Who is the Greatest, Part 2

deborah-murrell-who-is-the-greatestA few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the disciples asking Jesus, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus surprised them with His answer.  He brought a child and and then told them, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4).

Humility is key.

A few chapters later in Matthew, this same subject of who is the greatest is addressed once again.  This time, the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling before Jesus, she asked Him for her sons to sit at His  right hand and left hand in the kingdom. This mom was going to make sure her sons were successful, that they had the prominent positions.

I know how she felt. As a mom of three sons, I would do anything to make sure of their success in life. Again, Jesus’ answer was probably unexpected.  He tells her about drinking the cup He is about to drink, and then in Matthew 20:26, He says this, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus’ ideas of greatness don’t often match up with our own and certainly not the culture that we live in.  For most of us,  greatness is recognized as wealth and power and prestige and influence.  But in these passages, greatness is marked by humility and being a servant.  I like the first definition better, but if I am to be like Jesus, I will wholeheartedly pursue humility and serving others.  There really is no other way to be like Jesus.  He came to serve and give His life and so must we.  Jesus, help us to be like you, to walk in humility and to serve and give our lives for the sake of your kingdom.

Thirty Four Years

steve-deborahSteve and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary a few days ago.  It’s funny to me how it seems like a long time ago and then it seems like yesterday that we were married and starting this great journey of life together.  I don’t feel old, but when I look at the photos, we look so young.

What happened to those two young people? Marriage happened.

Two wonderful years in Starkville, Mississippi, and then life took some unexpected twists and turns and we ended up in Manila, Philippines, helping to plant a new church. And then the babies came, and oh, the joy that they were to us. And the church grew, and we planted more churches, and they continued to grow.  And the boys grew and there was school and baseball and basketball and then tennis to fill our days and our years and our lives with such joy and busyness and wonder and excitement and so many great memories.  And then college came, and one by one, they ventured back to the USA to study, and so we all just traveled more so we could keep up with each other and see each other and keep up with work and life.  And then, William met Rachel,  and Jonathan met Moriah, and we had two weddings in less than a year.  And then a few years ago we welcomed Josephine Kate into our lives and family. And just one month ago we added another new member to our family -William III.

And here we are, thirty four years later, with a profound sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness and goodness to us in our marriage and our family and with the work that He has given us to do.  There have been many bumps and curves and difficult times on our journey but through it all, God has been faithful, and life and marriage are sweeter today than the day we said “I do.” We look forward to these next years together and thank God that His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is great.

Lists, Crowds and Disciples

I love to make lists–on paper–so I can remember what I need to do for one thing, and so I can use a red pen to check items off when they are finished.  It gives me such a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day to see those red checks. A list in my phone that gets deleted just doesn’t give me that same great feeling of being productive.

As I have studied through the Gospel of Matthew this year, I am amazed at how much Jesus gets done in a day or a few days. He ministers to crowds, and He singles out one, and then sometimes He takes His disciples off for a chat.  In chapter 19, Jesus leaves Galilee. He starts His journey to Jerusalem.  On the way, crowds follow and He heals them. The Pharisees ask Him tough questions about divorce.  The children were brought to Him so that He could pray for them and lay hands on them.  The rich young man asked Him what good deed He could do to have eternal life.  Next, he tells a parable about laborers in a vineyard. Then in Matthew 20:17-19, He pulls His disciples aside and foretells His death.

“And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Notice, He did not give this news to the crowd but to His disciples-those He knew and had a close relationship with.  I would love to know the questions they asked and what their responses were to this news.  But that is not recorded for us in this passage.  What we do we know is Jesus ministered to crowds, but He had a relationship with His disciples.  He spent time with them, talked to them, journeyed through life with them.

My prayer is that we would all be disciples–those who love and follow Jesus with our whole hearts–not just part of the crowd that shows up and perhaps even listens, but doesn’t get close. And  that we would make disciples as we tell others the good news of the Gospel.  Jesus, help us to love You and follow You and spend time with You and listen to You and learn from You as we study the Scripture, and teach others to do the same.

Birth and Life and God’s Wonderful Gifts

I am so pleased to announce the birth of our second grandchild.  He arrived three weeks early on Saturday, July 23.  He is now two weeks old and we are enjoying him so much.

He eats and sleeps and is growing before our very eyes.  Some days I want time to stand still and let him be a newborn for a little longer, and then other days I wonder and imagine and look forward to watching the amazing life God has planned for him unfold.  And every day that I hold him, or see a new picture arrive on the screen of my phone, I simply marvel at how God has once again created a new little person that is different from every other one on earth. I am reminded once again of Psalm 139:13-16:

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them.
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

Isn’t God just amazing?  His creativity and His gifts never end.

I stand in awe of God and this gift He has given William’s parents and our entire family.  We are so very grateful.

Introducing William Stephen Murrell III

Introducing William Stephen Murrell III

The happy parents

The happy parents

The happy family

The happy family

Pops and our babies. We love them so!

Pops and our babies. We love them so!

Welcoming Baby William home from the hospital

Welcoming baby William home from the hospital

Who is the Greatest?

Jesus’ disciples asked him an interesting question one day.

“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1

I wonder what kind of answers they were expecting. Maybe they were all hoping that He would choose them.  After all, they walked with Him and talked with Him and were able to ask Him questions like this.  They were His “inner circle.”  I am sure His answer shocked them.

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.” Matthew 18:2

Humility can be hard to find these days.  In an age of self promotion, self importance, self centeredness and general selfishness, humility is sadly lacking. Humility must be intentional in our lives.  It doesn’t come natural to most of us.  We live in a world where we are told we must assert ourselves, brand ourselves, make ourselves great, rise to the top.  We raise our children to be great-top of the class, best in 1st grade field day , most accomplished in piano or art or tennis.  I did it too.  After all, we don’t want to be sloths lying around doing nothing, or raise lazy children who have nothing to aspire to in life.

We have things to do, places to go, people to see.  Many of us have a sense of calling that God has put in our hearts of what we must do or become. So how do we balance it all?  Humility is the key.  We must come to Jesus every day and humble ourselves in prayer, acknowledging that we need Him, we need His power working in and through our lives to do that which He has called us to do.

I think the song I learned as a child sums it up so well.

“Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong,  they are weak, but He is strong.”

May we all live and walk in humility all the days of our lives, looking to Jesus with childlike faith and knowing that our strength comes from Him, and all the glory for any accomplishments we may have belong to Him and Him alone.