A Cup of Cold Water

     

      I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! So do not be afraid of them.  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple (italics and underline mine), I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”     (Matt .10.16-22,24-25,28,32-33,39-40)
      How often do you do a service for someone and think, “That’s not much; many other Christians do much more!”  For starters this may be one of the more misunderstood and misquoted verses in the gospels.  But it teaches that no deed in the name of Jesus, because we are His disciple goes unnoticed, un-rewarded or unappreciated by God.  What “cup of cold water…because you are [His] disciple” have you done lately?  May you do this today and watch God bless you in ways you may not expect. What service have you done lately that you thought to yourself, “That service did not matter much; I doubt that God even noticed; so many people do so much more…?”  It is highly important to remind yourself that the person you blessed needed that blessing – and it is a blessing from God through your gifts and talents.  I encourage you to bless and minister to people even more now than you ever have – and allow God to powerfully bless and work in people’s lives through your actions. 
                                                                                               
~~ Andy Burns
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What Kind of a Servant Are You?

       “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.  What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom. You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?  We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20.20-28)
The term servant comes from a word meaning to “to attend or wait upon.”  So this word does not simply mean to serve someone, but also means to wait upon their needs and care for them.  Often times our service may be done on our terms and according to our schedule.  However, Jesus’ service was on the Father’s time and schedule. 
James and John’s mother requested from Jesus that her sons be lofty servants with influence and prestige.  She no doubt misunderstood Jesus’ work and Kingdom. (vs 28)  However, how often do we want our service to be of a high grade and lofty.  We must admit that we generally do not want to “wash feet” or “carry a cross. “  And yet as Jesus states, “He came not to be served but to serve.” (Matt 20:28)  Are we ready to serve like Jesus did; not like we desire?   Are you a Jesus servant… or a self servant?  May we serve like Jesus as we follow Him as Lord and Master.

 ~~ Andy Burns

The Swan and the Crane

There is an old legend of a swan and a crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired:

“Where do you come from?”

“I come from heaven!” replied the swan.

“And where is heaven?” asked the crane.

“Heaven!” said the swan, “Heaven! Have you never heard of heaven?” And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life, pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane.

Finally the crane asked: “Are there any snails there?”

“Snails!” repeated the swan; “no! Of course there are not.”

“Then” said the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the pool for snails “you can have your heaven. I want snails!”

This fable has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young person to whom God has granted the advantages of a Christian home, has turned his back upon it and searched for snails! How many a man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of sin! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn too late that heaven has been forfeited for snails! 

Do you find yourself often clamoring for the snails instead of the Spirit of Heaven?  Do you invest more of your time going after the treasures of this earth, than the treasures of Heaven (Matt. 6:24f)?  Take some comfort in know a few things.  We all get enticed by the snails of life from time to time.  Whether it is materialism, popularity, pride of life or simple selfish living each of these is a constant struggle.  However, God calls us to take a giant step back, reassess our lives and make the proper adjustment toward focus on Christ and Heaven (1 Cor 11.28; 2 Cor 13.5).  It seems evident that Jesus, as a human, had this similar need (Lk 6.12; Mk 1.35; 14.34-36).  No doubt if Jesus needed prayer to refocus, we need this in abundance.  Simply put – are your efforts toward finding the snails or the Spirit of God?  May we be diligent to have minds on eternity and daily keep our focus on God’s Spirit.

~~ Andy Burns

Heaven: A Glory or a Shock?


     “In 1991 a Gallup poll showed that 78 percent of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die. However, many of them hardly ever pray, read the Bible, or attend church. They admit that they live to please themselves instead of God. I wonder why these people would want to go to heaven.
     “In an article entitled, “Are We Ready for Heaven?” Maurice R. Irwin points out that only 34 percent of the American people who call themselves Christians attend church at least once a week. He says, “We sing, ‘When all my labors and trials are o’er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore, just to be near the dear Lord I adore will through the ages be glory for me.’ However, unless our attitudes toward the Lord and our appreciation of Him change greatly, heaven may be more of a shock than a glory.”  [Daily Bread, July 31, 1992.]
     This question may both bother you and cause you to pause.  But, in fact, how much do you identify with these poll results?  Does your life show a real yearning and hunger for Heaven and its attitudes? Do we share with God this desire that our lives now be lived so that Heaven is our home; so that Heaven will not be a shock but a wonderful end to our life’s work?

     There are those people that retire in a certain city, or buy a cabin in the mountains, or live closer to their kids and they will tell you, “We have been working toward this for 20 years.”   What they are saying is that all their decisions, their planning, their budget and their thinking have gone toward this goal.  Are you planning for Heaven?  A preacher once asked, “If you were to remove Sunday Bible study and Wednesday evening Bible class from your Bible study and prayer time, how much Bible would you know… how much prayer time would you spend with God weekly?  Let us make sure that when we meet God in heaven (only by his amazing mercies) that He will not be a stranger, but a sweet and intimate friend.  Let us make sure that Heaven will be a wonderful glory and not a shock!
~~ Andy Burns

Do You Know the Answer?

                             
      “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ [italics mine]. These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
      “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. [italics mine]  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon– from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life.  I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” [italics mine]. 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
      Do you often find yourself pondering this same question that the sons of Korah ask, “Where is your God?”  This question does not mean that we have become atheists or have given up on God; but simply that we are being challenged in our faith.  The Psalmist here mentions those who “taunt” him with this question of God’s presence and protection against his enemies.   Do you receive this same question from your friends and family as they deal with challenges and want direction from you?    I believe we find two things from this short Psalm.  First, the sons of Korah both praise God through knowing their hope, direction and praise is in God.  Second, they also reveal their internal human quality of questioning their situation before God.  Job, Moses, John the Baptist all exemplified this. Our human need often times is to wonder; and to share that wonder with God.   We must, however, keep in mind that superior to our questions and challenges are our eternal hope and strength in God through His Son Jesus Christ (Rom 8.35-39). 
~~ Andy Burns

This is My Father’s Plan

      “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
      Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.  You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (italics mine); we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
      No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.  Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (italics mine).  Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.” (Isaiah 64:1-9)
      Isaiah reminds us that God’s blessings often disappear and His guidance is removed because we choose to leave God and reject His ways.  When we are unclean and our “righteous acts are like filthy rags…” we are choosing to be righteous in our own ways.  However, Isaiah reminds us that we are the clay and God is the potter. 
      Do we remember that God is the maker, planner, designer and executer of the plan?  All that is and will be is God’s.  My life is my Father’s plan.  When I sin I leave that plan and choose to live without God.  I need to be reminded that God is the potter; I am the clay.  I cannot create or cleanse myself – it is God who creates, cleanses and guides.  Have you given your life to the Potter today?
~~ Andy Burns

What Demands Do You Make of God?

                             
      “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” John 2:13-18
      We often read this section and marvel at the lack of faithfulness and stubbornness of the Jews.  However, this process of selling animals to be sacrificed and of exchanging various currencies of money had been in tact for many decades and was accepted as a religious norm.  As a result of this seemingly unholy reaction by Jesus, they questioned Jesus and demanded an answer as to why he would do such a thing.   How do you question God and His actions and guidance in your life?
      No…we say, we do not question God.  However, we may demand that God do something, that God provide something or that God cause something to happen.  We feel good about it, we are used to a certain thing and, therefore, certainly God will answer our prayer or providentially encourage something to happen. 
      What did the Jews need to do to realize that Jesus was the Messiah?  They needed to read the prophets and logically think through the fulfillment in Jesus.  As well they needed to calm their pride and submit to God’s Ways.  We too today need to continue to put God’s Word on our hearts in order to accept God’s Ways.  In this way, instead of demanding our wants and ways, we can follow God’s way for us.   May we today keep God’s Word on our hearts so His ways can direct our lives. 
~~ Andy Burns

Amazing Situations – Naaman

What are a few of your favorite situations from the Bible?  As I thought about this, a host of situations flew through my mind.  One that I have recently walked through is that of Naaman and his healing by Elisha’ (2 Kings 5.1f).  The beginning of this story should cause some surprise and learning from us.  Naaman is the commander of the army of Syria; but also a man that the Lord has been with in his battles.  In fact, he has been victorious because the Lord has been with him.   Does that surprise you?  God is providing victory for a pagan; a non-Jew; one who does not worship correctly; one that does not have anyone to offer sacrifices.  We would probably agree that God operates in this world outside of the activities of the church.  However, we still tend to be uncomfortable with stories like this in which God enables victory to a heathen country.  It should cause us to reconsider some of our theology about our religious neighbors today.  Not so much in terms of salvation and worship; but in terms of cooperating with them in certain settings.
          As the Syrians were on a raid, they carried off a little girl from Israel who became a servant to Naaman’s wife.  This man Naaman was a great man of war, of courage and of strength.  And yet he had leprosy (vs 1).  Leprosy was a terribly debilitating, humbling and terrible discomforting ailment. Imagine his embarrassment, his frustration and his discouraged outlook on life.  This little Israelite girl sees her master’s pain and anguished situation and has compassion for him.  What a great example of humility and kindness this young girl is for us. She has been taken captive by this man from a foreign nation.  Yes she has God’s compassion “for her master.”  Do we have God’s compassion for other people?  Even those who treat you in an ungodly way, speak in a way that hurts and discourages and does harm to us? 
She then related to her mistress that Naaman should go see Elisha and have his leprosy healed.  This little girl amazes me.  It may be that if she is truly “young” (the word seems to indicate a girl of 12 years or younger) she had not yet learned the ability to harbor anger and in turn withdraw help to one in need.  This may also speak to how kind Naaman and his wife were to this young girl.
         
          Naaman now sees the importance of giving this prophet (Elisha) the opportunity to heal him of the dreaded leprosy.  However, Naaman is expecting some royal, personal treatment from Elisha.  After all, he is the mighty Naaman, great man of valor and war.  Instead, Elisha sends a junior prophet to meet Naaman and tell him to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be cleansed.  This would be my great situation; to watch Naaman go from great frustration and anger toward Elisha, to then come out of the Jordan completely healed and clean. 
          When you have a challenge or difficult situation in your life and God tells you to be filled with His Spirit (Matt. 5:6; Jn 6.27; 4.14), are you willing to “dip in that water seven times?”  When you have questions about your direction in life and God tells you to humbly pray and call on His name for strength and wisdom (Jms 1.5; Prov 3.5-7; Jms 3.17, are you willing to accept that “dip in the water…” and gain answers from God?  When you wade in your life through an abundance of blessings (Eph 3.20; Jms 1.5), are you willing to overwhelming bless and praise God for his goodness in your life?
          Naaman wanted special treatment from Elisha instead of attention from a junior prophet.  What do you expect from God for your situations in life?  May we be thankful for the ways that God cares for us – and earnestly praise Him and worship Him through all occasions of blessings. 

~~ Andy Burns