Friday, April 22, 2011

The Hobbit

I am excited about seeing this movie. If anything like the others instant classic!

Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands

Today's Reading
"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together." ~ Mark 14:53

Far too often we take matters into our own hands. We plot, gather evidence, invite others to join our cause, and eventually make the attack. Instead of slowing down and turning to God, we use every human effort to get our way.

The Jewish leaders made the mistake of trusting themselves and not God. Instead of following the rule of law, the Jewish rulers sought to capture, sentence, and destroy Jesus as they saw fit. After all, Jesus was threatening the entire religious system of the day. If we don't "do something," all will be lost... our power, authority, and life as we know it.

The Jewish leaders, under the cover of darkness, took matters into their own hands and passed judgment upon Jesus. They set decorum aside and did what was right in their own eyes. Judges were to conduct and conclude capital trials during daylight. Further, trials were not to occur on the eve of a Sabbath or festival day. Pharisaic rules required a day to pass before a verdict of condemnation could be issued.

Likewise, the Sanhedrin (court of justice) should not have met in the high priest's palace. The spirit of Jewish law opposed condemning a criminal on his own admission, but the Sanhedrin treated Jesus' words here not as admission of a crime but as a crime itself--blasphemy--to which they themselves were witnesses, obviating the need for other witnesses. Finally, whatever else may have been illegal, the physical mistreatment of a prisoner certainly was; this would have shamed Jesus as well, for such treatment was inappropriate to the status he had claimed.

We too can take matters into our own hands when our little "kingdom of self" is threatened. Do we look to God as our solution, seeking Godly wisdom, looking to God's Word for guidance; or do we control every situation trying to manipulate others to gain what we want the outcome to be? Do we lord over our spouses, associates, and family members rather than trusting God to make the changes in their lives? If we forget whose servants we are, we can easily fall into idolatry, vying for the power and honor that rightfully belongs to God alone (Mt 21:38).

When is the last time you took matters into your own hands and tried to play god instead of trusting him?
What was the outcome?

About The Author
Gary Middleton is a teacher at Cal High and came to Canyon Creek because of the testimony of high school students attending here. He has have been richly blessed through the teaching and followship at CCPC.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Fullest Measure of Love and Forgiveness

Abba father," he said," everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.
Yet, not what I will but what you will."
~ Mark 14:36

Jesus left the upper room after revealing that He would be betrayed to the chief priests and that the disciples would deny being His followers. Jesus needed to prepare Himself for the events that had now been set in motion. He sought the solitude of the Garden of Gethsemane to connect with His Father through prayer and meditation.

Jesus was mere hours away from fulfilling His destiny, His purpose, His story. The fullest measure of strength, obedience, compassion, and forgiveness would soon be demanded of Him. Lovingly, an obedient Son called out to Abba, His Father. Jesus asked if this cup bearing the weight of the sins of all mankind might pass from Him. The Son submitted to the Father.

Jesus was determined to fulfill His Father's will, sacrifice on the cross. By trusting in the Father and committing to obey God's will, the Father strengthened Jesus to become and bear my sin, to face pain and rejection and condemnation. Can you imagine the battle fought during Jesus' three days of death and being totally separated from the Father?

My sin weighed heavily on God's heart. Adam and Eve's first sin broke the intimate bond man enjoyed with the Creator. At what cost could my sins be redeemed, be forgiven? Only the shed blood of the sinless and perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, would forever satisfy the debt for all my sin. Roman soldiers may have placed Him on the cross, but it was my transgressions, my sins that nailed Him there. It was His love for me that willingly kept Him there. The sacrifice of God's very Son was demanded to forgive my debt and heal my brokenness. What Adam and Eve broke in the Garden of Eden, Jesus Christ began healing and restoring in the Garden of Gethsemane. He finished it on the cross and rose victoriously three days later.

Jesus had prepared the disciples to spread His message. Jesus now entrusted this mission to them. At Gethsemane He asked God to continue to protect and bless His followers. Jesus prayed for future believers who would come to know Him through the disciples' work.

How would my life be different if I grasped these key points?
· Crown God the Lord of my life. Beyond just acknowledging God's existence, I must yield myself, submit myself in obedience to His purpose and will for my life. I must strive each day to allow Him to reign supreme in my heart and in my life.
· Just as Jesus sought the Father in Gethsemane, I, too, must surrender my struggles, my hardships, my hopes to God and His purpose. I must place my full trust in God who created me and loves me and reigns over all. Jesus' victory on the cross began when He fell on His face and knees in prayer in Gethsemane. I will pursue God's heart through prayer and study; I commit to listen intently and obey confidently as He speaks to me.
· I must step up to share my faith and serve others in love, compassion, obedience, and forgiveness from God. Jesus entrusted this mission to me as His follower.

About the Author
Joining the Canyon Creek family in September 2009 with his wife Sue, Bill Locke serves as a Sunday night small group leader and enjoys singing with the worship team and choirs. Daughter Chelsea enjoys serving as lobby host and greeter! They enjoy being together and traveling together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today's Reading
27And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." 29Peter said to him, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." 30And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31But he said emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.
~ Mark 14:27-31

Early in the evening of the Passover, Peter swears his allegiance to Jesus saying, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." However, before morning breaks Peter denies he knew Jesus on three occasions. Consider two questions: why did Peter's attitude towards Jesus change within a few hours? and why do we (like Peter) deny God when faced with pressures from others in our community and culture?

To understand why Peter's attitude changed leading him to deny Christ, we first need to understand the culture of the day. At this time, the Romans had been ruthlessly ruling Jerusalem for over 60 years, causing many Jews to hope for the prophecies of a militaristic Messiah to be fulfilled (refer to the prophesies of God's second coming mentioned in Joel 2 and Isaiah 9). These prophecies called for a Messiah to remove the foreign government and rule as king forever on earth, but the Jews did not understand that these prophesies would not be fulfilled until Jesus' second coming. When Peter learned that Jesus was not the militaristic Messiah, he did not want to be associated with the way Jesus was accomplishing God's will. Peter was willing to give up his life for Jesus, but only on his terms.

Why are we like Peter at times and do not have courage to trust in God's ways? Francis Chan, a pastor in Simi Valley, says that many of us have great ideas as children on how we can serve Christ, but as we grow up people/culture calms us down. We are on fire for God when when we first learn of God's grace, but over time, we become scared to share our faith publicly. Like Peter, we may be afraid of being ostracized or discriminated against. Or more simply, we may just be afraid of being politically incorrect. Jesus never promises that following Him will be easy, but He does tell Peter in Mathew 19:28, "in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones...And everyone who has left houses...for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life."

The life of Peter gives us hope that through God's grace He can change our motives and give us courage. After Jesus' resurrection, we see Peter's change of heart and actions. Peter and the other disciples were arrested for teaching the word of God and brought before the same council that condemned Jesus. This time Peter boldly proclaims he is a follower of Christ (Acts 5). The council had them flogged but the disciples rejoiced that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

1. What do you feel God is telling you to do that you may not have the courage to do? Are you willing to suffer for Jesus' name?
2. Was there a time in your life when you had a plan for life, but God had a different plan? How did you respond?
3. What would your life look like if you trusted God completely?

About This Author
Ben and Tricia- We joined CCPC shortly after getting engaged in 2008 and have become very involved in the 20's/30's group, which is growing as it is grows us in our faith. God is currently teaching us how to trust more in him as we seek to truly show His love to those we meet every day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Most Incredible Video

Simply Beautiful

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

The Lord's Supper

Today's Reading
17And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." 19They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?" 20He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."

22And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

26And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
~ Mk 14:17-26.

The Lord's Supper has been made the subject of many artistic creations. The interpretations may be different, but the message is the same. This supper was not only instruction to do this in remembrance of him, but that someday we will enjoy this meal in Heaven with all of God's redeemed people. His body is represented by the bread broken just as his body was broken to save us. The blood reminds us that his blood was poured out for us but it also represents the covenant he made to all who believe in him. (If we believe in him, and have faith in his word, we will be saved.) By celebrating this meal we will be reminded of this promise.

He also makes it very clear that anyone who betrays the son of man would be better off not to have ever been born. Believe and be saved, don't believe and you have nothing-no life, no future, no hope. What a powerful statement! As believers, we believe our only future is the one with him in Heaven. If you do not go to Heaven, there is nothing. Our lives, no matter how long, are but a speck of dust in the universe and a very brief moment in time. So when he refers to "better off not ever being born" I think about all those people who have had the opportunity to hear Christ's message and deny it for this brief life we live today. Refuse to have faith in his word and you will have no future with God once this life is over.

I pray often for my older sons because while they were growing up, I was lost in my faith. As a result, I did not provide the Christian foundation and education that they should have had. We went to Church at Easter and Christmas and rarely at any other time. The foundation was weak but they did hear the message of Christ and both were baptized. I know that our Lord stands by the covenant he made with us at the last supper, so I know there is hope for them. I know that in my own life experience, I strayed from him, but the Spirit tugged at my heart and brought me back. Although I tried to deny it, I knew in my soul that by denying my faith, I would have no future with him. So I believe now that he will tug at their hearts as well and bring them back to him.

1. Was there a time in your life that you denied the Son of Man?
2. What brought you back to the Lord's covenant?
3. Do you remember a time when the Lord tugged at your heart?

About the Author
Joyce Feldman has been a member of CCPC for approximately 2 years, but has been attending for 4 years. Previously, she was a member of CPC in Danville. She is a local insurance agent, lives and works in San Ramon, is married to Bruce and has three sons ages 32, 30 and 13.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Are We Giving Sacrificially to Jesus

Today's Reading Mark 14:1-11
The Plot to Kill Jesus

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

Jesus Anointed at Bethany
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Judas to Betray Jesus
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

In Mark 14:1-11, we are given the story of a woman named Mary who arrived, uninvited, at Simon's house where Jesus was dining and came to him with a jar of expensive perfume worth a year's wages. Mary broke the jar open and poured out all of the perfume on Jesus' head and feet. Upon seeing this, those present rebuked her for her extravagance, for not being more strategic in her use of this valuable perfume. Mary's actions were out of love for the Christ, not an obligation to tithe her money.

How often in our lives today do we demonstrate sacrificial acts of love towards our Savior? For most of us, the answer is probably not that often. Our charitable giving is often more of an obligation or budgeting exercise that an act of love: 10% to the 401k, 10% to the college fund, and oh, 10% to our tithe. While we may be giving our resources to God, are we doing it because we love him or are we doing it as an obligation?

We have had the opportunity to travel throughout the world with World Vision, whose mission is to share the love of Jesus by addressing the root causes of poverty with a focus on children and women. Every time we visit families who have been touched by this work, they offer us extravagant gifts of gratitude. In Ghana, a goat and a bag of yams; in Mongolia, a meal of mare's milk and goat cheese from a family living in a tent; in Ethiopia, a traditional coffee ceremony and traditional clothing from a AIDS relief group; in Zambia, a parade and a meal in the home of four orphans and their grandmother. Each time, we are tempted to say "You shouldn't have, this wasn't necessary" just like those who chastised Mary. We so easily miss that these gifts aren't for us; they were gifts of gratitude to God. How quick are we to say, "Keep the goat, sell it in the market and use the money for something you need"? These people, living in desperate poverty understood what Mary did and felt compelled to make their own extravagant gift.

How can we learn from the acts of gratitude shown by the poorest of the poor? How can we make sacrificial gifts of love to Christ today? In Jesus' own words, Mary "did a beautiful thing," she "did what she could." Do we even do what we can or do we do so much less than that, just enough to hit our 10% line item? In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that whenever we do something for the "least of these" we do it for Him. We have the opportunity to show our love and gratitude towards God by demonstrating acts of sacrificial love to the "least of these," to those who need help, who need the love of Christ in their lives.

1. What would you say if someone you know emptied their 401k to care for the poor, or sold their car to support missionaries? Would you tell them that they were going a bit too far, that they didn't really need to give these up as long as they give at church each week?
2. Giving sacrificially looks crazy - as crazy as pouring a $75,000 bottle of perfume on someone's head. Are you ready to do what you can with what God has given to you; are you ready to give sacrificially to Jesus, the Savior who gave his life to save ours?

About the Authors
Kirsten and Andy Stearns have recently relocated to the San Ramon area from New York City. Kirsten is a Program Director at World Vision and Andy is a Director of Business Development with American Express and both have a passion for serving the poor around the world.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chosen to Bear Fruit

15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other.
~John 15:15 -17

I struggle frequently, as I'm sure many Christians do, with the questions, "What is it that Christ has planned for me and what should I be doing to contribute to His plan?" In this passage, Christ answers these questions for the disciples during the last supper. Jesus has three messages: 1) He chose us as friends; 2) He wants us to bear fruit; and 3) Love each other.

Friendship with Christ: It is important to always keep in mind that Christ has chosen us, not the other way around. Yes, we must accept the sacrifice and grace that He gave on the cross, but as a free gift and not something that is earned. If we see Christ as only a master that we must serve and not also as a friend that we can love and enjoy, we can lose sight of this free gift that was given out of unconditional love.

Bear fruit: The image of the vine and the branches is often used to symbolize how we must depend on Jesus to accomplish His plans. Just as a grape vine feeds and provides vital nutrients to its branches so they can produce fruit, Jesus (the vine) has given us (the branches) everything we need to grow (bear fruit) for His kingdom. We bear fruit when we share God's word and exemplify His teaching in our actions and deeds. Again, He chose us, and this is important, as the fruit cannot produce the vine. No matter how many good deeds we perform, we cannot earn our own salvation nor produce it in others.

Love each other: Why does Jesus care if we love each other? The answer is His love for us and His desire that we share eternity in heaven. Jesus was the perfect model of love, one that He commands us to emulate. In Luke 10:26, when Jesus was asked how to gain eternal life, he replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;' and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" We are commanded to love God AND our neighbor. The Lord desires that we not only love Him unconditionally, but that we also love unconditionally those whom He loves-which is everyone.

Recall the last long conversation you had with a friend.
1. What qualities in that friendship can you bring to your relationship with Jesus?
2. Can you "bear the fruit" that Jesus desires if your objective is to earn a reward?
3. Do others approach you when they are in need? Why do you believe this is or is not the case?

About the Author
Brendan St John and his wife, Jessica, started attending CCPC in 1999. His favorite experiences with Canyon Creek are the Wind Festival and Small Group Ministry. They have three children, Adelaide (11), Tristan (8), and Spencer (6).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Laying Down My Life

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
~ John 15:12-13

Jesus tells us to love each other and then clarifies what that looks like by saying the greatest way to love one another is to lay down your life. What does Jesus mean by this? When Jesus laid down his life on the cross it meant we had a way to be forgiven from our sins. Romans 3:23-24 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." He laid down his rights and instead put our needs before his own.

In our safe, suburban San Ramon Valley, how do we lay down our lives for others? I think the biggest way is by forgiving them. Are there people in your life who have hurt you or offended you? Jesus calls us to love and forgive everyone. As Tim Keller writes in The Reason for God, "forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering." Keller states there is a debt that you are absorbing and you are taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out on the other person. It can hurt terribly but this is what Jesus did for us. He suffered so that we could be forgiven.

The strength and desire to forgive should come from an overflow of our love for God, not because it's something we feel we should do in order to be a good Christian. I identify with this quote from Francis Chan's Crazy Love: "The irony is that while God doesn't need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don't really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him-and we wonder, indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by." I need to remind myself daily of the great cost of Christ's sacrifice! He died for me! Our response should be gratitude that overflows in love and causes us to want to follow Him. This love for God gives us the strength to live as He did and forgive others.

Another way to lay down our lives for others is to put their needs before our own. In Philippians 2:3-5, Paul writes, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." Whether that be something small, like letting someone in front of you in traffic or in the grocery store, or as large as sharing credit for a project at work or paying for a school or orphanage to be built in a third world country, we need to think of others' needs more than our own. That is not something that comes naturally. We need God's help.

1. Is there anyone who you need to forgive?
2. How can you put others needs before your own today?
3. Pray for God to reveal himself to you and for you to realize how much you truly need God.

About the Author
Jen Scales Morlan married Brian Morlan in May 2009 and they live in San Ramon. Jen has been helping with the high school youth group since 2004 and looks forward to going on another Mexico trip this year. She and Brian are a part of the 20s/30s group and participate in a small group. Jen works for Allstate Insurance as a Senior Claims Service Adjuster.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Abiding In The Vine

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
~ John 15:5-11


Abiding in the Vine in order to bear fruit means continuing in Jesus in order to accomplish His will here on earth. In practical terms, how do I do that?

When I asked myself that question, I was reminded of the fundraiser for the Valley Pregnancy Center just a few weeks ago. When I arrived at church, I took the baby bottle, put in a $20 bill and gave it back right away that same morning. The next day, God told me that I had clearly missed the point. Now, I don't hear God's voice audibly, but I suddenly realized what God wanted. The point, I believe now, was that each time I dropped in my change, I would be reminded of why I was doing it and who it was for. And each time I could have prayed, even just a small prayer, for the people involved: the young woman with the crisis pregnancy, the unborn child of God, and the young man whose life was also changed.

Truly I was not abiding in Jesus. I was going through the motions of being a good Christian, doing my obligation, but not bearing fruit for Jesus. I was checking it off my to-do list. I was doing it for me. Talk about a dead branch! I was missing the peace of knowing that I was obeying God, being closer to God, thinking about Him, opening myself up to what He wants me to do. I was missing the blessing of caring about other people, and they were missing the blessings of being prayed for.

Abiding requires asking Jesus, "What do I do next?" It requires that we listen for His answer. Don't just ask the question, automatically rely on Him. Jesus wants to be fully in our lives, to the point where we don't have to remind ourselves that it is natural to think of Him first. Abiding means that Jesus moves in and takes up residence.

He wants us to love him. He wants us to do his will. And doing that brings joy, not only to us but to everyone we touch and, most of all, to Him.


1. Pray through your to-do list, asking Jesus for guidance.
2. Then watch and listen throughout the day for the Lord's response and the blessings of bearing fruit for Him.

About the Author

Bobi Vieira and husband, Bob, have been attending Canyon Creek Church for 13 years. They have two grown children, Liane and Andrea. Bobi has been a volunteer for Gospel for Asia, working mission events in Northern California for the past five years.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Things First

28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
~ Mark 12:28-29


When Jesus answers the teacher's question, He says loving God is the most important commandment and loving your neighbor is a close second. Is this order deliberate? Is it possible to love others without first loving God wholeheartedly? Our experience says, yes. People who never love God can still love children, husbands, wives, mothers, siblings, friends-all the same folks that Christians love. Christians should recognize, however, that human love, without the power of the Holy Spirit behind it, is a mere shadow of what God intends.

True love, like true faith, is a product of the Holy Spirit. When I came to faith, I accepted the Holy Spirit into my soul. His presence transforms me into God's child and begins to mold my character and will. The Spirit pours God's love into me, empowering me to love as God loves.

1 John 4:7-8 explains this: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

And, Romans 5:5 is similar: And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Knowing this, it becomes easier to understand why God expects us to love our enemies and to be perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). That's exactly how God operates! He loves sinners perfectly by sending His son Jesus to the cross to die on our behalf (John 3:16). We will not be perfect until we reach Heaven, but our mission as believers is to keep striving toward that goal by loving as God loves, and thus making Him visible to others. Oswald Chambers says in My Utmost for His Highest, "The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness" (p. 264).


1. Do you have first things first?
2. Have you first allowed the Spirit of God to pour God's love into your heart?
Or are you trying to love others on your own power?

About the Author

Renee Olsen and husband Jim have been members of Canyon Creek Church since 1993. They have two adult children, Joanna and Joey (who is married to Lindsey). Renee is a professional editor who helps maintain the church web site. She has led many small groups over the years and is trained as a Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Jesus is our victory and not one another.

The Greatest Commandment

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30


I know that loving God is important, and here Jesus tells me it is the most important commandment He has given us. It sounds simple enough, but anyone who has loved or been loved has some history of disappointment, hurt, sorrow, or betrayal in a personal relationship. We can become defensive in relationships because of past hurts. I know I have.

God doesn't want defensiveness. On closer examination this commandment requires a complete surrender of our internal life. God is requiring a fully devoted, all-encompassing kind of love. Loving God is a refining, purifying experience. Biblical love is a decision of the will. It means loving God when you feel there is no love in your heart for anyone. It is a dedicated, intentional, committed love. We have to trust Him. Hardened hearts fall into trouble.

There was a time in my life when I was fighting cancer. I was between treatments, having just finished chemo and waiting for radiation. My doctor gave me a longer break because my first grandchild was due. Calvin was born with some life-threatening heart issues and was airlifted to Stanford for surgery when he was four days old. My brain couldn't remember any Scripture to calm myself at the hospital, but the Holy Spirit brought this phrase into my mind: "I know my God is just." I repeated it often in the confusing, exhausting days that followed. I wasn't relying on my feelings about God to trust Him. I was choosing to rely on what I knew about His character. I knew that whatever the outcome, God was just, and that could never change.

Loving God helps me get closer to an understanding of who I am and the God I belong to. He wants true intimacy from me, not my defensive, "I can take care of myself!" kind of thinking. In The Sacred Journey, Frederick Buechner says that you can survive, grow strong and even prevail on your own, but you cannot become human on our own. As we come to an understanding of how to love God, things fall into place. We begin to understand our humanness as God defines it.

God created us to have a deep, intimate, God-glorifying relationship with Him. That won't happen until we are satisfied with Him. There is a lot of competition for ways to feel satisfied in our culture, but they are imitations of the real thing. We need to be truly and deeply satisfied by God alone.


1. With my heart: Am I desiring God as intimately as He desires me?
2. With my soul: Am I striving to identify with Christ or the world today?
3. With my mind: How am I doing with surrendering my mind to thinking Biblically?
4. With my strength: Am I able to acknowledge my weakness and find the source of my strength in God?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pride and Humility

Today’s Reading
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
~ Mark 10:35-45

Do you wonder where James and John got the audacity to ask Jesus to place them at his right and left hand in his glorious rule!? It appears that the human nature of prideful, self-interest, so prevalent in our 21st century existence, was alive and well even during the time of Jesus’ earthly life 2000 years ago. It is amazing to think that the apostles, who walked with Jesus and witnessed his Godly character of servitude, were still driven to attain positions of authority over others, and to achieve prideful recognition instead of humbly serving one another.

In our society, conceit and pride is too often synonymous with success. Earthly achievements often lead to an inflated self-view. This focus on “self” frequently is followed by destruction – the list is many: Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, former presidential candidate, John Edwards, and the list goes on. This affliction of our human nature does not touch only the rich and powerful, but resides in us all. It is a trap that we as Christians, can be lured into, particularly with today’s societal pressures and self-centered culture. I have seen the affliction in myself many times over the years, particularly in my work life. I have caught myself looking down at a co-worker or business acquaintance, making a judgment based on MY perception of their value or ability in certain situations.

In his book Mere Christianity, author C.S. Lewis states that the greatest sin of all is pride (or self-conceit), and its opposite virtue in Christian morals is humility. The important point to remember is that pride exists in all of us, and we must constantly strive to be humble, serve our fellow man, and do everything for the glory of God. I have found that I am most humbled when I look at my existence here in the San Ramon Valley. It is very humbling to have the realization that purely by the grace of God (and nothing of my own doing), that I was born in a country where wealth and opportunity abound, instead of one of many countries where severe human oppression or poverty rule.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

1. Have you been in a situation where you have been humbled by a leader or mentor? What did you learn through that experience?

2. Today, do you think you are looking up with humility or down with pride?

Jamie Williamson spent his childhood and college years in central Illinois, and has now lived in San Ramon for roughly 16 years. I have been married to my wonderful wife Susie for 27 years and have three children, Emma (22), Alex (20), and Annie (19). I have been a member of CCPC for more than 10 years, and my favorite hobbies are golf, reading, travel, and watching the Giants win.