Monday, October 18, 2010: Power and Wealth
Daily reading: Matthew 20:20-22; Deuteronomy 8:17-20
We are fascinated by power. In film, a series of superheroes (Batman, Superman, etc.) possess extraordinary powers and show up just at the right time to protect the public good. Generally, good defeats evil in a supernatural way. In our culture, power is always connected to something. We might be tempted to think that power is connected to wealth and success. The mother of James and John probably just wants her boys to succeed; doesn’t every mom? In Deuteronomy we have a warning, and a reminder of where real power comes from. Where does your power come from? Ask God to reveal the places where you are trusting in the wrong things.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010: Power and Pride
Daily reading: Psalm 20
This psalm may have been used liturgically by the worshiping community as the king and his armies prepared to go out into battle. Verses 1-5 are a communal intercession on behalf of the king, asking that God would go with the armies of Israel, perhaps reflecting the ancient belief that God literally went ahead of the armies into battle. Verses 6-9 are likely a prophetic oracle, assuring the people that God has heard their prayers and that victory is assured. The work of the people is to believe God’s promises. The people of Israel are not to find their security or their pride in their strength, but in the strength of the Lord. What are you proud of? Pray for God’s Spirit to increase your pride in God’s strength, not your own.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010: Power and Submission
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19; Isaiah 40:28-31
Verses 17-19 form an interesting contrast to yesterday’s reading. While the psalm envisions God moving out of Jerusalem as a mighty warrior to battle the human enemies of the Israelites, Matthew pictures Jesus walking into Jerusalem as a humble servant to battle the power of sin and death on the cross. The contrast between power and submission is so startling that neither the Jews nor the disciples can see Jesus as the Messiah. It is this misunderstanding of real, divine power that sets up the interaction between Jesus and the mother of the sons of Zebedee in 20-28. The power of God is often revealed in ways that Isaiah describes; strength to the faint of heart and energy to the exhausted. To what powers in your life are you submitting? Ask God to reshape the desires of your heart to submit more fully to God’s plans and purposes.
Thursday, October 21, 2010: Power and Kingdom
Daily reading: Matthew 20:23-28; Psalm 145
Jesus’ disciples and the mother of James and John have a flawed understanding of the Kingdom of God. While Jesus’ disciples think the Kingdom will be an earthly, political, military kingdom in which the Israelites will vanquish all their human foes, Jesus comes to vanquish all the enemies of humanity and establish a spiritual Kingdom with profound earthly implications. So when James and John’s mother ask that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand, she is asking that they hold positions of power and authority in an earthly kingdom. Where are you striving for power and authority? Ask God how the Kingdom Jesus intends can be revealed more fully to you today.
Friday, October 22, 2010: Power and Real Greatness
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28; Ephesians 1:16-23
Real power and greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom will not be “power over” others, but “power under.” This “power under” is ultimately submission to God expressed as submissive service to others. It is this power that Jesus will demonstrate as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies on the cross. This is the power that God honors, validates, vindicates and glorifies. The Ephesians reading summarizes the real greatness that belongs to us because of Christ. How do you measure real greatness? In your prayers today, ask God to work in you to produce something really great through service to others.
Saturday, October 23, 2010: Power and Death
Daily reading: Matthew 20:17-19 again; Acts 12:1-5
Jesus refers to the cup of suffering, the same cup he references in the garden of Gethsemane. By saying that James and John will indeed drink from this cup he is referencing the fact that both will die as martyrs. James is one of the first disciples to die violently, while John dies in exile. In the movie Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) sacrifices his life to break down walls of racism in his community. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized the civil rights movement and caused great change in our society. How do you relate to suffering in your life? In your prayers today, ask God to reframe your thinking about suffering and death.
Sunday, October 24, 2010: Power and Change
Daily reading: Matthew 20:26-28 again; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
By what power does Jesus change the world? By what power does he defeat sin, death and the devil? It is the power of love lived out in submission to God and service to others. This is the power of the Kingdom. It is also the power that all disciples are called to live. Militant Muslims and Christians alike are seeking to change the world by forcing their will upon others, either with guns or legislation. But this “right-hand power” will never change the world. While it may temporarily force people to behave differently, it will never change the heart. But love, lived out in submission to God and in service to others, can lead to reconciliation, redemption and restoration. We are changing every day from one degree of glory to another, into Christ’s likeness. How are you changing today? Ask God to change you more and more into the likeness of Christ