Submissive Praying

(Day 16 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

For just a moment, put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. Imagine the Son of God seated on His throne in heaven right next to His Father. The crystal sea, the golden pavement, the perfect peace, the angel voices… It is incredible, beyond our imagination. Jesus is God. He is one with the Father. Yet, when God asked, Jesus laid aside His authority, His divinity, His rightful place, His glory and His immortality. He willingly submitted to His Father and became a helpless human infant. He grew up and experienced life just as we do, and He willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice. He died a brutal and humiliating death because He was fully surrendered to the will of God.

Jesus is our example. We are told to:

“have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing**by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Most of us will never be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. Rather we are called to daily surrender our lives in service of each other. It’s easy to be nice to a cashier or hold the door open for an older person. But do we follow Jesus’ example and surrender our own will when our spouse is doing that annoying thing again? Do we lay aside our desires when a child needs some one-on-one? Do we help with dishes even when it’s been a very long day? Do we maintain our composure when an unsaved coworker gets under our skin?

Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Can we do the same? The submissive prayer puts our hearts and minds in the proper position before God so that we follow His directive, even when we don’t understand why. If Jesus being God would submit to the Father’s will, and He is our example, then we should do no less.

Hanging on the cross at the very end, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) That should be our own battle cry every morning.

“Father, I lay down my life today. I choose to surrender my will to your own. I choose to serve the people you have put into my life. Into Your hands I commit my spirit, my heart and my life.”

By Lisa Fulghum

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There Will Be Pain

I came home two nights ago facing a choice. The choice was how to check off the 10-mile run on the training schedule. To make the choice, I chose to lay down on the bed to ponder (a hindsight look at the choice I ended up making).

As I saw it, I had three choices:

  1. Don’t
  2. Do it now while it’s 80 degrees
  3. Wait until morning, which meant the alarm would go off in time for me to hit the pavement by 4:30

Choice #1 quickly went away to avoid regret somewhere along the race route a week from Sunday. That left choosing between heat and sleep. Choosing heat meant getting it done but with much more strain. Choosing sleep meant getting less and running unfully rested. As usual, my mind ran away from heat strain choosing the dreaded early alarm. Neither sounded fun; both had pain levels more bearable than regret.

Achieving a goal, developing a discipline, and pursuing growth require sacrifice; and with sacrifice there will be pain. Committing to the pain may be half the battle of achieving, developing, and pursuing. Your commitment raises your chances of avoiding regret, knowing your sensible strain level, and rising to the challenge when doubts invade your mind.

When facing choices, maybe these questions can help:

  • How important is avoiding regret?
  • How much is too much?
  • What am I willing to sacrifice?

Make It Count

Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:3

Mary’s family had much to thank Jesus for. He had made it clear that he was the giver of life. She decided to do something extraordinary to show her love and worship.

  • Her choice was to anoint him.
  • Her choice was to give up something she’d being saving for herself.
  • Her choice was extravagant.
  • Her choice was a declaration.
  • Her choice was sacrificial.
  • Her choice was to have a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  • Her choice was to make it count.

What do you have to thank Jesus for?
What choice would make it count?

They Don’t Have To

I got a call today from a friend looking for a reference for his friend. He flew states away to help his friend who is in crisis. He illustrated this truth about friendship-you do what you don’t have to.

A friend doesn’t have to tell you the hard truth.

A friend doesn’t have to go to bat for you.

A friend doesn’t have to give you their time.

A friend doesn’t have to offer you help.

A friend doesn’t have to sacrifice for you.

A friend doesn’t have to go the extra mile.

A friend doesn’t have to do for you what you aren’t capable of doing for yourself.

A friend doesn’t have to care about your future, your success, or your wellbeing.

A friend doesn’t have to choose to be your friend.

But because they do what they don’t have to, you can call them friend. 

Who in your life does what they don’t have to for you? Thank God for them. Thank them for them.

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

He Gets on Base

(This is the second in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

Moneyball. Seen it (released 2011)? Read it (published 2003)? If your answer is no, go ahead and hit pause on whatever you’re doing, including reading this post, and get that done.

Yes, it’s that good.

If you’re a baseball fan, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re a movie fan, it received six Oscar nominations. If you love one liners, there are a plethora. So pardon my repetition, but if you haven’t watched or read it, you must.

Besides the one liner “Who’s Fabio,” one of the more memorable lines is when Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) asks Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) repeatedly why the scouts should consider several players that they otherwise weren’t. The answer over and over again was, “He gets on base.”

Beane and Brand were referencing principles based on sabermetrics, something not widely done at that time across Major League Baseball. Although it had its beginnings in the middle 20th century, sabermetrics had not been embraced by traditionalists. Beane and Brand were challenging tradition.

They didn’t care how the batter got on base; they just knew that the only way to win was scoring runs, and you can’t score runs without getting on base. If the batter is willing to take a walk, he still gets on base. If the homerun king hits a single rather than a homerun, he still gets on base.

This sounds fairly simple. But as a guy who had a whomping one hit all season in the only little league season I ever played, I can attest that getting on base is not simple. It requires several things. Several of those things are applicable to life, to what it takes to be considered worthy of the scout’s attention. Here is a short list.

Patience

Swinging at every pitch will not get you on base. Waiting for the right pitch takes discipline. Discipline and patience are teammates. It takes discipline to learn how a pitcher thinks, understand the rhythms of the game, and commit to the strategy of the manager. And this learning, understanding, and committing will require patience. The hitter who can grow in their patience at the plate and get on base will also grow in their value to the team.

Sacrifice

Every at bat is not a heroic moment. Just because you have home run capabilities doesn’t mean every swing has to be for the fences. Sometimes your ego must be checked by being satisfied with a single that gets that player in scoring position across home plate. A valuable player pursues humility and gets on base however he can.

Focus

Monumental, game-changing at bats often happen in a game. The at bat becomes a mind game or a cat-and-mouse exchange. When a normal at bat of four or fives pitches moves into double digits, the batter takes the upper hand. Why? Because he has made the pitcher see his focus. This out is not going to be easy. The hitter who can stay focused, deal with whatever pitch is thrown, raises their chances of getting on base.

The player who illustrates this so well for my team (Go Cards!) this season is Tommy Pham. As of the writing of this post, Pham leads the team in six of the twelve batting categories. His story? He was drafted in 2006 but didn’t make his big league debut until 2014 at age 26. For eight years he was working on getting on base. When he was brought up, he didn’t immediately have success. But he kept working at getting on base. So much so that this year is his most successful year, by far. Not only does he lead his team in six categories, he also is among the highest in several categories in all of baseball; in one category he’s seventh. Want to take a guess at which one? OBP-On Base Percentage.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Heartily means “from the core of one’s being.” Whatever our position-dad, husband, employer, son, leader, follower-God has given it to us. All he asks of us is to do it well, mean business, you might say, get on base. Each time it’s your turn to pick up the bat, approach the plate prepared to get on base. Grow in patience, practice sacrifice, and harness focus so when you stand before God he can say, “Good job. You kept getting on base.”

Fruity Fridays: Love=A New Commandment

by Danny Bote

If you do a quick internet search on the word love, you will find many definitions. Most definitions that you will find are in regards to love being a feeling, a strong affection toward someone, a physical attraction to someone, or a person that you have romantic feelings about. 

But what does Scripture define love as? When Galatians 5 says that love is a fruit of the Spirit, what does that mean and look like? Let’s begin by taking a look in the gospel of John. Jesus says in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another…” 

Have you ever wondered why Jesus says this is a new commandment? Isn’t that the purpose of the last six of the Ten Commandments, to love others? How is it after thousands of years after the law was given and written that Jesus is saying this is “a new commandment”?

You see, Jesus isn’t saying this is a brand new, unknown commandment, but that he is showing what it is actually supposed to look like in practice (a fruit). How is he teaching and showing us? Let’s look at the context in which this verse is found. 

Jesus gives this “new commandment” during the evening in which he was washing the disciples’ feet (which in and of itself, is incredible! The CREATOR of the UNIVERSE washing dirt off of the feet of those who are about to desert him as he gets arrested). After the foot washing, with a deeply troubled spirit, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and that it’s the disciple to whom he gives the dipped piece of bread. He proceeds to give the bread to Judas, and then Satan enters Judas. Judas leaves, and the disciples still don’t know what’s going on; they just think he went to go get the moneybag and buy something for the feast or give to the poor. Right when Judas leaves Jesus gives this “new commandment.”

So, what do we learn from this account and message on love in John 13? 

First, we love others. Don’t skip over that too fast. It doesn’t say we love those who love us, or believe like us, or like us. We love others. We love those who betray us, believe differently than us, hate us and maybe even potentially kill us one day. Christ knew all along who was going to betray him from his inner circle; yet he still loved him, served him and washed his feet. It is obvious that Judas was never saved, but Christ still loved him and served him unconditionally. 

Second, before we judge Judas and others, we must realize that we all were at one time, or still are, enemies of God. And Christ died for his enemies. Romans 5:10-11 states; “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” 

So, who are your enemies? Is it your spouse? Child? An ex-spouse? Old friend? Co-worker? Boss? Political enemy? Someone from a different religion? We are to express the love of Christ to our enemies. 

Jesus then continues his explanation of love by saying this in verse 35, “By this (love for one another) all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Do people know that you are a Christ-follower? How are they to know? 

  • By your love, service, and sacrifice for all people. 
  • When people see that you love your fellow Christ-follower as well as your enemy. 
  • When you serve and forgive all people-those who are in your inner circle and those who hate you and want to kill you. 

Then, ALL PEOPLE will know that you are a disciple of Jesus. He doesn’t say that all people will come to salvation because of the expression of love, but that when they see you and the way you love, forgive, sacrifice, and serve, other people will KNOW that you are a Christ-follower.

Then we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). If this fruit of the Spirit is being expressed in our lives, we will have the opportunity to share with people what and who true love is-Jesus Christ.