Gift 55 – Kingdom Come

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.

Dear Rea,

Right now there is an extremist Islamic militant group called ISIS that has been wreaking havoc on innocent civilians around the world. Just last week they attacked Paris, killing 129 people and wounding even more.

This particular terrorist group is motivated by establishing a kingdom on ISISearth. In simple terms, the aim of these people is to bring the world under the authority of Islam, and to eliminate those who won’t submit. This means fighting, taking, killing.

In the middle of all this death and destruction, I’m reminded that Jesus came to bring a kingdom, too, and as his followers we’re called to be agents of this kingdom. But what is his kingdom like?

In the story above, the mother of James and John approaches Jesus with a request: “Can my boys rule with you in your coming kingdom? Can they be your number 2 and number 3 guys? Can they be at your right and at your left?”

Underneath this mother’s request is an assumption about Jesus’ kingdom—that it will be like other kingdoms of the day, established through power and might, secured by “making your enemies a footstool under your feet.” Jesus’ kingdom is about influence and control and strength and dominance. It’s about winning. It’s about thrones.


I don’t think it’s by accident, then, that a few chapters later Matthew mentions Mary, the mother of James and John, being present at the crucifixion (Matt. 27:56). She sees the King, but instead of thrones on his right and on his left, she sees crosses.

This is the way Jesus is leading? This is how his Kingdom comes?

While we are assured that thrones will someday be the reality, that Jesus will rule as King and his brothers and sisters will rule with him, we can’t forget that losing comes before winning, that death precedes resurrection, that the cross is the way to the throne.

Many Christians today seem preoccupied with winning. Winning debates, arguments, elections, culture wars. I understand this, and who am I to say whether these things are good or bad? What I do know is the path that Jesus set for his disciples:

Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the least, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In many ways, Jesus’ Kingdom was surprising because it was an upside down kingdom. This wasn’t what the people were expecting. We use this picture in class to contrast Kingdom expectations with the way Jesus’ shocking behavior…

Upside Down Pic

This is still how Jesus’ Kingdom comes today. To be citizens of this Kingdom means service, sacrifice, humility, death to self in response to the love of God—in sharp contrast to ISIS’ kingdom of violence. Peter learned this after drawing his sword to attack those coming to arrest his master.

And though this might appear like weakness to the world, in truth it is a supernatural strength that conquers even death in the end. I am convinced that what makes Christianity so powerful and unique, is also what makes it so challenging—that those who would accept the call must deny themselves, take up a cross and follow a crucified King.

This is an Upside Down Kingdom. May it come in your life today in the things you think, the things you say, the way you treat other people; your attitude, your work, your play, your everything.

Gift 34 – Sinful and Hazardous (I)


As I filled my car with gas, I noticed a small sign on the pump: “Smoking while fueling is illegal and dangerous.” For some reason the distinction between “illegal” and “dangerous” struck me as a bit…redundant. Isn’t it enough to say that smoking near flowing gasoline is dangerous? Like, you’re-gonna-blow-up dangerous? The legality of the matter seems trivial when you picture a person engulfed in flames after lighting up at the pump. The two things are actually one thing—smoking while fueling is illegal because it is so dangerous.

A similar separation has happened in our ideas about sin. Somehow we’ve come to believe that there are things (activities/behaviors/patterns) that are sinful, and there are also things that are harmful. I can hear religious authorities informing, “You don’t want to do that, it’s sinful and hazardous.”

But the truth is, the two are one. If something is sinful then it’s not good for you. No exceptions. Likewise, if something is harmful to you, it is sinful.

In my experience with working with high school kids I’ve become aware of an evident religious haze surrounding the concept of sin. “Mr. Russ, is ____________ a sin? Well how about ____________? What I mean to say is, will God be mad at me if I _____________?” Our confusion about sin has everything to do with a misunderstanding of God’s character. Believe it or not, God is not arbitrarily calling stuff sin. That’s not how God operates because that’s not who God is. There is no sin you can commit that will bring you more joy, more satisfaction, more life. In fact, the very reason God warns of certain behaviors is precisely because God is for us. God is totally, completely, passionately, sacrificially committed to our flourishing—even more than we are committed to our own flourishing! The very reason He hates sin is because He is for His people.

Sadly, this is a paradigm shift for many. We have imagined a God who makes the rules without consideration for His children, and we had better get on board or else! But He is so much better. It’s time to let Jesus be our guide, the one who lived with such a profound and overwhelming sense of his Father’s goodness. While many Pharisees were actually “sinning” in their study of God’s Word (imagine that!) because of their motivation to be seen as spiritually superior (Matt. 23), Jesus perfectly navigated the confusing waters of Sabbath observance (“Is it lawful to heal a person on Sabbath?”), food regulations (“Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?”), and Torah prioritization (“Which command is the greatest?”) with incessant focus on God’s character.

May we grow to be like him in our understanding of sin and righteousness as we too abide in the Father’s heart.

Gift 28 – To Join the Conversation

Turn on the T.V., open your computer, or visit your local…pretty much anywhere there’s people, and it won’t take you long to find conversations unfolding about controversial topics.

“What do you think about immigration?” Or, “What’s your view on homosexuality?”

These conversations in particular (among others) are in the spotlight almost daily—and everyone seems to have an opinion. But before you jump into the dialog, I want to suggest 9 requirements that must be true before you speak, or rather, 9 red flags: sure signs that you are not ready to join the conversation.

1. If you’re joining a discussion out of a motivation to “win,” then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

2. If all your thoughts can be summarized in 140 characters or fewer, you’re probably not ready to be a part of the conversation.

3. If you’re comfortable hearing only one side of the argument, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

4. If you think you have an easy or simple solution to a complex issue, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

5. If you are quick to speak but slow to listen, then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation (James 1).

6. If you haven’t yet considered whether your opinion could possibly be wrong, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

7. If your heart is not burdened to the point of sacrificial action on behalf of those to whom the “issue” relates, then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

8. If you haven’t yet empathized with multiple perspectives on a given issue, or put yourself in the opposing “side’s” shoes, you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation.

9. If you don’t yet have love for your enemies or you haven’t yet taken the time to pray for those of an opposing viewpoint—and not just for them to change their minds—then you’re not ready to be a part of the conversation (Matt. 5).

If after satisfying all 9 requirements you still hold the same perspective, great. Wonderful. To be clear, my intention isn’t necessarily to change your beliefs or opinions by considering these warnings; rather, to ensure that any conviction you might have is rooted in compassion (John 8:1-11). It is important to remember that you can have a “correct opinion” or a “right stance,” but without the humble posture of a servant you will be wrong every time. Christ emptied himself and came to his enemies as a servant (Phil. 2, Rom. 5); do not think you are above doing the same.

Do I have thoughts on immigration policy or on the topic of homosexuality? Yes, I do. Are my beliefs simple enough to boil down to a mere “for” or “against,” or a slogan on a bumper sticker? I’m afraid not.

The homosexuality debate suddenly becomes just a little more complex when you’re sitting across from a mother whose son took his own life after begging God for years to change the way he feels. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the words of a woman I once met: “One night it was raining and I couldn’t find him [her son] anywhere. Finally I found him laying in the soccer field behind our house, sobbing uncontrollably because he felt stuck and didn’t know what to do.”

Immigration becomes more than an “issue” when you consider what kind of conditions could make a mother so desperate that she would send her child a thousand miles on the top of a truck, or across a dangerous desert, just to find a new place to live.

And while many have pointed out that the emotional appeal of an issue doesn’t dictate whether something is right or wrong, the human element can, and must, influence our posture as we seek and teach Truth, knowing that human beings are involved. It might not always change what we believe, but it has to change how we think about and treat people. If these conversations truly are attempts to get closer to the Truth, then we would do well to remember that Truth is a person, a being. When Jesus said, “I am the Truth,” he made it relational; he made it personal.

We live in a broken place, and everyone hurts. Things have gotten messy on political levels, social levels, and personal levels, and we’re sitting in the middle of it. We are all called to repent. We are all in need of grace. No one is completely right except Christ, and his company cannot be joined without great humility and grace. Hurting human beings are involved on every side of every issue, which means there is no room for cruelty, thoughtlessness, carelessness, or pride in the conversation. On the contrary, these discussions need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and so must be founded in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal. 5).

All opinions, judgments, or decisions from the Church relating to homosexuality must come from Christ’s own Body lying in the grass next to the young man sobbing in the rain. Every opinion, judgment, or decision from any other place will most Henry_Thomas_Bosdet_painting_of_Jesus_before_his_crucifixion_3certainly be the wrong one. And all opinions, judgments, or decisions regarding immigration must come from Christ’s own Body—the ultimate refugee—who knows what it is to be mocked, protested against, rejected, spat upon, and exiled to a cross. Every opinion, judgment, or decision from any other place will most certainly be the wrong one. Yes, we will talk, and we will debate, and we will go to the Bible, but our stance must become and remain prostrate.

And after prayerfully concluding on what is permissible and what isn’t, what is pursuable and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t, we must never forget that it is the duty of the Church to shoulder the load, whatever it may be, alongside those who are called to walk with Christ (Matt. 23). So if you’re not ready to carry another’s burden, you’re most certainly not ready to join the conversation.


Gift 23 – Prayer (III)

“Is there any chance I could direct an orchestra piece for the Fall Concert?” “Do you think I might be able to get my picture taken in the front seat of your police car, officer?”   “Would it be okay if I marched with the band for a parade?” “Can I ride on the Zamboni between periods of the hockey game?”

“Is there any chance I could direct an orchestra piece for the Fall Concert?”
“Do you think I might be able to get my picture taken in the front seat of your police car, officer?”
“Would it be okay if I marched with the band for a parade?”
“Can I ride on the Zamboni between periods of the hockey game?”


You might be wondering how I got to do the things shown in the pictures above.  Well, believe it or not, all I did was ask.  Yep…that was it.

If you look up everything that Jesus says about prayer in the Bible, you might be surprised to find (like I was) that he so often focuses on asking from God.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

 Or what about the second half of the famous prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

Give us today our daily bread /  Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors  /  Lead us not into temptation  /  Deliver us from the evil one.

 So much asking!

At first, all this asking might make a person a little uncomfortable.  We’ve all been told that God isn’t some divine Santa Claus who exists to satisfy our desires, so what’s going on?  A few things to notice…

  • First of all, if you are someone who loves and follows Jesus, your desires will be increasingly shaped by God’s heart.  Put bluntly: a maturing Christian isn’t asking God for a pony.  James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”   A good question to ask is, “Is my life about God’s kingdom or my own?”  That will help determine whether your prayers are about God’s kingdom or your own.  The more you are shaped by the revelation of God’s Heart in your life (through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, the Church), the more you will care like God’s heart cares.   As this happens, God says ask away!  Asking becomes powerful when the heart of Christ is alive in the body of Christ.
  • Prayer changes the pray-er.  Praying can actually wake up our desires and can be a catalyst for action.  Those who don’t care don’t ask.  And those who care, ask, and care more with each asking.  Perhaps Jesus’ consistent invitations to ask are his pleadings with us to care and to act!  Pray for your enemy and you may start caring about reconciliation.  Pray for the hungry and you may start caring that they have food to eat.  Pray for your wife and you may be moved to be a source of joy and encouragement for her.   In this mysterious way God often answers our prayers through the praying, because prayer is not only a reflection of your heart but also a directing of it.  As Eugene Peterson says, “We become what we are called to be by praying.”
  • Maybe the most important thing to realize is that the asking kind of prayer is an act of trust, dependence, and worship.  No one who is self-sufficient or self-reliant asks for anything, but the person who knows the good character of God relies on him like the branches of a fruit tree depend upon the trunk—and so they ask.  Making requests in prayer is acknowledging God’s generosity, God’s unlimited abundance, God’s ability to provide, and God’s loving heart towards his children.  The heart that does not ask does not yet know God as He wants to be known.

Son, I am convinced that God actually wants his people to ask more than we do, not less.  Though it was uncomfortable at first, I’ve gotten in the habit of making requests to God on a regular basis.  Just as I was surprised by what came of asking a police officer to sit in his car, or asking to march with the marching band, I’ve also been astonished by all that comes from making requests in prayer.

So ask already!

Here are some suggestions:

–       For eyes to see and ears to hear.

–       For opportunities to serve (the funny thing is, asking this will makes you aware of all the opportunities to serve that have always been around you).

–       For joy and compassion.

–       For wisdom and wonder.

–       That God’s Word would become a delight, like the author of Psalm 119.

–        For encouragement and strength for struggling friends and family.

–       Good things for your enemies.

–       Hope for young people wrestling depression.

–       For a tight reign on your tongue (words are powerful!).

Gift 21 – Prayer (I)

“Sometimes I wonder if God is secretly thinking, ‘Dear Child, you are welcome for this day and I already blessed the food. Can we talk about something else now?'” – Anonymous

I once saw a skit that followed a day in the life of a young Christian. Throughout the day—when he got out of bed, before meals, before bed, etc.—the man got on his knees to pray. Every time this happened Jesus would enter and stand next to the young man, eager and excited to talk. But the kneeling man never noticed Jesus standing right next to him. Why not? He was too busy praying, parroting words and phrases that had long since lost their meaning. Jesus tried getting the Christian’s attention and faithfully appeared each time the man knelt to pray, but they never really connected or even truly communicated.

Is this prayer? I think many people would guiltily agree that this pretty much sums up what prayer looks like in their actual lives. We know prayer is meant to be wonderful, powerful, and transformative, but there is a massive divide between theory and practice. Imagine being married but only ever communicating with your spouse via text. There would be little life in the relationship because all interactions would be limited, simple, one-dimensional, peripheral, and brief. This is a picture of the sad reality many Christians experience (or don’t) when it comes to communicating with God. Thinking back on my own prayer journey you would have thought I was an auctioneer the way I “talked” to God:

Dear God thank you for this day please keep grandma and grandpa safe as they fly to Florida and bless this food to my body in Jesus’ name amen.

But son, I want you to know there is so much more.

To be honest, I don’t really have any awesome advice to get you from point A to B in what might be called your “prayer life”. I don’t have 5 simple steps to achieving deeper communication with God or 10 helpful hints to get you praying like Mother Teresa. Because really, there is no such thing as “improving your prayer life” apart from cultivating and nurturing a dynamic relationship with God. Like all other relationships, the depth and tone of conversation is merely a reflection of the relationship itself. Listen in on a conversation between teenagers on a first date—the communication will probably be forced and awkward because the relationship is just beginning.

This means that prayer is more than folding your hands and closing your eyes before you eat; it is an awareness that the place where you’re standing is holy ground and you had better take off your sandals, it is an attentiveness to the fellowship of the Spirit even on a mundane Tuesday, it is a responsiveness to the company of the Living God who seeks to take up residence in your everyday life, it is what Brother Lawrence called “The practice the presence of God.” Walking this path is like walking in the very heart of God.

And yes, son, like all other Christian practices prayer often requires discipline before it becomes delight, but you must know that the heart of prayer is accepting Christ’s own blood as the invitation to enter the sacred fellowship of the Trinity, the Holy Wellspring of Joy and Life from which Creation sprang into existence. When you understand the gravity of this gift you may very well only be able to pray, “Dear God!” But when you say those two little words, and mean them both with all your heart, you will have learned what it means to pray.

Gift 20 – The Truth about Fiction

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Believe it or not, this lit. enthusiast, English major, and all around word-lover used to utterly detest reading.

In middle school I somehow almost always coincidentally chose books to “read” that had been made into movies. The teacher would see the title I’d picked and say, “I think that story was made into a movie a few years ago. You might enjoy watching it when you’ve finished the book.”

“Oh Really?” I would say, “I didn’t know that. I’ll have to see if I can rent it when I’m done reading.” I knew this was a dishonest practice, but I had no other way of passing the monthly Accelerated Reader tests.

But everything changed when I checked out The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the school library. It was the natural choice since I’d already seen the movie adaptation at my grandparent’s house, though when a friend told me about a few variances, I decided to skim the first few pages just to cover my bases.

ozThen it happened: I went to Oz. I didn’t mean to, but I ended up getting hooked and actually finished the book (“It was kinda like watching a movie in my head,” I told my flabbergasted friends). I found out that L. Frank Baum had actually written 13 other Oz adventures, so I bought and read them all.

This was just the beginning of my love for fiction, and for reading in general. Over ten years later, I am convinced that books such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz impact young people in countless positive ways and contribute to a person’s sense of creativity, wonder, and depth. Every once and a while I meet a fiction critic who doesn’t have time to waste on “silly stories that aren’t even true”, and while I have about a hundred reasons why reading fiction is an unequivocally good and wholesome activity, I want to share just one with you now:

The very best fictional stories are true. Really.

You see, there is a difference between something that is truthful and something that is factual. Many Eastern cultures have historically appreciated this difference when it comes to storytelling. Take, for example, the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. A westerner will tell you that the story is not true. Why not? Because it didn’t really happen. But tell the same story to someone from a story-centric society and they’ll likely tell you that it is in fact true. Why? Because it is true, isn’t it? The deterioration of one’s integrity is very serious business. Every time you break your word the value of your word decreases. Or, as Aesop famously said, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!” These things are true, making the Boy Who Cried Wolf a story that tells truth, though not necessarily through fact. This is an exceptionally significant distinction to make, and is, in my opinion, the very best reason to read fiction.

Books such as the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia are stories that tell the truth. Friendship is more valuable than power. There is more to people than mere appearances. Humility and self-sacrifice is greater than superiority and self-importance. Things are not the most important things. Courage in the face of overwhelming odds does make a difference. Love is stronger than death. The light does shine in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it.

There is great and nourishing magic in stories that tell the truth—even when the stories aren’t comprised of facts. It is worth noting that Jesus himself dealt almost exclusively in fiction to communicate truth to his audiences (Matt. 13:34). “There was a man who had two sons. The younger son came to his father and demanded his share of the inheritance…” “Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and one of them runs away…” “There was a woman with ten silver coins…” “A wealthy man was preparing a great feast…”

Clearly there is more to fiction than meets the eye. In fact, In Mark 4 Jesus explains to his disciples that the very reason he speaks in story is so that only few will understand. It is as though his stories are invitations beckoning the true in heart to follow where he leads. Because bookJesus, in his unexpected, seemingly foolish, upside down way of doing things still leads to a cross, and it will be those whose eyes have been shaped by the truth found in fiction who will be the first to recognize and believe that the gardener outside the tomb is really the resurrected Son of God.

Gift 19 – Be the Bigger Man

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

I’ve learned that being the bigger man almost always means being the smaller man.

Culture says that manliness = bravado. Never back down, never surrender. Win at all cost. Get even. Give them a piece of your mind. Have the last laugh.

But son, true strength is not shown in domination, destruction, power, or supremacy. I’m reminded of this in the movie 42 when Jackie Robinson asks Brach Rickey, “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” and Rickey responds, “No. I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”

Though this kind of strength often looks like weakness, it contains the secret power of restoration, healing, and change. This kind of strength has the power to bury cycles of revenge that might otherwise go on forever.

When it comes to unproductive arguments and destructive competitions, this means raising the white flag. When it comes to foolish feuds at school, in the workplace, at church, and at home, this means apologizing in order to restore relationships. When it comes to battles of pride and ego, it means humbling yourself to step out of the ring.

When being the bigger man feels impossible, remember that true strength is having the power to call twelve legions of angels to your side, but instead staying quiet while the proud line up and spit in your face one at a time. Remember, too, that this kind of death contains resurrection power.

Live in this strength and you’ll know the power of Jesus, the biggest smallest man who ever lived.

Gift 18 – Relatively Speaking

Einstein was right: everything is relative.

You see, I’ve always thought of Piper as a wild and bad dog. I think this when, out of all the magazines, he finds and destroys the one called “Family Dog” as though he knows our secret plans to civilize him and won’t have any of it. Or when I hold his face by the hole in the wall that he’s eaten for the third time and sternly say, “bad dog!” while he wags his tail. Or when I come home from work to find him sitting in my chair and he looks at me insolently as if to say, “Um, can I help you?”
I used to think these things about Piper, that is until I saw a picture my friend posted on facebook (right). My friend’s dog saw a squirrel outside, and knowing the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, bolted right through the window to catch his quarry. Instead of getting the squirrel he got 9 stiches in his nose.

After seeing this picture I thought to myself, Piper isn’t so bad after all. Because, of course, the badness of dogs is relative.

Everything is relative if you think about it.

You might be 6’2, but you still won’t feel tall standing next to Shaq.

You might consider yourself fast, but not when racing Usain Bolt.

You might think you’re rich, but not when walking in Bill Gate’s neighborhood. On the other hand, you might think you’re poor, but probably not when visiting a developing nation. It’s all relative.

I think this is why New Testament authors constantly remind early Christians to keep their eyes on Jesus. We humans have the tendency to complain—this happens when you compare yourself with someone on the more “desirable” end of the spectrum; when you see that you’re not as popular as _____________, or as well paid as ______________, or as talented as _____________, or as clearly understood as ______________. Poisons such as jealousy, envy, gossip, scorn, discontentment, and dissatisfaction all bubble up from this toxic spring of comparison.

But, in reminding believers of Jesus’ own experiences, the Apostle Paul points us all the way to the other end of the spectrum. Look at Jesus, he says. You might want to complain about the crappy day you’re having, but when you run into a friend whose house recently burned down, you’d feel pretty stupid grumbling about a broken dishwasher. Likewise, any unfair, or difficult, or upsetting situation I find myself in quickly seems more than bearable in comparison with all that Jesus endured on my behalf.

I often catch myself saying things like, “But that’s not fair!” “I don’t deserve this!” “This is ridiculous!” Even in marriage I am often all too concerned with what I think is “fair.” “I did the dishes last night, it’s your turn.” “You want me to run to Sam’s Club? I was at work all day!” etc. And yet, my logic becomes embarrassing and laughable when I consider Jesus surrendering his rights—all that he really did deserve—to pursue a cross on our behalf. What complaints slipped from his lips as he surrendered to the Father’s will? Did he so much as grumble as He set his face toward Jerusalem? Or as he was mocked and spat upon? Or as he was brutally murdered in the greatest act of injustice the world has ever seen?

And here I am complaining…about Sam’s Club?

The purpose of looking to Jesus’ suffering isn’t so that you feel like a horrible person whenever you want to complain. Nor is it the purpose to trivialize the truly difficult and sorrowful things going on in our lives—not at all. The point is to understand the depth of Christ’s selfless character and to be shaped by His good heart, remembering that we’ve actually been given more than we deserve.

Do this, son, and instead of being filled with jealousy or discontentment you will come alive with gratitude, joy, and a deeper love for Christ.