The Absolute Surety of God’s Love for Us. What More is there for us to say? What More is there for us to do now? 1 John 4:7-21

This probably comes as no surprise to you, but since covid-19 rearranged so many of our lives and schedules, we have changed how much time we spend looking at a screen, whether it’s a tv, smartphone, laptop, or computer screen.

As a whole, we are spending a significant amount of time on these devices.

With that increased usage comes an increase in our exposure to hateful and divisive behaviors.

Anger, violence, and unrest that is posted to social media platforms only reflects and magnifies the anger, violence, and unrest in our communities.

With all of this unrest in our global communities, some people may reasonably wonder exactly where God is in all of this.

Others are max tempted to question the quality and quantity of God’s goodness.

They might ask,

They might shout,

They might scream at the top of their collective lungs,

They might march in the streets, raising high signs of protest and indignation,

“If God is so good, then how can He allow all of this hate and violence to exist?

But just because there is human hatred and violence in our presence, this in no way negates God’s goodness and love.

You see, the world’s concept of love cannot hope to compare with God’s love.

I am referring to God’s love that was on display when He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world.

We can’t do anything to deserve God’s love, but He loves us anyway.

God’s love abides forever, and He wants us to be sure of His love for us.

Today we will be using 1 John 4 for our focal passage.

John has already spoken to us twice on the theme of love as we looked at his writings in 1 John chapters 2 and 3.

Now he was dealing with the topic for the third time.

It is critically important here to know this about Scripture: when Scripture addresses a matter even once, it is important, but when God inspires a biblical writer to address a topic repeatedly, we should really sit up and take notice.

So, let us “sit up” and take notice once again to what God tells us about love.

1 John 4:7-10Amplified Bible

God Is Love

Beloved, let us [unselfishly] [a]love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Love is the very nature of God.

So, John writes,

“Love is from God, and love comes from God because God is love.”

Love is not just another characteristic of God among many.

It’s God’s very nature from which all the other attributes come.

Everything that comes from God can be attributed to His love for us.

So, if God judges, He judges in love.

That does not mean God condones sin, but in love, He is exposed to that sin and sent His son to die for sin’s penalty.

Most all of us are familiar with John 3:16, that says

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 John 4 verse 9, John is reminding us that God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we can know that God loves us.

The origin of Love is God.

Love began with God.

So, Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love.

God showed his love toward us by sending His Son to pay our sin debt.

How great is God’s love?

The answer to that is that God’s love is seen in the value of the gift: God gave His one and only Son (John 3:16-17).

And that is an extremely valuable gift.

So, God sent His Son as a demonstration of His love for us.

The Greek word used in 1 John 4 verse 9 for “only son” is the same word that was used to describe Abraham’s offering up of his only son, Isaac.

Let’s go back in Scripture several hundred years and I will explain that.

In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham.

He told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, whom Abraham loved, to the land of Mariah and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain to God.

Abraham did not question God but obeyed God immediately.

The story reaches its climax when Abraham, who had bound Isaac and laid him on the altar, raised his knife to the sky.

It was not until then that God’s angel called to Abraham, telling Abraham not to harm the boy.

Abraham proved his reverent fear of God.

God knew Abraham’s heart and knew that Abraham would carry out God’s order to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Then, in a beautiful display of His vast mercy and grace, God provided a ram to sacrifice in young Isaac’s place.

God, out of His love, provided the substitute sacrifice.

Do you and I see the similarities?

God spared Abraham’s son, but the difference is He didn’t spare His own Son on the cross.

God willingly gave His Son to die in our place, and Jesus willingly took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.

God did not do this because we are lovable, rays of sunshine on a stormy day.

By no means.

He loved and sent His Son to rescue us, not because we are lovable, but because God is love.

So, the greatness of God’s love is seen in the costliness of His self-sacrifice for us who are so utterly and completely undeserving.

So now with all of that in mind John writes,

“Let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:11 – “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”

We’ve already seen in 1 John 4:7 the command to love one another.

John repeated that twice more here in 1 John 4 verse 11 and then in verse 12.

With this call to love one another as God loved us comes great responsibility.

We are to love others as God has loved us.

That is an enormously tall order.

Are we even capable of such an indescribable magnitude of Love?

God has loved us with a boundless, changeless, ultimate self-sacrificing love.

God still loves us in the same way today, as he seeks to display that magnitude of love through us.

So, we saw in 1 John chapter 4 verses 8-9, that God revealed His love when His Son, Jesus, became the sacrifice for our sins.

He took away our sin, but He didn’t just take away the bad.

He gave to us as well.

What did he give us?

Jesus gave us life that we might live through Him.

Now you are perhaps asking the inevitable question, what does that mean?

That clearly means that we are to live in Him, which means we are to allow others to see His love in and through us.

People should see Jesus’s love shine from us without us saying a word.

To love with God’s love gives evidence that we have a relationship with the One who displays His love through us.

Then, if we didn’t understand the positive side of that, John States it negatively in 1 John chapter 4 verse 8. “The one who does not love, does not know God.”

Now that all sounds pretty and nice doesn’t it?

But here comes the test.

Think about your relationships right now.

It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find difficult to love.

It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find impossible to love.

It is reasonable safe to say there is that someone you have no trouble hating.

Your instructions here are to ask God to help you love these individuals as He loves them.

Again, that is a pretty tall order.

Kind of like standing or sitting still as someone runs nails down a chalkboard.

But it is not something that, through God’s miracles, we cannot accomplish.

John goes a little deeper and says:

1 John 4:12 – 13 – “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”

John reminds us here that no one has ever seen God.

So how do we even know that God is around?

Believers reveal the presence of God through the way they love one another.

The very fact that we love one another serves as evidence that God remains in us, and we remain in Him.

We embrace God’s love, He comes to live in us, and His love pours out of us as we love others.

So, when individual or groups of people see the mutual love given and shared between brothers and sisters in Christ, they see the display of God’s love.

A quick recap.

When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.

In that, we now possess the fruit of that spirit.

One of those fruits is love.

As a Christian, love is the fruit of God’s indwelling Spirit.

God is perfect in His love.

He Lacks nothing.

But God’s love is made complete when that love flows through us.

God has chosen to use His people as channels of His love.

So, we are to present ourselves to Him daily as instruments of His continual love.

When we love others, we cooperate with God’s redemptive plan for the world, so that others can be sure of God’s love for them.

Let me ask you.

If you ever plan on going to another particular church and you see the church members fighting and quarreling among each other, is that a church you would want to attend, give of your time, tithe and other material spiritual resources?

On the other hand, if you go to another church and the people are loving and caring and show a genuine love toward one another, is that a church you would like to attend and be part of, give of your time and tithe and material resources?

I rest my case.

And here’s the thing.

Putting God’s love on display is to be a continuous, ongoing activity.

Now we will all have to admit that there are times when it is hard to love, especially when we feel that we have been wronged or hurt by someone.

It is in those moments, in our humanity, that the last thing we want to do is express forgiveness and extend acts of kindness to that person.

But God has commanded us to love one another as God first loved us, and what God commands, He makes possible through the max example set by His Son.

Will we, do it?

Sadly, probably not!

It is in our sin nature that we simply find it much too easy to magnify hate.

Can we, do it? Can we unconditionally love one another as God first did?

Yes, we can!

If we willingly surrender our whole selves – hurts, hang-ups and hates too – and sacrifice all of those hurts, hang-ups and hates on the altar of His Mercy.

Psalm 103:1-5Amplified Bible

Praise for the Lord’s Mercies.

A Psalm of David.

103 Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.


Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;


Who forgives all your sins,
Who heals all your diseases;


Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy;


Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle.

So, we are to love, not for our enfeebled sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ.

And the key to transforming boundless hate into loving others is in loving God.

Luke 6:27-36Amplified Bible

27 “But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: [a]Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, 28 bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever [b]strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other one also [simply ignore insignificant insults or losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity]. Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. [c]Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you [only] love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend [money] to those from whom you expect to receive [it back], what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to receive back the same amount. 35 But love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, and do good, and lend, [d]expecting nothing in return; for your reward will be great (rich, abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High; because He Himself is kind and gracious and good to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful.

The more we love God, the more of God’s love will flow out of us toward others.

Picture it as a garden hose attached to the outdoor faucet of a house.

When the faucet is turned on, the water flows.

The hose doesn’t produce the water.

It is only the conduit for the water to flow freely.

In ourselves, we might find it difficult, impossible to love, especially to love unconditionally, as God loves.

But when we are attached to Him, when we remain in Christ as Jesus said (John 15:1-5), His love flows freely through us.

And I would commend all of you reading this for your demonstrations of your sacrifices of unconditional mercy towards one another, love of one another.

God loves watching us constantly encouraging others. Writing notes, making phone calls, giving of your time, and just spending time with one another.

That lets others know we truly care. And remember what God has always said. If we want to make a lasting impact on our society and community, then just care.

Our lives ought to be characterized by daily acts of kindness.

We should serve in order to share Christ’s sacrifice that gave us salvation.

To love others is to seek their highest good.

God’s presence, God’s mercy, God’s love does not just seek to meet needs, but it aims to max exceed those needs in maximum abundance in the name of Christ.

Let me give you a biblical example.

The gospel of Mark 2:1-12, illustrates for us a crystal-clear example of loving sacrificial service with genuine gospel intent.

You might remember the story.

Four men carried a paralyzed man on a mat to meet Jesus, believing Jesus was able to heal the man.

But when they arrived, the crowd’s size made it impossible for the men to get their friend to Jesus.

But they refused to give up.

They would not be denied.

Their love for their friend compelled them to max out the extra mile.

They had that man’s highest good at heart.

The men climbed to the top of the house, removed the roof, and lowered their friend before Jesus.

And Jesus, who is love, not only healed the man but also forgave his sins.

What a beautiful example of tangible acts of kindness.

What a glorious example of seeking someone’s highest good.

If only you and I had such a story to tell …. imagine the max impact on others!

1 John 4:19-21 – “We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”

John didn’t leave any gray areas here, did he?

Nor did he sugarcoat his words. “If anyone says I love God and yet hates his brother or sister he is a liar.”

Then to further stress that truth, John said, “For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

The statements strike to the core of the issue.

Of course, some would say it’s easier to love God because He first loved us.

But John argued just the opposite.

Logically, it’s easier to show love to people who are visibly present, rather than God, who is an invisible spirit.

So here is the issue.

A failure to love people whom we can see is a failure to love God whom we cannot see, and a failure to love is hate.

It gets down to this, we live out our love for God when we choose to love other people whom we would find it easier to rationalize and fully realize our hate.

Love overcomes hate.

There is so much visible hate in our world today that it is vitally important that Christians love one another. But our love should not stop with other Christians.

Impossible love needs to go out into the world and seek to win the lost to Christ.

Jesus came in human flesh because He loved us. He gave His life out of love for the lost, and we are to follow His example.

We, too, are to love the sinner.

We are to love the down cast and broken.

We are to love the weak and lonely.

We are to love the sick and needy.

We are to love the least of these as Jesus said. (Matthew 25:34-40)

So, to be sure of God’s maximum love, there is something we must do.

How can we be sure of God’s love for us?

Commit yourself to love like Jesus, who unselfishly gave His life for others.

Try to keep in mind and max love like the four men who did whatever it took to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.

Practice sacrificial, transforming love like the Good Samaritan who willingly set aside the traditional hatred of others towards him, to meet a stranger’s needs.

This is the kind of love that grabs someone’s attention and changes the world.

By showing our love for one another, even those we declare our worst enemy, it will “heap coals on their heads,” help others to be sure of God’s love for them.

Maybe you have never felt God’s love. If you have not, is it because you have never asked Jesus Christ, God’s son, to come and pour his love into your life.

Why not do that now?

Stuff your pride under the chair and take that first critical step toward Jesus.

Your heart and your soul and your whole life will surely be glad you did.

Pray unto the Father and Author and Weaver of your life and ask Him to come into your heart and instruct and guide and love your life from this day forward.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Loving Heavenly Father, You have loved me with immeasurable love. You are love. I pray that I will be strengthened in my inner being – in my soul – with the love that is wider than I can understand, deeper than I am able to imagine, and greater than I could ever know. As You encourage and embolden me, may I more fully know the mystery of the Gospel as revealed in my life. In the love of Christ, I pray. Amen.

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Why should I be a Servant anyways? Because our Loving our God Means Submitting to God. Matthew 20:20-28

In a sermon I once asked an older congregation,

“What is the best way to teach children?”

And the congregation answered enthusiastically, “By example!”

In that sermon, I had quoted Albert Schweitzer, saying, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Rabbi Jesus taught by example what he expects from us. Facing the cross, he illustrated submission and leadership at the last supper with his disciples when he washed their feet and said they should now serve one another (John 13:3-17).

The concept of submission is often misunderstood.

It isn’t a matter of allowing others to walk all over us.

As Paul applies it to marriage in Ephesians 5, submitting means that both the husband and wife seek their partner’s well-being. It’s 100% not a hierarchy!

It’s not about authority but about being subject to one another, serving one another—doing so “out of reverence for Christ,” who gave his very life for us.

When Salome the mother of James and John asked for places of authority for her sons in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus explained that lording it over others is not the way of the kingdom. He urged them to follow his example: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Whom can you serve and build up, for Jesus’ sake, today?

Matthew 20:20-28 Amplified Bible

Preferred Treatment Asked

20 Then [Salome] the [a]mother of Zebedee’s children [James and John] came up to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down [in respect], asked a favor of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit [in positions of honor and authority] one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus replied, “You do not realize what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup [of suffering] that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink My cup [of suffering]; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the [other] ten heard this, they were resentful and angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Let’s just go ahead and ask the question no one asks: Why Be a Servant at all?

I wonder how many of us are just as interested in Service.

My guess is that few are genuinely enthusiastic to learn more about Service, and a typical response would be,

“Why should I be a servant?

“What is so good about serving?”

“I don’t have time for it, and it’s not really my cup of tea.”

“Let those who enjoy serving and who have the time for it get involved in it.”

Well, do these responses come from someone more devoted to following Christ their Savior or do they come from one more devoted to following the world?

Perhaps it is not a “fair question” to ask in these divided times and seasons when churches are struggling as much as they are just to stay open and viable.

“Why be the church, anyway?” is a question I have seen asked so many times and in so many different ways – each way expressing more and more angrily.

I ask because we also live in a secular world where more people strive diligently for high positions of power and leadership, and for more fame and recognition.

We live in a world where few people want to be servants – after all where is the glory and the honor and the nice paycheck for the server in serving someone.

And if there are people who do serve, they serve only because of the prospect of personal gain – in terms of money, honor, power, prestige or recognition.

That is the way things are done in the world.

It is considered demeaning to serve others, and it is considered foolish to serve for nothing. But in our Gospel narrative, Christ requires us to take a very radical and vastly different view of service, and this can be seen in Matthew 20:20-28.

The passage begins with a personal request made by the mother of James and John, who were two of the twelve disciples of Jesus.

She came to ask Jesus to let her sons have the best positions in His kingdom – second only to Jesus Himself: One son to be His ‘right hand man,’ and the other son to be His ‘left hand man.’

I think we can all understand why she had made such a bold request from Jesus:

Does not every loving mother want only the absolute best for her precious sons?

However, the parallel passage in Mark 10:35-37 reveals that it was her sons who had engineered this request!

James and John were the ones vying to get the top positions for themselves. 

Perhaps what Jesus said to the disciples a little earlier had stirred up their ambitions – “Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)

Their minds were so captivated with this coming glory that they hardly paid any attention to what Jesus said in the two verses just before our passage: 

“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him ….” 

All this talk about humiliation somehow did not register at all in their minds, as they were so preoccupied with the glory they wished for.

So, perhaps what James and John did was to get their mother to help them so that it might look more like her request than theirs.

She gladly followed their script closely, bowing down to Jesus and saying,

“Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” (v.21)

I want you to note the important phrase, ‘in Thy kingdom’ at the end of this verse. Whose kingdom is this? Christ’s kingdom.

These disciples mistakenly thought that the mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom was to be in the highest positions of honor.

If that were true, then Christ’s kingdom would be no different from the world’s kingdoms where authority and prestige and power matter most. 

This provides the background for what Christ said in vv.25-27,  

“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” 

Jesus shows the disciples how radically different it is to be great in His kingdom.

It is to be a servant.

This gives us the first reason why we ought to be servants: 

1. Being a Servant Is the Distinguishing Mark of Greatness in Christ’s Kingdom (vv.25-27) 

Since we who are saved are now in Christ’s kingdom, our thinking about greatness has to change radically.

We are not to be conformed to the world in our thinking anymore but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).

What the world esteems most like riches, fame and power are of no value to us.

They do not make us great at all.

What would make us great in Christ’s kingdom are the things that the world despises most, like humility, weakness, giving, submission and selfless service:

These are the things that matter most of all in Christ’s kingdom.

The world rewards those who put themselves at the top.

But the kingdom of Christ rewards those who put themselves at the bottom. 

In the ancient world, kings and princes were at the top-most rung of society while slaves were at the very bottom-most rung of society.

Christ tells us where we should be in v.27, “…whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” 

The word ‘servant’ that Christ used here is translated from the Greek word “doulos” which literally means ‘slave.’ 

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/mat/20/27/t_conc_949027

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1401/kjv/tr/0-1/

Now, I don’t think anyone here would like to be called a slave, because of its negative connotations of forced servitude and loss of personal rights.

But that is how Christ wants us to see ourselves – we are no better than others, because we are nothing more than lowly slaves!

We have to get used to thinking of ourselves this way and make it a point to begin each day reminding ourselves that we are not kings but slaves! 

Having this mind-set will change the way we relate to others.

It will make us more approachable and accommodating.

We will be more willing to see things from their point of view and not insist that everything must be done our way.

We will want to serve rather than to be served.

We will even go the extra mile to serve others.

When we see ourselves as nothing more than servants or slaves it becomes a lot easier for us to submit to others willingly. 

Whenever we write formal letters, we use certain conventional endings before signing off, e.g. ‘yours sincerely,’ and ‘yours truly.’

But do you know that these endings actually originated from much longer ones?

In letters that were written way back in the 1800s, the standard ending that was used was: “I beg to remain your most humble and truly obedient servant.” 

Over time this has become shortened to: “yours truly.” 

And so, the next time you write ‘yours truly,’ please remember how Christ wants you to regard yourself. 

One reason why nobody wants to be a slave is that slaves do not own anything.

They and everything they have belong to their master.

In the same way, the servant mind-set requires us to regard ourselves and everything we have as God’s property, which are to be used in His service.

In Luke 12:48 God’s Word says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” 

God has every right to expect much from us, because He has invested ever so much into our lives.

What has God invested in us?

He has invested Time, Talents, Treasures, and Opportunities in our lives.

God has entrusted these to us to be used for His glory. 

In the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 the Lord spoke about three servants who were entrusted with their master’s assets.

The first two servants doubled their talents by working hard, and so they were commended when the master returned.

But the third servant received a stern condemnation because he merely buried his talent and returned it intact to the master. 

This parable teaches us to be good stewards of all Christ has entrusted to us.

One day we will have to give an account to Him of how we used them.

Will you be like the servant who buried his talent in the ground?

Do you spend a lot of your time and money in your own leisure and activities, and things that are unnecessary?

How should you spend your time, talents and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an account for them?

How would you spend your time, talents and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an accounting of them?

How could you spend your time, talents, and treasures now, if you know that you will have to give an account of them?

Will you put them to good use so that Jesus will say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”? 

One passage that reveals what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ is 

1 Corinthians 3:12-14 – “Now if any man builds upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” 

Brothers and Sisters, do you genuinely, sincerely, absolutely look forward to receiving a blessed reward from our Savior Lord Jesus Christ?

You must. 

All your efforts in serving Him now will be amply compensated when you receive your reward from Christ.

With this reward in view, let us be faithful in serving Him well.

We have just seen that being a servant is the distinguishing mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom.

Let us return now to our passage to see another reason why we ought to be servants.

This is found in verses 27,28 which says, 

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister…” 

Please take note of the words ‘even as.’

They tell us why we must be servants.

And it is plainly this – Our Lord Jesus Himself was a servant.

Thus, the second reason why we ought to be servants is: 

2. It Is the Disciples’ Means to Follow Christ’s Example (v.27-28a) 

Christ became a servant in His ministry on earth. 

Philippians 2:6-7 tells us that Jesus, 

“…being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” 

One passage that displays Christ as a servant is John 13:1-13.

This happened when the disciples had the Last Supper with Christ the day before His crucifixion.

In those days it was customary for the host to assign his lowest slave to wash the feet of his guests when they came into his house for a meal.

After walking in sandals on the streets their feet would be caked with mud and manure and would need a good washing.

But no one had done this.

The basin, water and towel were all there, but none of the disciples was willing to get up and use them. 

Then something quite unexpected happened. Jesus rose up, laid aside His garments; took a towel, girded Himself, then proceeded to wash their feet. 

This must have taken them all by surprise.

Perhaps they thought that Jesus would appoint one of them to do the work.

But now they were stunned as they saw Him doing it!

How can their Master be washing their filthy feet?

They should be the ones washing His feet!

But now with His outer garments laid aside, His body stooping down and His hands washing and wiping their feet, Jesus practically became their servant. 

Then He said to them in vv.14,15

– “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” 

Since Christ has given us such an example, how can we follow Him without being a servant?

Brothers and Sisters, being a servant is our means to follow Christ’s example.

It makes us more like Him. 

Here is a story about two wash basins.

One was a plain copper basin that Jesus used to wash His disciples’ feet, while the other was a beautiful gold basin Pontius Pilate used to wash his own hands.

Christ used one basin to carry out a responsibility that not His.

Pilate used the other basin to deny a responsibility that was his.

One basin shows us that Christ sought to serve, while the other basin revealed that Pilate ought to serve but refused.

Whose washbasin will you choose?

Christs or Pilate’s? 

If you want to follow Christ, then choose His wash basin and be a servant.

This is a very compelling reason why we ought to be servants.

But there is an even more compelling reason.

It is found at the end of v.28 – “…and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

This teaches us that being a servant… 

3. It Is the Divine Mode for Edifying Christ’s People (v.28b) 

Christ gave His life on the cross as a ransom for many, and the many here refers to us, the people He has saved from sin and eternal death.

But His ministry to us did not stop there.

Christ is still giving Himself for us through His unceasing intercession in Heaven, and through the work of the Holy Spirit on earth.

And the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on us so that we can build up the body of Christ by using them well.

Our service to God’s people is the mode by which He accomplishes this work.

Brothers and Sisters, every one of us has a role to play in this work of building the Body of Christ. But exactly how well have we all been fulfilling our role? 

During the time of the prophets Zechariah and Haggai the Israelites were spending too much time and effort building their own houses while the house of God was laid waste.

Some problems had come up during the Temple building project and the work was stopped for 15 years.

But people conveniently used this as an excuse to leave God’s work undone.

So, God sent His prophets to rebuke them, and also withheld many blessings from them. 

In our present time, the situation is still the same.

Many Christians spend much time and effort pursuing their own ambitions, while God’s work is left undone, or is left in the hands and hearts of a few who are struggling to do it all alone.

I have heard it said that 20% of the people do 90% of the work. 

Why is it that the rest of us are not serving in Life Church?

Maybe it’s because we always think that somebody else will do it.

Here is a clever poem that I found about this: 

“There’s a clever young fellow named Somebody Else. There is nothing this fellow can’t do. He’s busy from morning till very late, just substituting for you. You’re asked to do this or asked to do that. And what is your ready reply? “Get Somebody Else. He’ll do it much better than I.” So much to do in this weary old world; so much and the workers are few. And Somebody Else is weary and worn just substituting for you. Next time you’re asked to do something worthwhile, just give this ready reply; If Somebody Else can give time and support, well then, so can I.” 

Perhaps too many of us have been content to let Somebody Else do the work.

The problem with this is that there aren’t that many Somebody Elses out there.

And those there are, have grown weary and tired, and may even suffer from burnout soon.

Putting more money into the offering bags will not help.

The way to resolve this is that for every Lifer who wants what James and John wanted from Jesus, to remember their roles in Christ’s Kingdom, assume his or her role of service, however small it is, and be used by Christ to edify His people.

Is there in your church’s newspaper a subject heading “Where Can You Serve?”

Read it and I bet you will see there are many great and wonderful needs that can only be met if we are willing to give priority to serving the Lord and His people.

I predict that the article provides a list of ministries in the life of the Church, their needs and the person to contact to find out more about them.

Please ask the Lord to lead you to an area of service. 

If you feel any reluctance, please remember the 3 reasons why you should be a servant according to our passage of Scripture:

Being a Servant

(1) Is the distinguishing mark of greatness in Christ’s kingdom;

(2) It is the disciples’ means to follow Christ’s example, and

(3) It is the divine mode for edifying Christ’s people. 

And after you decide to start serving, there are some guidelines you need on how to serve: 

Firstly, check your motives for serving.

Our passage shows how easy it is to have the wrong motives.

James and John were interested in glory, position and rank.

They wanted to be higher than anyone else.

And though their mother came to Jesus in worship, her real motive was to seek out the best places for her two sons. 

Our Love for Christ should always be our sole motivation for everything we do for Him.

Some serve the Lord to win the praises of men.

They like to be at the forefront where others can see how busy they are for the Lord.

When asked to pray, they will pray the longest and most impressive prayers.

Like Jehu in the Old Testament, they would say, 

“Come with me and see my zeal for God.” (2 Kings 10:16)

And they love to talk about what they have done for the Lord.

But once they no longer feel appreciated, they may just as likely go elsewhere to have their deflated egos uplifted again.

Brothers and Sisters, let us be careful not to be like that.

Every time we serve the Lord, we should ask ourselves, “Who am I doing this for? For the praises of the Lord or for the praises of me, myself and I?” 

There are many in churches who work quietly behind-the-scenes.

They are unsung heroes – serving the Lord faithfully and diligently in their own areas of service.

Those who prepare the elements for Lord’s Supper.

Those church secretaries who keep the pastor informed and the clerical work and the church organizational work in order and incoming and outgoing.

There are the Boards of Trustees responsible for the upkeep of the church.

I think of our church pianists and organists and choir directors, the sound folks who avail themselves not only for their church’s worship services but even for prayer meeting, baptism’s, consecrations, weddings, vigil and funeral services. 

You know, for the amount of time, effort, expertise and service that they put in, they would probably be paid quite well if they were doing it in the secular world.

But here they do it for nothing, or next to nothing. In fact, oftentimes, they would put in their own funds for any expenses incurred in their service and would not make any extra claims from the church.

I thank God for all the sacrifices they have made, and trust that they will be encouraged to continue to serve the Lord well. So let us serve because we want to please no one else but God. Let us serve because we love Him. 

The second guideline you need to observe about serving is to put others before self. Serving the Lord is always done together with others. 

The biblical pattern for service is teamwork.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul describes believers as being parts of a body, and each of us has a different role to play.

God has graciously bestowed specific gifts on each of us.

But none of us can function without the rest, and we need one another’s gifts to serve the Lord together. 

But there are potential problems in working closely together with others, especially when self gets in the way.

Some feel offended when their ideas are not used or when things are not done in their preferred way.

In our passage we notice that when the other ten disciples of Jesus saw what James and John were trying to do, they reacted, as v.24 says, “…they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” 

The spiritual attitude of these ten disciples was not any better than that of James and John.

In order to preserve good working relationships, we must always be humble, considerate, forbearing and forgiving towards our co-labourers with Christ.

We will find much greater joy in our service to God if we learn a little bit more about spiritual growth and maturity, to put others before self in our service. 

Another guideline that you need to observe is to be ready to serve whenever and wherever you can.

If it is something that you have never done before, be willing to learn how to do it. If you are approached to serve in some areas do not be so quick to say, ‘No thanks, but I can’t commit myself to it.’ 

If you count it a great honor to serve Christ, rearrange your other commitments to make way for it.

Servants must be both accountable, available whenever the master calls for them. 

Please make sure that you are available. Remember this: Availability is the greatest ability! 

A good servant is also alert to the needs of others.

In Psalm 123:2, the psalmist said, 

“Behold as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so, our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that He have mercy upon us.” 

When the master moves his finger in command, the servant simply obeys.

A good servant is one who has learned to subdue the defiant autonomy of self, to subject his ego and his will to the wishes of another. Whatever God says goes.

When God says, “Jump,” we and our wills should say, “How high, Lord?” 

However, there is a vast difference between doing what God wants you to do and doing all that you or others want you to do.

Don’t try to do everything, or else you will end up being too busy, doing things that God never intended you to do.

Sometimes you have to say ‘No,’ and encourage others who are doing nothing to help share the load. 

And now we come to the last guideline for service: 

Be willing to do whatever it takes to do whatever is needed.

Serving the Lord will not always be easy.

There will be times when you may have to endure hardship and suffering.

Some of the tasks that need to be done are tasks that nobody wants to do at all because they are unpleasant, tedious or boring.

You may have to beautify the church grounds outside under the hot sun, or clean and sweep and mop the floors and the toilets after VBS or camp or spend hours organizing and putting together bulletins and music slides for worship. 

Our Lord Jesus has set the example.

He had to give His own life to be a ransom for many.

Are you and I ready, willing, able, to submit our lives fully unto the Lord?

Perhaps our Lord would ask you the exact same question that He asked both James and John in v.22 – “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 

Well, both of them did suffer for their service as Christ’s apostles.

Recall, James became the first apostle to be martyred, and John had to endure the longest recorded time of persecution because he lived until deep into the first century time of the cruel Emperor Domitian.

Only God knows what you and I will have to endure in your service to Him.

When we ask ourselves for the same things James, John and their Mom did,

When we try to bargain with our God and our Savior Jesus for all the best,

Ask, “Why should I want to be a servant in these divided times and seasons?”

Please, Pray! let us always make it a point therefore to seek out God’s grace to endure any difficulties, so we may be able to glorify Him through your service. 

May the Lord speak to all of us and help us to be ever faithful servants.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

The Wesley Covenant Prayer

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

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Imitating Jesus. Modeling Jesus. Learning to See Our Neighbors and Ourselves (Part 2). Ephesians 5:1-2

The Apostle Paul calls his fellow Christians to imitate God in order to live up to the reputation of God’s family.

He challenges generations of believers: “walk in the way of love,” as Christ did.

This is about our loving the way Jesus loved.

This is about our modeling love the way Jesus modeled love.

And Jesus always acted in line with the Father’s will.

The love of Jesus embraced outcasts, pardoned sinners, healed the hopeless, challenged the complacent, and willingly sacrificed everything so that we sinners could be reconciled with God.

Modeling Sacrificial love is our most visible and defining family trait.

The only reason we are in the family of God in the first place is because of God’s extravagant love.

As Paul calls us to imitate God’s love, he reminds us that we are defined by it—we are “dearly loved children.”

Our own love emerges from the depths of that eternal love.

Our love is an overflow of the love God has personally shown to each of us. Love is the DNA test that determines paternity with our Father God (1 John 4:7-8).

God loves you because you are his child, you are his child because he loves you.

Children of God are called: “be caught up into the infinite circle of God’s love.”

We are most like our Father in Heaven, most godly, when we allow that love to flow into us from above and flow like a river from us into the lives of others.

Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message

Wake Up from Your Sleep

1-2 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.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Theologian Brennan Manning spoke a challenging truth, when he wrote,

“How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.”

Treating our neighbors and ourselves as eminently valuable is not easy.

And this leads us to the next thing we learn from Jesus ….

How could Jesus communicate the reality of what he saw?

Well… I think Jesus also teaches us to…

3. Ho to exercise the power of initiating.

Referring back to the Narrative Luke 19:1-10,

Jesus does not sit back to see if Zacchaeus will come out and express his hope.

He is high up in a Sycamore tree…. It’s sort of obvious that he is only hoping to “see” Jesus from an “untouchable” distance. So, Jesus takes the initiative.

Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:5 Amplified)

When Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Can you sense how significant that is? So many people can seek attention by becoming shy or fearful or by becoming dramatic and demanding …. but our demanding attention is entirely different than simply being given attention.

There is nothing more powerful than our initiative

…because it expresses what is really within us

…not merely responding to what we HAVE to respond to

…but what we WANT to respond to.

Love never just does what is required.

Love doesn’t just see people as an obligation

Love does not just see people … as a duty to fulfill when it is “required.”

Love initiatives: (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Amplified)

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].

Our initiative speaks…… Are we risking it all trying to climb the Sycamore Tree?

Jesus makes a significant point of this when there is conflict in a relationship.

We won’t venture outside of our “comfort zones” into all that he teaches…

but the one striking element is that when… either … we should decide to stay on the ground, battle the crowds or should go… immediately, directly, to the tree.

And while we are deciding on whether we will “climb the Sycamore Tree” or if we will do what is always customary, stay on the ground battling the crowds,

If Christ is on our minds, if we reflect on our own…we realize he is teaching us how we treat another amidst life’s conflict… reflects how we will honor them… whether we can be trusted to care for their good and not just our protection.

It communicates whether they really matter to us.

The key word is “go” … we are to go pursue setting things right.

Do we realize we have the power of initiative with some people who are afraid?

And finally…we see from Jesus… the power to…

4. Embody the reality of grace with our presence.

If we step back and look at this scene… it was loaded for Zacchaeus.

The scene was full of hatred…. animosity … and judgment…

and Jesus took the initiative and stepped decisively, directly, into that space.

Imagine the awesome significance of Jesus looking beyond the crowds and calling out Zacchaeus…. then announcing he would be coming over for lunch.

Imagine what it communicated to everybody.

In essence… Jesus took the initiative, stepped into the line of fire… directly into harm’s way, he brought the power of his presence into the space of judgment.

And isn’t this the example Jesus was setting for us by doing it so frequently?

He was accused of being a friend of sinners…. because he didn’t join in practice and purpose of one group riling itself up, condemning, canceling one another.

It was the space he was unhesitatingly chose to be seen by everyone standing in.

When a woman was brought before him who had been caught in adultery.

When those who were disabled or diseased were shinned… or children told to be quiet… or a Samaritan woman deemed ethnically unclean.

It could lead some to think Jesus was either ignoring their sin… or ignorant of it.

The presence of Jesus was never one of ignorance…but of divine insight… he didn’t see less… he intentionally, innately saw more of our neighbors than us.

He didn’t worry about condoning their behavior…because he wasn’t.

Never with the slightest compromise of his own righteousness

In fact, what spoke volumes was he never saw these moments as a podium to speak about tax collecting… prostitution… or politics or government because the point was not that he didn’t see the outworking of sin…but that he saw more than the working of sin – but saw sinners for whom salvation was good news.

Some may recall that when he spoke to the Samaritan woman who had come out in the middle of the day to get water at the nearby well…

She said… “how is it that you a Jew speak to me a Samaritan… and a woman?”

She’s saying, “Don’t you see me like everyone else?”

She is saying, “Aren’t you as biased and prejudiced as everyone else?”

She is saying, “Are you here to try and cancel my life like everyone else is?”

Are you just that blind and ignorant …unaware of who I am, what I have done?

Jesus would answer that by asking her to go get her husband. And that opened up her heart to know he saw so much more… yet he did not simply reject her.

It was always clear if one looked… that Jesus was not PARTICIPATING in the behaviors of others…nor was he giving PERMISSION or CREDENCE to the behaviors of others…. He was simply being among, present, with such people.

What we can learn from Jesus …

is that our willingness to move away from what is “customary prejudices and biases” is simply to be among and present with those who presume judgment… can speak of our “above and beyond” efforts of imitating Jesus seeing “more.”

Jesus always risked his own reputation. In a world in which people rarely defy the obvious power of social reputation… Jesus showed the power to be trusted to truly, selflessly, serve the interest of others more than his own social interests.

If we want to love God, our neighbors and ourselves like Jesus… we will have to mature in being trustworthy… of being those who won’t just serve our social status… who will come be with someone who our friends may look down upon.

Are we or are we not someone who someone else can share their fears and failures with…and know that we won’t use it to serve our own personal gain?

This is essential to becoming safe people.

So, we would do well and better to imitate and model Jesus: embrace the Love of the Father and power of our presence. We may need to enter the space of grace.

Luke 19:1-10Amplified Bible

Zaccheus Converted

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector [a superintendent to whom others reported], and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, but he could not see [a]because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran on ahead [of the crowd] and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So Zaccheus hurried and came down and welcomed Jesus with joy. When the people saw it, they all began muttering [in discontent], “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a [notorious] sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “See, Lord, I am [now] giving half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he, too, is a [[b]spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

That day… so many people could not fully see all that was going on around them. When someone (Jesus) saw more… someone came down from a tree….

I believe that each of us have a desire to help people both climb up to see Jesus, come down from hiding in the trees… where they hope nobody will see them.

The visual exchange between Zacchaeus and Jesus is unique in some respects…

People aren’t looking at us as the Messiah… if they did, they may not be so quick to look for us or to receive us… or to change with us…. but it DOES capture what our world needs. It captures how we can climb, mature grow in loving like Jesus.

It speaks to how we receive God.

It speaks to how we receive our neighbors.

It speaks to how we receive ourselves.

It speaks to how we experience God’s love through resurrected Jesus Christ.

It speaks to how we experience the love of God and model it for our neighbors.

It speaks to how I experience the Love of God and become inspired to share it.

it speaks to how others approach God,

It speaks to how willing our neighbors are to approach God and approach us.

It speaks to how our neighbors are to approach the Christ in us

It speaks to how willing our neighbors are to experience the Christ in us.

It speaks to how approachable we are… how safe we are.

It speaks to how approachable God is.

It speaks to how approachable Jesus is.

It speaks to exactly how worthy Jesus is to be the model of our maturing lives.

Ephesians 5:1-2Amplified Bible

Be Imitators of God

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

Christ as Our Only Example …

When we read a passage like the one in our Scripture for today, we recognize that God is totally different from us.

Christian teachers sometimes talk of God as being “wholly other.” That teaching reflects the words of God himself through Isaiah the prophet:

“To whom will you compare me?

Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One…

“I am the LORD,

and there is no other.” (Isaiah 40:25; 45:18)

Although the Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), believers do not become divine. We cannot become God, but in God’s strength alone we can become godly. Sadly, in this life we still remain sinful, but through God’s charity, forgiveness and redemption we are reconciled to our Maker.

Except for the example of Jesus, who is divine as well as human, there is no human achievement that provides an adequate example for us.

So, we must rely on what God himself has done in Christ by his Spirit.

He showed us what love is.

God the Father has provided for our salvation, and Jesus, the Son of God, has given himself as the penultimate sacrifice in our place to be our Savior.

The Holy Spirit helps us to receive and live out that love.

So, all three persons of the Trinity work together for our salvation, for our good.

I imagine that there is someone in each of our lives…. who we can help climb up and come down from a tree… out of the place of not feeling safe in how we live.

Is there someone in your life that may need to know that you see more than others see….

More than they can, see?

Are there people in your life that need to experience that you are safe?

And how about ourselves?

Do we know that we can both climb up, come down from the Sycamore Tree?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

I want to offer all of us a short prayer that has been serving me to take hold and stay ahold of life in God.

God, I see the Sycamore Tree Zacchaeus Climbed.

What should I do now? Climb into its heights or chop it down for my firewood?

If I choose to Climb, … what then?

Do I hide in it, remain anonymous or make myself known to Jesus from it?

I know Jesus is coming down the road …

I see the dust rising up from where he is approaching the crowds and me.

Do I fight against the crowds to see him, to touch the fringes of his garment?

I see the Sycamore Tree again ….

I see its branches inviting me to come forward ….

Do I stay on the ground or do I risk everything to climb into its heights?

God, I belong to you.

May your will become my will.

May your love become my love.

May your neighbor become my neighbor.

Today, may I be a better imitator and model of the life your Son has given to me.

Lord, grant us the love to serve others with such selfless devotion that our kindness will help transform their lives and draw them to Jesus, the source of all love. In his name we pray. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Selflessly Modeling Jesus’ Example: Learning how to see others, up to and including, Ourselves! Ephesians 5:1-2

I begin today’s devotional by asking each of us to reflect for a moment.

Are you a safe person?

I don’t mean are you likely to become violent… I mean… do you believe you are safe for other people to approach….and relate to? Do you relate to other people as a potential threat you need to defend against…. or as God’s gift to be opened?

What kind of space do you create for others?

Our Christian focus is on “being like Jesus,” on “imitating Jesus,” building better relationships… so this may be one of those most important questions.

This devotional is about building better relationships in every point of relating.

We are engaging the qualities that can help us develop better relationships with those “neighbors” we are just beginning to engage…as well as building better relationships with the family and friends who we have known for many years.

No matter what the state of our relational life is… we can all move further from self-isolation to His intimacy. We can all develop more meaningful connection.

It is incredibly, almost embarrassingly easy to say but it’s not ever so easy to do.

I hear the prophetic words of Isaiah’s Commission ringing through my soul.

Isaiah 6:8-10 Amplified.

Isaiah’s Commission

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
10 
“Make the heart of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

We do not love ourselves as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We don’t love our neighbors as naturally as we would all profess, we do

We do not love God as naturally as we would all like to profess, we do.

We do not imitate or model our Savior Jesus Christ as we all profess, we do.

So, now we are looking at the one who embodied the very nature of God…that is Christ Jesus, our Savior…and how he loved in this world…how the love of God was reflected within the patterns of his life…which we can embrace as our own.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

Be Imitators of God

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

Ephesians 5:1-2The Message

Wake Up from Your Sleep

1-2 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.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Watch what God does, and then you do it …… like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.

Observe how Christ loved us. … then model Love like that. (1 John 4:7-12)

And today… the pattern we are about to be engaging is how to see others up to and including ourselves. Learning to see others EXACTLY as Jesus saw them.

Because (shamefully?) the way we see people determines how we treat people.

Most of us may fall into a dangerous snare: presume that we see people with respect and treat them well…like Christ treated us but what about if they aren’t being kind to us? What if they are being just plain annoying… or offensive?

Or, what if I am the one who is being just plain annoying?

Or, what if I am the one who is consciously or unconsciously giving offense?

Or worse… if I don’t see what they can do or me…maybe I don’t see them at all.

So how does God see people?

What did Jesus see?

As the Biblical account of Matthew describes…

Matthew 9:36? When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew is telling us how Jesus saw the crowds.

How Jesus observed his neighbors – The crowds.

Not the select. Not the special. But the crowds which represent the common nature of people like you and I…and everyone else in this world.

We can assume such lives included the same annoying offensive attitudes and behaviors that are, even in our days and seasons, common among human life.

There is no sense that they held much that Jesus could get from them… as he seemed to have already understood how the hearts of humanity would turn on him when any sense of transactional desires for power were deemed done with.

He sees these common lives with compassion.

Compassion is not simply having pity for someone at a distance.

It’s a word that speaks of actual connection. The word used here… translated as compassion… speaks of exactly how another life is allowed to be taken in… and to affect us deep inside our hearts. It’s about bringing them in toward yourself.

It’s helpful to understand that it is not simply the opposite of seeing someone critically. It is not a matter of being blind to the problems in another person.

Seeing with compassion is about seeing more that simply seeing with critical eyes and souls. Seeing critically and seeing compassionately are not simply opposites but rather a matter of one being more fundamental than the other.

A parent may be deeply critical of their child’s behavior…but they are more defined as a parent than a judge… more given to restore than to condemn.

And this is what we see in Jesus.

Jesus said…

“I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” – John 12:47

Jesus doesn’t summarily dismiss the behavior of others… but he sees more than simply our behavior. He saw they were lost… they had wandered …gone astray… like sheep without a shepherd… leaving themselves harassed and helpless.

He didn’t come to simply pronounce the judgment we face…but to provide the grace, charity, forgiveness, to come home…. and be who they were meant to be.

We have a great example of how Jesus saw someone…and related differently… which we can read an account of in the Gospel narrative of Luke… 19:1-10 Msg.

Zacchaeus

19 1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

This encounter has long been a joy for me to imagine….and it captures how Jesus loved people in an “in your face” provocative and powerful way.

Jesus is once again nearing a city.

It’s the city of Jericho… which was no small town.

It was a town with plenty of merchant activity…and a choice spot for tax collectors.

Rome knew the best way to collect taxes was to employ some local Jews to do the work… which meant finding someone, or several someone’s willing to turn their hearts, souls and their backs on their own people and serve the oppressor.

And even worse…such tax collectors were known to use the opportunity to demand even more than Rome required…and to take for themselves…which made then hated by both their fellow Jews…and the Romans.

You can imagine the depth of hate the people felt towards one of their own both betraying his own people in service to the oppressor…and likewise, audaciously, cheating his own people out of sheer unadulterated greed.

A tax collector was the very definition of a moral outcast… the lost cause.

In fact, Jews of this time often use the phrase sinners and tax collectors… suggesting that the hated tax collectors were seen as a class of their own.

Jesus sees him… calls to him… invites himself over… and it becomes a complete reset for Zacchaeus.

In the end… a man came down from the tree in which he was hiding in shame.

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus?

How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus… with compassion?

…. that allows us to model Jesus’ example and be “safe” and approachable?

The first thing we can learn from Jesus …is to….

1. Slow down… and maintain a margin for grace.

There’s a lot of people in this scene… and Jesus is just reaching his destination… so we can imagine for ourselves observing a biblical scene in which it’s time to first prioritize getting through the crowds and get a meal and some rest.

It’s the type of moment we only just want to get to what we immediately need.

But Jesus lived in what some call the pace of grace.

He never moved faster than the speed of love… and love requires slowing down.

We see how Jesus slowed down.

How slow?

Long enough to really see people.

How many of us know all too well that our professed busyness competes with how well we stop and care for others. We need to maintain a margin for grace.

As Carey Nieuwhof recently expressed, 

“You are …the most kind when you have the most margin.”

Many of us have probably felt the challenge of being so rushed we are not really present amidst various exchanges we may go through.

We have a sense of the challenge to maintain a margin for grace.

Despite those pushing him through, Jesus was able to stop and look up …and see him…and though on his way… he used the rhythm of a meal… a break for lunch.

Amidst sharing such a meal with “Zacchaeus”… there is the ability to listen to your heart and soul…not just your head. The Holy Spirit is able to help us see.

Our head might raise walls of busyness and fear and judgment…but if we slow down… the Holy Spirit will intercede and allow compassion…. space for another.

What we first see… is the outward… and we make a thousand calculations to help manage life … it’s easier for our minds to simply create categories …… and then associate them unconsciously… with clothing… context… behavior… social status… moral nature…all in about a grand total of less than one second.

That is what labels serve… like “tax collector.”

Everyone knew how to see a tax collector.

And the shameful truth is that most of us have similar ways of seeing those who we “categorize” as homeless…old… young…healthy or disabled or handicapped.

If we hope to connect with our neighbors as Jesus connected with his neighbors … then it means we will have to 1000% slow down to actually see the individual.

Jesus didn’t lose sense about his destination… but he also didn’t stop seeing people through the eyes of God alone, as being His children, along the way.

Slowing down to become available… means becoming both physically and emotionally available.

We all know that it’s possible to be physically and spiritually close to, with, someone and yet not really giving much thought to paying attention to them.

Try to talk to someone who’s engaged with their smartphone or TV… you really don’t have their full attention.

How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name anyway? We can only imagine.

But at the center… a man is seen.

But at the center … a Child of God is seen!

We live amidst how many 100’s of millions of people… of our neighbors, and there are so many millions more who will just wish someone could see them.

And I would venture to say

… there is a part of every one of us…that may not feel seen.

Here’s a question that can be hard for us to ask of ourselves … but so healthy.

Would the people who know you best say you’re largely available or distracted?

See others beneath the outward behavior… to the soul that bears God’s image.

Without anything else within our sights…we (shamefully?) tend to see people’s outward appearance and behavior…in relationship to how that does or doesn’t serve our own shamefully, embarrassingly fragile, sense of our self-esteem.

How easily we tend to see people outwardly.

We can tend to see people as merely annoying …as those with needs which should be avoided.

We tend to see people as potential sources of “micro-aggression” “triggering.”

We tend to see people as an “offensive” threat to our own fragile sense of value.

We can tend to see people as reflecting some radical element which we can rush in headlong and headstrong to judge … as a means to feel a sense of superiority.

Fortunately for us, our Living Savior Jesus saw infinitely more than “just a tax collector.” He saw through the eyes of His Father, a sheep without a shepherd.

He did not go to the home of a tax collector…. he was not just relating to a tax collector…but to one who was created by God, to be and live as a God’s child.

This is where Jesus confronts our religious nature.

By that I mean our (shamefully?) human ways of trying to be “religious.”

“Religion” sees people as the enemy…and rushes to condemn them as sinners. Jesus sees sin as the enemy…and wants to reclaim all God’s Children by grace.

How easily Jesus could have joined the common way of seeing Zacchaeus… as a betrayer… a traitor… labels that speak of what he does… as if it is who he is.

But Jesus intentionally looked and saw beneath the behavior that had come to define people’s lives…he saw then with great compassion and understanding.

What great compassion and even greater understanding? He never excused what they did by speaking of them as simply victims of someone’s else will…but he also understood they had given themselves to a system of destruction…and that they could choose to turn back…and through him… be reclaimed, restored.

That is what Zacchaeus appears to have found in Jesus.

Jesus saw what was beneath the grime of their sin and our own.

Jesus said … “Stop judging by mere appearances…” – John 7:21, 24

How can we learn to see people, like Jesus did, with only the grace of God… to see beyond and through what may elicit judgment… and develop compassion?

Many might presume that Jesus was failing the way of righteousness.

Many only chose to see that Zacchaeus was “only” a tax collector… living in a life of sin…and he needed to feel the shame of the community to help provide a clear message. In their minds, “What didn’t Jesus understand about that?”

As best as I can understand in this moment… Jesus wouldn’t have dismissed the obvious association of him being a sinner….and even of Zacchaeus being faced with the consequences of that decision …. but Jesus bore the power to see more.

Zacchaeus as “only just a sinner” was not his first nature… his original existence… not what he most fundamentally was created to be… nor what should be accepted as the most basic truth, fundamental claim over his life.

What Jesus saw were lives created to live in the love and will of the Father.

Psalm 139:13-16The Message

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

Sin was no one’s original nature… it was by nature a sheep gone astray… and making the decision to repent was to turn around back to the arms of God.

Savior Jesus doesn’t see people simply as sinners in the sense that sin is simply a behavior… seeking behavior modification. Sin is about identity… about what we ourselves are choosing to self-identify with and then choose to react upon.

We can (shamefully) (embarrassingly) tend to simply judge people only as good or only as bad… then rush in, condemn them to a state of value or lack of value.

Compassion sees the tragedy of sheep that have gone stray… needing to be found and led back. Jesus didn’t focus on the symptoms but rather of the cure.

The Love and Charity and forgiveness of Jesus represents the Father’s love for each and every single one of His children that have not come home. (John 10:16)

God is set on reclaiming lives, not rushing in headlong and headstrong to, like man is shamefully, embarrassingly apt to do – to condemn them. (John 8:1-11)

What the crowds could not see…and Praise God, what Jesus did…is that God was not even close to finished with Zacchaeus. And He is not finished with any of us.

If we are to build better relationships…we need to learn to see people like God does…and to treat them with compassion. This means we need to see what lies beneath and beyond how we may appear…and sees the sacred value of every life.

PART 2 – TOMORROW ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father God, you created our life, you gave the sacrifice, Jesus set the example, and you’ve given me your Word to light my path. Help me to imitate you with everything I do. Help my heart to be as forgiving, my words to be as loving, and my thoughts to be just as pure. Go with me as I follow your commands with the faith of a child – Your child. In your Son’s name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Servanthood in God’s Neighborhood: I Serve for the JOY of Accomplishing the Goal which God has Placed before me.

It’s been said that “there’s no faster track for your soul to find satisfaction than on the path of servanthood.”

In truth, Jesus himself said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

Followers of Jesus should have a servant spirit that always looks “not to the best interest of themselves but to the greatest interests of others.”

Sometimes servanthood is poorly understood.

While everyone is equal in Christ, not everyone’s roles are equal. A servant-minded mother still has authority over her child. A servant-minded CEO never abandons the responsibility to lead. Ultimately, the attitude and actions of the Christian are characterized by servanthood, not the position that person holds.

A believer in Christ desires to imitate the servant spirit of Christ.

Since Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28), God’s Goal for us: reach out to people who need rest, comfort, and help.

Their Goal? They serve as a channel of his grace to people who are lost in the cycle of poverty, or alcohol, drug addiction, violence, victims of violence, or devalued because of their skin color. If the quest for hope is universal, doesn’t it make great sense to share the joy and satisfaction we have received from Jesus?

Jesus served for the joy set before him. Christians too delight that other people will be privileged to taste heaven’s enduring grace through their service to God in God’s own backyard! Service to all of God’s Children in God’s neighborhood.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Amplified Bible

Jesus, the Example

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [a]witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

When a person initiates a new, huge endeavor, his passion to succeed in that endeavor strengthens him to keep his eye on the goal in front of him.

For example, as an athlete starts a race, their desire and their goal to win that race helps them keep both of their eyes and feet fixed on the finish line.

While constructing a building, workers who keep their eyes on the architect’s finalized rendering are encouraged to sustain the momentum of the building process.

While we are reading and studying this book called the Bible, which we hold in our hands and our hearts, I have a daily goal of encouraging myself by keeping my sight fixed on God, my Creator and Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith!

With every new daily devotional entry I complete, I move closer and closer to that goal, and it gives me courage to keep writing every morning. As a result of my writing, staying on track, you are prayerfully reading this devotional today.

But what do you think Jesus focused on when He was hanging on the Cross and enduring the agony and shame?

You can imagine that He must have had moments when He thought, I don’t have to do this! I could call on legions of angels to deliver me! I could come down from this Cross! What do you think motivated Him to remain there until the job was done?

Hebrews 12:2 is clear what was motivating Jesus – Joy!

The Joy of Accomplishing the Goal set before Him by His Father.

The Goal: Revealing the Deity of His Father, His Authority, the Completion of the Work which God sent His Son into the World (John 3:16-17) to achieve.

[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

This verse says Jesus focused on “the joy” that was set before Him as He endured the Cross.

Just like a runner focuses on the finish line, like a builder forges ahead to view the completed building project, and an author anticipates the last written page of a book, Jesus was looking forward to “the joy” of finishing God’s work

I’m sure that somewhere in all of that indescribable agony, as Jesus hung on the Cross, He looked out across eons of time and saw the faces of people who would be saved because of what He was doing. He saw you! He saw me — but what else did He see that motivated Him to stay faithful to the end?

The word “joy” in Greek has a definite article, which means this wasn’t just joy in general, but it was a specific joy.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/heb/12/2/t_conc_1145002

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g5479/kjv/tr/0-1/

What was it?

The verse goes on to describe that joyous “finish line” that Jesus set His face like flint toward: “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus had His eyes of faith fixed on the empty throne at the right hand of the Father that was reserved for Him once His victory was complete.

Upon that throne, all enemies would be His footstool, and He would commence the next part of His high priestly ministry to intercede for everyone who would ever come to Him in time of need (see Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus had His eyes, His heart, His mind — His whole being — fixed on that highly exalted place.

That was the joy set before Him.

When sin and hell were defeated and Jesus was resurrected, that was the seat of authority He ascended into Heaven to occupy.

Ever since that time, from that highly exalted position, Jesus has been serving as Lord of the Church and as the High Priest and Intercessor for every believer.

What is the goal in front of you that keeps you motivated to move ahead even when things are difficult?

If you have no goal, it’s likely you’ll give up.

That’s why it is so important to know exactly where you are headed, what will happen when you get there, and what kind of victory you’ll experience when you attain that long-awaited position.

Just as Jesus had a joyous outcome set before Him, I guarantee that you and I have a joyous outcome placed before us too.

STRENGTH TO RUN THE RACE, FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE WHICH PERSEVERE

The Joy of the Lord is our Strength and our Stronghold: Nehemiah 8:9-10

Psalm 18:1-2: “I love You [fervently and devotedly], O Lord, my strength.”

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and the One who rescues me;
My God, my rock and strength in whom I trust and take refuge;
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower—my stronghold.

BY OUR LOVE AND THROUGH OUR OBEDIENCE: THE ABUNDANT LIFE

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Amplified 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding closely to Him; for He is your life [your good life, your abundant life, your fulfillment] and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord promised (swore) to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

How does all of this speak to our 2022 hearts. our souls and our servanthood?

Hebrews 12:2 Amplified Bible

[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [a]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

Looking away from all that will distract us and focusing our eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Perfector of faith ….

What are those distractions from which we need to avert our 2022 eyes?

What are those divisions we need to set aside, from which we need to Unite?

How do we come together in the Gospel, to grapple with, to debate, to discuss, challenge comprehend, understand, teach, preach – God’s Joy in our Koinonia?

God’s Goal which is Koinonia – “for the Joy of the Lord which is before us …”?

We are the Body of Christ – We are the Church in the World,

For the “JOY OF THE LORD” which is ever BEFORE US ….

  • What are you and I building with our lives?
  • What keeps you and I motivated to stay on “God’s track?”
  • What will it look like when you and I finish it?
  • What are you and I “writing” with our faith, our hope and our “love”?
  • What will the final chapter of our lives look like because you and I have come together, eyes focused on Jesus alone, done what Jesus has asked us to do?
  • What is the specific joy that is set before you and me?
  • Is there any genuine strength in our Koinonia goal of “Joy of the Lord?”

Sometimes when you are working hard to do what God has asked you to do, it can seem overwhelming, but progress is gained one step at a time.

The increments of forward movement might seem tiny, but no matter how big or small the steps, you can know that you are inevitably progressing toward the goal that God has set for our lives.

When I was a young man of 41, God showed me the purpose of my life, and that purpose has been in front of me ever since.

In times of hardship, I’ve kept my eyes focused on that goal which God set before me, because fulfilling that divine purpose is what my life is all about.

Sometimes it seemed like all I could do was take baby steps — yet each step has been a step in the right direction. That’s the way I have lived these last twenty years focused, moving in the direction of the purpose God has revealed to me.

If you get your eyes off the goal, start focusing on how small your steps are along the way, it is probable you’ll get discouraged, give up before you arrive.

So today I want to encourage you to lift your eyes and look beyond to the joy, the victory, and the utter fulfillment of what God has planned for your life.

Even Jesus possessed a goal to help Him stay focused as He underwent intense suffering and hung on that Cross.

So today I exhort everyone who koinonias, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, to make a fresh consecration before the Lord to submit to His will for your lives.

Then exercise your authority in Jesus’ name and resist the devil (see James 4:7)!

And as you and I move forward in obedience to the Lord’s voice, keep our eyes of faith, hope and love fixed on the prize Jesus has set before both you and me.

That is what will sustain our determination to stay in God’s place and stay on God’s track until we can finally shout, we have reached our God-ordained goal!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

At the starting line of this day,
we call on your name, God of grace.
As we run the race you have set before us,
help us to keep our eyes on your goals, not our own.
When we falter, give us fresh strength and courage.
When we are fleet-footed, let us give you the glory.
Keep us from wanting to win at other’s expense
or to count ourselves better than those at our side.
All runners are your children.
In the race You imagine,
each one is a winner. Alleluia! Amen.

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Happy Mother’s Day! God’s Priceless Legacy: The Hope of Faithful Moms.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be an archaeologist. The whole idea of my finding something buried and unseen by others appealed to me. When younger, I could be found digging in some corner of the yard. Best thing I ever found was a big old cookie tin with three small words on it – “Love, From Mom.”

And then, one day I was playing archaeologist in my dad’s old dusty library. I looked in an old, unlocked drawer on his secretary and encountered Christ. My whole life changed, but my love for a good dig didn’t. It was simply redirected.

God placed a treasure trove of priceless jewels within reach when I removed an old torn up Bible with pages falling out everywhere. Miner’s hat? Check. Pickaxe and shovel? Check. A new-born burning passion to discover God? Check, check.

Thus began my youthful lifelong search for God’s nature. The pages which had fallen out of the old Bible were from Psalm 139. I read it but really did not know what I was reading. So, I took it to Mom who was in the kitchen baking bread.

Mom took the pages and she read them. She picked me up and put me on her lap and read them to me. In this moment of youth, I realized had stumbled across something stunningly lovely: His handiwork in fashioning my mothers’ heart.

It’s easy to miss God weaving Himself into mothers and their hearts. Man can only offer up a deep, well, totally unfulfilling definition coming from myriads of greeting cards offering vast armies of “sentimental” words feebly addressing it.

Hollywood’s script writers have spent countless millions, (if not billions by now) depicting it onscreen. Yet the very truest wellspring of a mother’s heart remains mysterious. They try to depict what cannot be depicted.

What can never be depicted is this incredible truth: Our Creator God takes great care to knitting all of Himself into who we are and will become.

In examining His deep love for us, His mothering nature is quickly apparent:

Psalm 139:13-18 Authorized (King James) Version

13 For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvelous are thy works;
and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
and in thy book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!
how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:
when I awake, I am still with thee.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Our Creator takes care to knit Himself into who we are and will become. In examining His love for us, His mothering nature is quickly apparent:

“…How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37 NASB)

How could God reference Himself as a protective mother, lest He’d poured His compassionate nature into the mother’s heart? His maternal temperament continues:

“…He will rejoice over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” (Zephaniah 3:17b NASB)

“Quiet in His love,” duplicates the tenderest moments between mother and child, referencing the child being fully contented and simply enjoying the closeness of its mother.

The child wants nothing more than its mother’s presence. It’s a time of very quiet love. Drawing powerful strength from her proximity alone.

Again, we see His mothering side:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15a NASB)

Who better than the Designer of mothers could explain this nurturing side of Himself? The nourishing definition of Jehovah Jireh. Our Provider.

His provision in limitless care was famously spoken to Moses. Asking a yet unnamed God His true name, He replied, “I Am.” A statement begging to fill in the blank. “I AM everything. I AM infinite. I AM all powerful.”

Until my mother’s passing from a heart attack 1997, I took fullest possible advantage of my family membership and went straight to her for comfort.

I guess Dad understood my running past him to reach her arms.

With advancing years, hurts changed, but the source of my consolation didn’t.

I still went directly to Mom and her lap for comfort and my “momma hug”.

For through her deep and limitless kindness, forgiveness, and never-ending compassion, I came to feel God’s caring, hugging presence, I came to wholly trust God’s ever nurturing presence. He was easily recognizable in her and I very deeply valued God’s mothering heart woven tightly into hers.

The birthing process is God’s idea. He’s maternally given birth to the universe, birth to our planet, and birth to us. Most importantly He’s given us re-birth, calling us into reconciliatory relationships with Him.

Nicodemus needed clarification. He knew it impossible to reenter a mother’s womb a second time. God’s way was easier with no gestational period.

Being born-again in the Spirit granted restoration with the Father, enjoying unbroken intimacy.

Our Father in heaven is solidly our Father. His maternal nature guarantees attendance at every bird’s funeral. Keeps track of 7.2 billion heads of hair.

Tallies innumerable thoughts about us exceeding grains of sand. Stills our storms, heals our diseases, binds our broken hearts.

The most potent attribute of His mother’s heart is His lavish forgiveness of our sins. Dark sins, washed in red blood, producing robes of white righteousness.

Like the mother that deliberately forgets her child’s shortcomings, He casts our sins directionally as far as the east is from the west, and as far as the north is from the south, until sinking to the absolute floor of the Sea of Forgetfulness.

Simply stated, He is Father God with a mother’s heart.

Waiting to wipe every tear; sitting up with us through the night; and listening to our troubles—solving them while we are yet wounded, suffering, speaking.

The mother’s heart is best defined by her unselfish generosity in ongoing, unconditional giving and raising her family to become loving parents too.

Proverbs 22:6Authorized (King James) Version

Train up a child in the way he should go:
    and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Psalm 119:9-16Authorized (King James) Version

ב  Beth

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee:
O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart,
that I might not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord:
teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies,
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate in thy precepts,
and have respect unto thy ways.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes:
I will not forget thy word.

Pastor Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children.”

Now listen to these other quotes you may find of particular interest:

“All I am I owe to my mother; I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” George Washington

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln

“I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn word of my good mother.” Reverend Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Only loving relationships provide lasting legacy and hope.

Today, Mother’s Day 2022, we will celebrate and encourage all moms in their contributions to legacy…to being that character forming mother!

Plus, we will remind each of us—parents, children, teens, and young adults, of the importance of pursuing God’s plan for relationships.

Questions for Moms and Dads

What hope do we have that our children will stand by their faith and live by their values?

What or who do you trust to impact their lives?

What are you hoping will produce relationally healthy followers?

Who had a profound effect on Jesus? (Proverbs 22:6).

What legacy are we leaving?

We certainly can’t hope for perfect children like Jesus because our children are just like us—imperfect people. But where do they go for guidance does matter.

Do they go to God’s Word?

Do they seek guidance from attentive parents?

Both Parents, even Grand-Parents must continuously pursue relationship with their children so they will “earn the right” in their child’s eyes to speak God and Jesus Christ into their lives as they begin to make their own choices.

Could you join with me and every mom here today in this hope?

Look square into your mom’s face and tell her:

“I praise God for you and Psalm 127:3 Behold children are gifts from the Lord”

Let’s fervently hope and pray that…

Our children are raised by Godly principles drawn directly from the Word of God. (Romans 15:1-6, Ephesians 6:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Hebrews 4:12)

• Our children are more influenced and shaped by their parents and their faith than by the world.

• Our teens and young adults remain open to our input and continue to be open about the details of their physical, emotional and spiritual life.

• Our adult children want to be around us, and we regularly enjoy being around them!

Some of us may also champion the simple, but profound, hope our current family could be a little healthier or a more functional than our own childhood family.

Thank God for creating motherhood!

Today we celebrate all moms who pay the price for making a difference in us!

Thank you, Mom, for letting me feel God’s love radiate through you.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Lt us Pray,

A Child’s Prayer for their Mama’s on Mother’s Day

Dear God, My Creator …

I just want to say, “Thank you for my Mama!”

Thank you for the woman who gave birth to me and has loved me ever since.

I’m grateful for her impact on my life, for her presence, for her love.

Thank you for every moment she was there to pick me up from school, and every moment she helped me heal from heartbreak.

Thank you for every phone call, hug, compliment, even complaint.

Thank you that she cares.

Thank you that despite us not always getting along, our love has endured.

I’m grateful for Mama, and pray that you help me to better honor her every day.

Show me how I can express appreciation for what she has done.

Help me to see all that she has done. God, please help me practice patience when I feel like she’s being too much, or too bossy, or too much like a mom.

Honestly God, who would I be without my Mama?

I pray to you now, God, asking you to bless the remainder of her life.

Please bring her comfort when sickness and body aches occur. Please give her continued direction for her life. Keep her mind renewed.

God, I ask the remainder of her life may be enriched, that she would still feel like she has purpose to fulfill, despite having accomplished so much already.

I pray for those Mama’s who have found their eternal reward with you. They have earned their place of rest by your side, and I know you will keep her safe.

Rest well, Mama, from your labors. One day we shall worship God together!

In the name of Jesus,

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Countdown to Calvary. We Have Set both our feet inside the Upper Room. The Humility of Love. John 13:1-17

Today is Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday, one of the holiest days in the Church year.  We are in the Upper Room with the man, Rabbi Jesus and his disciples. We will celebrate Passover. We will recite the ancient story and we will sing the ancient hymns all over again. But as we sit with our Rabbi, we become surprised at sone of his words – he takes the bread and says, “this is my body broken for you” and then he takes the cup of wine and says, “this is my blood poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” What is all this?

In just a short while, he will raise from the table with a pitcher of water and a bowl and a towel. He kneels at our feet, and as the lowest of house slaves, he washes our feet. Soon after that, he will cry tears of red. We will next watch him be betrayed and arrested and given a sham trial. He will be condemned to die on a Cross he will have to carry on his back and wide across his bloodied shoulders.

He will be raised up, nails hammered into his body to suffer. We will watch him suffer humiliation as no other man ever has in history. We will celebrate the greatest act of love ever performed: Jesus’s death on the cross for our salvation.

But first, in our Gospel text for today, Jesus demonstrates for us the humbled, humbling act of the washing of the disciples’ feet. He is the example for all Christian acts of servanthood, but more importantly, servants of their people.  That being said, this reading really made me think about humility, love and service—not just on this single day of the Christian Calendar but every day.

John 13:1-17Easy-to-Read Version

Jesus Washes His Followers’ Feet

13 It was almost time for the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus had always loved the people in the world who were his. Now was the time he showed them his love the most.

Jesus and his followers were at the evening meal. The devil had already persuaded Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over to his enemies. (Judas was the son of Simon.) The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God. So while they were eating, Jesus stood up and took off his robe. He got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet.[a] He dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist.

He came to Simon Peter. But Peter said to him, “Lord, you should not wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what I am doing now. But later you will understand.”

Peter said, “No! You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, after you wash my feet, wash my hands and my head too!”

10 Jesus said, “After a person has a bath, his whole body is clean. He needs only to wash his feet. And you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 Jesus knew who would hand him over to his enemies. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and went back to the table. He asked, “Do you understand what I did for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am. 14 I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So, you also should wash each other’s feet. 15 I did this as an example for you. So, you should serve each other just as I served you. 16 Believe me, servants are not greater than their master. Those who are sent to do something are not greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, great blessings will be yours if you do them.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The Humbled, Humbling Humility of His Great Love for US! …….

We live in a very proud and egotistical generation.

It is now considered acceptable and even normal for people to promote themselves, to praise themselves, and to put themselves first. Pride is considered a virtue by many. Humility, on the other hand, is considered a weakness. Everyone, it seems, is screaming for his or her own rights and seeking to be recognized as someone important.

The preoccupation with self-esteem, self-love, and self-glory is destroying the very foundations upon which our society was built. No culture can survive pride run rampant, for all of society depends on relationships. When all people are committed first of all to themselves, relationships disintegrate. And that is just what is happening, as friendships, marriages, and families fall apart.

Sadly, the preoccupation with self has found its way into the church.

Perhaps the fastest growing phenomenon in modern Christianity is the emphasis on pride, self-esteem, self-image, self-fulfillment, and other manifestations of selfism. Out of it is emerging a new religion of self-centeredness, pride—even arrogance. Voices from every part of the theological spectrum call us to join the self-esteem cult.

Scripture is clear, however, that selfism has no place in Christian theology.

The man, Rabbi Jesus repeatedly taught against pride, and with His life and teaching He constantly exalted the virtue of humility. Nowhere is that clearer than in John chapter 13.

John 13 marks a turning point in John’s gospel and the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ public ministry to the nation of Israel had run its course and ended in his complete and final rejection of Him as Messiah.

On the first day of the week, Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumph to the enthusiastic shouts of the people. Those people nevertheless misunderstood His ministry and His message. The Passover season had arrived, and by Friday He would be utterly rejected and executed. God, however, would turn that execution into the great and final sacrifice for sin, and Jesus would die as the true Passover Lamb.

He had come unto His own people, the Jews, “and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). So He had turned away from His public ministry to the intimate fellowship of His disciples.

Now it is the day before Jesus’ death, and rather than being preoccupied with thoughts of His death, sin-bearing, and glorification, He is totally consumed with His love for the disciples. Knowing that He would soon go to the cross to die for the sins of the world, He is still concerned with the needs of twelve men, including his betrayer! His love is never impersonal—that’s the mystery of it.

In what were literally the last hours before His death, Jesus kept showing them His love over and over. John relates this graphic demonstration of it:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

So He came to Simon Peter.  He said to him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason, He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent Him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1-17)

It is very likely that Jesus and the disciples had been hiding at Bethany during this final week before the crucifixion. Having come from there (or from anywhere near Jerusalem), they would have had to travel on extremely dirty roads. Naturally, by the time they arrived, their feet were covered with dust and Lord knows what else from the road.

Everyone in that culture faced the same problem. Sandals did little to keep dirt off the feet, and the roads were either a thick layer of dust or deep masses of mud. At the entrance to every Jewish home was a large pot of water to wash dirty feet. Normally, foot washing was the duty of the lowliest slave.

When guests came, he had to go to the door and wash their feet—not a pleasant task. In fact, washing feet was probably his most abject duty, and only slaves performed it for others. Even the disciples of rabbis were not to wash the feet of their masters—that was singularly and most uniquely the task of a lowly slave.

As Jesus and His disciples all arrived in the upper room, they found that there was no servant to wash their feet.

Only days before, Jesus had said to the twelve, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27).

If they had given mind and heart to His teaching, one of the twelve would have washed the others’ feet, or they would have mutually shared the task. It could have been a beautiful thing, but it never occurred to them because of their selfishness. A parallel passage in Luke 22 gives us an idea just how selfish they were and what they were thinking about that evening:

And there arose also a loud dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.  And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’  But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (vv. 24-26)

What a sickening picture this is! They were bickering about who was the greatest. And in an argument about who is the greatest, no one is going to get down to the ground and wash feet. The basin was there, the towel was there, and everything was ready. But no one moved to wash the others’ feet.

If anyone in that room should have been thinking about the glory that would be his in the Kingdom, it was Jesus. John 13:1 says that Jesus knew His hour was come. He was on a divine time schedule, and He knew He was going to be with the Father. He was very conscious of the fact that He soon would be glorified:

“Jesus [knew] that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God” (v. 3).

But instead of their being more concerned with His glory, and in spite their selfishness, He was totally conscious of revealing clearly His personal love to the twelve that they might be secure in it. They might be a part of His Kingdom.

Verse 1 says, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

“To the end” in the Greek is ‘eis’ telos, and it means this:

He loved to them to perfection. He loved them to the uttermost. He loved them with total fullness of love. That is the nature of Christ’s love, and He showed it repeatedly—even in His death.

When He was arrested, He arranged that the disciples would not be arrested.

While He was on the cross, He made sure that John would give Mary a home and care in years to come.

He reached out to a dying thief and saved him.

It is most amazing that in those last hours of carrying the sins of the world, in the midst of all the pain and suffering He was bearing, He was conscious of that one would-be disciple hanging next to him.

He loves humbly, utterly, absolutely, to perfection, totally, completely, without reservation. At the moment when most men would have been wholly concerned with self, He selflessly humbled Himself to meet the most basic needs of others.

Genuine humble, humbled, humbling love is EXACTLY like that.

And here is the great lesson of this whole account:

Only absolute humility can generate absolute love.

It is the nature of love to be selfless, giving. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul said that love “does not seek its own.” In fact, to distill all the truth of 1 Corinthians 13 into one statement, we might say that the greatest virtue of love is its humility, for it is the humility of love that proves it and makes it visible.

Christ’s love and His humility are inseparable.

He could not have been so consumed with a passion for serving others if He had been primarily concerned with Himself.

“Love…in Deed and Truth”

How could anyone reject that kind of love? Men do it all the time. Judas did.

“During supper, the devil [had] already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him” (v. 2).

Do you see the tragedy of Judas?

He was constantly basking in the light, yet living in darkness, experiencing the love of Christ, yet hating Him at the same time.

The contrast between Jesus and Judas is striking. And perhaps that is the very reason the Holy Spirit included verse 2 in this passage. Set against the backdrop of Judas’ hatred, Jesus’ love shines even brighter. We can better understand its magnitude when we understand that in the heart of Judas was the blackest kind of hatred and rejection.

The words of love by which Jesus gradually drew the hearts of the other disciples to Himself only pushed Judas further and further away. The teaching by which He uplifted the souls of the other disciples just seemed to drive a stake into the heart of Judas.

Everything Jesus said in terms of love must have become like chafing shackles to Judas. From his fettered greed and his disappointed ambition began to spring jealousy, spite, and hatred—and now he was ready to destroy Christ, if need be.

But the more men hated Jesus and desired to hurt Him, the more it seemed He manifested love to them. It would be easy to understand resentment. It would be easy to understand bitterness. But all Jesus had was love—He even met the greatest injury with supreme love. In a little while He would be kneeling at the feet of Judas, washing them.

Jesus waited until everyone was seated and supper was served. Then, in a devastating act of humility that must have stunned the disciples,

[Jesus] got up from supper and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.  Then He poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (Verses 4-5) 

With calmness and majesty, in total silence, Jesus surprised everyone except himself, stood up, walked over and took the pitcher, and poured the water into the basin. He then removed his outer robe, His belt, and very likely His inner tunic—leaving Him clothed like a slave—put a towel around His waist and knelt down to wash the feet of His disciples, one by one – without exception!

Can you imagine how that must have stung the disciples’ hearts? Do you feel the pain, the regret, and the sorrow that must have shot through them? One of them could have had the joy of kneeling and washing the feet of Jesus. I’m sure they were dumb-founded and broken-hearted. What a painful and profound lesson this was for them!

We, too, can learn from this incident.

Sadly, the church is full of people who are standing on their dignity when they ought to be kneeling at the feet of their brother. The desire for prominence is death to love, death to humility, and death to service. One who is proud and self-centered has no capacity for love or humility. Consequently, any service he may think he is performing for the Lord is a waste.

When you are tempted to think of your dignity, your prestige, or your rights, open your Bible to John 13 and get a good look at Jesus—clothed like a slave, kneeling, washing dirt off the feet of sinful men who are utterly indifferent to His impending death.

To go from being God in glory (v. 3) to washing the feet of sinful, inglorious disciples (vv. 4-5) is a long step. Think about this: the majestic, glorious God of the universe comes to earth—that’s humility. Then He kneels on the ground to wash the feet of sinful men—that’s indescribable humility.

You see, for a fisherman to wash the feet of another fisherman is a relatively small sacrifice of dignity.

But that Jesus Christ, in whose heart beats the very pulse of eternal deity, would humbly stoop down and wash the worse than filthy feet of lowly men, that’s the greatest kind of humiliation.

And that is the nature of genuine humility, as well as the proof of genuine love.

Love has to be more than words. The apostle John wrote, “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Love that is real is love expressed in activity, not just words.

“If I Do Not Wash You, You Have No Part with Me”

Here we have one of the most interesting insights into Peter we see anywhere in Scripture. As Jesus loves from disciple to disciple, He finally arrives at Peter, who must have been completely broken.

He said with a mixture of remorse and incredulity, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” (v. 6), and perhaps he pulled back his feet.

Jesus replied to Peter, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (v. 7).

At this point, Peter was still thinking that the Kingdom of God was coming, and Jesus was the coming King of that Kingdom. Exactly how could he ever allow the King of kings to leave his throne and be seen stooping down and wash his feet?

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension that Peter understood the total humiliation of Jesus.

Peter got bolder. In verse 8, he says, “Never shall You wash my feet!”

To emphasize his words, Peter uses the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. He calls Jesus Lord but acts as if he is lord. This is not praiseworthy modesty on Peter’s part – this is Peter’s overzealous over-protective selfism.

Jesus bluntly answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (vv. 8-9)

That is typical of Peter—he goes from one extreme (“Never shall You wash my feet!”) to the other (“Not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”).

There is profound meaning in Jesus’ words, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

You see, the typical Jewish mindset could not accept the Messiah humiliated. In Peter’s own mind, there was no place for the coming Christ to be humiliated like this. He must be made to realize that Christ came to be humiliated.

If Peter could not accept this act of humiliation, he would certainly have trouble accepting what Jesus would do for him on the cross.

There is yet another, more profound, truth in Jesus’ words. He has moved from the physical illustration of washing feet to the spiritual truth of washing the inner man. Throughout John’s gospel, when He dealt with people, Jesus spoke of spiritual truth in physical terms. He did it when He spoke to Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Pharisees. Now He does it with Peter.

He is saying, “Peter, unless you allow Me to wash you in a spiritual way, you are not clean and you have no part with Me.”

All cleansing in the spiritual realm comes from Christ, and the only way anyone can be clean is if he is washed by regeneration through Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5).

No man has a relationship with Jesus Christ unless Christ has cleansed his sins. And no one can enter into the presence of the Lord unless he first submits the whole of his and her heart and soul unto that humble, humbling cleansing.

Peter learned that truth—he preached it himself in Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

When a man puts his faith in Jesus Christ, he’s clean, and not until then.

“He Who Has Bathed…Is Completely Clean”

Thinking that the Lord was speaking of physical cleansing, Peter offered his hands and head—everything.

He still did not see the full spiritual meaning, but he said in essence, “Whatever washing you’ve got to offer me that makes me a part of You, I want it.”

Jesus, still speaking of spiritual washing, said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean” (v.10).

There is a difference between a bath and a foot washing. In the culture of that day, a man would take a bath in the morning to get himself completely clean. As he went through the day, he had to wash his feet from time to time, because of the dusty roads, but he didn’t have to keep taking baths. All he needed was to wash the dust and the dirt off both his feet when he entered someone’s home.

Jesus is saying this: once your inner man has been bathed in redemption, you are clean. From that point on, you do not need a new bath—you do not need to be redeemed again—every time you commit a sin.

All God has to do is daily get the dust off your feet. Positionally, you are clean (as He told Peter in 13 verse 10), but on the practical side, you need washing every day, as you walk through the world and get dirty feet.

That spiritual washing of the feet is what 1 John 1:9 refers to:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us [literally, keep on cleansing us] from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus knew which of the disciples were truly cleansed by redemption.

Furthermore, He knew what Judas’ plans for the evening were: “For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason, He said, ‘Not all of you are clean'” (v. 11). That should have pricked the darkened heart of Judas.

Judas knew what He meant. Those words, combined with Jesus’ washing his feet, constituted what would be the last loving appeal for Judas not to do what he was planning to do. What was going through the mind of Judas as Jesus knelt washing his feet? Whatever it was, it had no deterring effect on Judas.

“You also Ought to Wash One Another’s Feet”

Notice what happened after Jesus finished washing their feet:

So, when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (vv. 12-17)

Having inserted a parenthetical lesson on salvation—a sort of theological interlude—Jesus gets back to the real point He is teaching His disciples: that they need to begin to experience, practice, operate on the basis of humility.

He argues from the greater to the lesser.

If the Lord of glory is willing to gird Himself with a towel, take upon Him the form of a servant, act like a slave, and wash the dirty feet of sinful disciples, it is reasonable that the disciples might be willing to wash each other’s feet.

The visual example Jesus taught surely did more good than a lecture on humility ever would have. It was something they never forgot. (Perhaps from then on they had a contest to see who got to the water first!)

Many people believe that Jesus was instituting an ordinance for the church.

Some churches practice foot washing in a ritual similar to the way we have baptism and communion.

I have no quarrel with that, but I do not feel that it is being taught in this passage. Jesus was not advocating a formal, ritualistic foot washing service.

Verse 15 says, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

The word “as” is a translation of the Greek word kathos, which means “according as.”

If He were establishing foot washing as a pattern of ritual to be practiced in the church, He would have used the Greek word ho, which means “that which.”

Then He would have been saying, “I have given you an example that you should do what I have done to you.”

He is not saying “Do the same thing I have done”; He is saying, “Behave in the same manner as I have behaved.”

The example we are to follow is not the washing of feet, it is His humility. Do not minimize the lesson by trying to make foot washing the important point of John 13. Jesus’ humility is the real lesson—and it is a practical humility that governs every area of life, everyday practice of life, in every experience of life.

The result of that kind of humility is always loving service—doing the menial and humiliating tasks for the glory of Jesus Christ. That demolishes most of the popular ideas of what constitutes spirituality.

Some people seem to think the nearer you get to God the further you must be from men, but that’s not true. Actual proximity to God is to serve someone else.

In terms of sacrificing to serve others, there was never anything Jesus was unwilling to do. Why should we be different? We are not greater than the Lord:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed [happy] if you do them” (vv. 16-17).

Do you want to be blessedly fulfilled and happy? Develop a servant’s heart.

We are His bondservants, and a servant is not greater than his master.

If Jesus can step down from a position of deity to become a man, and then even further humble Himself to be a servant and wash the feet of twelve undeserving sinners, we also ought to be willing to suffer any indignity to serve Him.

It should then come to be a surprise to no one ……

that is truer than true love, and truer than true humbled, humbling humility. 

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You for this precious picture in the upper room, when in humble submission to the Father’s will, the Lord Jesus laid aside His garment and began to wash the feet of His bewildered disciples. Lord there are too many times in my finite life I simply do not understand the reason that You would allow certain things to happen but help me to simply trust You in all things and enable me to pray, thy will not mine be done. Open my understanding to all You are seeking to teach me, and may I grow in grace as I submit to Your will for my life – in Jesus’ name I pray, Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.

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Romans 5:6-8 |The Surprise Gospel | We Shall All See God as He Really Is!!!

When you and I see God as He really is, we will Worship Him in the beauty of His Holiness and not ours. We’ll truly worship Him as He desires to be worshipped. We shall have Communion with Him. We’ll all share in this surprising moment.

When Moses saw God and worshipped Him, He ended up giving us the Law – the Ten Commandments. When Job saw God as He really was and worshipped Him, his whole family and estate was magnified and restored to him, Job received his second chance at living life. When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he was given a glimpse of His throne room, inducted into the role of a Prophet of God.

I introduce you to the Pharisee Saul, in his zealousness when he was blinded by the holiness of God on the Damascus Road, he repented, was healed and became Paul, the greatest missionary evangelist who ever lived and gave us the bulk of the New Testament Writings from which we study and learn who Jesus really is.

And when John saw God and fell down before him as dead, he got up and wrote the Book of Revelation, the great Apocalyptic story of the New Testament. As he himself walked behind and alongside his Rabbi for three years with the twelve disciples, he looked upon Jesus as He really was, hung upon the cross and dying. With Peter, He looked into the empty tomb and witnessed to the power of God.

When we finally see God as He really is, we will look forward to the day when we too will be like Him. In the New Testament we are told that someday we shall be like Him because we will see Him as He really is. On that day, we will be holy in perfection. We will be changed, and the sins of our lives will be taken away. We are going to be beautiful in our worship because God is beautiful in His holiness.

Romans 5:1-8 Authorized (King James) Version

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

For when we were yet without [inner] strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Unconditional love! WOW! This is the “LOVE” God has for us. 

A PICTURE OF GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR HUMANITY is found in John 3:16-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

In spite of the wrong and sinful things we have done, the unclean places we have gone in our deeds, the unpleasing sinful acts we have committed and continues to commit, the ugly things we have said or the evil thoughts that crosses our minds can, surprisingly, God’s love never leaves us.

God’s love for humanity transcends our sinful condition because even in the midst of them, He showed us His unconditional love.

In other words, there is nothing we can do to make God stop loving us.

There are a vast multitude of sinful things, i.e. (idolatry and unbelief) that we can do to cause us to be separated from a personal relationship with God, but not from His love for each one of us.

Nothing we do can stop God from loving us. Calvary proved that! Yes, it was at Calvary where the “LOVE” of God for humanity was put on display.

Even after salvation, regardless of what we may have to endure through long suffering, hardship, etc.,  Apostle Paul surprisingly declares this concerning God’s love for us in Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, 39 neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Surprisingly, regardless of my diverse tests and trials, I am “PERSUADED” that NOTHING can separate me from the Love God has for me through Christ Jesus!

It comes as no surprise to me then that I can read and study and pray through the full length and breadth of God’s Holy Scriptures and just want to worship!

My living hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and His Righteousness.

Romans 5:5 This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.

If you are saved and have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith, you are daily tasting the outpouring of God’s “LOVE” in your hearts through God’s Holy Spirit whom He was given to us at our point of salvation.

If you do not know Jesus for the pardon of your sins, invite Him in on today by first asking Him to forgive you of your sins and to open the eyes of your heart to His “UNCONDITIONAL LOVE” for you.

When you have made your confession of your desperate need for God, not only is He faithful and just to forgive you, but He is willing to lead, guide and direct the rest of your life by the leading of His Holy Spirit.

Not surprisingly Warrior, King, Master Poet, even master sinner, David declares these words concerning God “LOVE” in Psalm 34:8-Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

It should not come as such a surprise that God’s “LOVE” is an everlasting love.

New life in the “SPIRIT” is available to you on today. 

The Great Exchange is God’s love for our sins. WOW! What an exchange. 

Unconditional “LOVE” is found at the foot of the cross. 

Run to Jesus for He alone offers you UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!

This kind of love cannot be found in nothing or no one else.

When nothing else could help me, “LOVE” was broken for me!

When nothing else could help me, “LIVING LOVE” lifted me!

JESUS IS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!

DO NOT LET THIS BE SUCH A SURPRISE TO YOU!

SHARE COMMUNION WITH GOD AS HE FIRST SHARED IT WITH US!

God bless.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God of enlightenment, help me to read, study and understand your word. Give me insight into the meaning of your commandments and how I should follow them in their beauty and their truth. As I meditate on your wonderful miracles, As I search your beauty, wonder who you really are, may I be encouraged and empowered. As I study how you have fought our battles from the stories in the Bible, may I be built up and strengthened. Help me to know how you want me to put the hope of your word into real practice. Assist me to know you more fully through your word, be pleasing to you. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Romans 5:6-8 |The Surprise Gospel | I am so Struggling with the Surprise!

The Patriarch Job wrote in Chapter Seven verses 1 – 6 (Message) these words.

There’s Nothing to My Life

1-6 “Human life is a struggle, isn’t it?
    It’s a life sentence to hard labor.
Like field hands longing for quitting time
    and working stiffs with nothing to hope for but payday,
I’m given a life that meanders and goes nowhere—
    months of aimlessness, nights of misery!
I go to bed and think, ‘How long till I can get up?’
    I toss and turn as the night drags on—and I’m fed up!
I’m covered with maggots and scabs.
    My skin gets scaly and hard, then oozes with pus.
My days come and go swifter than the click of knitting needles,
    and then the yarn runs out—an unfinished life!

The Bible tells us that even believers struggle with trusting God because life is hard and cruel at times. But we know there is hope and that joy is 100% possible because of the eternal life we have with Christ. Therefore, God wants us to be full of faith and grow in His divine direction, comforted by the Holy Spirit. In this complete trust of our Lord and Savior, we can live with true peace and joy.

Today, we have the opportunity to renew our perspective. Be encouraged, learn to walk through each day with a Romans 5:8 joyful spirit and a refocused mind.

  • Remember the Gospel hope found in God’s promises.
  • Take comfort in God’s divine plan for your life.
  • Rejoice in God’s presence.
  • Reconnect with the true Gospel life-changing hope found in the Bible.
  • Share with others the answer to their deepest problem and greatest need.

The Struggle is Absolutely Real ….

But GOD is also absolutely 100% REAL!

Romans 5:6-8 Easy-to-Read Version

Christ died for us when we were unable to help ourselves. We were living against God, but at just the right time Christ died for us. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else, even if it is for a good person. Someone might be willing to die for an especially good person. But Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

God’s people have been struggling for millennia to understand the love of God.

They have misunderstood him, taken him for granted, ignored him, and sinned against him, but he has never stopped showing his love to them.

Ultimately, Jesus left his throne in heaven to come and show us once and for all exactly how deep the love of God is for us. You and I have to 100% believe that.

You and I have to acknowledge the love of God for us.

That’s my greatest prayer.

The way to your salvation is by trusting the God of all Life that tells this story.

You and I can have love like this, and it does not even matter we’re a sinner, because Christ died for sinners. In fact, he died only for sinners. So, if we see our need for a love like this, we 100% qualify for that love. We can all come to him, and he will not cast us out because God shows his love to a surprising people.

God shows his Gospel love unto a surprising people.

The kind of person that God shows his love to is surprising. He shows his love to sinners. The text is plain and simple, Paul writes, “while we were still sinners”.

If we had the all-seeing eye of God, we would be appalled at not only the sin we see in each other but the sin we see in our own hearts.

I’d venture to say we are aware of about 5% of our sin. But God sees all of it.

We need to understand what our sin looks like to God. Our sins aren’t mistakes.

We like to use that word. It softens it. But the Bible uses words like evil and wickedness in regard to our sin. How often have we called ourselves evil or wicked? But you and I are! We are all one big hot mess. Our sin has ruined us.

Every one of us has experienced this. Every one of us has done something that we do not even want to think nor talk about. And yet God looks down at us in that condition, God sees everything in us! God knows everything of that sin, and says I’ve died for that sin. You are free. For freedom Christ has set us free.

In fact, our sin is our only qualification.

Look at the verse again. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It is in the midst of our sin that Christ saves us.

Our sin is the ONLY qualification, and we must still be in that sin to qualify, which of course we are.

But this is insane.

Look at the way Paul writes this phrase.

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God shows [commendeth], present tense. Christ died, past tense.

The death of Savior Jesus Christ still shows the love of God. That one event was enough to show us for all time his love because of the magnitude of the one who died and who he died for. God died for his enemies. Our sin qualifies us, and our faith justifies us through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.

Even the way Paul words this is both fascinating and surprising.

What Paul is saying here is there has been a changing of the guard.

Something has come in and something has gone out.

The Greek text here is saying that in the death of Christ, we sinners have been redeemed.

Even the syntax of the sentence is showing the gospel!

Not just the words, but how the words are arranged.

God shows his love to us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God shows his love to us at a surprising cost.

Why did Jesus die for us?

The simple answer is because he loved us, to love us till the end he had to die.

But you may say, “There must have been another way. Surely someone didn’t have to die in order to save me!”

The Bible says God saves sinners and the only way to save sinners is for the sin to be paid for by someone.

And the Bible later says that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:20-23)

Therefore, there are 2 options: either we die for our sins or someone else does.

In God’s mercy, the gospel tells us that someone else has died in our place.

But what does this look like? Is the Father an angry God who only wants blood while Jesus is the loving, kind-hearted Son who desperately wants his Father’s heart to change? By no means! God is not unjust, and he is not unloving. But for God’s justice and God’s love to remain 1000% compatible a death had to occur.

It hurts the Father to lose his Son, but he does it because he loves us.

The death of Jesus was costly. He is the most glorious person in existence.

He was there from the beginning – not the beginning of the world, but from the beginning of eternity past. It was he through whom and by whom and for whom all things were created. It is he who upholds the universe by the word of his power. It is he who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. It is he who was promised, and he who has come, and he who has died, and he who is reigning now and will reign forever. (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:5-20, Hebrews 1)

It is he to whom every knee shall one day bow.

It is he, of whom the prophet Isaiah says, “he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength.”

It is also he of whom Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for or iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

It is he that has given us access to the throne of grace.

This is Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of Lords.

The Son of God, the Son of man, the Alpha and the Omega, the one who was and is and is to come, the Messiah, the Christ.

This is your Savior! This is God.

And there was no greater pain in the universe than the exact moment Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the elect.

In that moment the Father turned his face away from the Son and gave him over to death so he might bring us who believe to glory.

It cost something to gain us back.

It cost the most valuable person in all existence.

It cost God himself.

You are bought with a price.

God isn’t angry with you because he has done everything, he needs to do to be happy with you forever. The price has already been paid in the midst of your sin so that you can be free from the consequences of your sin.

That is surprising!

THAT IS LOVE!

That is the surprising gospel!

So, if you are prone to think you are too good for God’s love: can you now see that you are a sinner in need of Christ’s saving work? Only when you see, only when you acknowledge this need can you have the righteousness you long for.

And if you are prone to think you are too unworthy for God’s love: can you now see that God saves sinners and sinners alone? Only when you and I see that, only we acknowledge that, then will we be able to have the joy we all long for.

Let’s all lean into the third way of the gospel:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (we are worse than we think), Christ died for us (we are more loved than we imagined).

Let me close with these words from Charles Spurgeon, 19th century preacher,

“If today you feel that sin is hateful to you, believe in Him who has said, ‘It is finished.’  Let me link your hand in mine.  Let us come together, both of us, and say, ‘Here are two poor naked souls, good Lord; we cannot clothe ourselves,’ and He will give us a robe, for ‘it is finished.’ . . . ‘But must we not add tears to it?’  ‘No,’ says He, ‘no, it is finished, there is enough.’ Child of God, will you have Christ’s finished righteousness today, and will you rejoice in it more than you ever have before?”

Receive this good news.

Come to Christ.

See what he has done for you. 

Come and live.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (5:8)

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus Christ, your power is beyond compare. You turned water into wine. You cleansed the Leper, restored sight to the blind and made the deaf hear. You made the lame to walk. You healed the sick and raised the dead. You conquered death in your resurrection. Everything you touch is powerfully transformed. Let me know that powerful touch in my life. Lord, bless me and keep me, make your face shine upon me.  Through your mighty name, Gloria! Alleluia! Amen.

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Romans 5:8 |The Surprising Gospel of God: What does the Surprise Look Like? “I Loved You at Your Darkest!”

The Love of God. It’s a complicated thing. Every generation tries to understand love, fall in love, and explain love. People have gone to extremes to display their love for others, and thousands of years ago God did just that for each one of us.

In Romans 5:8, Paul tells us God demonstrated His love for us this way: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Out of the abundance of God’s great love for us He sent His only Son to pay the debt for our sins, even though we were all His enemies, powerless and ungodly. God’s display of love was not conditional.

It was not based on anything we had done or could ever do for Him. God knew that without His timely intervention we would be forever separated from Him.

Jesus’ obedience displayed grace in an amazing way. Jesus poured out His life for the forgiveness of our sins so we could be reconciled with God. Each of us, through faith, can have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and experience peace with God, hope in every situation, and eternal life.

Having a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean life is always easy. Rather, it provides us with the ability to face anything that comes our way. We can have hope in all situations, confident of God’s grace, His faithfulness, and His 100% willingness to do whatever it takes to fully restore our relationship with Him. 

Romans 5:6-8 Amplified Bible

While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The Apostle Paul tells us here in Romans 5:8 that God has shown us his love in the death of Christ. The One who created the heavens and the earth, the One who rules overall, the One who is in the heavens and does whatever he pleases—this One has shown his love to us in the death of his only Son. John 3:16 rings gracefully in our ears, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

This verse explains what Jesus said in John 15:13 when he told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

What Jesus says in John 15 he accomplishes at the cross in John 19 and Paul explains it to us here in Romans 5:8. This is the single most important story the world has ever known. The scale of this sacrifice is still being weighed today.

In fact, for all eternity we will see that the cost and the prize do not seem to balance, but there is glory in this gospel that fills up the throne room of heaven and shoots joy down to our hearts like lightening. This is a surprising gospel.

Romans 5:8 explains this surprising gospel by revealing how God shows his love to us in a surprising way, to a surprising people, and at surprising cost.

God shows his love in a surprising way.

I want us to linger here for quite a few minutes. Let this sink in, because this is abundantly and completely glorious. God shows. God is not a quiet, reserved, no-big-deal king. He’s not afraid to shake the world. He’s ambitious and he’s bold, he loves radically. The very expanse of heaven declares the glory of God.

Why else do stars exist? Why are sunsets as beautiful as they are? What purpose do they serve outside of lighting your heart on fire? God puts on display his love.

These two words, “God shows”, speak to both camps of people, those who think they are too good, those who believe they are too unworthy for the love of God.

From every which direction of our circumstances, we are confronted here with what God does. He shows. He is a relentless lover. He is always inviting us, not just so that we will agree on a limited intellectual level that we are loved, but also beckoning all of us to feel deep in our hearts we are both invited and loved.

It’s as if he is speaking to each one of us from the depths of eternity, “Look. I know some of you think you don’t need me. Some of you think you can’t have any part of me. What made you doubt my love?” “What can I do to change your mind?”

Do we realize the surprising ways in which God loves each and everyone of us?

He doesn’t stop with mere words we may never read or study, he does not stop with parting seas, he doesn’t stop at pillars of fire, or clouds of glory, he doesn’t stop with breaking down walls at the sounds of hundreds of great trumpets, he doesn’t stop with voices from heaven or angels standing before us. He doesn’t stop with a promise we’re just as likely as not to completely, abundantly ignore.

He doesn’t stop with a great or lesser earthly king. He doesn’t stop with one nation, mighty or weak. He doesn’t stop with only one people group. He doesn’t stop with “just good enough”. He doesn’t stop with perfect teaching or with amazing miracles. No, he stops with the death of the Son on the cross. God the Father loves so intensely that he could not give anything less than the absolute best that he had to offer himself in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son.

God shows his love to us in a multitude of ways but the supreme way he shows his love to us is in the death of Christ for us. What greater love is there?

We, in all our sin and all our messiness – WE – were loved enough by God that he would die for you. He did not just tell us that. He showed it two thousand years ago at 3:00 in the afternoon on a hill called Calvary outside of Jerusalem.

And, even more surprising, he yet, he still shows his love in the death of Christ.

These words are in the present active tense. God, today, now in this moment, is showing us the love, he has for us through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ.

What we see right here in our Bibles – this black text on a white page – is lifting Jesus up before us right now so that we can see with the eyes of our heart the very love of God for us. Do you see it? Oh, I pray you do! Father, open our eyes!

Now, in this exact and exacting moment, that’s the kind of Gospel love we need, the kind of surprise we each need, that’s the unrelenting kind of love God has.

Is not that even 0.01% surprising to you?

Today, surprise yourself and surprise a friend or two or three and Reflect:

  • Have you ever seriously asked Jesus into your life? If so, take some time to thank God for His grace. If not, please surprise God, learn more about His salvation. 
  • How can you surprise someone – show grace to someone today?
  • Do you have hope God can get you through any situation? Why or why not?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

God, from the beginning, you were the word. You sent your only son to save us all and he even allowed himself to be tortured and crucified to obey you. Bless me with the gift of understanding and of unshaken faith in you. Let me know the meaning of your words in the Bible and how to live accordingly. Open the door of my heart, fill me with your light and understanding. Alleluia! Amen.

Another Part Tomorrow …… Struggling with the Surprise

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