Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine’

How to Defend the Gospel

Posted by undergroundchurch on October 4, 2010

NOTE: This article contains strategies for believers and is not intended for those of you that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ because it contains strategic information (trade secrets).  If  you wish to establish a relationship with Jesus prior to reading this article, shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to talk with you. Then you can read the article and get more out of it.

Call me a pacifist, if you will, but I do believe that there is a right and a wrong way in which believers defend the good news (a.k.a. the Gospel) of Jesus Christ and that for the most part, we get it wrong.

Do our methods hinder the message?

Personally, I am appalled at the way the world treats the God who came and died in their place, took on their guilt and shame, and made a way back to himself.  I mean, what did Jesus ever do to deserve the bad rap He gets from unbelievers?

The answer to that question may lie more with His followers more than in His own life.  While it is true that Jesus saidthe world would hate us because of him, we aren’t making that attitude any better with our public pulpit indiscretions, our internal disputes played out on the world’s stage where we are mocked, our church splits, and even how poorly we drive when we cut off another driver while we flash our “I love Jesus” bumper sticker.

We can learn from Paul in Philippians 1:7 that there are three basic ways to reflect the good news: in chains, defending and confirming.   We spend a lot of time on the second, and not much on the other two.

In Chains or In Battle

What does it mean to be in chains for the Gospel?  And more importantly, what does that look  like in America?

Paul represented this aspect of his testimony by being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned and stoned all of which only reflected Jesus attitude on the Cross when he forgave his killers while they were killing him.  This is a lost art with the Christian world in America.  There is a proverb that reads, “in doing so (being nice), you will heap burning coals upon their head”.  Our tactic tends to display defensive aggression and not much offensive conversion.

We followers of Jesus need to follow Jesus.  We need to understand that the world is lost and they don’t need to Adopt godly standards, they Need God.

I was reading an article about an artist showing his “art” where he depicted Jesus in, shall we say, non-biblical ways.  Now here is the question for all the believers reading this article; how should followers of Jesus respond?

A) We can respond the way the Christians are reported on in the article and protest.  What does this do though to the witness for Jesus? If we get them to take it down, then what? Do people come to Christ because the art is not longer there?

B) We use the opportunity to show people what Jesus was really like. Oh, you might need to turn the other cheek, but in so doing, you may make them look away long enough to show them a better way.

What is the intent of our defense?

I guess it comes down to this.  We can make noise and protest the world’s…. uh, worldliness. In so doing, we might even change the look of things… less strip clubs, less bars, less cheesy art exhibits, but are people coming to Christ, or have we just won moral victory that makes us feel better, but really does nothing for the advancement of the Gospel?

I’m not saying that we should just let the world do their thing and build strip clubs on every corner.  We have an American right to live in a place that reflects morals (Constitutionally backed), but the dilemma we face is that moral legislation, moral victories, moral indignation, does not bring people to Christ.  Sometimes, we need to put on the chains for Christ in order to set people free. Through our chains, we confirm Jesus’ good news.

What does our testimony reflect?

Is our testimony to the world reflecting Christ or leaving a bitter taste that becomes a stumbling block to the message?When they think about the church of Jesus, what image comes to their mind?  Is it the image of a group of zealots that want to change their laws and restrict their freedoms?  Is it a group of holier-than-thou people that live paradoxical lives?  Is it a church that burns books from other religions, protests funerals of soldiers or removes evolution from text books in public schools?

Or… should it be the image of a church that first and foremost ministers to widows and orphans and feeds the hungry, helps the needy?  Is it an image of a church that has hope for eternity and knows where they are going and knows how to show them the way?  Is it an image of a church that spends less money on their buildings, parking lots, sound systems and salaries than they do on their outreach to communities through helping others and ministering Christ to a lost and dying people?

The Calling

As a church, we are called to take on the image of Christ and to reflect Christ to each other and to the world.  When we defend the good news He brought us through the cross, does our defense become an offense to those that need to know the news?

A lost world is lost and trying to find their way in darkness.  By default, they are going to do things that repulse believers. It is the nature of the world.

We carry the light of Jesus Christ and have to use that light to bring people to Christ FIRST. If we change the heart, we change the world.


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Where Faith and the World Collide

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 29, 2010

With all these ridiculous “religious knowledge” surveys going around, I got to thinking about “faith” and just what it is.

I think there are two primary pieces to the “religious” experience with which some just don’t understand– Faith and Hope. I will address faith here.

There are two facts about faith that must be understood:

  1. True faith is not blind
  2. True faith is not void of substance

Those that steer clear of faith in God tend to do so because they see it as a futile, wishful-thinking belief system empty of reason, understanding and wisdom. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Faith is not a childish look into a fantasy world, but a childlike trust in a revealed reality.  The goal in faith is to connect with God through relationship.  The problem is that if you try to prove God to yourself first, you fail to take the path God intended for you to take to produce faith in you.

Faith follows a specific path – Obedience to Jesus first, revelation of Jesus second and finally faith in Jesus is born.  Notice that all three have their source in Jesus.

God calls us to a path that begins with him.  Faith is not based on my understanding but His understanding.  I have to trust Him first, demonstrated through obedience, and then I can receive a faith that comes from God, for He rewards those that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Abraham is a perfect example.  He walked with very little faith for most of His life.  Yes, he followed God’s leading and that was out of obedience, but never really trusted him.  God said, “leave your family”, but Abraham took his father.  God promised him that his children would be plentiful, but he lied about his wife to protect his life.

It wasn’t until Abraham was challenged to give back to God the only son he had been given by God, through a black and white act of obedience, that Abraham achieved the level of obedience to God that God was looking for.  Just as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son as a sacrifice to God, and angel stopped him and said these powerful words, “Now I know that you fear me, for you did not withhold your son from me.” (Genesis 22:12). It was during the trek to the altar that Abraham answered his son’s question concerning what they were going to sacrifice with, “God will provide”. (Genesis 22:8)

The scriptures say multiple times that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“. Strangely enough, the path to faith comes through a fear in God which produces in us obedience.

Once we obey, God can then respond in building up our faith.

You see, if the faith you have is your own, it is bound to fail.  But if the faith you have comes from God, then the source is solid and produces in you a revelation of God that makes Him real in you.

Nature cries out that there is a God, but it doesn’t tell you how to establish relations with Him.  Only when God reveals himself to you through faith, do you discover that your faith is a sure foundation.

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Predestination: How God Sees Time

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 17, 2009

We are temporal beings.  We see things in terms of chronology.  So when it comes to eternity, we have a psychological problem.  It’s a hard thing to grasp.

Consider this… Eternal life means you will never cease to exist.  EVER!!! Take a few moments and try to think a million, billion, trillion years down the road.  Well, you have just looked at the first seconds of eternity.  As difficult as that is, try this on for size.  God never had a beginning.

I can sorta imagine never ceasing.  I can’t, for all my attempts,  put my mind around never having a beginning.  My problem is that “time” is a factor that I just can’t let go of.

Scientifically speaking, time is a property of matter.  This was part of Einstein’s postulations, but God is spiritual, so how would time affect Him?  Actually, it doesn’t because He invented it.

Let me help you realize the difficulty you have by looking at the three dimensions we live in.

The First Dimension



Imagine for a moment, you saw a one dimensional world.  That one dimension would be a line like the one to the left.  Now look at the dots (1,2 and 3); they represent people in that world.  When person one looks at person two, what do they see?  A Dot.

Do they see the line?  No.  They have no depth perception in that universe, they can only see the dot.

Now what is dot two tells dot one that dot three exists.  Dot one would have to take dot two’s word for it because dot one and three can’t see each other because dot two is in the way.

Confusing?  Try being the dots.  But you have an advantage… you can see the linear component to their world.  They are a line of dots, but they don’t know that and have to take it by faith if I told them.

Now, try to describe to the one dimensional person a two dimensional world like the one to the left.  The one dimensional person can’t even fully understand their world, how can they even conceptualize a two dimensional world?

Looking at the two dimensional world we see two people (illustrated by the stick figures).  When the stick figure people look at each other, what do they see?  A line.

The limitations of their world present challenges similar to the one dimensional world.  But like the one dimensional world, they too cannot fully grasp their own world.




Lets add a third dimension to the equation.  With the third dimension, many new things come into play.  I can see all around an object and get a pretty good idea about what it happening, but even here, I am limited.  I can only see one side of an object at a time, so I have to walk around it to get a better understanding of exactly what I’m seeing.

With each dimension, we gain a little more understanding, but we still have struggles understanding.

When a three dimension being intercects the world of a two dimensional being, how does the two dimensional being interpret it?  As a line.

If I took a piece of paper and put my finger through it, only the part inside the paper would be visible to their world, the rest of me is invisible because it is outside their world.

I, in my three dimensional world, have a much better handle on their world and can give them greater insight than they can even dream.  What they think is reality, really isn’t.  But with my insight, they can grow in understanding beyond their limitations.

That’s what God did with us through Jesus.  God intersected our world through the physical manifestation of Jesus Christ.  God is always here, but we don’t see him because we only see in three dimensions.  However, the reality is that He operates outside our sphere and understands how it works far better.



He can see the end from the beginning because he is beyond time.  He can see things in our world like we can see in that two dimensional world.

So how does God see time?  He sees it as an obstacle for us to overcome.  He isn’t concerned with it.  We are the ones that struggle day in and day out with hurrying up, waiting in lines and rush hour traffic.  We are the ones that think God isn’t working fast enough.  We just don’t get that time doesn’t affect Him or His plans.

God’s sacrifice of Christ took place before time began (run that through your cranium). And yet he died in our world too.  He preknew who would be saved, yet He fights for every one of us.

He knew Judas would betray him, yet he gave him every opportunity to stop… He made Judas the treasurer; he told him he would betray him to his face; and he sat him right next to him at the last supper.  That’s the kind of God we serve.  One who knew all about you, yet died for you anyway.

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Predestination: How it Works

Posted by undergroundchurch on November 16, 2009

Predestination – a fancy word for God deciding things before they happen.

There are some that believe that God has gone so far in predestination to already determine who will be saved and who will not be saved.  I take some issue with this because that defeats the purpose of Love.  (See the first article)

There are only a couple Scriptures (2 Thessalonian 2:13; Romans 8:29) people use to support the teaching that God predetermines who will be saved, but I think they are simply reading too much into it.  The actions of Jesus were enough for all to be saved.  Anyone who wants to receive the gift of salvation can (Revelation 22:17).  According to the 2 Thessalonians passage, we are simply all chosen, the Spirit of God does the work of Christ in us after we accept the offer of being chosen by believing in the Truth.

So the message is that salvation is available to all – period.

Remember the old TV series, Mission Impossible? Ethan Hawk would receive  a tape, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”  Ethan was chosen for the mission, but it was up to Ethan to receive that calling.  In the same way, the message has been left in your hands, God has chosen you for a mission…  should you choose to accept it, your life will never be the same again.

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way – Part 8 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 8, 2009

See Part 7

Here we are at the final prayer of Nehemiah, and it is truly the final prayer recorded.

Remember me with favor, O my God – Nehemiah 13:31

Once again, we look at the motives of Nehemiah.  This seems like a selfish prayer at first glance, but it is the first time he actually prays simply for himself, and given his job performance, I’d say it’s about time.

This is the last verse in the book, and he has fought a hard fight; he has finished strong; he has run his race.  He has poured his heart and soul into the restoration of Jerusalem and now he prays to God, “Remember me”.

I don’t want this statement to be misconstrued, but you can unselfishly ask for blessing when your lifestyle isn’t built on being blessed; however, if you live for blessing, you might want to look hard at your motives.

Nehemiah sacrified. David sacrificed. Moses sacrificed.  Many in the scriptures gave all they had in their journey with God.  When they spoke of being blessed by God, their hearts were already in the mindset of serving God without self-interest.  The mission was all about God’s plan.  There is no shame in asking for blessing, especially when your life is devoted to the cause of God.

God loves to bless, but He is not frivolous about it either.  He doesn’t just aimlessly toss about blessings.  Blessings have a positive short-term effect, but if the one being blessed is not grounded properly in Christ, then the blessing will dry up and the one being blessed will not grow, but become dependent on receiving blessings in order to maintain their spiritual walk.

Blessing from God is always good, but if we are ill equiped to handle the blessing, then we can become prideful, selfsh, greedy, and simply unchanged.  Blessings actually have very little imact on our spiritual outcome.

I have often wondered why so many believers have so many struggles, so many heart aches, and so much pain.  I know this doesn’t preach well (as they might say), but it might be that the only way God can get us to the point of talking with him is when we are afflicted.

You know that I’m right; you just are having a hard time admitting it.  When is it tougher to get on your face before God in humility, when things are going great or when things are terrible?  The Bible tells us plainly that Suffering produced Perseverance and Perseverance produces Character and Character produces Hope! (Romans 5:3-5)  The path to hope begins with the fundamental understanding of suffering.

Paul understood this all too well.  In fact, he is the only person I know that was called by Jesus with these words, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16) Tell the truth, would you become a Christian if Jesus said that to you?

Paul understood, as Nehemiah understood, because he said, “I want to know Jesus in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering”.

If you don’t hear anything I say, hear this, “You will never know Jesus fully until you know him in his suffering.”

Christianity is not meant to be pretty, it is a battle – a bloody battle that started with the battle wounds Jesus bore on the Cross.  We struggle and fight everyday, and we win battles everyday, and that is the point.  In winning a battle, we grow.  We struggle and train hard for this race.  We fall down, but we get back up.  We fight knowing that we will be the victors in the end.  It is the actual struggle that God uses to make us stronger.  Deliverance out of struggle never made any Christian stronger.

Too many preach a message of Christianity that gives the listener enough head knowledge to be dangerous, especially to themselves, but they aren’t taught that the Christian walk is not a cake walk. For when they find that the battle gets hot, they struggle and fail because they weren’t told ahead of time that while Jesus may have promised roses, he also promised thorns on those very roses.

Don’t be afraid of the struggle; dive right in.  Know that your successful journey gives you every right and privilege to pray as many have prayed in the past, “Remember me with favor, O God!”

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way, Part 5 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on September 1, 2009

Part 4

This prayer occurred earlier with Nehemiah, but I think this is the best point to talk about it.  Again, the content of the prayer is not mentioned, but the purpose is quite clear.

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king. (2:4)

Nehemiah was just hanging around the king very sad after his prayer and fasting about Jerusalem’s plight. The king recognized the heaviness of Nehemiah’s heart, then asked the question, “What is it you want?”

The king was actually setting up Nehemiah for a blessing by the power of God. This is one of those situations where everything seems to be going perfect, a blessing comes, the stars align, all the players seem to be in the perfect spot.  The immediate tendency for most of us is to just go with the flow. 

It’s the kind of thing that sports athletes, poker players and believers share in common – getting in a groove.  It feels good when everything is happening just right; in fact, you feel like you can take on the world.  And therein lies the danger.

I think Nehemiah knows this, and so he does the one thing that is the ultimate evidence that he fears the Lord, he prays even though it seems unnecessary.

Pride is a nasty thing, and usually attacks you when everything is going well.  He had been praying and fasting, God set up everything just right, so instead of jumping right in, he prays. This simple act kept the power of pride from rearing its ugly head.

And what about that prayer? You know the kind of prayer he prayed, “Oh, Lord! You know this is a do or die situation.  Give me wisdom, strength and favor.”  It’s one of those short prayers that reminds us and the Lord that we know that He is in charge.

Reading through the Bible you will find scores of these types of prayers.  No recorded words, just the mentioning of a prayer.  Even Jesus prayed these prayers constantly. This is how the Christian walk should be. 

When you go to that meeting at work, spend a moment and pray.  When you make a decision that is either big or small, take a moment and remember who’s in charge.

These prayers aren’t insignificant; they are telling.  They show a heart that is bent toward God and humble toward self.  These are the prayers we should pray often and everywhere.

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Prayer the Nehemiah Way, Part 3 of 8

Posted by undergroundchurch on August 30, 2009

See Part 2

The Prayer:

Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.  Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. (4:4,5)

When Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), I think he was thinking of a prayer just like this.

One thing you will notice about Nehemiah is that he knew he was walking into a very dangerous situation when he traveled back to Jerusalem.  There were people in the land that wanted to stop any rebuilding of Jerusalem.  They would taunt the workers day and night, but there were some things you notice in Nehemiah that are critical to understanding Jesus message.

First, Nehemiah expressed his anger toward his enemies to God.  It is not easy to come right out and “love” your enemy.  By its very definition, this is not possible.  However, what Nehemiah does is direct his anger toward God.  He doesn’t carry out anger on his enemy.  This is essential to a good witness.  How can you tell someone about the love of God when you are expressing anger and hate?

David did this quite often.  He would be abused by his enemies and then take that anger to God.  When he later encountered his enemies, he took mercy on them.  Had he not directed his anger to God, he may have sinned by doing something to his enemies that would displease God.

When you get angry, don’t sin (See Ephesian 4:26).  Remember that prayer is simply conversations with God.  That is what you need to have so that God can relieve you of the anger and let you see more clearly.

Finally, he leaves the judgment of his enemies to God alone.  This is important.  You do not have the right as a believer to carry out judgment on others.  It is God’s to avenge.  It is also perfectly fine for you to acknowledge to God that you’d like Him to avenge.  This is not contrary to the “pray for those that persecute you”, it is simply being honest.

You may also want to include prayers like, “forgive me for my anger”, “help me love my enemy”, and others similar to this if you find yourself praying for vengence.

Certainly the goal of a believer is to mature, and as you do, you will find that your enemies have less impact on your spiritual well-being.  David late in his life actually passed by one of his enemies as insults were being hurled at him.  He calmly let it happen even supposing that they could be words from God to keep him humble (2 Samuel 16:5-14).  When reading stories about David like that, keep in mind that God considered him a man after his own heart.

So in short, don’t take matters into your own hands with your enemies and those that want to hurt you; go to God first, release your frustration, ask for a change of heart and react with the wisdom God gives you.

See Part 4

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Undeniable Truth Number 1

Posted by undergroundchurch on July 19, 2009

OK; there are loads of undeniable truths found in the Bible, but I want to hit on what I believe is the top ten keys.  These are the black and white truths of Scripture that are very plain.

The best part about truth is that is doesn’t change whether or not we choose to believe it. You can deny the existence of gravity, but if you step off a cliff, you will discover that your belief system didn’t line up with the undeniable truth.

I do want to gear these toward believers even though they still apply to those that don’t believe in Jesus as the only way and savior of the world.

Number 1 – Forgiveness is not an Option

I know that we think we may have rights, but the fact is that God doesn’t give us any rights when it comes to forgiving others. You must forgive!

In fact, the Bible is plain about it, if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you  (Matthew 6:5-15). In fact, the post discussion on the Lord’s prayer, which has this concept at its core, also focuses on fogiving. 

I was in Sunday class today, and we were talking about the reasons why we should forgive.  I listened to Stormie Omartian speak why we should forgive.  They were all good reasons, but reasons that can only be discovered once you obey Jesus and forgive.

God expects obedience first and faith second.  You don’t always understand why God demands certain things from us.  We think that because we were wronged by an individual that we have the right to retaliate with unforgiveness.  Unfortunately, you don’t see the reason to forgive until you actually forgive.  Your unforgiveness blinds you to the peace you can have with a life full of love and not bitterness.

The only person that hurts when you are filled with unforgiveness is you. It is the number one undeniable truth and one that can affect your eternity.

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The Greatest Description of Jesus: Part 3 of 4

Posted by undergroundchurch on July 15, 2009

The continuing study of Philippians 2.  See Part 2.

The God-man:

…being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:7b-8)

Do you know that there are more scriptures that talk about God being a man (Jesus) than Jesus being God? 

In our society today, we tend to have less faith in God and have substituted it with faith in “science”.  Much of what we call science is just faith in what we see, and I am amazed how often that faith changes.

Twenty years ago, science said that we were going into a period of global cooling, now it’s global warming.  Foods that were good for you are now bad and those that were bad are now good.  Evolution is even changing from Creator to Big Bang to a collapsing universe – from life evolving from a single cell to life evolving from aliens (I’m not making that last one up.) But I digress…

In the first century, the prevailing thought among doubters in Jesus was that a spiritual God who was good and holy could not become a dirty sinful man.  The early church battled this thinking called, among other names, gnosticisim.  It was easier to believe a man could become a God than for God to become a man. 

Even the Catholic church took on this concept with the teaching that Mary was sinless, for a holy God could not be born of a sinful girl, so they created a sinless vessel in Mary.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that except to say that the sin seed does not pass through the woman but the man.  It is not woman’s responsibility; it is man’s. 

Adam was the one God told not to eat from the tree in the garden.  It was his responsibility to tell Eve.  He was with her when she ate the fruit.  She did not recognize the sin when she did eat of the fruit God told Adam not to eat. Her eyes were not opened until He ate it.

There was still hope for her had he not eaten it, but the accountability for man’s sin fell to the man, and when Adam ate, all hope was lost. (Genesis 2-3)

For Jesus to be fully man he had to have all the experiences of man from birth to death. He had to learn to walk, talk and eat.  He went through potty training, skinned knees and probably hit his thumb with his hammer a few times.  Jesus had all the same temptations we get, only he didn’t fail.

He humbled himself; he was born in a feeding trough, not a royal crib.  He came into the world with the bleating of goats not the roaring of crowds.  He was called a bastard by other kids that knew he was born out of wedlock. He wore robes of rabbis not robes of royalty.  In the end, he was killed with thieves and put in a borrowed tomb.

Jesus Christ suffered in every way you can imagine, yet did not sin.  He was fully man. He was born and he died. But that is not the end of the story.  Because as much as he “became” man, he was already and would forever be “fully God”!

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The Greatest Description of Jesus: Part 2 of 4

Posted by undergroundchurch on July 14, 2009

Continuing the look into Philippians 2,  See Part 1.

The Attitude of Christ

It has been said that your attitude determines your altitude. No more outstanding example exists than Jesus’ example.

Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
 but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7a)

This is an interesting verse. Jesus was an is God, yet to show humility, he had to lay down the right to call himself God and become a servant. 

The Greek here poses the attitude Jesus had in a stronger way, the word “grasp” is the same a “robbery” – to seize. It does not carry the connotation of robbery that says, “it doesn’t belong to him”, but the sense that it is a prize or reward that he could grasp hold of. 

However, he determined in His mind that he would not grasp this right.  That choice made it possible for him to die a slow and miserable death on a criminal’s cross.  He could have called up the angels, but did not because he took the servant’s role.

It literally says that he “emptied himself” of the right in order to take upon himself the servant role.  I don’t want to jump ahead just yet, but this chapter ends with God lifting him up.  If Jesus doesn’t bring himself low, God could never lift him up.

This is first attitude we must have in Christ.  If we do not humble ourselves, God cannot lift us up.  He wants to lift us up, but we too often get in the way with pride, selfish ambition and fear.  Jesus showed us the path to greatness… it is through the job of a servant.

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