Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

True Greatness in God's Sight

Volume 5 No. 297 July 31, 2015

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Children at the 29th Annual Family and Youth Conference of Malankara Archdiocese of Syriac Orthodox Church in North America - Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
- St. Matthew 18: 1-4

Children and Youth were given a prominent role in the 29th Annual Family and Youth Conference of the Malankara Archdiocese of Syriac Orthodox Church in North America held from July 15-18, 2015 at Lancaster, PA. Here you can see the children at the Heritage Procession, Sports and at the VBS Camp.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

Children occupied an interesting place in the first century household (for Jews and Romans alike). They represented the future - they would carry on the family name, provide for their aging parents, and produce the next generation. But in the present, they were a liability. ...

I. This Sunday in Church

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 2)[Tenth Sunday After Pentecost]

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_10th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (August 2) [Tenth Sunday After Pentecost]

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_10th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

4. Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Humility

Malankara World Journal Issue 296 (July 24, 2015) - Humility in Christian Life

Malankara World Journal Issue 242 (October 17, 2014) - Humility in Christian Life

Malankara World Journal Issue 152 (July 18, 2013) - Humility and Servanthood

II. This Week's Features

5. Little Children and God's Kingdom: The Holy Grail of Human Greatness

To welcome a child is to extend the simplest of acts to an individual that society normally dismisses as perhaps cute but ultimately insignificant, someone who entirely lacks any accomplishments, greatness, status, or pretensions. By extension, Jesus invites us to welcome every person in the same manner, without regard for external measures of their worldly importance, status, success or failure. ...

6. True Greatness - Servant of All

Our acceptance of others is too often driven by the worship of style. Yet, Jesus would have us accept ("welcome") a seeker on the basis of a radically different criteria. A person's relationship to Christ establishes the criteria for acceptance. The servant embraces the sinner who would be righteous in Christ, for in Christ the unlovely are lovely. ...

7. Do You Seek Great Things for Yourself?

Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts - He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you. ...

8. Greatness in God's Sight

Do you aspire to greatness, or a great heavenly reward? Would you like to be on top? It is characteristic of human nature to seek position, authority, power, and praise. We want to be served and tell others what to do. Most all of us want to be king of our own little kingdom, whether it is a family, or circle of friends, or business, or even our church. Well, Jesus has much to say about that attitude, and I want to share His teaching with you. ...

III. Regular Features

9. Health: Drinking in Middle Age May Accelerate Cognitive Decline

Middle-aged men who drink 36 grams or more of alcohol a day, or a little more than 2 and a half standard drinks, are more likely to experience faster decline in all cognitive areas - but especially memory - during a period of 10 years, translating into 5.7 years of extra cognitive aging, a new study suggests. ...

10. Recipe: How to Make Salads You Can't Stop Craving

A truly satisfying salad is one that we look forward to eating -- and that can stand up to the lure of the quick take-out burger or slice of pizza!

The key is to bypass those limp vegetables and tasteless greens. Instead, fill salads with ingredients that are fresh and full of flavor. Salads made from tender baby greens topped with crunchy seasonal vegetables and homemade vinaigrette will satisfy both our taste buds and our appetites. ...

11. Family Special: The Family That Prays Together

There is something special about prayer between husband, wife, and God that can't be found elsewhere. It creates a spiritual connection, accountability, and a holy bond that brings strength and stability to the relationship. It can even allow you to communicate about sensitive issues that might otherwise never come out - issues that can be discussed and prayed over in a spirit of humility and purity of motive. ...

12. Inspirational: You Have Within You The Power to Change The World

Sometimes you impact others by serving them. Sometimes you impact others by letting them serve you.

We have been created in order that we might make a difference. We have within ourselves the power to change the world.

Today, embrace the gift of your life, the possibility within it and the truth that the best is yet to come.  ...

13. About Malankara World

Foreword
Last week, we looked at humility as taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus delivered that via a parable of a feast and watching how people came and rushed to occupy premium (important) seats. Jesus told his disciples that when they go to a feast or program, take the low (unimportant) seats. Later, the host may come and elevate you to a higher seat and you will be honored. On the other hand, if you occupy a premium seat and another more important person comes along, the host may ask you to move to a lower seat and that will certainly be humiliating.

Jesus' message was,

"For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
-Luke 14:11

In the Kingdom of God, the roles are reversed. The chief is here to serve and not to occupy a throne. The ordinary person is elevated. The quality God prizes in us is humility. Without humility, we are emptied of all the other qualities.

This week's Gospel passage talks about 'True Greatness' according to God. The disciples were arguing among themselves as to who is the greatest among them. Jesus tells them that in the new Kingdom, the roles will be reversed. The son of man came to serve and to give his life as ransom to save us from eternal death due to our sins. (The wages of sin is death.) He didn't come to be served. When we follow Jesus, we won't get to high places when looked under the lens of earthly values and expectations; instead, we get a crown of thorns and a cross to carry like our savior. In other words, persecution. Yes, we should be ready to take the cross and follow Jesus. These are the things that are pleasing to God. But we should be comforted that Jesus will not ask us to take a cross that we cannot bear. And Jesus has done that before us. So, he knows.

Jesus expanded this concept further by stating that we should be like a small child if we want to inherit the Kingdom of God. Amy Allen, Theology and Practice fellow in New Testament at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee explained this teaching of Jesus as follows:

"Children occupied an interesting place in the first century household (for Jews and Romans alike). They represented the future - they would carry on the family name, provide for their aging parents, and produce the next generation. But in the present, they were a liability. Small children, especially, were more likely to contract an illness and to die. They participated in the household labor, but were not yet fully productive, and still represented another mouth to feed. Many historians of this time period compare the status of children in such a situation to that of a slave. However, the power dynamics were more powerful than that. On the one hand, an adult slave could be "worth" more in the present; on the other hand, even the smallest child was a member of the "household" - an honor to which a slave was unlikely (and in most cases unable) to attain.

Children were insiders left on the outside. And they are the ones Jesus commands us to welcome. On the one hand, this is just another instance of Jesus turning the expectations of the world upside down. It is a great reversal in the name of justice, the kind of which Luke's gospel is famous for - read the magnificat there. But on the other hand, here in Mark's gospel we also experience something else. With children, at least, the power dynamics are not so black and white - it is not so much a question of who is great and who is not, but instead it is a question of welcome.

Put another way, Jesus isn't interested in who we say is the greatest or even in who acts like the greatest or looks to be great. Jesus is interested in who acts with the greatest grace, compassion, and love."

"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me…" (Mark 9:37a)

The carefully selected articles in this week's Malankara World Journal will explain this concept further.

Please pray for us.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 2)
Sermons for This Sunday (August 2)

From Malankara World Journal Archives

This Week's Features

Little Children and God's Kingdom: The Holy Grail of Human Greatness

by Dr. Daniel B. Clendenin

Gospel: Mark 9:30–37, Matthew 18:1-5

As a campus minister with InterVarsity at Stanford, in the fall of 1997 we piloted a "faculty fellowship" specifically for professors. About a dozen faculty began a breakfast meeting every Friday morning from 7–8am in the faculty club. A year later a Tuesday morning group started in the Bing Dining Room at the hospital for medical faculty and physicians, then a few years later a Thursday group emerged at Stanford's linear accelerator for the physics crowd. We began with little idea whether the idea would work, much less flourish, but across the next six years perhaps a hundred professors, research fellows, lecturers, physicists, and visiting faculty joined us at one time or another.

When we started most people did not know each other, so every Friday a different professor shared his or her Christian story. The very first Friday morning Doug disarmed everyone with a candid account of his disintegrating marriage. The following week Tony related his frustrations with raising teenagers. Another recounted his financial failures. In the succeeding months it became clear that these remarkably gifted people who had reached the pinnacle of professional success were more interested in sharing their lives rather than mere ideas. The group took on a distinctly pastoral rather than academic ethos. How do you balance personal and professional responsibilities? How do spouses negotiate dual careers with heavy demands? What advice might an older professor give to a younger scholar facing the tenure process? Does God care about my neuroscience research? I still remember the morning that Chuck spoke for many of those exceptionally gifted and gracious professors when he noted with his trademark sardonic wit that "behind every great man there often lies a trail of human wreckage."

Given a safe space that offered Christian encouragement, the Stanford professors experienced the message of Jesus that Mark articulates in his Gospel this week, namely, that the holy grail of human greatness that we so honor, envy and pursue - rank, wealth, recognition, power, title, privilege, and prestige - can exact a very high personal price. Worldly greatness has a limited capacity to nourish authentic human fulfillment, it does not protect us from human vulnerabilities, and it often prevents us from experiencing God's kingdom. To make this point, by his words and actions Jesus radically reversed our normal ideas about greatness and taught that insignificant children epitomize the ethos of his kingdom.

Three different times in Mark's Gospel Jesus warned his twelve disciples about the end game that awaited him in Jerusalem - betrayal, condemnation, suffering, rejection, violent death, and resurrection. All three times the disciples responded to Jesus with objections, disbelief, fear, and ignorance, demonstrating just how badly they misunderstood the true nature of his redemptive mission. After his first "passion prediction," Jesus rebuked Peter for trying to prevent his sufferings: "You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man" (Mark 9:33). After the third prediction, James and John asked Jesus for positions of glory, whereupon the other ten indignantly objected, clearly worried that James and John might gain some advantage over them. After the second prediction (the Gospel for this week), the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34). Whereas in predicting his death Jesus signaled that his kingdom was characterized by self-sacrificial service for others, the disciples jockeyed for human glory and greatness.

Jesus responded to his disciples in two ways. First, he gave them a teaching: "Calling the Twelve to himself, Jesus said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all'" (Mark 9:35). Second, Jesus enacted or dramatized a parable. He placed a little child before the disciples, then took the child into his arms and said, "Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me" (Mark 9:37). In Matthew's parallel account of the same passage Jesus says, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Just one page later in Mark's Gospel the disciples rebuked people who brought little children to Jesus so that he would bless them. "When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'" (Mark 10:13–16).

To welcome a child is to extend the simplest of acts to an individual that society normally dismisses as perhaps cute but ultimately insignificant, someone who entirely lacks any accomplishments, greatness, status, or pretensions. By extension, Jesus invites us to welcome every person in the same manner, without regard for external measures of their worldly importance, status, success or failure. Lately I have tried the following experiment. Whenever I am repulsed by a homeless bum who loiters near our home, or nurse a grudge against a friend who spurned me, or envy someone more successful than I am, I try to picture that person as a little baby or child. I then find it far easier to welcome or receive them only as a precious human being, rather than someone who can help or harm me, as someone I might ignore, fear or flatter. The simple act of welcoming another person in that way, Jesus says, is to welcome him, and, in turn, to welcome God the Father who sent him. Similarly, to become or imitate children, as Jesus commands, is to understand our own selves in the same manner, not as people whose significance rests in titles, honors, successes or failures, as if those might gain or deny us favor with God and man, but in the knowledge that we are human beings loved by God. That, says Jesus, is the only way to experience the presence of his kingdom.

After eight and a half years with InterVarsity at Stanford I needed my own safe place where I could be welcomed like a little child. I discovered that place when I volunteered for our church nursery. Except for my daughter's soccer games and my travel, every Sunday for two years my wife and I served in the "Lambs" Sunday school class for babies three to twelve months old. My failures and successes, my importance or lack thereof as the world (and Christians!) judged it, did not matter to little babies. My PhD didn't cut any ice with overweening parents, a few of whom grew visibly apprehensive when they saw a man in the nursery. My mentors, Evelyn in her seventies and Miriam in her eighties, taught me lots about generous compassion as they comforted crying babies, assured anxious parents, changed dirty diapers, and without fanfare welcomed hundreds of children across many decades. They taught me as much about entering the kingdom that Jesus announced as my faculty friends at Stanford.

For further reflection:

* What would our lives look like if we really believed and acted on these words of Jesus?

* Consider the disciples' chronic and deep misunderstanding about the true nature of God's kingdom.

* How do children constitute a counter-intuitive and subversive example of greatness?

* Based upon these words of Jesus, who is really making history?

* See Henri Nouwen, 'The Road to Daybreak' and "Adam: God's Beloved." Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest and the author of forty books. He left his Harvard professorship to become a priest in a residential home for the mentally and physically handicapped called L'Arche near Toronto. He died in 1996.

Source: The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself by Daniel B. Clendenin

Copyright © 2001–2015 by Daniel B. Clendenin. All Rights Reserved.

True Greatness - Servant of All

by Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons,
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources, Australia

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37, Matthew 18:1-5

Following the death of Diana, princess of Wales, Kate Legge in the Australian newspaper made this comparison between Diana and Mother Teresa. "One was young and beautiful and did good works. The other was old and ugly and did good works. One had a First World eating disorder called bulimia. The other lived in the Third World where people starve to death. One wore designer clothes and once sold her dresses for $7.8 million. The other left behind two saris and a bucket. One made headlines with simple gestures such as touching a person with AIDS. The other lived her life among lepers and the diseased." "In one sense there is no comparison between the two women and yet the expiry of the elderly missionary, as a postscript to the dislocation over Diana's death, seems to taunt our godless worship of glamour and style."

We would be hard pressed to find a clearer present-day illustration of Jesus' teaching on becoming "the servant of all." Slighting Diana's character is both undignified and unnecessary. The comparison between Diana and Mother Teresa is not made to exalt one and debase the other, but rather to expose the human tendency to glory in status, wealth, beauty, position, education, vitality..... As a US magazine editor commented, if she ran a picture of an elderly person on the cover, she could guarantee a drop in sales.

Our acceptance of others is too often driven by the worship of style. Yet, Jesus would have us accept ("welcome") a seeker on the basis of a radically different criteria. A person's relationship to Christ establishes the criteria for acceptance. The servant embraces the sinner who would be righteous in Christ, for in Christ the unlovely are lovely.

Discussion

1. When we welcome a seeker, a lost brother, we welcome God. If the brother carries the image of God, how does this truth overcome the difficulties we often encounter when confronted by their sin and corruption?

2. Give examples of how human criteria are often applied to status/rank in the church.

Do You Seek Great Things for Yourself?

by Oswald Chambers

"Do you seek great things for yourself?" - Jeremiah 45:5

Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts - He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you.

If you have only come as far as asking God for things, you have never come to the point of understanding the least bit of what surrender really means. You have become a Christian based on your own terms. You protest, saying, "I asked God for the Holy Spirit, but He didn’t give me the rest and the peace I expected." And instantly God puts His finger on the reason-you are not seeking the Lord at all; you are seeking something for yourself. Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you . . ." (Matthew 7:7). Ask God for what you want and do not be concerned about asking for the wrong thing, because as you draw ever closer to Him, you will cease asking for things altogether. "Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him" (Matthew 6:8). Then why should you ask? So that you may get to know Him.

Are you seeking great things for yourself? Have you said, "Oh, Lord, completely fill me with your Holy Spirit"? If God does not, it is because you are not totally surrendered to Him; there is something you still refuse to do. Are you prepared to ask yourself what it is you want from God and why you want it? God always ignores your present level of completeness in favor of your ultimate future completeness. He is not concerned about making you blessed and happy right now, but He’s continually working out His ultimate perfection for you - ". . . that they may be one just as We are one . . ." (John 17:22).

Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers; 1935/1992)

Greatness in God's Sight

by Dr. Stephen Felker

Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

Introduction.

At this point in my series of messages in the Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus drawing near to Jerusalem. The number of followers of Christ by this time was smaller than in the earlier days. And the few who were following Christ to Jerusalem were amazed and fearful (Mark 10:32). There was a sense of foreboding concerning what was about to take place. They were going up for the Passover feast, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish families would offer up a lamb as a sacrifice. Yet Jesus knew that soon, He was going to offer Himself as a sacrificial lamb, to die on a Roman cross. So He warns His disciples in Mark 10:33-34 that in Jerusalem He would be condemned to death by the ruling council of Israel, and He would be severely mistreated, and then delivered to the Romans to be executed by the terrible death of crucifixion.

Somehow, this warning did not sink into the minds of the disciples. It is clear from what follows that they were focusing on a crown, not a cross. You see, most of the close followers of Jesus firmly believed that He was the Messiah who was to save and rule Israel in a glorious kingdom. And they believed that they would rule and reign with Him. But simply reigning with Christ was not enough. James and John wanted to know who would reign closest to Christ. Who would be the greatest in the kingdom? So they wanted to go ahead and settle the issue, as we shall see.

Do you aspire to greatness, or a great heavenly reward? Would you like to be on top? It is characteristic of human nature to seek position, authority, power, and praise. We want to be served and tell others what to do. Most all of us want to be king of our own little kingdom, whether it is a family, or circle of friends, or business, or even our church. Well, Jesus has much to say about that attitude, and I want to share His teaching with you.

Now my first appeal to our hearts is this:

I. SHUN A SELF-CENTERED AMBITION FOR GREATNESS

In Mark 10:35 we see that James & John approached Jesus. They were interested in obtaining a special favor from Jesus.

A. A Preliminary Request

In the last of Mark 10:35 James & John (1) asked, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask." This kind of request is generally made when children are not too sure that they have a right to receive what they are about to ask. They want you to commit before hearing their request.

In Mark 10:36 Jesus replied, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Notice that Jesus refuses to commit Himself. He's too smart for that! Making blind promises is wrong. Think of Herod's promise to his step-daughter Salome! (Mark 6:22).

There is a lesson here about prayer. Prayer is not a blank check from God. He will answer our prayers favorably if they are according to His will (1 Jn. 5:14-15). God does not answer selfish prayers. James 4:3 says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." God wants to give us what is best for us, not merely what we want. He denies some of our requests for our good.

After Jesus refused to commit to grant any request, we see next in our story:

B. A Bold Request

In Mark 10: 37 they said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory." They wanted to have the two highest positions of authority next to Jesus!

Now why would they even think of such a request? They were right in believing that Jesus is King of kings and will one day reign on earth, seated on the throne of His glory. Look back at the last words of chapter 8, Mark 10:38. There Jesus talks about coming "in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." They believed that the establishment of the kingdom was very close at hand; in fact, they thought it could appear immediately (Lk. 19:11). No doubt they believed the promise Jesus had given, that in the future kingdom, the disciples would sit on 12 thrones with the Lord Jesus (Mt. 19:28). Yet who would sit closest to Him? Well, James & John thought they had a good shot at getting those two seats. After all, in chapter 9 they were only 2 of 3 disciples that got a vision of Jesus in His glory on the mount of transfiguration. (2) That's because they were in the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. On top of that, they were probably related to Him through their mother. So they could just see themselves reigning right next to Jesus in the kingdom to come!

The desire for greatness or leadership is not wrong in itself. Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:1, "If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work." Sometimes we may sincerely want a high position for a noble purpose. High position gives you greater influence, and you may be able to do more good with greater influence. Perhaps they just wanted to be as near as possible to Jesus. And if you desire to be chief among men and women, I am sure that you can give some good reasons for your ambition. But notice with me:

C. What Was Wrong with the Request

I see at least 3 things wrong with their request:

1. It Demonstrated Selfish Ambition

It is clear to me that sinful ambition was playing a role here. They desired that the two most honorable places should be assigned, not to Peter and Andrew, or to Philip and Bartholomew, but to themselves! Christ was only thinking of others as He was on His way to the Cross. But they had their thoughts centered on self-advancement in the kingdom. They still dreamed of temporal crowns and earthly rewards.

We must guard our hearts against selfish ambition. Paul said in Php. 2:3, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

2. Selfish Ambition Leads to Conflict

In Mark 10:41 we read, "And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John." The word translated "to be greatly displeased" (aganakteo) is better translated with the stronger word, "to be indignant." They could not believe the audacity of James & John. They were upset that James & John wanted to be on top! The bitter feeling threatened what little harmony the apostolic band had. Selfish ambition will always destroy unity among believers. In fact, this conflict over who would be the greatest continued on the night of the Last Supper (Lk. 22:24).

Now James & John were wrong in their ambitious request. But the other disciples were wrong in their reaction. Jesus had to correct the whole group. The 10 remind me of Joseph's brothers who were jealous toward him. Joseph had dreams of being on top, of even ruling over his brothers, and they became jealous to the point of wanting to kill their own brother! Watch out for jealousy! Furthermore, the other 10 probably would not have been upset had it not been for the probable fact that they wanted these highest positions for themselves. They were unhappy because they had not thought of asking first! I can imagine Peter thinking, "Remember me, I'm the one who walked on water! I was the one that spoke up and confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. I have been the leader of this group all along. I should be the one who reigns next to Jesus!"

The ambition of clergymen is a great scandal in the church, and frequently causes rivalries, enmities, divisions, and schisms.

3. Selfish Ambition Is Worldly

Jesus said in the last of Mark 10:42, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them." Do you think that most of our political leaders seek office for the benefit of the people they represent, or for their own benefit? Back in the day when we had a truly Christian nation, we had quite a few statesmen who held office to serve God, and serve the people. But as our nation has turned from Christ, we have more and more political leaders who seek office for self-centered reasons: to exercise power, to gain fame, to have servants, and to obtain financial benefits. They will sell a vote to ride in Air Force One with the President!

So Jesus points out here that their attitudes demonstrated the way of worldly people. They wanted to rule and be on top like their Gentile rulers. It was the pomp, privilege, power, and position in the Gentile world which was so greatly esteemed. Like many people today, the disciples were making the mistake of following the wrong examples. Instead of modeling themselves after Jesus, they were admiring the glory and authority of the Roman rulers.

The people of God get into trouble when we try to model ourselves after the world. We are not to follow this old sinful world; we are to follow Jesus!

So we are to shun selfish ambition for worldly position, power, & fame. Instead, we should:

II. FOLLOW THE PATH OF TRUE GREATNESS

Does God offer the reward of greatness? Will some have higher positions of authority (Luke 19:13-25) in the kingdom of Jesus than others? Will someone be seated next to Jesus in the coming kingdom? Yes indeed. You can be one of the great leaders in the kingdom of Jesus! Jesus did not rebuke a desire for greatness. Instead, He explained the true path to greatness. You may be surprised by the prescription of greatness that Jesus gives here in this text, for it is a complete reversal of popular opinion. Here is what you need to understand:

A. Greatness Requires a Sacrificial Commitment to Christ

Jesus here reminds them that a request for glory is a request for suffering. Mere desire for greatness is not enough. Jesus said in Mark 10:38, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" To "drink the cup" means to fully undergo this or that experience. Drinking the cup points to Christ's active obedience to suffer & die for others. Later in the Garden of Gethsemane He would refer to his death again as "the cup" (14:36). The word "to be baptized" does not refer to water baptism, but it points to suffering, and it is probably used here in the figurative sense of "to be overwhelmed" by agony (cf. Lk. 12:50). Jesus knew He was to be plunged into the flood of horrible distress. Would they be willing to experience the agony of suffering also? Are they willing to die to self? At this point it seems they were more interested in promoting self!

Notice their response. They said in Mark 10:39, "We are able." They sure were confident in themselves! Then Jesus said to them in the last of Mark 10:39, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized." Jesus affirms that they would first have to suffer, rather than be exalted. In fact, James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2) and John was banished to the island of Patmos in his old age and suffered much, including hunger, cold, & isolation (Rev. 1:9).

It is easy to say we will endure anything for Christ, and yet most of us complain over the most minor problems. If you seek ease and comfort, you will never be great in God's Kingdom. If you would be near Him then, you must be near Him now. You must be willing to obey Christ, and follow Him, even if He leads you down the path of suffering. If we would share His throne, we must bear His cross. Many people want glory, but they are not willing to suffer and labor intensely. The fact is that the path to suffering is a path to glory.

A certain man described a dream he had. I saw in a dream that I was in the Celestial City -  though when and how I got there I could not tell. I was one of a great multitude which no man could number, from all countries and peoples and times and ages. Somehow I found that the saint who stood next to me had been in Heaven more than 1,900 years. "Who are you?" I said to him. "I," said he, "was a Roman Christian; I lived in the days of the Apostle Paul. I was one of those who died in Nero's persecutions. I was covered with pitch and fastened to a stake and set on fire to light up Nero's gardens." "How awful!" I exclaimed. "No," he said, "I was glad to do something for Jesus. He died on the cross for me."

The man on the other side then spoke: "I have been in Heaven only a few hundred years. I came from an island in the South Seas - Erromanga. John Williams, a missionary, came and told me about Jesus, and I too learned to love Him. My fellow-countrymen killed the missionary, and they caught and bound me. I was beaten until I fainted and they thought I was dead, but I revived. Then next day they knocked me on the head, cooked and ate me." "How terrible!" I said. "No," he answered, "I was glad to die as a Christian. You see the missionaries had told me that Jesus was scourged and crowned with thorns for me."

Then they both turned to me and said, "What did you suffer for Him? Or what did you sell & give to send men like John Williams to tell the heathen about Jesus?" And I was speechless. And while they both were looking at me with sorrowful eyes, I awoke, and it was only a dream! But I lay on my soft bed awake for hours, thinking of how little I had really experienced the words of Jesus, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized." (3)

  • Are you willing to suffer rejection & even ridicule by relatives, friends, classmates, or coworkers?
  • To receive the reward of greatness, you must be willing to pay the price of suffering.
  • Since Jesus was willing to suffer, and even die for us, we should be willing to suffer for Him!

B. Greatness Requires Personal Service to Others

Notice what this involves:

1. We Must Reject the World's Way

Again, Jesus said in Mark 10:42, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them." Those who are rulers in this world exercise authority for their personal benefit. In this world greatness is determined by how many people you rule over. But Jesus clearly states in Mark 10:43, "Yet it shall not be so among you…." In the church there are to be no rulers, but only servant-leaders. Yet by the Middle Ages the Church turned against this clear teaching of Jesus, and established ecclesiastical hierarchies and rulers. Their top rulers even had thrones & scepters, & the common people had to bow & kiss their hand or feet. However, our Baptist forefathers did understand this principle. So we do not have a hierarchy of priests, bishops, Cardinals, and a Pope. The Convention in Nashville or Richmond has no authority over this local church, this pastor, or any member of this church. And no one person or small group in the church is given authority to dictate or rule with a heavy hand. And every time you have a power struggle in a local church, you violate what Christ is saying here. We should submit to one another, and serve one another; not rule over each other.

So what are we to do?

2. We Must Follow Jesus' Way

Jesus said in Mark 10:43-44, "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all." Greatness consists in self-giving, in the outpouring of the self in service to others, for the glory of God. God's pattern in Scripture is that a person must first be a servant before God promotes him or her to be a ruler.

Joseph was a servant in Egypt before he became a ruler in Egypt by the Providence of God. Moses forsook the worldly power of Egypt & served his father-in-law in the backside of a desert before He became the leader of God's people. Joshua served Moses before he became the leader of Israel. David humbly served his father as a shepherd before God raised him up as the shepherd of His people. Unless we know how to obey orders, we do not have the right to give orders. What is it that makes a godly mother the queen of her children? Simply that all her life she has been their servant, and never thought about herself, but always about them.

This is perhaps the most important basis of allocating spiritual leadership in the church. If you are a S.S. teacher you are in that position to serve your class, to study hard and teach them the Word of God, and to minister to them. If you are a deacon, you role is not to rule the church, but to serve the church. The same is true of me as a pastor. Are you serving your family, your church, and your follow man?

Jesus did not just teach us about being a servant; He showed us by His own example. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." This is the key verse in the gospel of Mark. Whenever the Bible wishes to give the supreme example, it points to Jesus. Notice that Jesus came to us. He came from where? We know from other Scriptures that He came from heaven, with all of the glory and privileges He enjoyed. He came from a realm where angels served Him. And when He came to earth, He "did not come to be served, but to serve…." He lived day after day in service to others, healing the sick, doing other good works, and teaching the Word of God to hungry souls.

His greatest act of service on our behalf was dying for us. Jesus went on to say that He had come "to give His life a ransom for many." This passage is a clear proof of Christ's substitutionary atonement. He was not just a martyr. When He suffered, He suffered in our place. When He died, He died for us. A ransom (lutron) was originally the price paid for the release of a slave. Sin makes slaves of us. Sin condemns us. But Jesus redeemed us from our slavery to sin, & He set us free by the payment of His own blood. It cost Him a very high price. It was the public payment of the debts of sinful people to a holy God.

Don't worry if you are one of the "many" that Christ died for. 1 Tim. 2:5-6 says, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…." He died for all, but since not all will be saved, He effectively died for "many." Anyone here today can be saved. The cross, with its burden of sacrifice for the world's sin, is the only power which will supply us with a sufficient motive for the loftiness of Christ-like service. Don't you want to be great in the Kingdom of God? Don't you want a great reward? Well instead of reckoning greatness by how many servants you have, Christ reckons greatness by how many you serve. Are you a servant? Do you have a servant's heart? Are you too good to serve in the nursery, or cut grass, or wipe tables after a church meal? Do you think you too important to stoop to lowly service for someone else? Jesus says to be great in the kingdom of God, you must be a servant to others. Let us serve to meet the needs of others, to help them bear burdens, or to ease suffering.

Conclusion:

Yes, a great reward awaits those who follow the example of Jesus Christ. If you follow Christ, even to the point of suffering, and if you serve others, then you will be great indeed. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote of Jesus becoming a servant, and even dying on the cross. Then he wrote, "Wherefore, God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name." Peter wrote, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and in due time, he will lift you up." If you want to be great, then follow the path to greatness that Jesus took, through humble service and sacrifice for others.

Before you can be great in the coming kingdom of God, you must first enter the kingdom by repentance of sin, & faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. He died on the cross to save you from your sins. Make sure you will be among those who will enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus said in John 3:3, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Have you been born again? If not, turn to Christ & be saved today!

Footnotes:

1 The gospel of Matthew tells us that the mother of James and John was involved in this request. The boys must have put their mom up to this, & she was more than willing to ask this favor for her sons. What mom does not want her children to succeed in school, in extracurricular activities, and in life?

2 Peter, James, and John were part of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. Furthermore, their mother seems to have been a sister or cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus (cf. Mt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).

3 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: #4310 (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1979).

Sources:

Ronald A. Beers, ed., Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House & Zondervan, 1991);

Stephen Felker, Devotional & Explanatory Notes on the Entire Bible (Col. Hghts, VA: Published by Author), 2010;

William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975);

Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vol. 7 & 8 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977 reprint);

Larry Pierce, Online Bible [CD-ROM] (Ontario: Timnathserah Inc., 1996);

A.T. Robertson, New Testament Word Pictures, Vol. IV (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931, accessed through Online Bible);

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), Mark: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1993);

Dr. Jerry Vines (sermon tape of 2/12/84);

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Diligent: Mark (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1987);

Kenneth S. Wuest's Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950).

Other sources listed in the footnotes. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

Compares sources of Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27.

© Dr. Stephen Felker

Regular Features

Health Tip: Drinking in Middle Age May Accelerate Cognitive Decline

by Pauline Anderson

Middle-aged men who drink 36 grams or more of alcohol a day, or a little more than 2 and a half standard drinks, are more likely to experience faster decline in all cognitive areas - but especially memory - during a period of 10 years, translating into 5.7 years of extra cognitive aging, a new study suggests.

The association for women in the study is less clear, although women who drink 19 or more grams per day of alcohol may experience faster decline in executive function. Interestingly, women who abstain from drinking also have faster declines in certain cognitive domains.

"Excessive alcohol consumption is known to have detrimental short- and long-term effects on the brain, but the effect of consumption of around 3 to 4 drinks per day is less clear," said lead author Séverine Sabia, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, United Kingdom.

Unlike much of the previous research on the impact of alcohol consumption on cognition, the current study included middle-aged persons. "The elderly may have reduced their alcohol consumption due to health concerns," said Dr. Sabia. "In many of the previous studies, the effect of heavy drinking was difficult to assess due to the small number of heavy drinkers."

The study was published online January 15, 2014 in Neurology.

Whitehall II Study

Researchers looked at a sample of 7153 participants in the Whitehall II Study who had the requisite data on alcohol consumption and other covariates. The ongoing study, which includes British civil servants, was started in 1985-1988, with a cohort that was 67% male.

Researchers categorized amounts of reported daily alcohol consumption. The reference category for men in the main analysis was 0.1 to 19.9 grams per day. In women, the reference consumption was between 0.1 and 9.9 grams per day. In the United States, a standard drink is 0.6 fluid ounces ? or 14 grams ? of alcohol.

The cognitive battery of 4 tests (a short-term verbal memory test and 3 tests of executive function) was carried out starting in 1997-1999 when the participants ranged in age from 44 to 69 years, and then repeated twice during the next 10 years.

The study showed that men who consumed 36 or more grams of alcohol a day showed faster declines on all cognitive measures compared with those consuming 0.1 to 19.9 grams a day.

The difference in 10-year decline in the global cognitive score was -0.10 (95% confidence interval [CI], -0.16 to -0.04; P ? .005). The difference in executive function was -0.06 (95% CI, -0.12 to 0.12; P ? .05); the difference in memory was -0.16 (95% CI, -0.26 to -0.05; P ? .005).

The effect sizes are comparable to 2.4 extra years of cognitive decline in the global cognitive score, 1.5 extra years for executive function, and 5.7 extra years for memory.

"We found that the decline in memory was accelerated by almost 6 years in heavy male drinkers," commented Dr. Sabia. "This means, for example, that a man aged 55 years drinking more than 36 grams of alcohol per day would have a decline in memory comparable to a man aged 61 years."

There was no clear association in relation to beer or wine, which suggests that the effect of the overall alcohol consumption was not driven by a specific beverage, said Dr. Sabia

Evidence in Women

Because the study did not include enough women who were heavy drinkers, it was impossible to test the effect of the same amount of alcohol as in men. There was only weak evidence in women (P = .09) that drinking more than 19 grams of alcohol per day was associated with a faster decline in executive function, corresponding to 2.4 extra years of decline.

Although abstention did not seem to have an effect on cognitive decline in men, it did have an effect in women. Compared with women consuming 0.1 to 9.9 grams per day, the 10-year abstainers experienced faster decline in the global cognitive score (difference: -0.21; P ? .05) and executive functions (-0.17; P ? .05) corresponding to about 5 extra years of cognitive decline.

However, said Dr. Sabia, because the number of abstainers was small and their characteristics likely differed from other participants, "this result has to be replicated in other studies, including a higher number of abstainers, before drawing conclusions."

The study did not examine the effect on cognition of binge drinking, but Dr. Sabia pointed to the "large literature on the detrimental effect of binge drinking, particularly in young adults."

The ways in which excessive alcohol consumption might speed cognitive decline are complex, although the main hypothesis focuses on cerebrovascular and cardiovascular pathways, and involves effects that play out over time, said Dr. Sabia.

"Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better vascular outcomes, while both abstinence and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with higher risk of vascular disease, which, in turn, may increase the risk of cognitive impairment," she said. "Furthermore, heavy alcohol consumption has detrimental short- and long-term effects on the brain, including direct neurotoxic effect, proinflammatory effects, and indirect impact via cerebrovascular disease and vitamin deficiency."

The study findings are in line with previous research and with accepted guidelines. According to Dr. Sabia, drinking fewer than 2-3 drinks a day for men and 1-2 drinks for women is "probably not deleterious" for cognitive outcomes.

But these "safe limits" may be too high for older people because of the physiologic and metabolic changes related to aging, said Dr. Sabia. She pointed to recent evidence from a UK Royal College of Psychiatrists report (page 8) that suggests that the upper limit for those older than 65 years is 1.5 units per day or 11 units per week (1 unit = 8 grams).

Some countries have specific consumption guidelines for the elderly. For example, said Dr. Sabia, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that people older than 65 years not consume more than 7 drinks a week, and that they have no more than 3 drinks on any given day.

Statistical Sophistication

Asked to comment on these findings, Iain Lang, PhD, senior lecturer, Public Health, University of Exeter, United Kingdom, who has done research on the impact of alcohol on cognition, noted the study’s "aggressive degree of statistical sophistication."

For example, said Dr. Lang, unlike other studies, the researchers used more than a single baseline measure of alcohol consumption.

Another novel aspect to this study, he added, was that it included middle-aged participants. Most previous work was carried out in adults aged 65 years and older.

Nevertheless, the study findings were not unexpected, said Dr. Lang. "I didn't think it was entirely surprising in terms of the results in that they're broadly pretty similar to what we've seen in older adults."

The study may not have included sufficient numbers of women to get a good estimate of the effects of heavy drinking, commented Dr. Lang. However, he added, "it would be rather surprising if this is problematic in men but not in women."

The alcohol consumption cut-offs used in the study should be approached with caution, stressed Dr. Lang. In women, for example, there is no way to verify that they are drinking 9.9 grams (the limit for the reference group in women) vs 10 grams a day.

"The general message that drinking a lot is potentially risky is fine, but I think it's problematic to say that if you drink up to 9.9 grams you're good, and if you drink 10 grams or over you're in trouble," said Dr. Lang.

He added, however, that he thought the 9.9 gram a day limit would be "in the ballpark at which you'd expect harm to occur."

As for being unable to point to a particular type of alcohol as the culprit in cognitive deterioration, Dr. Lang said that this is a recurrent challenge. "Unfortunately, for analytical purposes, very few people drink only 1 type of alcohol."

The study was supported by the British Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the US National Institute on Aging. Both Dr. Sabia and Dr. Lang report no relevant financial relationships.

Source: Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old age

by Séverine Sabia, PhD, Alexis Elbaz, MD, PhD, Annie Britton, PhD, Steven Bell, PhD, Aline Dugravot, MSc, Martin Shipley, MSc, Mika Kivimaki, PhD and Archana Singh-Manoux, PhD
Neurology. Published online January 15, 2014.

Recipe: How to Make Salads You Can't Stop Craving

By Emma Christensen

A truly satisfying salad is one that we look forward to eating -- and that can stand up to the lure of the quick take-out burger or slice of pizza!

The key is to bypass those limp vegetables and tasteless greens. Instead, fill salads with ingredients that are fresh and full of flavor. Salads made from tender baby greens topped with crunchy seasonal vegetables and homemade vinaigrette will satisfy both our taste buds and our appetites.

Not all salads have to consist of raw vegetables, either. Roasted beets, caramelized onions and steamed green beans taste just as good straight from the fridge as they do when warm. Incorporating these or other cooked vegetables along with cooked grains, pasta, soft cheeses, nuts and different kinds of greens give us yet another way of creating salads we can't stop craving.

Guidelines for Making Satisfying Salads:

• Go for variety, but not too much.

A mix of several different fixings makes a salad interesting and pleasurable to eat. But more than five or six toppings and the flavors can start to clash.

• Think about texture.

We like a balance of chewy, crunchy and tender in our salads. Consider ingredients such as cubes of cheese, toasted nuts and sliced hard boiled eggs to give salads a range of textures.

• Think about flavor.

Too much or too little of a particular flavor can make a salad taste bland and boring. Aim for something sweet, savory, acidic and bitter in every salad with toppings like fresh fruit, grilled chicken, fresh minced herbs and zesty vinaigrettes.

• Add a dash of salt.

A few pinches of salt either on the greens themselves or whisked into the vinaigrette will bring out the best flavors in your salad.

• Make toppings ahead of time.

To avoid falling into a rut (and to save some time!), prepare an assortment of salad toppings for the week then make your salad each day using just the ingredients that appeal to you.

Lemon-Scented Israeli Couscous With Wilted Greens

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Israeli couscous
1 pound swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach or other hearty green
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup almonds, toasted in 350-degree oven and roughly chopped

Directions:

Cook the Israeli couscous in a large amount of salted boiling water until tender. Drain, drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.

Wash the leaves of chard and pat dry, leaving some moisture on the leaves. Strip the leaves of chard from the stems, reserving the stems. Working in batches, roll the leaves lengthwise into a cigar-shape and cut into thin ribbons. Roughly chop the stems.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan or Dutch oven with a lid. Cook the onions, chard stems and a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent and starting to turn brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Stir the chard leaves into the onion mixture along with a half-teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stirring every few minutes, steam the chard until it is wilted and tender. Add a tablespoon of water if the pan is too dry. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Taste the greens and add salt or pepper as needed.

When the greens have cooled to room temperature, toss in the feta cheese. Serve by laying a bed of greens on the plate, adding a scoop of couscous, and sprinkling the almonds over top. Leftovers will keep for one week.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish

Apple-Tuna Salad On Mixed Greens

Ingredients:

1 can (5-ounces) solid albacore tuna packed in water
1/2 small apple (honey crisp, braeburn, or granny smith), diced
1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 packed cup salad greens
Handful of walnuts halves
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Open and drain the can of tuna. Empty it into a medium-sized mixing bowl and use a fork to gently break apart the larger pieces. Add the diced apples and cheddar cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a pinch of salt and a pepper. Add it to the tuna mixture a little at a time and toss gently until the salad is as seasoned as you like.

Arrange the salad greens on a plate and spoon the tuna salad on top. Use your fingers to crumble the walnuts into small pieces over the salad.

This recipe can be easily doubled. Keep the tuna mixture and greens separated until serving. Leftovers can be kept for one week.

Yield: Serves one as a main course

About The Author:

Emma Christensen is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking.

Family Special: The Family That Prays Together
"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
- Matthew 18:20

The day you were married, you probably knelt together and shared a prayer during your wedding ceremony. In front of family and friends, you helped cement your union through this joint conversation with the Lord. Sadly, many couples never pray together again.

Don't misunderstand - prayer when you are alone, with a friend, in a Bible study, or in church is extremely important and valued just as much by our heavenly Father. But there is something special about prayer between husband, wife, and God that can't be found elsewhere. It creates a spiritual connection, accountability, and a holy bond that brings strength and stability to the relationship. It can even allow you to communicate about sensitive issues that might otherwise never come out - issues that can be discussed and prayed over in a spirit of humility and purity of motive.

The old saw "The family that prays together, stays together" still applies today. We encourage you to remember it the next time you kneel in prayer.

Just between us…

When was our last meaningful prayer time together?
What's the most common obstacle that keeps us from praying together?
How do you feel about praying with me?
How could we benefit from praying as a couple?
Should we schedule a regular time of prayer together?

Father, You have blessed us with each other as partners in marriage. Show us how to make prayer - together - a regular part of our life. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Inspirational: You Have Within You The Power to Change The World

by John O'Leary, RisingAbove.com

"You have been created so that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world." - Andy Andrews

Who has impacted your life?

Often we think of parents, siblings, pastors, spouses, children and friends.

Occasionally, though, you realize those who have dramatically impacted your life were people you barely knew. Maybe even people you've forgotten you met.

I was reminded of this truth through a chance encounter last weekend.

You see, as a kid I loved to pretend I was in the army. We played with GI Joe guys in the backyard all day. Leaves transformed into landing crafts, mulch became enemy beaches and black ants became enemy soldiers.

My childhood playfulness continued after I was burned. In fact, my playfulness was especially important during the agonizing physical therapy sessions that followed. he sessions were torturous, there was one thing I could always look forward to: Playing once it ended.

After my session, the therapists would roll me out to the area for patients waiting for their rides. That's where I met a valet; he was a teenager named Scott.

Scott was my buddy.

He must have looked at this nine-year-old kid wrapped with bandages, eyes still watering from the session he'd just experienced, Velcro-strapped into a wheelchair, waiting for a ride home as an incredible opportunity to do something kind for someone who needed it. And every day he'd do exactly that.

After all of the pain in my therapy session, he provided me each day with a moment of peace, fun, and playfulness.

We'd act like we were in radio communication with the ambulances and that they were part of our army. Scott was my sergeant, I was his lieutenant. He took orders from me. He'd roll me to various spots to maximize my view of the ambulance traffic below. And when my ride arrived, Scott would do one more thing that always made my day: He'd let me talk on his walkie-talkie.

"Johnny to base. Johnny to base. Send reinforcements. Enemy approaching. Over and out."

Some angry security officer would then hop on and tell the kid to get off the radio!

And with a big, beaming smile on my face, my friend would push me toward my parent's car. He'd help me in, wave goodbye and tell me he looked forward to seeing me the next day.

I hadn't thought of or seen 19-year-old Scott valet in 28 years.

Until Saturday night.

My wife and I were at dinner celebrating Valentine's day. Beth recognized someone she used to work with. While the ladies chatted, I introduced myself to her husband, a man named Scott.

He asked me if I had ever been at St. John's Hospital and I said, "Yes. Why?"

Years ago, he said, he used to work as a valet. Parking cars. But there was one kid, one little patient, who grabbed his heart and remained part of his life in the almost three decades that followed. A little boy named ‘Johnny.' He asked me if I might be that same kid.

My friends, you never know the impact your life may have on another. The ripple effect of our life is more profoundly significant than we grasp.

Sometimes you impact others by serving them. Sometimes you impact others by letting them serve you.

Today I challenge you to realize this truth.

We have been created in order that we might make a difference. We have within ourselves the power to change the world.

Today, embrace the gift of your life, the possibility within it and the truth that the best is yet to come.  

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