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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Washing Our Feet

The Apostle John recounts an intimate moment between the 12 and Jesus known to us as the "Last Supper".   Jesus washes their feet. (John 13:1-17)

 

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  


The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he 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.


He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10 Jesus answered, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.


12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me ‘Teacher' and ‘Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

 

 

Cultural implications

The washing of feet was a service offered to guests.  It was considered an act of hospitality.  It could be as simple as offering a basin of water for the guest to wash their own feet or as extravagant as having a servant wash the guest's feet.  The later service seems to have been reserved for honored guests.

 

Jesus teaching regarding

Jesus said that the Apostles would not understand what he was doing at the time but that their understanding would come later.  He finishes the experience by explaining that his washing their feet was an example to them to wash one another's feet.  The lesson taught was humility and the attitude of a servant.  Remembering that we are owned, bought with a price, and beholden to God as a result.  Since God deemed us worthy of sacrificing his only son, as his servants, we should be honored to serve such valued guests in an act of hospitality and courtesy.

 

How do we get "dirty feet"?

In Jesus day and before, walking to and from in sandals resulted in dirty feet.  The sweat from the heat, the dust from the road, all combines to make a mess of your sandals and your feet.  We are instructed in scripture to be part of this world while not being of this world.  Our values are not the world's values.  Our destiny is not the destiny of the lost.  However, we walk through the same crap everyone else does and as a result, the "dust" of life cakes our "feet".

 

Our "feet" are the parts that take us "there"... our motives, our attitudes.  The "dust" represents the influence of the world to prompt us to compromise our motives and attitudes.  "Everyone else drives above the speed limit...", "No one else stops at the stop sign...",  "The condiments are there for me to take...", "I can share the buffet with others at my table...", "It doesn't hurt to flirt...",  "I already pay to many taxes so getting a little extra back is only right...", "I deserve (fill in the blank)...".  I am sure you can think of others.  All day long, every day, the Adversary comes to play and seeks to wear us down, encourage us to compromise, to abandon God for self.  As a result, we need to make time to get clean.  Ritual washing and being clean was a very important part of the Law and serve as a symbol of a spiritual reality.

 

What would "washing our feet" do for us?

"Washing our feet" gets the dirt off our feet.  We need to get the values, philosophies, and lies of the Adversary out of our head and heart.  "Washing our feet" help us reframe our motives and attitudes and realign them with God's motives and values.

 

How does Jesus "wash our feet"?

There are more ways than I am aware of that Jesus serves us by "washing our feet".  Of particular note to me (and that are ways Jesus and I have interacted) are found in scripture.

a.        Renewing my mind (Romans 12:2).  When I renew my mind with the things of God, then I can know the things of God.

b.      Believe Jesus (John).  He is God's Word (1:1-18).  Know Him.  He is the way. Follow Him.  He is the truth.  Believe Him.  He is life.  Allow Him to flow in and through you (John 14:6; Proverbs 3:5-6).

c.       Submit to His correction (Hebrews 12:3-13).  He disciplines his children to help them conform to the family values and life patterns.

d.      Conclude (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).  Give up the old way and conclude that Jesus died for you.  Then the love of Christ can control you. Look for places and ways in your life where you haven't concluded that Jesus died for you or places where his love isn't controlling you.

 

How does Jesus use us to do this for others?

Jesus chooses to work with us and through us.  When we share God's Word, giving others a drink of living water and nourishing them with the bread of life, we help them renew their minds.  When we demonstrate that we know Jesus in our words, our actions, our attitudes, we make it possible for others to believe Jesus.  When we submit ourselves not only to God but to each other (Ephesians 5:21), others will be encouraged and challenged to change.  When we conclude, Jesus assumes us and we become an extension of his love toward others.  It can never be you and I that do the "washing" (i.e. "You need to change").  It is always Jesus in and through us as we share His words, His ways, His love.

 

Allow Jesus to "wash your feet" and use you to "wash" others' "feet".

8:32 am edt 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Woman Caught In Adultery

JOHN 8:2-11

 

What is the nature of love and forgiveness?  It is an act of the will.  God "willed" that there would be a relationship between Him and us.  God "willed" that we could be forgiven.  We "will" love and forgiveness to others.  Our will is the part of us that is most like God.  As a result, there is nothing unconditional about it.  In fact, you will not find the phrase "unconditional love" or "unconditional forgiveness" in God's Word.  Love and forgiveness exist upon the condition of the Giver's will.  It is true you cannot earn love.  It is true you cannot earn forgiveness.  They are gifts given at the will of the giver.

 

When the crowd came to Jesus, the text says it was to test him.  It could have been that everyone involved, including the woman, was complicit in this test.  The Jews weren't able to meet out the punishment for Adultery.  They couldn't stone her. I agree with the artist's depiction that there weren't any "stones" present.  The Romans had forbidden the Jews from putting anyone to death (John 18:31).  This was the whole reason Jesus had to be brought before Pilate.  The text says that they wanted to frame a charge against Jesus.  If he sided with the Mosaic law, he would advocating the breaking of Roman law.  If he sided with mercy, he would be setting aside Mosaic law.  The test was about keeping power, control, maintaining their will.

 

Jesus had been teaching.  In his response, he continued to do so and teaches us the nature of love and forgiveness.  God decided from the beginning not to violate our will.  Our coming to Him must be our choice.  Jesus' response fits God's position on this matter.   Jesus' response demonstrates the nature of love and forgiveness.  "Let whoever is without sin throw the first stone."

 

The "test" represents our will.  Our sin makes us guilty and hopeless apart from God's will.  Unless we give up our will, we cannot access God's will, which is to love and forgive us.  If we do not yield our will, our "stone", and choose to throw it in judgment, we risk killing the forgiveness available to us.

 

It isn't that we've been caught in the act.  It isn't that we are looking for ways to take Jesus out of the equation.  It isn't even that we have the right to decide.  It is ONLY and EVER about God.  God willed Himself to love us.  God willed that our sins could be forgiven.  God wills that we will exchange our will for His will.  This is the nature of eternal perfect love and lasting forgiveness... the union of our will to God's.

 

Father,

Thank you for choosing to love us.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and the gift of forgiveness.  I choose today to yield my will for Yours. 

8:24 am edt 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Did Jesus Interact With His Disciples?

I am always surprised by the "what" and "when" of God speaking to me.  I was in the process of working on a study about who Jesus is (a study of the book of John, looking at the names and descriptions of Jesus).  In chapter 2, it refers to Jesus' disciples.  From this I took Jesus to be a leader of disciples, a Rabbi, Teacher, Master (John 1:38).  So I started to explore Jesus in this role from the context of "Who is Jesus".  This is when God showed up and took me somewhere new.

 

As I was reading through the Gospel of Matthew, I started to see a pattern in the interactions between Jesus and His disciples.  This wasn't about who Jesus is but more about how He works and what I should be expecting from him and how I should be relating to him.  Believe it or not, I don't think I really ever looked at this aspect of our relationship in this context.  Here is what I have found so far...

 

What Jesus does.

1.       Jesus speaks.

In Matthew 9:37; 16:24; 19:23; and 26:36, Jesus says stuff and the disciples are expected to be listening.  When Jesus speaks, people's hearts burn (Luke 24:32).  His words are like pouring peroxide on a cut.  They are so pure, so healing and they attack the infection in our lives, the corruption of lust in this world (2 Peter 2:3-4).

2.        Jesus gives.

In Matthew 14:19; 15:36; and 26:26, Jesus gives something to his disciples.  Something they needed. He gave a tool for them to work with.  He gives gifts that not only benefitted others but also the disciples.  He gives us what we need to do what he asks us to do.  What he doesn't give us that we may lack are the places where God gets to be God and makes up the difference in his way and in his time.

 

Jesus does other things with his disciples.  He asked (Matthew 16:13).  He called (Matthew 10:1). He charged (Matthew 16:20).  He commanded (Matthew 11:1).  He sent (Matthew 11:2).  However, in Matthew, the thing he does most is speak and give.  He speaks to us if we will listen.  He gives us what we need if we will accept it.  All we need to do is...

 

What a disciple of Jesus does.

1.        Come to Jesus.

In Matthew 5:1; 8:25; 9:14; 13:10; 13:26; 14:12; 14:15; 15:12; 15:23; 17:19; 18:1; 24:1; 24:3; 26:17, the came to Jesus.  More than anything else, a disciple of Jesus comes to Jesus.  We come to hear what he has to say.  We come to Jesus because we have a problem we can't resolve. We come to receive what he wants to give.  We come just to be with Him.  In order to come to Jesus sometimes we have to follow him (Matthew 8:29, 9:19).  Sometimes we have to ask him about what he is saying or what to do with what he has given us.   The thing that most distinguishes a disciple from a follower is that we obey Jesus.

 

Jesus' disciples aren't perfect.  They don't always obey.  Sometimes they disappoint.  Sometimes they betray Jesus.  Sometimes they run from him.  But a true disciple, always, always, always, returns to Jesus.

 

Make some time to read Matthew and the other Gospels, in fact the whole Bible.  How do you see God interacting with His people?  How do you see Jesus interacting with His disciples?  How do you interact?  How does Jesus interact with you? 

 

Feel free to send me a note with insights, questions, comments. 

8:21 am edt 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Spite Of and Because

In Proverbs 1:1-7, the writer writes that the purpose of the proverbs of Solomon is to understand conundrums, puzzles.  I found today's topic to fall into that category.

 

In Genesis 17:15-21,  God makes a promise to Abraham, a covenant between the God of all creation and Abraham.  This isn't Abraham's first encounter with God. He (Abraham) has heard God's voice before.  He has witnessed God work on his behalf.  God has led Abraham, delivered Abraham, provided for Abraham, and blessed Abraham.  Abraham has experienced God for 100 years at the point of this passage.  Given this rich history and deep relationship between God and Abraham, I expected more from Abraham and was surprised by God.

 

God promises to give Sarah a son and to bless her, that she will become many nations, kings of people will come from her.  What an awesome promise especially when coming from the one true God.  And how did Abraham respond?  He fell on his face laughing to himself:  "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?  Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?".  Abraham, figures it all out for God.  "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!". 

 

I'm not sure what strikes me more:

1.       God's favor being shown to Abraham

2.       Abraham's comfortableness with God to fall on face laughing;

3.       Abraham's conduct as if God couldn't see him or read his thoughts;

4.       Abraham's disbelief, in spite of all he had been through with God;

5.       Abraham's concern for Ishmael.

 

But God has a plan.  In spite of Abraham, God makes and intends to keep his promise: "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him."  God does what God wants to do, in spite of us.

 

God heard Abraham's prayer for Ishmael and God knew Abraham's heart regarding his son.  Because of God's love for Abraham and Abraham's prayer, God hears him and promises to bless Ishmael.  Because God loves us, He gives us our heart's desires.

 

In spite of me and yet because of me... this is the conundrum in my mind... God's love.  He loves me in spite of me.  I ignore him, laugh in his face, outright disobey him, disappoint him, embarrass him, disgrace him, disbelieve him, try to think for Him, pretend to be Him, and He loves me.   He does what he wants to do for me, with me, through me, in me regardless of how I treat him.  He listens to me and hears my prayer because of the love He has for me.  Because of His love for me, He grants me the desires of my heart.  Sometimes I think He allows me to have the desires of my heart even when they are the wrong things, maybe to help me understand that what He wants is better than what I want, maybe just because He loves me.  I know and have learned that God loves me in spite of me and because of me.   I do love Him, in spite of myself and because of His love for me.  Even I am a conundrum.

8:46 am edt 


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