Cast Your Net

Today’s Reading: John 21, Psalm 123

“Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to the, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So, they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” John 21: 4-7

In today’s reading we hear this story of Jesus’ third appearance to his disciples after his resurrection. It’s striking that again, despite witnessing his miracles, Simon Peter and the other men do not recognize Jesus for who he really is. After an evening and the following morning of empty nets, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee return to shore empty handed. There stands Jesus. He instructs them to go back out into the Sea of Galilee and again cast their nets but this time on the other side of the boat. Of course, the net is filled to the brim with fish! It is then that they realize the man on the shore is indeed the Christ, their Risen Lord.

After reading today’s text a few times, I’m struck by a few things. First, the notion that the disciples returned to the sea at Jesus’ order despite not knowing who he really was. The second is the mere fact that this is the third time he had appeared to him and still they didn’t recognize him until after he had performed a miracle. This got me thinking about how often we as Christians miss those moments in which Jesus simply shows up for us. How often he is standing on the shore giving us the roadmap for success, but we mistake him for just another guy on the beach. Those of you that attend Eastview Christian Church may have heard Mike preach this Sunday on the importance of remembering the miracles that God performs in your life. How often Sunday morning tears and pleas turn into Monday morning miracles. And yet by the following week we’ve forgotten what He’s done for us and more importantly failed to spread the good news of God’s grace.

When I place myself in Simon Peter’s shoes, I too would jump out of the boat when I realized my mistake! How do I act in the moment when Jesus calls me to be a disciple and cast my net yet again? Following the call of Jesus means putting your net back into the sea even when you’ve had no success and you’ve grown weary. Even when we don’t feel like reaching out to that co-worker and sharing the message of hope or when we just don’t want to forgive and mend a relationship…Jesus is on the shore asking us to cast that net one more time. My prayer for this Christmas season is that we may be present enough to look for signs of Jesus on our shore and follow him. The miracle of Christ’s birth is upon us. Can we recognize Him when he comes?

I pray that we each find the time to put Jesus Christ into our lives this week. That we are attuned to His presence in the coming days. I pray for you to cast your net in faith this week. Peace.

Peace

Today’s reading:  Psalm 122, John 20

I spent this week in Columbus, OH on business. Because it really doesn’t save time to fly, and since it is a lot less expensive, I just picked up a company car and drove the 5.5 hours.  For some reason this week, I found the drive to and from Columbus very nostalgic.  It was either the Christmas music to which I was listening or simply the power of suggestion (as I smiled when I saw the I75 sign for Toledo, OH), but it brought back memories of driving to my Grandpa and Grandma York’s house in Toledo for Christmas when I was a little girl.

Back in the mid-1970’s I don’t remember having anything but a radio in the car. We probably listened to it quite a bit, but I mostly remembering singing on long car rides.  As preacher’s kids, my sister and I grew up in church.  Hymns, Christmas carols and praise & worship songs were about the only songs to which we knew all the words (we also knew the words to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, but that is a story of stern motherly discipline for another time).  We sang our hearts out on those rides.

As I read Psalm 122 this week, it made me think of singing songs on the way to Grandpa and Grandma York’s house at Christmas. Psalms 120-134 are referred to as Songs of Ascent.  These were songs of praise and worship to God sung by Jews who were walking to Jerusalem for annual Jewish festivals.  The city of Jerusalem sits on a high hill.  No matter where you’re coming from, you have to travel uphill to get there, thus the name Songs of Ascent.

Psalm 122:6-9 talks about peace. Very fitting for a time of year when it is common to hear the word peace or phase peace on earth.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity
(Psalm 122:6-9).

Vocabulary.com defines peace as a stress-free state that comes when there’s no fighting or war; everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  I’d say this is a pretty common understanding of the word “peace” in the 21st century. The peace about which the Jews were singing in Psalm 122, however, was much more than just the absence of conflict.  According to the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), the Jews were singing about a peace that brought completeness, health, justice, prosperity and protection.  This isn’t a peace this world can provide, but one that can only come from faith in God.  This peace is the confident assurance that God works all things together according to his divine plan; a comfort that he has every situation under control.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we read through John 14- 17. These three chapters are often referred to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his guidance to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) after the last supper, before his crucifixion.  Jesus was trying to prepare them for life without him.  The disciples still didn’t completely understand his plan, and it was causing them anxiety.  Think about it.  These eleven men left everything to follow Jesus, and now he was talking about leaving.  How could they be at peace?  Can you identify with their fear and unrest?  Jesus comforted the disciples with these words:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Rise, let us go from here (John 14:27-31).

Do you see Jesus’ words of peace? – “…for the prince of this world is coming…he has no hold over me…”  Knowing that Jesus has all power over Satan is the source of our confident assurance.  Jesus is our peace.

Suit Up

Today’s reading is John 19 and Psalm 121.

John 19:7-8 reads, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law and according to that law he out to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” Prior to this in John 19:6, Pilate said he found no guilt in Him, yet we know in John 19:16 he delivered Him to be crucified. Why was Pilate afraid, and why did He deliver him to be crucified, even though he found no guilt in Him? He could have been fearful of Jesus being who He said He was, but most likely he was afraid of a riot, and he did not want the word to get back to Caesar that he could not effectively govern his region. A riot during Passover would be even worse and the word surely would get back to him and may cost him his position.

How many times in our lives do we cave to the demands and temptations of this world because we are trying to please others for our own good and don’t want to stir the pot and start a riot? We either commit a sin of commission ourselves or don’t speak out about something that’s not in line with the Word and commit a sin of omission. We fear not fitting in or being ostracized by friends or co-workers, or maybe even fear of losing our job. Sometimes though, it’s just apathy. Every day we see things the world tells us is ok and normal that we know the Word tells us is not. Yet, how often do we stand up God and His truth from His Word? I know I often cave just like Pilot. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Thankfully, we know we are not condemned by these sins. Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We know from reading later in John that His death, burial, and resurrection make us right, whole, and one again with God. As Psalm 121:1-2 reads, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made Heaven and Earth.”

As we move forward and think about future tests, battles and temptations to heed to the demands of this world let us look to Ephesians 6:13 and pray we do as it instructs us to. “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Harsh words

John 18 and Psalm 120

Heavy. Heavy hearted. Those were the words I thought of early Sunday morning when I read this chapter in John. Betrayal. Trial. Denial. All harsh words. Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end. Everyone was surprised, yet it had been predicted. We read several times in John of Jesus predicting his death. Tracy outlined for us in her writing on Wednesday the confusion and eventual heartache his disciples must have been feeling:

“They are so taken back by this news that they don’t even think to ask Him where He is going. They are shellshocked and can only deal with how this is affecting their lives. Then Jesus continues by saying that it is actually best for them if He goes away. How can this be? He IS the ministry, how can they continue to teach and convert people to faith in Him if He is not with them?”

So on the night when he was going to be betrayed, he and the disciples crossed the Valley of Kidron and Jesus went to the garden to pray. He knew what was happening yet he was in a quandary as he did not want to end his time on earth. He knew this moment was planned, yet still difficult. After his prayer, he found his closes friends sleeping, not keeping watch as he had directed them to do. I’m sure he was disappointed.

Then, Judas and the gang of captors arrived. Jesus knew. The disciples went into defense mode. In that moment, they did not grasp what was transpiring right in front of them. Had they not been told or warned as to what was happening? Yet they were caught off guard. Simon Peter retaliates by going after the Roman guard, almost try to cut off his head but instead hits his ear. He would lay down his life for Jesus and was showing his loyalty. Yet, Jesus did not want that help or defense from Peter at that time for he knew this moment was part of God’s plan. He knew all things.

The betrayal. Judas gives Jesus away with a kiss. It is a bit odd to me. He is handing him over to be killed yet gives him a kiss? I am sure the guards knew which person was Jesus. He didn’t care about Jesus at that moment, or did he? He didn’t. He wanted the money. Judas was greedy. “I am He”, says Jesus. We don’t read about it in this verse but we know Judas’ guilt overcame him and he could not live with himself.

The trial. Jesus is hauled away. Taken to Annas first, he was questioned. This encounter did not go well:

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Then, he was sent to Caiaphas for an additional questioning. In this particular chapter, we are not given details about his encounter as we move quickly into the meeting or trial with Pilate. Since it was early on the morning of the Passover, Pilate had to come out to meet Jesus. Interesting detail that Pilate wasn’t on his throne, he wasn’t sitting in his “office” ruling the meeting. He had been told many things about Jesus and was finally meeting him.

29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?

Pilate did not want to crucify him. He was confused. Pilate finds not reason to charge him with a crime. He does have a chance to set him free but he knew the people would riot.   And so, as the crowd demands, he sets Barabbas free. (Sigh…..)

The denial. Lastly, we come to Peter. Poor Peter. He watched his best friend and leader be captured. His mind is racing: could I have saved him, should I have done more, can I somehow release him from the guards, will I speak with him again. He is overcome with panic and fear. He is first questioned by a servant girl:

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

Strike One. They are standing around the fire trying to warm themselves. Peter did not run away though. He was standing with servants and officials. He is asked again.

So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

Strike Two. He still remains. Now, Peter must have been more on edge. He is waiting though. Could he help Jesus? Would he be released?

“Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Strike Three.   The story foretold to Peter by Jesus has come to life. Peter’s denial. He runs away weeping for he never thought he would deny Jesus.

Dark days. Yet, we will read on and come to a brighter time, Jesus’ resurrection! All this, the Betrayal, the Trial, and the Denial, all lead to our salvation.

Jesus’ Prayer for Us

John 17 and Psalm 119

I remember the very first time I heard John 17 preached back in high school. I remember it so well because I kind of felt like I’d been missing out my entire life… because somehow, I’d missed the fact that Jesus, the very Savior of the world, had actually prayed for me thousands of years ago. This passage instantly became so special to me, and I’m excited that we’re reading it together today.

The title in my Bible for John 17 is, literally, “Jesus’ Prayer for His Followers.”  Let’s read part of John 17 together… these are verses 6:12:

I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world;
They’ll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).

These verses are literally full of language that speaks so much to Jesus’ deep love for his followers. I love how much Jesus talks about this love, as well as how thankful He is to God for giving Him us. Imagine that.

Despite the fact that Jesus was literally about to die on the cross on behalf of every human, and despite the fact that it was OUR sin that put Him there, He was still thanking God for us.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. These verses remind us that no matter what we’ve done or how far we’ve drifted from Him, Jesus still loves us. I especially love John 17:20-23:

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.

Not only does Jesus spend a lot of time thanking God for the very people He’s about to die for, but He also prays specifically for us who will not know Him in person like His disciples got to. There are a few specific things He prays for, and friends, we fall into this category of people.

First, He asks that God won’t take us out of the world, but that God will consecrate us within the world and sets us apart for His glory. Next, He prays that God would help believers to have one heart and one mind – literally so that the world would believe that God sent Jesus. (No pressure on that one, right?) I especially love the line of Jesus’ prayer that says, “And give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them, in the same way you’ve loved me.” That’s our mission, friends- to give this godless world evidence, by the way that we love others, that God sent Jesus to save them. It’s a simple calling, yet such a big deal… and often so difficult.

Today, I’m thankful to worship a God who not only loved us enough to take on human flesh and walk amongst us, but who also wanted to leave us record through the Scriptures of His specific prayers for us. What a gift we have in John 17. I hope you are encouraged by Jesus’ prayer for you today.

Anchor For Our Souls

 

Today’s reading is John 16 and Ps 118

John 16 is mostly comprised of Jesus telling His disciples about plans for the future, what they should expect and what they will experience, and what will happen to Himself. None of this is easy news for the disciples to hear or grasp. I sort of feel like after a short three years of time with Jesus, they might just be getting the hang of how to do ministry with Him. They might just be beginning to understand God’s power in themselves and the call to bring the good news to the rest of the world. They are just now figuring out their role in traveling with Jesus and teaching with Him. …and then Jesus sits down with them for a discussion and everything changes.

Jesus tells His disciples that they will be kicked out of the synagogues, people will be trying to kill them, they will be scattered, each one going his own way and worst of all Jesus is leaving them. They are so taken back by this news that they don’t even think to ask Him where He is going. They are shellshocked and can only deal with how this is affecting their lives. Then Jesus continues by saying that it is actually best for them if He goes away. How can this be? He IS the ministry, how can they continue to teach and convert people to faith in Him if He is not with them?

We know the end of the story. We know that God’s plan is that Jesus gives His life to pay for our sin so we can be made clean and new. We know that His perfect blood draining from His body is what pays the price to purchase us and make it possible for us to be in God’s presents. We know that we live with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit in us every day. These poor disciples have their entire world flopped upside-down in one conversation and they don’t seem real comfortable or confident in the new plans. They don’t understand. I can only guess that in their minds they are wondering why everything can’t just stay as is, and why they can’t continue Jesus ministry WITH Him. They can’t see God’s plan. We have a different vantage point to view this chapter, and boy are we grateful that God completed His plan and made a way for us to be with Him.

How often are we scared, sad or frustrated with our circumstances because they don’t make sense to us? We don’t understand why we are going through this pain or hardship. It doesn’t make sense that God would allow us to land where we have landed. Surely He hasn’t seen how this affects us? This seems harsh, but sometimes the stuff we face isn’t about us. Jesus was accomplishing He and His Father’s plan to save all of mankind. Even though He loves His friends dearly, and knows how hard these circumstances will be for them to live through, He still needs to finish the plan. So knowing the disciples’ fear, frustration and questions, Jesus says three things to them in this chapter to help them through this really hard time.

1, vs 12 “I want to tell you so much more, but you can’t bear it now.”  He knows how they feel. He sees their fear, and feels their frustration. He wants to help them through this with more information but He knows that more information is too much for them to take right now so He protects them from more than they can handle.

2, vs 22 “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” Again, He knows how they feel after this news, but He gives them hope. He tells them that it will get hard, but He will see them again and their joy will be great.

Finally 3, vs 33 “I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Who can comfort us this way, with these powerful words? No one but God! Knowing that we will face hard things, He wants us to have His peace. He assures us that no matter how hard our lives are, eternity is with Him because He has overcome the world. Does this truth make our lives easier? Does it remove the sting of pain when life is hard? Does it take away our frustration when we feel we have been wronged? We still have to live through the pain, frustration and fear on earth but we have hope. Heb 6:18-19 tells us, “ We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

Pruning

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15: 1 – 2; 4 – 8).

I never used to be much of a gardener until we moved into the house we currently live in. The previous owners had created and lovingly maintained several beautiful gardens. They reminded me of English gardens, the kind you see on the cover of a novel – lots of colorful flowers, plenty of tall green grasses that turned golden in the late summer, and a white picket fence encircling it all. There is even a little stone walkway that curves between the two main sections of the garden.

The gardens are still here today, but we have changed them a bit, made them our own. We did this because we realized what a big job it is to care for and maintain a garden. So we took some plants out. We planted more perennials. And we continue to prune the gardens regularly.

Pruning is certainly one of the most time-consuming parts of gardening. (As is weeding…definitely weeding!) We do quite a bit of pruning throughout the year. Every few days during the growing season, I go outside and cut off any dead flowers from our plants. And, at the end of every autumn, my husband cuts back every plant until it stands just above the ground. This pruning – both mid-season and at the end of the season – allows the plant’s energy to be directed to feeding the good, healthy parts of the plant. Pruning also encourages the roots to grow deeper. The plant grows back full and strong the next spring.

John 15 opens with Jesus talking about how our lives as believers are to be entwined with his, and he uses a gardening image to help us to understand His words. He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).

Did you catch that? God removes the dead stuff completely – He takes it away – and He prunes the still-alive parts! He prunes “every branch that does bear fruit”. That means that He may choose to prune good things, beautiful things – because He knows that pruning results in even better things. Sometimes those better things are new versions of pruned branches, and sometimes they look nothing like what was pruned.

Without pruning, a garden begins to look faded. Its colors soften and become muted. Pruning eliminates the non-productive and encourages the healthy. Pruning restores the vibrancy of the garden’s colors. This weekend in Central Illinois, the temperature hit 60 degrees, which is rare for late November. My husband took advantage of the day to cut down the rest of our garden. Today, as I write this looking out the front window, the plants looked short and bare, almost shocked. But I know that deep underground, within the roots, lies the promise of new growth, and if I am patient, I will see sprouts of green come springtime. May it be so with us, too. May we not resist His pruning, and may what God prunes grow back even stronger and healthier.

Promises

Todays Reading : John 14   ;   Psalms 116

Preparing for the posting today I have a song in my head. Below are the lyrics:

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let his praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
[Refrain]

While reading the passage, my bible titles it the “Jesus Promise the Holy Spirit”. As I read and mediate on this chapter it is shown that we are standing on the essential Promise that Jesus has for us, He will not leave us wanting or in need of comfort or peace.

John 14: 15-17; 25-27

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

This year God has been revealing himself to me through the His Spirit. After completing “Forgotten God – by Francis Chan” and “ Comfort Detox – by Erin Stranz” I have a more intimate relationship with God and a better understanding of the Spirit and the power that is manifested in the knowledge of Him. This year, wife and I have been presented with many challenging and difficult circumstance and situations that have grown our faith. In our small group, we discussed the desert or wilderness that we sometimes face and the growth that happens as we go through.

In Chapter 14, Jesus is preparing the disciples for a journey through their “ wilderness” which He is providing a guide and Comforter. From these past months, I have been in a wilderness experience, but I have had the peace that the Spirit is only able to give and now I am coming through. It has only been through the faith and peace that I have been given through the Spirit of God, I am able to make today.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your Spirit that rest within us. Thank you for you the Son that allowed this communion to become whole again. Thank you for the peace and comfort that the world is not able to comprehend. Your Spirit is true and your promises are real. Amen

Dirty Feet

From 2007-2011 our family lived in Green Valley, AZ. I have 2 lists in my phone from the day we began our long trek from AZ and traveled back to Illinois. The first list is, “Things I will miss about AZ” (of course the weather is at the top of that list) and the second list is, “Things I will NOT miss about AZ”. My #3 on this list is the dirt! My children were involved in many sports when we lived out West. The two dirtiest sports were baseball and soccer. In AZ, of course we know that it is hot and dry as well as windy at times. This fact becomes reality when you where flip-flops 24/7, 365 days a year. Not to be gross, but my feet were disgusting! They would crack because of the dryness and be covered in dirt from being out on the fields every night. I would get home in the evenings and have to soak my feet to get them clean. I remember always worrying about getting into bed with dirty feet!

I imagine this is something like what the disciples encountered with their wearing of sandals in the hot Middle Eastern climate. Their feet would always be caked with dirt and need to be cleaned. The typical household would have had a servant available to wash the feet of guests arriving for dinner.

In John chapter 13, the disciples had gathered for the Passover meal. As they celebrated the Hebrew festival, Jesus would serve them the Lord’s Supper for the first time. At the end of the meal, Jesus did something that shocked the disciples. He went over and got the basin of water and a wash cloth. He then went and began to wash the dirty, smelly, gross feet of the disciples. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords was taking the position of the lowliest servant. The Master demonstrated the greatest leadership as he made Himself low.

We like to be recognized. We love the idea of being the person who is known as a leader or remembered as a person of prestige. But in God’s Kingdom, true leaders will follow Jesus’ example. If a person desires to be great, he must make himself a servant. If a person wants to be recognized by God, he/she will need to be a foot-washer. If we want to be like Jesus, we will need to lay aside our agendas and aspirations, and put the needs of others first.

Another amazing lesson in this account is that when Jesus washes the disciples feet, Judas is in the group. Jesus already knew exactly what Judas was about to do. He knew Judas had made a deal to betray Him and hand over Jesus to be crucified. This man who spent three years with Jesus was about to turn his back on Him. But Jesus, fully knowing what Judas had done, chose to wash Judas’ feet. His act of service wan’t reserved for those who deserved it. He didn’t wash only those who would stick with Jesus. Jesus’ act of service was shown to the person who would send Him to the cross.

It can be easy to serve a person you love and who loves you. But to choose to serve, to give yourself away to a person who would betray you, wow! But this is the kind of service that Jesus, our Savior and Lord Demonstrated.

Jesus was not worried what anyone thought of him during this feet washing event. I imagine that others were whispering about him taking on a servants job and washing feet. But, Jesus did it anyway. What is it that I could do if I wasn’t so worried about how people would think less of me — or for that matter, not take notice of me — what would I do that would be a genuine blessing to someone else?

Thinking back over the past few days, how did you serve others during the Thanksgiving Holiday? Did you get up and help wash and dry the dishes, even though you did not feel like it?? Did you sit and talk with the relative that absolutely bores you?? Did you offer to serve the last piece of pie to the child who had already had a piece? Can you imagine stripping down to your t-shirt at the the end of the meal and washing everyones feet???

This act of washing feet is so much more than cleansing someones dirty feet with a wet cloth. Jesus calls us to do things considered “below us” for others. We must put away selfishness, get on our knees before one another and serve them. Along the way, we discover that following Jesus means doing things that do not bring glory to ourselves.

Whose feet do you need to wash???

Loving Jesus

Today’s reading:  John 12, Psalm 114

In 1992, Gary Chapman introduced us to The 5 Love Languages.   His guidance to better understand the different ways people give and receive love, and then adapt our style accordingly, has helped countless couples foster lasting love relationships for more than 25 years.  Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are as follows:

  • Words of affirmation – showing someone you love them by building them up with encouraging words.
  • Quality time – showing someone you love them by giving them your undivided attention.
  • Gifts – showing someone you love them by giving them gifts.
  • Acts of service – showing someone you love them by doing things for them.
  • Physical touch – showing someone you love them by holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc.

The opening story of our text today teaches us a lot about loving Jesus. The setting was a dinner party in Bethany to honor Jesus, who had just raised Lazarus from the dead.  The hosts were three of Jesus’ close friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Each loved Jesus very much.  The actions of these three friends show us all five love languages in action.

  • Words of affirmation – When Mary first encountered Jesus, she affirmed her love and complete trust in his power with her words.  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).
  • Quality time – Lazarus showed his love for Jesus by spending quality time with him.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him (John 12:2).
  • Gifts – Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus feet.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).
  • Acts of service – Martha showed her love for Jesus by serving the meal.  Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him (John 12:2).
  • Physical touch – Mary wiped the perfume on Jesus’ feet with her hair.  Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).

The story goes on to reveal Judas’ rebuke of Mary for the extravagance of her gift to Jesus.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages”. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:4-6).

Judas pretended to care about taking care of those in need as a cover for his own selfish motives.  It is likely Jesus knew Judas was stealing money from the disciples’ fund, although the Bible never records Jesus addressing it directly.  He simply told Judas to leave Mary alone.  Do you think Judas forgot Jesus could see the true selfish motive of his heart?

What does Jesus see when he looks at the true motives of your heart? Does he see a deep, extravagant love for him that you demonstrate through various love languages?  Or does he see a deep love for something else that you cover up by saying you love Jesus and “doing the right things”?  If the latter, don’t be discouraged, there is still hope.  May I encourage you with Paul’s words to the Church in Ephesus?

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that (Ephesians 5:2 MSG).