Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

John 13: 1 – 5 (NIV): It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, 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.

The disciples knew something big was about to happen. They had watched the crowds lay down palm fronds and chant “Hosanna!” as Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey. They had seen Jesus raise people from the dead. They figured he was about to be crowned King.
So it surprised them when Jesus stripped off his outer clothing and began to perform the job of the lowest house servant – he began to wash their feet. Disgusting! We all watched Prince William ride through London with his beautiful bride in that beautiful carriage recently. What if William had stopped the carriage, stripped off that red coat, and began to polish the boots of the horsemen following behind him?
But Jesus' Kingdom is not like any in this world. In Jesus' Kingdom, the least are the greatest and the humble are exalted. In Jesus' Kingdom, those who are the greatest are the servants of others. Believe me, Jesus is the King; he's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but his Kingdom is not of this earth. It horrified the disciples when, hours later, Jesus was not crowned King, but crucified as a common criminal. But when he rose again they began, slowly, to understand.
God's Kingdom is the only one where the King dies for his people. We are used to seeing people die for their king or country, but not the other way around. If we are to be the greatest in God's Kingdom, then we, too, will be like Christ. We will be servants to others, humble and full of love. We will be concerned about the needs of others, and not just ourselves. We will have the humility to give help to others and to accept help from others. We will not be selfish or full of pride.
And there is something else Jesus taught us that night. He knew he was about to be abandoned and betrayed by these men, yet he washed their feet. He taught us to forgive. In the Kingdom of God, there is forgiveness. In God's Kingdom, there is grace.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Choose Life!

Deuteronomy 30: 11 – 18 (NIV): Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

Deuteronomy is a big ole' word that simply means “the second law”. The book is basically three sermons from Moses, just before the Israelites left the desert and entered the promised land. He is not giving a second set of laws, but reminding them of the laws God had already given, including the Ten Commandments. Today's passage is part of Moses' farewell speech.
He says it's not hard to obey God. We already know what God wants from us. We don't have to wait for someone to go up to heaven and find out, or cross the sea to get God's instructions. It's in our hearts, because God placed a desire for him in each of us, and its in our “mouth”. This may mean that Moses had given the law to the people in their own language and in a way that they could discuss it and understand it. It's not some foreign law that is across the sea and too hard for us to understand, it is simple: love God, love each other, obey God's Commands.
Moses said the people had two choices: Obey God and live, or disobey God and die. Life can really be boiled down to these two choices. As a people, the Israelites would fail or succeed based on which decision they made. We can see in History that this was true.
We, as individuals, face the same two choices today. If we run after other gods, we can expect God's punishment; if we love God with all of our hearts, we can expect his blessings. God's Laws are not too difficult for us to understand and obey; we can do it. Remember, the Law was divided into three parts: Ceremonial, Civil and Moral. We Gentile Christians today are not bound to the Ceremonial or Civil Laws – Jesus fulfilled and completed them (Paul discusses this in Galatians 3 – 5). Choose life! Love God.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Woman is Healed

Luke 8: 4- - 48 (NIV): Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

This woman was desperate for Jesus. She had tried the doctors and everything else she could think of, and nothing had worked. She knew Jesus was her only hope, and she believed that he would heal her if she could only touch him. Unfortunately, in her society a woman was (and still is in some places) forbidden from touching or speaking to a man in public. Desperate, she touched him anyway and was instantly healed.
Jesus didn't even do anything except walk past her! But he knew that she had touched him and that the power to heal her had been given. Notice what he did. First, he made her confess that she had touched him. Why? For one thing, her condition made her “unclean” and she could not go to the synagogue. By announcing to the whole community that she had been healed, Jesus was allowing her back into society. How else would she have proven that she had been healed? Jesus didn't mind an “unclean” person touching him, and that's good news for all of us.
Also, Jesus wants us to confess to others when we heals us or saves us. That's how other people will know to do the same.
Now notice that Jesus said her faith had healed her. Faith is the delivery truck that God uses to deliver his goodness to us. We cannot be saved without it and we cannot be healed or have our prayers answered without it. When we get desperate enough, we'll reach out to touch him and find ourselves at peace. We won't care what our culture says, and we'll risk being embarrassed. Pride goes out the window when we're desperate. Often, when we are desperate for Jesus and realize that he is our only hope, we're right where he wants us to be.
Jesus was on his way to heal someone else, but he stopped to minister to this woman. He will take the time to answer our prayers too, so let's show him we have faith.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Motherhood, the Painful Privilege

Luke 1: 42 – 50 (NIV): In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

This occurred when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist and Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Elizabeth explains to Mary that John the Baptist had leaped within her womb when Mary approached. Elizabeth then praises Mary for believing that what God said was true.
Mary responds with what is known as the “Magnificat”, because that is the first word in the Latin translation of the passage. It is a poem or song praising God, the champion of the poor and oppressed.
Why was Mary favored of God? What was so special about her that she should be chosen as the mother of the Christ? She was pure in heart and in action. She was humble and obedient when God spoke. She praised God with her voice. And she believed – she had faith. These are the qualities we should honor, and I hope we do.
These qualities are so important because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. A mother's influence cannot be denied. A mother who fears God will teach her children to do the same. She will see that they attend church and that they learn about God. She will praise God with her lips and not use them to curse her children. She will be humble before God, putting her trust in him for all things, even when it doesn't make sense or seems impossible. She will desire God's will for herself and for her family, as Mary did. In verse 38, she said “I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said.”
We live in a society that seems to celebrate young women who openly misbehave; who live a life far from faith in God. On this Mother's Day, let's celebrate the women among us who have a heart for God. Let's celebrate women who trust in him, who are pure in heart and action. Perfect? No, but righteous because of their faith in the one in whom they trust.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Burning Bush

Exodus 3: 1-5, 10-14 (NIV): Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." ... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." ... Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

I heard a preacher say one time that any old bush would do. God can use anything in his creation for his purposes. Notice, though, that God didn't speak to Moses until he had his attention. God is not going to yell over the noise of our busy lives.
And when we approach God, we must do so with proper reverence and respect. God is holy and we must remember that. So often we think of how much God loves us and that he died for us and that he wants what is absolute best for us, as any loving father does, and all of this is true, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that our God is a holy God. The Bible is clear that ungodly behavior hurts our fellowship with God. We can easily restore that fellowship through repentance, but we must know that our actions effect our closeness to God.
God told Moses not to come any closer until he removed his sandals. If we want to get close to God, we must do so with proper respect.
It is in this passage that we learn what God says his name is. God is set apart by himself. There is no other God. He is the God of the past, the present, the future. He is all in all, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the perfect being, the creator of the universe, the father of all life. God's name is so much more than just a handle, it is his authority, his reputation. He is I AM.
Moses had a huge task ahead of him, but he would do so under the banner of the name of God, by God's power and authority. God has a task for each of us. When we approach it by his name, his power, and his authority, we can accomplish more than we ever dreamed.