How Many Times?

The setting is solemn; it’s before Passover and Jesus has humbled Himself before his disciples and humbled His disciples all with one act.  He pulls a towel around his waste and takes the basin of water.  The teacher is going to teach through his actions this lesson that will never be forgotten.  Jesus begins to wash the dirty dusty feet of His disciples as they recline at the table.  He is working; they are not.  He is doing what they should have done for him.

We aren’t told how many feet of His disciples had been washed before one of them interrupts their Master.  Peter, recognizing that this is all backwards, questions Jesus.  In essence he is telling Jesus not to wash his feet.  This is one of those acts that I refer to as inverted pride, when pride masks itself in a form of humility but, in reality, is only trying to hide it’s self.  However, Peter’s pride isn’t able to hide from Jesus.

Jesus simply replied to Peter, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Of course Peter tries to save himself with some more foolish comments, to which Jesus simply takes him to school and gently puts this disciple in his place.  I would love to think that Peter got it right after all this, but the truth is, later in the same chapter, we find this same disciple at it again.  This time it’s even worse …. just read the chapter and connect the lines of thought.

Now here is the thing that really penetrated me so deeply as I read these words this morning.  How many times am I just like Peter?  I observe the actions of my Lord and object to them because I realize that I got it wrong.  He is working when I should be working.  He is doing for me what I should be doing for Him.  And instead of being humbled by it all, pride wells up in some inverted way within me and tries to fool the teacher.  And when called out, in such a gentle way, pride rears its head, fully exposed, and goes for the whole enchilada.

People are funny this way.  When others around them get this whole loving one another thing correct that person’s pride keeps them from really learning.  Rather than simply being humbled by the loving actions of another and receiving the lesson from them, they allow pride to block the beauty of the moment.  Everyone loses when love gets interrupted.

Of course, this is never about you or me; it’s always another person who struggles with such things.  Maybe we can share it on our newsfeed or retweet it so the rest of the world can see it.  As for you and me, we would be more like John or Andrew who must have gotten it right the first time, because they aren’t the ones being talked about … Peter is.

Today I am humbled by the thoughts of times in my life when Jesus tried to help me stop sinning with my mouth, actions, or spirit by saying, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Think I will just stop talking now to listen and watch.  Peace.

Image(The above thoughts are based on the Gospel of John 13.)

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 3

ImageOur travels through the Northwest area of America brought great encouragement as we met some wonderful people. People, who with open hearts, welcomed us warmly as they shared their lives with us. As we broke bread and discussed the lives we each live friendship was born and Christ’s love was evident.

We walked into a room filled with people neither Kandy nor I knew. There were some busy serving food to those who had come in off the street, others were painting pictures for those dining to watch as the image unfolded, and another played the guitar and sang softly in the background. Conversations took place around us; some were loud while others softly spoke to one another. You could hear laughter from some and saw a tear welling up in another. Church was taking place as this body gathered together from the streets of Freemont. Love was given and received as people experienced the Gospel.

Across town we found ourselves once again in a new place with people we didn’t know. The table was quickly filled as everyone took their seats. It was a tight fit as we squeezed more bodies into the space than it was intended to hold. But that didn’t seem to matter. We laughed at the stories being shared, enjoyed the food that had been prepared, and found new friends with whom to share love. Rob, Sheila, and Ethan are fun people to get to know. They are full of life and willing to share it with others. They opened their home to us and treated us as friends. What better reception could you ever receive?

A few hours to the south on the east side of Portland, it was loud with conversations taking place all around us. We gathered in this public place with a group of young men and women. The eight of us ordered our food and the drinks with which to wash it down. We talked about our lives as we got to know one another. The discussion moved from funny tales of the past to impressions of the places we had visited and the people we met along the way. Soon we found ourselves sharpening one another as we talked about the things of God and what He had done in our lives. With open arms they received us and treated us as their friends. Who could ask for anything more?

And so, we once again discovered that wherever we find ourselves in this world it is the people who make the difference in a place. It’s not the mountain ranges on each side with peaks majestic standing tall, nor is it the bodies of water that bring peace with each lap of the waves. The buildings and bridges add to the landscape and are beautiful to look at. But in the end, when you reflect back on your time spent in an area, you realize that it’s the people that make the difference.

We found the beauty of God’s people and how His Church is still the greatest witness to our world when it is functioning in healthy actions of love. There were some who walk with Him today and know the power of His love and others who have yet to realize the truth of the gospel. We grew together and community took root as love began to change us.

Each one gave us something that no one else could give; a priceless exchange of love and life. Whether in Portland or Seattle, we found people who were ready to love and willing to give of themselves. With family and friends we experienced the love and care that occurs when people come together.

In the Northwest the need is the same as it is in the Midwest (and I suspect time will reveal it to be the need everywhere we travel): people need to see and experience the true church walking in Christ’s love. We can complicate this whole thing to the point where it immobilizes us from any activity that can provide what is needed. This is easy enough to do and our enemy is glad to try and make it happen. We can also choose to live another way, the way of Christ’s love where community is grown and disciples are matured.

Thank you, Northwest America, for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Being Tested?

ImageReading in John 6, I found myself struck by an interaction between Jesus and His disciples.  Specifically, it was an interaction between Jesus, Phillip, and Andrew.  We find Jesus along the Sea of Galilee with a large crowd gathering around Him.  Going up onto the mountainside Jesus sits down to talk with His disciples.  Let’s take a look at what is said.

John 6:5–9 (NLT)  Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money* to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

There was an obvious problem in front of them.  The time of the Passover festival was about to start, and they were entertaining a large crowd.  Who has a party without plenty of food?  So Jesus turns to Phillip for the answer, asking, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  Think about it.  Why would Jesus ask Phillip such a question?  They all saw the impossibility of the situation.   But this is it isn’t what captured me as I read the text.

What caught hold of me in that moment was verse 6, where it says, He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.”  I’m not sure that I like this thought… Jesus tests us to see what we are going to do.  But it is right there on the page and we, each and every one of us, have to deal with it.

Jesus knew where He was at in this thing; He knew what He was going to do, He knew the answer.  The real question being asked had nothing to do with bread to feed a bunch of people.  In this moment with His disciples (and I think Jesus could have tossed any of their names into the mix) Jesus was asking about where they placed their faith.  He was probing them to see if they could see beyond the circumstances that could serve as blinders or as an opportunity for a miracle.  Which way would they see this situation?

Phillip responds with the impossible; it would take 6 months’ wages to take care of this problem.  Translated, get feeding them out of your mind because we don’t have that kind of money, and even if we did, we couldn’t get that much bread.  It is doubly impossible according to Phillip.

Andrew does a little bit better but then fumbles it in the end.  He notices that there is a boy there with a little bit of food.  But that is the problem for Andrew:  it is a little bit of food, and he can’t see it being of any value.  Andrew doesn’t do any better than Phillip did with the question.

This made me think about the many times in my life where Jesus asks me similar questions… where the circumstances either serve as blinders to my spirit or as opportunity providers.  And as I thought about this for a little bit it struck me that most of the time my answers sound far too much like Phillip and Andrew rather than the one Jesus offered.  Thinking the way that Jesus thinks is not always easy in the context of a real world.  You would think that after observing the many times where we see how circumstances provide opportunity that we would naturally think this way.  But we don’t, and therein lies the problem.

The reality is that this life provides us with just as many examples where Jesus hasn’t intervened in our circumstances, at least not in a way we took notice of or in a way we liked.  These real life situations have a way of eroding all the faith that builds up in those special moments where Christ takes us to the extraordinary.  And so we are left with a dilemma each time circumstances arrive where we are given the choice of blinders or opportunity.  Is this one of those special moments or not?  We ask ourselves over and over, trying to get the answer right.  Wanting to hope but fearful of disappointment.

What if we rested in a faith that is focused on Christ as the object of faith rather than what Christ will do as the object of our faith?  Would that make facing such circumstances a little easier and less stressful?  I propose that it would.  It would make it natural to have the faith of a child, which Jesus calls us to.  We look at the situation, then we look at Jesus, and we leave the answer up to Him.  Instead of trying to figure out how many months’ wages it will take or if the little bit of bread and fish we have can get the job done, we turn our attention to Jesus who doesn’t seem to be limited by these things.

The next time an obvious problem presents itself pause for a moment and remind yourself that this problem can serve to give you blinders or opportunity.  The choice is up to you, while the outcome reaches far beyond you.  Choose well!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.