for at the time of Christ.

The Bible also shows us that many of Jesus’ followers anticipated Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom, including His very own disciples. The mother of the sons of Zebedee certainly thought so and she wanted her boys to be front and center when Jesus came into His Kingdom.

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before Him she asked Him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to Him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20-22)

However, Jesus’ response to James and John’s mother wasn’t what she expected. Jesus said:

“‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'” (Matthew 20:23-28)

In our own day, we also aspire to that place of honor, that place of importance and greatness. Yet rather than military power, in our society, we view true greatness as fame and being known by the masses. Greatness in our society is defined as the number of friends you have, followers, retweets, pins, subscribers, and likes. Whether its having your own reality show, being a much sought after speaker, or having your tweets retweeted over and over, greatness comes through seeking fame.

In the biblical economy however, true greatness means being last. It’s putting others in the limelight and remaining in the shadows. It is working hard and expecting no accolades or reward. It is serving rather than being served. It is loving those who would be overlooked by the world. It is sacrificing for the benefit of another.

Christ paved the way for such greatness, showing us that greatness comes not through defeating people and kingdoms, but by defeating sin itself. He came not as a royal prince, but as a helpless baby, born into poverty and raised by a simple carpenter. He touched the untouchable, dined with sinners, and washed the feet of his disciples. He served his people to the point of death, substituting himself for us and taking the punishment we deserved.

It may be confusing compared to what the world teaches. It may seem upside down, but it’s true. True greatness comes by serving. It comes by being last and least. It comes by taking no light for ourselves but reflecting the light of our Savior to the world.

So when our days not glamorous and we have nothing witty to say in 140 characters or less and no one seems to care anyway, we have no need to despair. Because changing diapers, folding laundry, and wiping away tears is taking that position of greatness in the Kingdom. Working hard, standing for what is true and right, helping the helpless, and living out the gospel day in and day out is what it means to live a life of greatness. Pursuing Christ’s glory rather than our own puts us at the front of the line in God’s sight.

While Jesus’ followers mourned the loss of the great king they thought would conquer Rome, He was conquering sin and death on their behalf. Rising from the dead, He proved his greatness in all things. And as His followers, we too can live lives of greatness. In seeking the last place, we will find ourselves in first. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

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Christina Fox received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master's Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God Ministries and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament (Christian Focus, 2016). You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/ChristinaFoxAuthor.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Musings On Aliens and UFOs

In a culture that’s obsessed with aliens and UFOs, it’s interesting to see what Scripture has to say about being from another world.

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Aliens from outer space. UFOs. Overall people seem to be fascinated with the possibilities.

Drawing from writing by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent movie Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), is often credited as the first science fiction film. Its ground-breaking special effects prepared the way for future science-fiction films with its portrayal of a spacecraft being launched to the moon.

Like many families, ours enjoys heating up the popcorn and viewing an imaginative sci-fi movie together. In fact, one of our favorite fun places to dine is Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sci-fi Diner in Orlando. It offers a 1950’s retro drive-in movie theater atmosphere serving food to parked cars while playing campy science fiction movies, capturing the time period’s fascination with the topic.

Major interest in aliens from outer space exploded in the 1950’s, a decade sometimes described as the “classic” era of science fiction theater with it’s surge of producing low-budget, comic-book style films targeted at teenage audiences. Alien threats to humanity, UFO invasions, and abductions are common themes as seen in War of the World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and It Came From Outer Space.

Aliens in Our Midst

Currently, networks offer programs dedicated to exploring possible alien and UFO sightings with shows like Ancient Aliens, UFOs: Untold Stories, Nasa’s Unexplained Files, and more. One recent episode of one of these shows presented a segment discussing “what if humans are the aliens on earth?”

This hypothesis coincides with a religion birthed by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard and his writings, The Church of Scientology. Its doctrine states a human is an immortal, spiritual being (thetan) resident in a physical body. Or, stated in easier-to-understand terms, an alien life form that inhabits human beings.

Turns out biblical references address society’s curiosity on this theory.

Genesis 2:7 describes how humans came to live on earth, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” As described in scripture, humankind’s breath of life did come from an other-than-earthly source.

And concerning who are citizens and who are aliens in the world, Jesus identifies the distinction in His prayer for His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). He continues to distinguish His followers in John 18:36 stating, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Of UFOs and a Snatching Away

Musings on Aliens & UFOs

In 1977, Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind depicted a public fascination with UFOs, along with the year’s release of George Lucas’ Star Wars. Interest continued with the 1980’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a story of a lonely boy who befriends an extraterrestrial stranded on Earth.

In the 1970’s, Christian rocker Larry Norman also offered thoughts on aliens and UFOs in his trilogy of albums which included Only Visiting This Planet, So Long Ago the Garden, and In Another Land. His third album contains some of Norman’s most well-known work, selling more than 120,000 copies by 1985. In Norman’s song “UFO” lyrics assert:

He [Jesus] will come back like He promised with the price already paid,
He will gather up His followers and take them all away,
He’s an unidentified flying object,
He will sweep down from the sky

Jesus reveals His plan to return for His people in John 14:3 stating, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Mark 13:26-27 provides a clearer picture of what His return will look like to those on earth, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”

So scripture does describes a coming snatching away of people on earth like represented in the 1990s-2000s popular Left Behind series of novels and films by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

In his 1969 album Upon This Rock, Norman addressed this concern as well in his song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” stating while growing up in church he hadn’t heard this preached from the pulpit.

Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and
One’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind

Closing Reflection

In consideration of the ongoing interest in our culture with aliens and UFOs, this topic certainly opens up authentic opportunities to discuss what scripture has to say on the possibilities. With curiosity on the rise, yet another avenue to open conversation about God’s love and His kingdom of another realm (John 3:16,17).

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True Greatness

by Christina Fox time to read: 3 min
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