Footwashing

pexel feet waterIn John 13 we find a well-known story about Jesus washing his disciple’s feet.  In Jesus’ times people walked around all the time in sandals or barefoot and picked up a lot of dirt and other grime along the way.  Footwashing was essential, but it was a menial task that someone usually did themselves or had a servant do for them.  Yet in this story we see Jesus washing his disciple’s feet.

In verse 8 Peter objects saying, “You shall never wash my feet.”  Why was Peter so appalled by the idea of Jesus washing his feet?  Because it was a task reserved for servants or slaves.  Jesus was their teacher, their master and their Lord.  And yet he put himself in a subservient position, stripped down to his skivvies, grabbed a bowl of water and a towel and went around on hands and knees washing their feet.

Should somebody else have washed the feet?  Maybe.  It was customary at the time for the host to have a servant wash the feet of those who were guests.  That doesn’t happen here.  No host or servant is even mentioned in the room at the time.  But it does seem that there was a pitcher and a bowl and a towel readily available.  Any one of the disciples could have offered to wash the feet of the others.  But I would imagine they all that task was beneath them.  Knowing the disciples they were probably looking around at each other figuring that one of the other guys should do it.  They did after all get caught on multiple occasions arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

In reality, one of the disciples should have done this footwashing.  If there was one person in the room who should not have done it, based on the customs of that time, it was Jesus.  And yet he is the one who did it.

This would have been an emotional, powerful, jarring image for the disciples.  And that is probably what Jesus was going for, because the lesson is not just about serving one another.  This is a lesson in humility.  Jesus is saying, if I would wash your feet, then whose feet could it possibly be beneath you to wash?

Jesus then goes on to challenge them to follow his example in verse 17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Jesus wants us to serve one another, but I think we can serve others without really getting the lesson that Jesus is giving here.  We can approach this almost like a boy scout approaching getting a service merit badge, but I don’t think that is the point.

I believe Jesus is challenging them to a brand new way of viewing their lives.  I believe he is calling them to a radical self-abasing, others-focused kind of life.  It is the kind of life that Jesus himself exemplified in the way he lived and died.  He didn’t just sacrifice his life on the cross, he sacrificed it every day he lived on this earth by the way he cared for and served those around him.

I don’t think that Jesus is calling us to acts of service.  I think he is calling us to heart change.  He is calling us to a heart of humility and servanthood and that is harder than just volunteering for some service projects.

This is a lesson or us to have different view of our lives.  It is for us to humble ourselves to look at our lives with a different perspective recognizing that we are servants of Christ and therefore servants of one another.  Remember, as followers of Christ, we are to be becoming like the one we are following.  Well, this passage is who Christ is.  He lived a life of humility and servanthood.  And I believe the only way for us to become like this is for him to work supernaturally in our lives to make us more like him.  The question is, do we want this and are we willing to yield our lives to someone who wants this for us?

 

Guilty Pleasures

pexel pizzaThere are many things that I love that I am somewhat embarrassed to share with people.  For instance, I love Totino’s froze pizza.  It is one of my guilty pleasures.   I enjoy it, but I don’t tell everyone.  I want them to believe that I have a more refined palate.  Sometimes I do.  But I also still love a good Totino’s frozen pizza from time to time.

I am willing to confess that to you in this blog, because it is funny and quirky and interesting.  But how willing would I be to confess more than that?  how willing would I be to go deeper and share some of the deep, dark things that I don’t want anyone to know about my life?

James 5 contains an excellent passage on healing ministry within the church, but sometimes we pay so much attention to what James is saying in verses 13-15 on healing, that we miss out on what he says in verse 16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16, ESV)

James says to confess our sins to one another.  That idea seems somewhat foreign to us.  We are okay sharing things like our silly love for Totino’s pizza, but we don’t really want to go any farther than that.  We don’t want to be that vulnerable.  We don’t want to let others know the stuff we struggle with.  We don’t want to air our dirty laundry.  We are more comfortable letting others think that we have our act together.

But James is telling us to not hold that stuff in.  We are to confess to one another.  There are many benefits to this type of confession.  It allows us to welcome and invite accountability into our lives.  It allows us to publicly recognize our struggles.  It brings dark things out of the shadows and into the light.   It invites others to get involved in our brokenness and to pray for us and help us in our spiritual journey.

Also, it is interesting to note that verse 16 is part of this passage on healing.  Sometimes when we have unconfessed sin in our lives, it can eat us up from the inside out.  We can literally be stressing about our unconfessed sin to the point where it is causing physical problems and sometimes we don’t even realize what is going on.

It is also a benefit for the church as a whole.  I believe the church over the years has done a disservice in that we have hidden sin, and pretended that we all have our act together.  Confessing to one another breeds intimacy, and helps others be open to sharing what is going on in their lives.  It allows those who struggle with similar things to recognize that they are not alone.  It allows us to reach a new level of authentic community.

In order for this kind of confession to happen, we must not be judgmental and we need to be trustworthy.  We have to be a safe place where people can be vulnerable without worrying that it will be used against them in some way.

James then goes on to challenge us to pray for one another.  It is a natural progression for us to go from sharing with one another about our sins, our struggles, our failures, and our needs and then to simply pray for one another.  And that also is good for both the individual and for the church as a whole.

But for this too we must be vulnerable.  We have to stop asking for prayer for our neighbor or our great aunt, and start asking for prayer for ourselves.  We need to let other people know of our struggles, our failures, our hurts and our pain.   And then we can really pray for one another.

It doesn’t seem natural for us to be that vulnerable with one another.  We are more comfortable sharing about the things that don’t really matter.  But if we are going to become the church that God is calling us to be, then we need to put aside those barriers that get in the way and confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.

 

Ultra-Marathon Life

malcolm mcA few weeks ago at Crown College I had the opportunity to meet Malcolm Mcloughlin. He is an Irish author who was at Crown to speak for their Missions Fest. He shared about running ultra-marathons of 40, 50 and even 100 mile races and compared that to the endurance of a lifelong journey with Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-39 is a powerful passage about recognizing who we are in Christ, drawing near to God and having endurance in the faith.  This call to endurance reminded me of what Malcolm Mcloughlin was talking about at Crown College. He referred to how someone could fake a 5k or a 10k race. You don’t have to be a runner to run those races. Malcolm also said that you could even train for a bit and fake a half marathon, or maybe even a marathon. But ultra-marathons are different. They take a different amount and level of training and endurance that you can’t fake. And then, he likened that to the Christian life.

This theme of endurance seems to be central to what the author is talking about. But what jumped out at me is that right in the middle of the passage there are a couple of verses that are focused on our relationships with each other. In verses 24 and 25 the author writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)

That word spur is actually a word whose meaning is more along the lines of irritation or exasperation, contention or argument. The overall wording would direct us toward the idea of provocation and it is used with one another to denote the idea of like mutually provoking one another.

It brings to mind that training buddy who pushes you to go on even when you think you can’t do anymore. The one who challenges you to do one more push up, or to do one more weightlifting rep, or to run one more mile.  And in the midst of those times when we are being pushed to continue on, we may even become annoyed with that training buddy, but we know that we need them. If we are going to run this race, we need them in our lives.

In these verses the author says do not neglect meeting together as is the habit of some. We need to realize how important we are in one another’s lives. When we come together it is not just about singing a few worship songs and listening to a sermon.  The times that we get together are opportunities for us to connect with one another and become a body, so that we can be in position to speak truth into one another’s lives and encourage each other, and correct one another’s theology and help each other stay strong in the midst of weaknesses and hold each other accountable, because enduring through a life long walk with Christ is hard.

If all we look at church as is a place to sing some worship songs and to hear a sermon, then church hopping, or occasional attendance, or staying on the periphery, or even just catching sermons online and listening to worship songs in our car can take the place of that kind of church.

But this passage is telling us that there is more to church than that. We need each other. We need the relationships within the church to help us endure. We need to recognize that we are running a marathon, not a sprint. And while it may seem easy today, there will be days ahead that will not be as easy.  So let’s not give up meeting together, but rather let’s intentionally develop the kind of relationships with one another where we can encourage each other and spur one another on in this ultra-marathon of life.

Bear With Me

pexel bearIn Colossians 3:13 Paul writes, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

When I think of bearing with one another, I tend to think of putting up with someone.  When I was growing up and we had to do something that I didn’t really want to do, I was supposed to grin and bear it.  And when someone is talking about or doing something boring or tiresome they might say “bear with me.”  So along those lines, when I hear the phrase “bearing with one another,” I get the image of putting up with one another.

However, I think Paul is challenging us to do more than just put up with one another.  I think he is challenging us to choose to be in relationship with one another regardless of how comfortable or easy that relationship might be.  I believe that “bearing with one another” is a choice to make the relationship important enough that we will work at it.

I think in typical church society today it is easy for us to have the kind of relationships where as long as things are good, we are good, but as soon as things get tough we drop the relationship.  We do that because it is easier to drop the relationship than to bear with one another and make it work when it is no longer easy.

And that means that we need to forgive one another.  We need to be willing to let go of the stuff that separates us, and stop being offended so easily.  Sometimes we can be so petty that it seems like we are just looking for people to offend us.  We need to have thicker skin and assume the best about one another.

And then when real problems come up or when there is a legitimate complaint, we need to be willing to make things right.  We need to seek and grant forgiveness and do everything we can to work things out so that our relationships stay intact.

Let’s face it, if we are really going to go as deep with one another as we are talking about.  If we are really going to develop that level of intimacy, then we are going to annoy one another and step on each other’s toes.  And if we are not committed to making this relationship work, or if we are not willing to forgive, then we are going to just give up and walk away.

And notice also what Paul says in verse 16: 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

There is something incredible that is happening when we are together.  It is supernatural.  As followers of Christ we have the Holy Spirit alive inside of us and so when we talk with one another, we have the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to allow us to communicate on a whole different level.  When we share our struggles with someone else from church we are not just relying upon their ability to understand our problem or give us advice from some great life lesson that they have learned.  We are providing an opportunity for God to speak to us through one another.

We need to understand that church is God’s gift to us.  He has brought us together to make our lives here on earth better as we help one another follow him and walk through this life together.  Let’s put a priority on these relationships and be the church he is calling us to be.

Discerning the Body

pexel churchWhen we partake in communion at The River, I typically quote these words from I Corinthians 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Just about every time we partake in communion at The River I use those verses before we partake of the bread and the cup.  But rarely do we ever look at those verses in context.  When we examine the context of the passage as a whole we find that Paul is confronting the church in Corinth about a problem with the way that they come together for communion.  In the early church coming together for communion involved a whole meal called the Agape or Love Meal.  This was probably somewhat similar to what we do with potlucks today.  The problem with the Corinthian church was that when they came together it seems like the food was being divided unequally with the rich getting plenty to eat and drink while the poor were going away hungry.  This implies that the rich were so focused on themselves that they were missing the needs of others in the church.

Considering this overall context there is a phrase that we find a couple of verses later that I believe is often overlooked and yet very important.  A friend of mine, Dr. David Fitch, first pointed this phrase out to me in a lecture at a pastor’s conference.  We find the phrase in verse 29: For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (I Cor. 11:29, ESV)

The phrase is “discerning the body.”  Now that is a bit of a strange statement.  I think typically we tend to just lump this verse in with the two verses before it which talk about examining ourselves and not eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.  Those verses are important, but think about the context of this passage as a whole.  Paul is spending a lot of his time dealing specifically with the issue of the way that when they got together some were getting fed and some were going hungry.    And in the midst of that, we find this verse.

It is also important to note that in the both the chapter before this and the chapter following this one Paul talks about how the church is a body.  We are the body of Christ.   God has brought us together and made us a church family.  We have a role to play in one another’s lives, to encourage one another, challenge one another, carry one another’s burdens, hold one another accountable, disciple one another, and also to just make sure that we are all doing okay.

I believe that in this passage Paul is talking about how important it is for us to discern the church.  Do we know how each other is doing right now?  Are we so focused on ourselves that we are missing the needs of those around us?  Do we know the specific needs that others might have?  Do we care about those needs?  And if people are hurting or needing help, are we doing our best to come alongside one another and help out in whatever ways we can?  We may not have the resources to meet every need, but maybe we can do something.  That is what it means to be a body.  That is what it looks like to be the family God has called us to be.  That is what it means to “be the church.”  #bethechurch

 

Response to Waiting for Eagle’s Wings Post

pexel eagle1After the worship service last Sunday when I preached from Isaiah 40 on Waiting for Eagle’s Wings (see earlier post), I was approached by a woman from our congregation.  She told me that she had written a song that fit incredibly well with what I had preached that morning.  She then sang that song for me.  I was amazed at how well it expressed what I had been talking about in the sermon.  It says in I Corinthians 14:26, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”  (ESV).  I believe this is something that she had to share with us, so I have asked her permission to post this song on our website.  Here is her song:

 

Lord I Need You

Rebecca Heerdt

 

Lord I need you,

I’m broken and worn down.

The battle is so hard Lord,

Can’t do it on my own.

 

Here I stand,

Worn and weak,

Waiting on You, Lord,

Your strength I need.

 

To run and not grow weary,

To walk and not faint.

To rise up with wings like an eagle.

Lord renew me again.

 

Here I stand,

Quiet and still.

Waiting on You, Lord.

I seek Your will.

 

Here I stand,

Waiting for You,

Here I stand,

I’m waiting on You.

 

Thanks for sharing that Rebecca!

Waiting for Eagle’s Wings

pexel eagle2One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 40:27-31: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I believe that we all wrestle with the kinds of questions we see in verse 27.  We all have times in our lives where we wonder if God sees what we are going through or if he does see us we wonder why he isn’t stepping in to fix things.

Verse 28 reminds us that God is the Creator and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing.  We know that to be true, but in the midst of tough times in our lives it is hard to not have questions about why God does not seem to be saving us from the trouble we are facing.

Verses 29-30 go on to remind us that God is in the business of giving strength to the weary and that it is normal for us to be weary at times.  We are all going to face times where our strength is waning physically, spiritually and emotionally.

And all of that leads us to verse 31, which is an often used verse that gives us the image of God swooping in like an eagle to carry us away from the trouble we are facing.  At least that is what I used to think it was talking about.  However, after closer examination it seems like the point of this passage is not God saving me from the tough things in life, but rather renewing my strength and helping me to grow in the midst of my struggles.

Notice that verse 31 does not say that we will be carried away on eagle’s wings, but rather that we will mount up with wings like eagles.  It seems to indicate more along the lines of the wings being developed in us.  That also fits with the focus on the Lord renewing our strength so that we can continue to walk and to run even though we are weary.

I think one of the most important words in this passage is the word “Wait.”  I believe that waiting implies an expectation that someone is going to show up.  Like when I am waiting for a friend, I am waiting because I am expecting that friend to show up.  If I didn’t expect him to show up, I would not be waiting for him.  Waiting on the Lord implies that we are expecting him to show up.  But I think often in the midst of my troubles I don’t really have the expectation that God is going to show up.  Or if I do expect him to show up my expectation is that he is going to deliver me from the tough stuff that I am going through.  But that is not what I see in these verses.

This passage is saying that in the midst of tough times I should wait in expectation for the Lord to show up and renew my strength and to help me continue to walk through what I am facing and in the midst of it even to grow in such a way that I will be better able to handle all that I am going to face in this life.

Upcycling

pexel upcycledHave you ever heard of upcycling?  It is basically the practice of taking something old and making something new from it.  Like this example from pulptastic.com of an old TV console that was transformed into a new aquarium.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we find a verse that seems to indicate that God has done some kind of upcycling in our lives.  In that verse Paul writes these words, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”

That is a well-known verse, but it is typically used without any reference to the context of the rest of the passage, even though it begins with the word, “therefore.”

When we put the verse back into the context we begin to see that Paul is talking about how in Christ we are no longer to look at ourselves or those around us the way we did before.  God is calling us to take the message of reconciliation that we have received and share that with others.

Take a look at verses 18-20: 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I love this image that Paul gives us about how we are to view our lives.  We are supposed to look at ourselves as ambassadors.  An ambassador is someone who is sent from one country to another.  That involves living among those he has been sent to, getting to know them, their language and their culture, building relationships, but always recognizing that they are there to be used by the one who sent them.  What a powerful way to view ourselves.  As ambassadors to this world, living our lives on a mission for God.

That puts a different spin on verse 17.  In his old life Paul was an enemy of God, but God stepped in and did more than just a little upcycling.  He reconciled Paul to himself, transformed him into a new creation and gave him a role as his ambassador.  And God has done the same with is.  It is time for us to grab hold of this mission God has given us.  To realize that we are not who we used to be and to start living like his ambassadors to a world that desperately needs his message of reconciliation.

 

The Paraclete

Apparently Greek soldiers fought in pairs.  They would stand back to back so that they could protect one another’s backs as they fought off the enemy troops.  The other soldier was a trusted wingman, an advocate, a helper.  And he was called a paraclete.

What a great concept.  We all need a paraclete.  We could all use an advocate, a helper, a friend who has our back.  In this world, facing the things we face, it would be nice to have someone like that along with us to help us face the journey and fight the battles we have to fight.

In the passage we will be looking at this Sunday, Jesus is getting ready to leave His disciples, but He promises to send them a helper, an advocate, a paraclete.  He promises to send them the Holy Spirit.  Check out the passage in John 14:15-31 and come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more about the paraclete that the Lord promised.

Dinner with Judas

At www.biography.com I found an interesting opinion poll.  They were asking the question, if you found yourself at the most awkward dinner party of all time.  A party filled with both famous and infamous people.  And you found yourself stuck in a conversation with the most awkward guest, who would it be?

Currently leading the poll is Adolf Hitler.  Some of the others on the short list are Charles Manson, OJ Simpson, Charlie Sheen, and Kim Jong Il.  While I agree, being stuck at a dinner party with any of those people would probably be pretty awkward, it does seem to be a bit of a random list.  But let me add one more name.  How would you like to be stuck in an awkward dinner party conversation with Judas Iscariot?

Well, even if that could be arranged, it wouldn’t be the first awkward dinner party conversation that Judas was a part of.  We find one captured for us in John 12:1-8.  It takes place at a dinner party celebrating the raising of Lazarus.  And the awkward conversation is between Judas, Lazarus’ sister Mary, and Jesus.

I will be preaching on that story this Sunday at The River.  And believe it or not, to some extent I actually agree with Judas a little bit in this story.  And in the end I encourage us all to look a little foolish.  Does that peak your interest?  Come on out and join us this Sunday at 9:30, at 2510 Chaska Blvd.  to find out more.

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