Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Royal Treatment - John 13

One of our family scripture readings during Advent is John 13. It's fun to talk with my kids about all that we can learn from Jesus' example of washing His disciples feet and His instruction for us to do the same. I think there are two take-aways that specifically bring clarity to an often hazy space between judgment and grace. Because we know that it's wrong for us to judge others, we often er in overcompensating. Like a driver that swerves so hard to miss something in the road that he flips his car, creating an equally dangerous situation. We don't want to be guilty of judging others and so we run so hard away from judging that we're not even willing to warn each other or edify each other. The same fault is found with some who don't wan't to be found guilty of allowing or even enabling sin. Instead they find that in their zealous fight for righteousness, they've stumbled across the line into judging others rather than efying. An then there's Jesus, our perfect example. He teaches us how to treat each other and, at the same time, how to treat our enemies. Jesus tells Peter that he's already clean. But having walked around a bit in sandal, he needs to have his feet washed. And so Jesus washes His feet. Now we can be guilty at times of proclaiming, like Christ, that everyone's feet are dirty. Our error mostly lies in what we do after that proclaimation. Sometimes we stop and rest comfortably in knowing together that we're a dirty-feet people. It's nothing to be ashamed of, Yet Jesus says we are to wash each others feet. It's not good enough to recognize that our feet are dirty. My dirty feet don;t make yours any cleaner. The fact that you have mud between your toes doesn't clean up the tracks I'm making across the livingroom rug. We need to get to washing each other's feet. It's at this point in the story that my 11 year old pointed out to me that, "Jesus, knowing that the devil had already put it in the heart of Judas to betray Him," went right ahead and washed Judas' feet. Peter's problem with the footwashing was that Jesus, being Lord, was washing His servants feet. Like royalty washing the feet of lowly peasants. But this King, of true royalty, not only washed the feet of His servnts but also kneeled to serve His enemies just the same. So here's the example that Jesus directs us to follow. We should, in recognizing that everyone's feet get dirty, graciously and lovingly wash each others' feet and, likewise, humble ourselves to serve our enemies, and if our enemies, then our friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, customers, teachers, delivery guys, and telemarketers just the same. What do you say, we give them all the 'Royal Treatment'?

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Substantial Evidence - Hebrews 11:1

Faith can be an elusive concept. For those of us who have grown up in the church, we’ve accepted an understanding of what faith is, claim to be men and women of faith, have faith in God and live by faith each day. Ask us what faith is and we’ll quote Hebrews 11:1 in the King James Version with confident satisfaction that faith has been defined clearly once and for all. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. “ But how does this clear up anything about what faith is? By our use of the word, faith is the “unseen” yet this verse points rather to faith being the evidence of things unseen. It’s like when a crime has been committed but with no witnesses. In this case we rely on evidence to prove who committed the crime. And invisible evidence would be pointless. You must be able to produce evidence that can be seen and examined. And so it is with our faith. Faith isn’t a feeling, a conviction or an invisible force of the supernatural. Our faith should become substance and serve as evidence to prove what God has done. This in turn will build the strongest case for His love at work in this world. That’s why the Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. Because real faith produces works which are tangible evidence of the unseen God. Your faith is substantial evidence of a loving God at work in and through your life.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mark 2 - Their Needs / Our Assignment

I just spoke with someone who, through tears, shared of a need they’ve discovered. Reaching out to me for help in filling that need, I gather that, now that they’ve been exposed to this hardship, there’s pretty much no chance it won’t be taken care of. Not because they’re wealthy with the working knowledge or skillset required to see it through but because they’re that type of person. They can’t sleep while the need is remains unmet. They don’t speak figuratively of the need, like,”Would’nt it be nice if someone [not me] could take care of it?” But instead, as if the need were their own, they set a goal, break it down, and start driving at it hard and fast with no off-ramps. I love that! Over the years, I’ve known folks like this to sell everything and move halfway around the world, raise destitute kids as their own, and cry with perfect strangers. Mark 2:15-16 is where the rubber meets the road with our faith and good works. It doesn’t describe religious practices. In fact when questioned Jesus himself said that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans. We read and discover that faith is dead without works and empty words of encouragement without substance that fills needs is equally as dead and useless. We must be those people who translate the needs of others into personal assignments, who find fulfillment in filling their needs and who, instead of just speaking empty words, show our faith by our deeds.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Light of Community - John 13

A relatively new believer, zealous in his pursuit of God and with genuine concern that he not waver in his resolute decision to follow Christ asked, “I was forgiven when I made my way down to that altar. Now I’ve been far from perfect since then. Don’t I need to be saved again?” I had just wrapped up a teaching on Mark 10 where Jesus looks into the eyes of the rich young man inquiring about eternal life. He apparently sees his sincerity and his pure motive and “loves him.” Now looking at this gentleman, I feel much the same way. He’s done with falling short, with missing the mark. Sin has had it’s way with him long enough and he’s over it. Now with earnest ambition he’s resolved that he doesn’t want to carry the weight of it around any longer than he has to and, if that means kneeling at an altar to be saved every week, he’d gladly do it. It was with great joy that I shared with him the story of Peter’s foot washing experience with Jesus. I’m sure he could relate to Peter’s first response to Jesus when he approached with a basin of water and a towel tied around his waist. “You shall never wash my feet.” In other words, it’s far beneath you, as I’m so filthy and you’re so pure. But when Jesus explains the need to be washed clean, it’s without hesitation and with much zeal that Peter blurts out, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” I love Peter’s passion, much like that of the gentleman now posing this question about being saved again after another messy week of living loved. Jesus clears it up for as all. “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” He’s telling you and I that life is messy business but when washed us clean of the mess, we’re completely clean. Now we’ll walk from time to time in areas that will get our feet dirty but, day-by-day, we’ll learn to walk the cleaner paths avoiding the muck especially the muck that’s dirtied our feet in the past. Then the clincher: He puts the maintenance of our spiritual hygiene, the cleansing of our feet into the context of community when He says that we should wash each other’s feet. It’s the baring of our souls and the bearing of each other’s burdens that continuously lifts the weight of sin, freeing us all from it’s dark grip in the light of community.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

When it rains... - Judges 2:10

"When it rains, it pours." has had a negative connotation my whole life. Ironically, the phrase was coined by Morton as a 1911 marketing slogan for a new and improved salt that was easy to pour and didn't clump when exposed to the slightest bit of moisture. That said, I'll break two rules of modern word-smithing with one post. I'll use this now drab phrase in it's former positive glory and write a Christian blog post that mentions the word 'salt' without referencing Matthew 5. (I should try out for AGT) This past week was an exciting "When it rains, it pours" [in a good way] kinda culmination. I got to marry two good friends, on the week of my wedding anniversary, on the exact same beach that Kristin and I were wed 17 years ago. It was super special. I arrived a couple hours before anyone else to catch the sunrise and spend some time with God and my notes for the service. I was reminded in so many ways that morning of our special day. As I passed the resort our wedding party had occupied and then crossed the draw bridge onto Mullet Key heading toward that very special North Beach dune, my heart was reliving our first dates and the feeling I felt as my gorgeous bride-to-be rose over that sand-swept dune toward the love of her life; me. I could hear my trembling fingers picking out the melody I had written for her on that beat up Gibson guitar and see her beautiful glowing face approaching, hair all done up, wearing the necklace I'd made for her, with flowers in hand. Smiling, crying faces, our Youth Pastor's words, rings, the kiss, joy! I felt the calm that had come over me as we sank in to the back seat of that beached boat, shoved off by our family and friends, and sailed off into the sunset. I now pause as I wipe a couple fresh tears from my keyboard. There's no doubt that Kristin could sense my renewed passion that afternoon as I rejoined her and the family. I didn't plan this. I planned a meaningful wedding for friends but "When it rains, it pours." All of those special places and memories took me back; more than just my thoughts and emotions. Why didn't I plan this? Now knowing what our relationship has to gain from going back, and reliving those moments together, why wouldn't I plan this? And so it is in this love relationship with our Savior. From getting to know Jesus and falling in love with Him to choosing to spend the rest of your life and eternity with Him and walking out together with Him each day, there is so much good for our souls to be found in periodically taking a walk down memory lane with Him. It was a practice passed down from generation to generation of the Israelites, in which they recounted all that God had done; all the ways He'd provided, protected and loved them throughout the generations. There came a time when the Israelites pushed pause on this practice and a whole generation failed to know the goodness of God, starting over at ground zero without the oral history of His love and faithfulness to bolster their faith. So take a moment today and often to remind yourself why you love Him. It's always been because [of how] He first loved you. Relive those moments when you've experienced his grace and forgiveness the most. Take yourself back to times when He's provided for you and protected you. As you reminisce, allow yourself to be overwhelmed and approach Him again with a renewed passion.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Power & Self-Control - Num 20

I had a 7th grade math teacher that made the connection for me. Math was math back then and, at my middle school, “applied math” was simply the name of a remedial class offered for those that weren’t testing well with the conventional class structure. Simply practicing the countless computations being worked out on the board in from of the class was not enough. I needed to know how to use what I was learning. I find I’m like that with most things. Buying a camera that’s a bit more than a simple point & click doesn’t make me more than amateur photographer. I have to dig into the 500 year relationship between aperture and shutter speed if I want to be looking at pictures better than the ones on my old Nokia flip phone with it’s impressive 2 megapixel camera. So it is with power. Any power. From leadership and the power of influence to the power of the human body found in mastering the martial arts, simply acquiring power is not enough. It is essential, whether one receives power by way of title or strenuous work, that the ability to use power properly is developed to match the sum of the power that has been given. This is where this talk about power begins to sound a bit like a Marvel super hero movie. When you possess significant power of any type, a seemingly insignificant slip-up or mis-use of that power will find you on your knees begging, “teach me how to control this power of mine.” And rightfully so because most powers, unbridled, will control you instead. Like Spiderman turned Venom, you’ll find the power you once possessed now possesses you or that you become so obsessed with being powerful that the level to which you abuse your power reaches new heights moment by moment.

Before you renounce your desire for power of any type, take comfort that there is a power above all powers. His name is Jesus. And He’s faithful to give us what we need to fulfill His purposes for the powers He provides. The Bible tells us clearly what it takes and likewise God gives it freely. In Acts 1:8 Jesus advised His disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. Galatians 5:23 informs us also that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. And it is this relationship between power and self-control that is either exemplified or disregarded in every story, Biblical or historic, in which power is either used for good or abused to man’s detriment. Moses himself had the power to summon gushing water from dry rocks in the desert. He abused this power with a show of anger when He struck the rock God had told him to speak to. Though water gushed, it was this abuse of power that prevented Moses from entering the promise Land. You see, it’s not the power that we need to learn to control. It’s us. If a leader practices self-control, their power of influence will be maximized in those they lead. If a black belt martial artist practices self control, he will defeat his opponent with strategically precise blows. We’ve all watched as a powerful kid in the school yard lost all self control in a tussle, and received an embarrassing beating in front of his peers or as an influential leader, failed to control themselves personally, humiliated their organization and brought corporate demise. Self-control is a subtle power at the helm of a great ship, capable of steering the whole vessel. This is “Applied Self Control 101”. Welcome to class. We’ve all been taught that we should have self-control but, without specific application, teachings on the subject can feel more like someone telling you to turn down a really great song. But apply self-control to any sort power, big or small, and you’ve got the secret sauce. So lets pray and work to this end: that this vital fruit of the Spirit, self-control, would be developed in us. An And that this discipline would unlock the powers availed to us through the Holy Spirit, influence, and otherwise.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Teach Me To Do... Psalm 143

I’ve always had this nagging suspicion that God, being the Good Father that He is, isn’t entertained by a cruel school-yard game of keep away from Brian and thus hasn’t encrypted His will for my life with complicated mind-games and nearly impossible challenges. I tend to believe that my struggle to know the will of God has been more of a seeing the trees for the forest kind of issue. That is, that the Creator who breathed into existence all the vast complexities of this universe, has bestowed upon each us such a simple purpose, which in our rigorous efforts to discover, we often dismiss like a candy wrapper for the candy within. Though we deeply desire it, and once held it in our very own hands, it now lies waiting patiently in a rubbish bin while we obliviously search near and far for something much more fantastic. It’s not vanity or selfishness on our part, which determines that God’s will for our lives must be somehow glorious. It’s more like a young baseball player convinced he’s ready for the fast-balls of the major league. We’re engaging the wrong struggle. Discovering the will of God shouldn’t be an epic challenge like finding some hidden ancient treasure. So don’t focus on the search for so much as the fulfilling of God purpose as this is where you should feel stretched the most and subsequently where you’ll experience the growth. I think that’s why the Psalmist uses language like “Make me know…” and “Teach me to do your will…” rather than “Let me know and I will do your will.” God’s good and perfect plan isn’t elusive. Although we often need him to tune our focus to see it in it’s simplicity, it’s more the doing, which requires discipline and perseverance, that we’ll need some help with. So pray this day, like the Psalmist, Lord, make me know and teach me to do your will. Amen 

The Royal Treatment - John 13

One of our family scripture readings during Advent is John 13. It's fun to talk with my kids about all that we can learn from Jesus'...