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Archive for April, 2014

Jesus-washing-feet-12

Thursday (John 13:1-17)

Theme: An Example to Follow

The time was immanent. Jesus knew that within hours he would be hanging on a cross. He knew that this was his last opportunity to give his disciples something that would remain with them forever. What does he do? He washes their feet.

Of all the lessons Jesus wants his disciples to learn, this one is the greatest: to love one another and to express that love through service. The washing of feet was a task reserved for the lowest of servants. Today it would be like the cleaning of toilets: a pretty miserable task. But Jesus did this to demonstrate the type of love his disciples need to have toward each other.

Notice that Jesus washed all of his disciples’ feet – including Judas. The love that Jesus has goes beyond who people are and what they do. This is the type of love he expects his disciples to have.

In another story Jesus said, “He who is forgiven much, loves much.” The key to growing in our love for others is to realize how much we have been loved (and forgiven) by God. This is the love that can change your world.

Jesus invites you to grow in love and service. Do you realize how much God loves and has served you? Is it enough for you to fully love and serve others? Is there someone you would hesitate to love and serve? Why? How might God want to deal with this in your life?

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isaiah53

One of the greatest and most beautiful passages in Isaiah’s vision is chapter 53. Written 800 years before Christ was born, Isaiah describes both the intense physical and emotional anguish of the Suffering Servant, who willingly offered his life as atonement for our sin.

You can almost feel the pain of Messiah’s rejection in the words, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with grief.”

You can feel the heavy burden of the Great Displacement in the phrases, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, by his wounds we are healed … the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

You can sense the determination of the Christ to accomplish his mission in the metaphor: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Surely, he is the Lamb of God who was slain and who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Beautiful Exchange who gives us life and healing for our sin and brokenness. He is the noble one who suffered and died so that we would not have to.

But the verse that always hits me hardest is verse 11. In the beautiful King James Version it says,

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.

There’s a reason why Messiah Jesus suffered such “travail”: to see you and me set free. In this very poignant verse, we are marked as the love of his soul.

Jesus saw us, went into our darkness, faced suffering and death, and rescued us. He saw us safe and saved. And that vision of us – forever out of the clutches of sin, death and darkness – was enough to satisfy him before he breathed his last.

I’m reminded of a scene in the movie “Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves,” where Robin of Locksley was asked if Maid Marion was worth all the trouble he went through to save her life. Without hesitation he said, “She is worth dying for.”

This is what verse 11 means to me. That Jesus believes I am worthy dying for. That Jesus believes you are worth dying for. That it was worth it to him to go through unjust treatment, be rejected, endure untold physical suffering, and face the hellish separation from the Father … in order to save us. (Selah)

 

Why Christ is the Lover of my soul is beyond me. I’m not worthy of anything except the punishment of my sin.

But what makes holy week so holy to me is because Jesus is the Lover of my soul.

And for some strange and mysterious reason, I am the “travail” of his.

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What Makes Jesus Angry?

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As we begin Holy Week, I am reminded of Jesus’ “cleansing of the Temple.” In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), this is Jesus’ first act after entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The thing that strikes me the most about this incident is that Jesus is angry.

Most of us don’t normally associate Jesus with anger. And I think there is good reason for this: Jesus was the most gracious person who walked on the face of this planet. He treated sinners, tax collectors, the promiscuous, the outcasts, and the party animals with respect and love. He didn’t condone their behavior, but he also never treated them with disdain or disrespect.

But Jesus was no patsy either. He didn’t mince words in telling people the hard truth straight up. However, when Jesus confronted people with the truth he did so with compassion. I think about the Rich Young Man in Mark 10. As Jesus was about to confront him with the truth of his greed, it says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

So Jesus rarely got angry. That’s what makes His outburst in the Temple so unusual and profound. There were also a few other isolated instances that caused Jesus to be upset. I think it’s important to ask the question: what does make Jesus angry?

In the Temple incident, Jesus reacted to the use of religious power to exploit people. Poor people had to pay outrageous prices to exchange their currency into “temple money” and to pay inflated amounts for sacrificial animals. Jesus really hates injustice, especially in the Temple where people who claim to be godly are the perpetrators.

Another hot spot for Jesus was religious hypocrisy and spiritual pride. Jesus’ angry “seven woes” to the Pharisees (Matt 23) were directed at how they maintained their own standards of “holiness,” while being totally unholy in their attitudes toward others and never dealing with their own inner, hidden sins.

A third point of contention for Jesus was judgmentalism. Jesus warned strongly in Matthew 7 to not judge others, and to take out the “plank” in our own eyes before helping others take out a “splinter” in theirs. In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), it is interesting to note that Jesus’ anger was not directed toward the woman (although she did sin) but the men who judged her. Many scholars believe that Jesus’ mysterious writing in the dirt with his finger was an ancient form of “anger management.” He was pretty upset. In any case, you can sense Jesus’ contention with judgmentalism in his statement, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I think Jesus reacted so strongly to the sins of religious power plays, spiritual pride and judgmentalism because of how they turn peoples’ hearts “sideways.” The people who struggle with these sins are people who pursue God, but have been deceived by their concept of religion so as to actually work “against” the cause of God. It is an insidious Saul of Tarsus is a classic example of a man who thought he was doing God’s will but was really “kicking against the goads” (Acts 9:21). It angers Jesus, not because he hates people who commit these sins (Jesus loves everyone), but because of the insidious way these sins block out the True voice of God. These sins cause people to believe and justify what they are doing is right because it aligns with the “God of their own making” – not the God of Scripture. What makes it really bad is people who act this way often can quote Scripture better than anyone else; thus, making it even more difficult for the Spirit of God to break through.

And what’s really scary is that it’s easy for people like you and me to fall into this trap. People who are devoted to God’s will, God’s Word and God’s ways.

So as we examine our own “Temples” this week, what do we see?

Do we use religious power to take advantage of others? Are we spiritual bullies or manipulators? Do we even think about the subtle ways we use Christian language or concepts to justify things that hurt others? (Ouch!)

Is there spiritual pride or religious hypocrisy in our lives? Do we compensate our soul’s poverty by trying to earn spiritual brownie points and impress others? (Oof!)

And are we quick to judge others? Do we see our own brokenness or do we focus on how others are not measuring up to our personal standards? (Yowsa!)

If you’re like me, it’s scary to peek at what’s really inside of us. But if we are willing to take be courageous about our sins and brokenness, I know Jesus will give us the grace to do it. Like the Young Man who struggled with greed, He looks at us with loving eyes.

But if we don’t; if we choose to ignore, cover up, and continue in these small, poisonous patterns of life… ???

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me … a sinner.

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Today in my lectionary reading was the passage of Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11). As I read and listened in Lectio Divina on this passage, I was drawn by the short pretext – a part that I tend to gloss over – that occurred before Jesus’ triumphal entry and the crowd’s shouts of “Hosanna!”

Jesus asked two of his disciples to go into the village and “borrow” a donkey and a colt from someone they probably didn’t know.

I don’t know about you, but I would have balked at doing this. “Are you serious, Jesus? They call that ‘stealing’ in some parts of this country! And I don’t even know these people. What will they think?” I would have also come up with some excuses and perhaps suggested another disciple to go in my place – you know, someone who has the spiritual gift of “borrowing.”

I’m not sure what those disciples were thinking when Jesus asked them this. Perhaps, there were some objections in their mind. Perhaps, they were used to Jesus’ odd requests and developed a deeper trust in his judgment. Maybe there were some cultural issues that made this request not as outrageous for them as it does for us.

In any case, they obeyed Jesus. And that is the bottom line.

It is interesting that the Evangelist included this pre-story into the larger story of Jesus’ final march into Jerusalem – the official kickoff to Christ’s Passion. On the surface, it seems like just another detail. Perhaps it served as a backstory to Matthew’s consistent desire to explain how Jesus fulfilled prophecy (in this case, Zechariah’s vision of the Messiah coming into the City as the gentle King). But I sense that there is another reason why this was included:

To show us that nothing the Lord asks us to do is “insignificant.”

Or as they say in show biz, “There is no such thing as a small part; just small actors.”

What seemed like a very small, odd thing to those disciples in that moment, was a very important piece to the most amazing redemptive work in history. Jesus included these unknown disciples (I bet it was Thaddeus and the “other Judas;” or maybe the “other Simon” or the “other James” – how would you like to be known as the “other so and so” disciple??) in His great Passion story. They got to help Jesus fulfill His mission.

There is no such thing as a small disciple; just obedience or disobedience.

So for us, it’s important to realize that when Christ asks us to do something that seems small or insignificant or odd or outside of our comfort zone or inconvenient, that it’s important to Him. We might not see it, but there’s so much we don’t see – that’s why it’s a walk of faith and trust: trust and obey.

In God’s eyes, there are no small parts. And there are no small disciples.

When was a time when God directed you to so do something that seemed small, but ended up being profoundly important?

What is Christ asking you to do today for Him? Do you feel resistance in what He asks of you? What helps you work through (and with) the resistance so that you come to a place of resolve and obedience?

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Taming the Tongue

dragon

I remember a day when I was quite upset with one of my sons. He made a request that disrupted my plans. I was angry for a number of “good reasons.” I stewed it over for several moments. I determined in my heart that I would not lash out at my son, but make this a teachable moment. Later on, my son came to me and apologized about the inconvenience of his request. I opened my mouth and, all of a sudden, this tirade of accusations and anger came out! I could not believe what I had just said. And my poor son stood there, obviously wounded by my cutting words. I was now the one who needed to apologize and, as I did, I was quite thankful (and relieved) that my son showed me more grace than I had given him.

James 3:6 says, “The tongue … is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Our words get us into a lot of trouble. Many times, our words get us into trouble when we do not think about what we are going to say. We react and then our mouths take over; not unlike a fire-breathing dragon!

However, there are times when even our minds cannot control our tongues. My situation is a good example of what James is talking about in verse 8: No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Yet it is so important to get our tongues under control. Our tongues affect our witness (how many times have unbelievers been turned off by the hypocrisy, judgmentalism and harsh words of Christians?) and our walk (the guilt from things said get us off track from following the Lord). How do we tame our tongues when our tongues are “untameable”?

The secret is not just controlling our speech, but controlling what influences our heart. You see, the tongue is the outward expression of our hearts. Whatever is in the heart is what is waiting to be said with the tongue. That is why the mind has a difficult time taming the tongue: the heart is much deeper and stronger than the mind. Our minds can keep our mouths closed (for awhile), but eventually the things of the heart come out in one way, shape or form.

James says in verse 11: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? The obvious answer is “no”. But the point of what he is saying is this: is my tongue connected to the “fresh water heart” of Jesus or the “salt water heart” of my flesh? And the state of my heart is determined by what I put into it. What I put into my heart will determine what comes out of it – and what comes out of my mouth.

So taming the tongue involves examining what we put into our lives. If we “input” our lives with things like prayer, Bible reading, wholesome fellowship, serving, giving, forgiveness and walking with Jesus 24/7, our hearts will be purer and our speech will follow suit. But if we fill our lives with things that reinforce the values of the world (TV, music, gossip, materialism, selfishness), our hearts will shrivel up and our tongues will betray the smallness of our hearts.

Transformation of the tongue is evidence of transformation of the heart, and that’s what Whole Life Worship in the everyday ordinary is all about.

How has the untamed tongue reeked havoc in your life? What has helped you tame the tongue? Can you visualize how your life would be different if your tongue was used for praising God and building up others, rather than for cursing, complaining, and tearing down?

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

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Worship

I woke up the other morning hearing a song on the radio that caught my attention. It’s called “Beautiful Day” by Jamie Grace. As a musician, I appreciate how the song’s rhythm, melody, harmony and lyrics, as well as Grace’s stylings work together to create a “sunburst” effect in the soul. As a “positivist,” I love how this song brings me into a great attitude when I listen to it in the morning.

But it’s as a Whole Life Worshiper that really makes me appreciate this song.

There’s a phrase in the song that goes: “About to get my worship on.”

If there is a phrase that describes the motion of Whole Life Worship, it’s that! Worship is not something we go to, it’s something we decide to do. Worship is not only a Sunday morning event, it’s a choice we have to make every day. Worship are not just songs we sing, it is an entire way of life that we pattern ourselves around. It is a mindset, an attitude: it’s “about getting our worship on.”

What I also like about Grace’s song is that worship is about meeting and walking with Jesus. She can’t wait for her Personal Worship Time with Jesus:

This child awaits, strong in the faith

Lord, You are the refuge that I can’t wait to get to

Cause I can’t let a day go

Can’t let a day go by

Without thanking you for the joy that you bring to my life

And there’s something ’bout the way

Your sun shines on my face

It’s a love so true, I could never get enough of You

And she points out that worship is not just about giving God our Sunday best, but our whole lives – warts and all – to Him as a living sacrifice and allowing Him to transform us:

When trouble seems to rain on my dreams

It’s not a big, not a big deal

Let it wash all the bugs off my windshield

Cause You’re showing me in You I’m free

And You’re still the refuge

That I’ve just got to get to

So put the drop top down, turn it up,

I’m ready to fly.

For me, this song is a “perfect trifecta” – great music, positive outlook and a powerful reminder to live out Whole Life Worship to our awesome, wonderful, loving Lord.

It is a beautiful morning, isn’t it? I’m about to get my worship on!

What song lifts your spirits and encourages you to live for Christ?

What helps you expand your concept of worship beyond “event and song” to “decision and lifestyle”?

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repetitive strain injury

I’m back from my break! I hope you enjoyed the reblogs on prayer last week.

I was getting somewhat burned out on writing the blog. I’m sure every blogger goes through this. What started off as something exciting and fresh eventually became one of those “putting the cart before the horse” type of scenarios. I felt the pressure of having to write a weekday blog. Sometimes it was so overwhelming that I went into long periods of writer’s block, and have to rely on reblogging some of my older articles.

Yet, I found that writing the blog to be life-giving, as well. It opened a part of my heart, soul and mind that needed stretching and developing. It also helped me to become a better writer and communicator. Finally, it caused me to take Whole Life Worship concept to a whole new level that I never knew existed.

That being said, after some prayer and soul searching, I decided to adjust the weekly rhythm of the Whole Life Worship blog. I think this rhythm offers the opportunity for new blogs to be written, while giving enough space and margin so that I don’t get burned out or feel the pressure to “have to” write.

I will try to write new blogs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tuesday will be a day of rest (it is when I take my Sabbath). Thursdays will be a “throwback” day where I will reblog an article from the past.

So the day this blog comes out will be on my Sabbath (Tuesday). I’ll be writing a new blog for tomorrow and Friday, with a reblog on Thursday.

We’ll see if this works. If not, I know I can go back to the “drawing board” – as you have all been so gracious to me in this process!

When have you had to revamp or cut back on something in order to make it more life-giving?

How does God guide you in coming to these decisions?

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