Friday, 5 May 2017

Would you wash someone else's feet?

Several weeks ago we began to look at the aspect of Humility as taught and modeled by Jesus Christ as he walked the streets of Palestine. Humility is a word we throw around a lot, especially in Christian circles. We may have an understanding of the word, but we know how much more difficult it is to actually put into practice. We have just recently come through the Easter weekend, and there are some very well-known stories situated within this final week of Jesus’ life that teach us the ultimate expression of humility. The most well-known example of humility took place at the Last Supper when Jesus unexpectedly surprised his disciples by washing their feet (John 13:1-17). In this situation, I think Peter emerges as the hero by the way he reacted to Jesus' action. Why? Because Peter understood what was going on here, the leader was taking on the role of the servant, the boss was serving the employee. And he would have none of it! But in this act of humility Jesus demonstrated the extent of his love for his disciples, including Peter as well as the one who would be called the Betrayer.

In contrast, there is another awkward foot-washing story found in Luke 7:36-47. In this story Jesus was the guest of a prominent Pharisee when their visit was interrupted by a woman of “ill-repute”. She washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Awkward!

Why would she do that? It was an expression of sincere gratitude! She didn’t care about social norms or customs or etiquette. Much was forgiven so she has much to be grateful for. That’s the attitude of humility, an attitude that Jesus chastises his host for lacking! In the Upper Room, Jesus also upset the social norm. He did this by choosing to stoop down on his knees and wash the feet of his “inferioriors” (is that even a word?). 

So what? Consider this for a moment,  up to this point in the Gospel of John we read about Jesus doing work that no one else had ever done before, nor could do: change water into wine, give sight to the blind, or raising the dead. But here in John 13 we see Jesus doing what almost anyone can do,but what very few of us would want to do. Wash feet!

We may all aspire to be the hero of the day - score the game-winning goal, dazzle the crowd with that stunning dribble that results in high-light plays - and some of us may be able to do such things, once in a while. Yet there is one thing we can all do, each and every day: we can serve; we can adopt an attitude of humility and surprise someone by choosing to serve. 

We can all do that ... but do we want to?

Friday, 28 April 2017

Seven times, seventy-seven times, or seventy times seven?

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) ends on a cliff-hanger. We have no idea how the Older Son actually responds to his father's invitation to the party. The reason for this non-ending is intentional, I believe, for each one of us needs to ma
ke a similar decision. Will we choose forgiveness and relationship over "fairness" and our perception of justice?

Forgiveness is tuff stuff!

Matthew 18:21-35 could be a follow-up to the Parable in Luke 15; Peter asks Jesus that infamous question: how many times? Peter though he was doing pretty good when he came up with the number seven, after all, all that was "required" was three! I often like to use my imagination in helping me understand this situation. So, Peter, what do you do on the eighth time? Retaliate, throw a fit, scream "not fair!" How does that help the situation?

I know how much I wrestle with NOT holding grudges, with NOT wanting pay-back and “fairness” when I’ve been wronged! It could be something as simple as being cut-off while driving, to someone taking my parking space at the mall, or a neighbor breaking something of mine! We wrestle with this because none of us want to become door mats, none of us want to be taken advantage of. And while we don’t believe this is what Scripture teaches, it sure FEELS like it!

So what about the 70 X 7 equation of Jesus? (Depending on the translation you use, some state "seventy seven times" while other's state "seventy times seven".) Is Jesus' point that on the seventy first time, or on the four hundred and ninety first time we can ... what ... lash out, get even, throw a fit? Again, using my imagination, suppose I actually can forgive someone 490 times, wouldn't that do something to the way I view that individual, could I really after that many times of forgiving suddenly turn my attitude and seek revenge?

The point of Jesus' answer to Peter, I believe, is about NOT keeping track or keeping an account of how many times someone offends us, but about having an attitude that is ready and quick to forgive while trying to work out a solution. For the goal is not justice or “fairness” as much as it is restoring a damaged relationship.

Having just come out of the Easter season, we were reminded of the extent to which our Heavenly Father went to provide forgiveness for us, and because we have been so forgiven, we ought to be characterized with an attitude and readiness to forgive others. 

I told you, this is tuff stuff, but it's not impossible! So today, this week, seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness, because we have been so forgiven!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Forgiveness: It's not fair!

Having thrown away EVERYTHING that his father had given him, the younger son finds himself in the muck and mire of a pig pen! From that vantage point, anything looks better, even crawling back home to daddy and begging for a job! And so he does!

The Prodigal Son returned home not really expecting much, and that’s why he had a finely rehearsed speech for dad. In essence he was saying “I don’t expect your forgiveness, but I plead for your benevolence, at lease give me a job!” It seems that was the best the son was hoping for, and clearly he did not know his father very well!

The best line in the story … “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him .. was filled with compassion … ran to his son … threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20)

The younger son couldn’t get his speech out! Dad completely ignored the sons words and immediately restored him to full and complete sonship! That’s the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father!

But the story doesn’t end there, for now the older brother enters the picture and his response to his brother’s return and his father’s response? IT’S NOT FAIR!

That’s the problem with forgiveness, it isn’t fair, in fact, there’s nothing fair about forgiveness. And clearly the older brother didn’t understand his father’s love either. He was just as distant from dad, even though he remained home, as the younger son was off in the “distant country”!

Here’s an interesting thot: the best the younger son hoped for was to be received as a slave, and the best the older brother saw of his relationship with dad was that of a slave! Clearly neither of the brothers understood their Father's love or forgiveness. Guess what? Too often I don't get it either!

The challenge of forgiveness is that we should care less about "fairness" and more about restored relationships. As we head into Easter and celebrate the ultimate sacrifice of love, we will be reminded again of the extent to which Heavenly Father went to remove our shame and restore a relationship of honor with Him.

And let’s be thankful!

Friday, 31 March 2017

But I don't deserve to be forgiven!

Last week we looked at the third of Jesus’ “Lost and Found” stories in Luke 15: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is a well-loved and well-known story that illustrates forgiveness and restoration very well. Three individuals were highlighted in that story: two sons and a father. The younger of the two brothers showed an incredibly deep level of disrespect toward his father and the home he was raised in, asking for an early cut of his inheritance, and then immediately cut out for the "distant country." 

We're told that he squandered his wealth, meaning that he held no regard for either the money or the values his father would have taught him. This resulted in a great loss for the son, he not only lost his money, he lost his social status, and ultimately he lost all dignity. While in the pig-pen he came to his senses and decided to return to the father and beg for a little bit of mercy. He crafted his apology carefully, and rehearsed it well. He didn't expect to be forgiven, but he was hoping for a job, a roof over his head, and a bit of security. Sonship? That wasn't anywhere in his wildest imagination!

Did the son really understand the depth to which his father loved him? I’d suggest not. !

This is significant because too often we fall into the same position, feeling that somehow we’re not good enough to merit the grace and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. Yet this Parable reminds us that forgiveness is all God’s work, and the only way we can approach him is in complete humility and dependence. Forgiveness is deciding that someone who has wronged me, doesn’t have to pay. I have wronged my Heavenly Father, and he paid the price, He doesn’t make me pay, all he asks for is the willingness to depend, to trust, to receive!

That’s the beauty of forgiveness, yet that’s also the difficulty of receiving forgiveness, we really dislike dependence. In the end, that’s the message Jesus gives to his critics, those “experts in the law” who in essence could not wrap their heads around this simple principle: every time God forgives we are reminded that rules don’t matter as much to God as the relationship He desires to build with us.

Everyone needs to be forgiven, even me!

Friday, 17 March 2017

I Forgive You

Okay ... it's been quite a while since I've been on this page. All excuses aside, I am endeavoring to return and to share with you some of the lessons we are sharing with your children each Sunday here at U-Turn. 

For the month of March we began a new series on the Virtue of Forgiveness, which I believe is a natural progression from the Virtue of Love we spent the previous weeks covering. Forgiveness is a tough subject for any of us to actually practice, for we have all felt the sting of injustice, and we’ve all struggled with the desire to seek revenge. How much more so for children?

Last weekend through the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin (Luke 15) we came to understand that Jesus Forgives each one of us, whether we know we need it or not! If you recall, the set-up to these parables is the Pharisees' accusation of Jesus calling him "the friend of sinners". They could not agree with nor understand why Jesus would be willing to spend so much time with the "tax collectors and sinners"! They were more than appalled!

In his response to their accusation, Jesus shares these short simple stories illustrating that those who are lost, when they are found, are reason for a cosmic celebration! This is still true to this day, all of heaven rejoices over EVERY individual who recognizes the need for a Savior and chooses to respond to His invitation to return to the Father.

The lesson is profoundly simple: of all the "sheep" in the Father's fold, that one lost lamb is vitally important to the Lord. And even though a coin may not understand that it was lost, that one was vitally important to the Lord. Out of the millions of individuals who populate planet earth, each one of us are individually vitally important to our God. 

God forgives you! God forgives me! Personally, individually, by name!

I encourage you to think personally about the freedom and the hope of the forgiveness in which we all walk, and we all have reason to be thankful. Pray for your children daily, pray that even though they may have heard this message many times before, it could be that for one child he or she will actually understand it this weekend!

And then celebrate!