Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dirty Feet

Dirty Feet
April 25, 2011
Matthew 15:30 "Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them."

Feet. Aside from needing feet to keep the human body balanced, there are few positive things to discuss about feet. Feet are not necessarily pretty to look at, they are not necessarily pleasant to smell. Feet are usually kept covered and must be cleaned often. This was certainly true in the day of Jesus and it is still true today. In fact, in the time of Jesus, not many people had closed toed shoes with comfortable socks. They wore open sandals, walked through dirt, dust, and animal filth. Feet were not a socially acceptable conversational piece back then (hence the big deal when Jesus washed the disciples' feet). To touch someone's foot was to degrade yourself, symbolizing a social status difference between the two people. A king would never wash his own feet, let alone touch someone else's. A servant who washed someone's feet would never dare look him in the eye; touching someone's feet represented a degree of humiliation.

Humiliation. Not many positive things could be said about humiliation either, except that it is humbling. We've all been in a humiliating situation once or twice. Your face may have turned red or you've had to cover your eyes from an embarrassing situation. Those are the times you'd certainly like to forget (I've tried many times to forget mine). Humiliation is very humbling. Though that statement seems obvious, it takes a humble person to get through a humiliating situation. We don't usually put ourselves in humiliating situations on purpose; it is not comfortable to be humbled in front of other people. Unless . . . you are desperate.

In the Bible, people who were in desperate situations were certainly never honored; they were humiliated. People who had disease, sickness, physical deformity, etc, were considered unclean and therefore in a humiliating situation. While today we don't readily have the same stigma of being sick, back then you would be unclean. But back then, there was also no hope for you either, if you were sick. That's why people came to Jesus' feet. Desperate people came to place themselves in a humiliating situation so that Jesus might heal them. They publicly displayed their uncleanness and placed themselves at someone's dirty feet. "Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them." Such a perspective that you and I don't deal with today. They were desperate enough to endure humiliation, if it meant Jesus could fix everything.

Today, we never seem as desperate as the people in Jesus' day, at least on the outside. If we need something, we go to the doctor in private. Maybe we ask a close family member who will not shame us in our time of desperation or humble circumstance. We might say a prayer to ask the Lord for help, but we rarely ever place ourselves out in the open, laid bare of all our pride, desperate for a savior to fix all that is wrong in our lives. I know I've kept many of my prayer requests a secret over the years, never wanting other people to think less of me because of my situation or my desperation. Not that everyone needs to know my business, but I can certainly be desperate and humiliated all in private. It seems less humbling somehow, if no one else sees it. But is it any less desperate of a situation?

Notice, though, what Jesus did for all those in that humiliating situation. He healed them. Jesus never turned away desperate people, who were humbled enough to place themselves at His feet. Today, it is time to place yourself at the feet of Jesus.

1. What prayer requests do you keep in private?
2. How desperate are you for Jesus to fix all that is wrong?
3. Where is your pride or are you willing to humble yourself for HIM to heal it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Leviticus 11, Matthew 15, James 5

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Everyone Finds the Bottom

Everyone Finds the Bottom
April 18, 2011
Luke 15:20 "So he got up and went to his father."

The story of the Prodigal Son may or may not fully resonate with everyone, but there is an aspect of the story that we all can understand. It is the concept of finding the bottom. In the famous parable told by Jesus, the Prodigal Son left home and lost all his inheritance. He had nothing left and found work feeding filthy pigs. It was a job he loathed and he longed for the days when he lived in his father's house. The Bible says, "When he came to his senses . . . he got up and went to his father." This moment of him "coming to his senses" is what finally convinced him it was time to approach his father for help. The Prodigal Son was at the end of himself and all he could do so he went to his father. The Prodigal Son had found the bottom of all that he could endure and he realized it was time to ask for the father's help.

While you may not have lived the same wretched lifestyle of the Prodigal Son, I know there has been a time in your life when you feel like you were at the lowest of lows. You may be there now. Everyone, at some point in his life will experience this, the finding of a bottom where he can't get much lower. For each person that bottom is different, but it will be realized sooner or later. This is not desirable, but it is bound to happen. It happens because God gives us that freedom and space to do what we want. Just like the story of the Prodigal Son whose father allowed him to make his own mistakes, God gives us room to mess things up or do things on our own. In fact, the only way a person can realize a bottom in his life is when he has been doing things on his own, apart from the Father, God.

The Prodigal Son could never have found his lowest point if he was still with his father. This is also true with you and me. If we always stayed by the Father's side, doing things HIS WAY, then we would never experience the lowest possible point in our lives. Finding the bottom is not desirable but it is a fantastic starting point. It is a chance to do what the Prodigal Son did, an opportunity to come to our senses. When we have come to the end of what we can do on our own, we will have the chance to look up and find God's face ready and willing to help us out of the filthy mud pit of pigs. When we have come to the end of what we can do, we will have come to the beginning of God in our lives. Apart from the Father, you and I can do nothing. The sooner we realize this, the better our lives will become.

The hard part, though, is coming to our senses. What does it take for a person to finally come to his senses, realizing it is time to go back and ask God for help? The answer is different for each person. The harder a person's heart, the longer it will take. There is no exact formula for allowing God to take things back over in your life, but it starts with a soft heart. Oftentimes, God allows us to make our own mistakes simply as a means to soften our hearts, to give us the chance to become teachable. God cannot take over in your life if your heart is hard. It takes a soft heart in order for things to start improving in your life, after you've found that bottom.

So, while I hope you never experience the lowest of lows, I pray you allow your heart to be softened, allowing you to come to your senses. If you haven't found the bottom yet, then remember to harden your heart; it will surely take you there. On the other hand, keep a soft heart and you'll never need the opportunity to come to your senses.

1. What would you describe as the lowest of lows in your life?
2. When you reached that lowest of lows, how did you come to your senses?
3. How hard was your heart when you found that bottom?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Luke 15, John 5:19-23

Sunday, April 10, 2011


April 11, 2011
John 19:11 "Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above . . .'"

Before Jesus was sentenced to die on the cross, He was taken before Pilate. Pilate had the power to choose the fate of Jesus. Well, sort of. Pilate was the governor at the time who had been given authority to make decisions, final decisions. When Jesus was handed over to be crucified, He ended up before Pilate to receive the final decision regarding His death. Would Pilate sentence Jesus to be crucified or set Him free? When Jesus was standing in front of Pilate, Pilate asked Jesus to speak, but He refused. Pilate said, "'Do you refuse to speak to me; don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?'" It was right for Pilate to think that way; it certainly appeared in his job description that he had the power to pronounce a final sentencing upon someone. But listen to the words of Jesus in response to Pilate's power: "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."

Despite Jesus' recognition of where Pilate's power came from, Pilate was still the one who sentenced Jesus to die. Jesus knew it had to happen. Jesus knew He would be sentenced to death, with or without Pilate. Pilate was just a tool used in God's grand scheme of things for mankind. Though the sentencing of Jesus seemed a shock to everyone at the time, it was all part of a bigger plan. The sentencing did not come as a surprise to Jesus; He knew it was His purpose to die on the cross. Jesus possessed foreknowledge, something you and I lack. We do not have the ability to understand or know the future. We really have no idea what is going on, despite thinking we have a clue. This causes great frustration in our lives when we are delivered a "sentence" that feels unjust. Many people experience rotten things in life that seem like a final sentence. You may be experiencing one right now. Maybe you've received terrible news from a doctor's report. Maybe you've received final notice from a bank or an employer. Maybe you've been stuck in a horrible situation that seems like a death sentence handed down from Pilate. It may seem like a shock to you, trying to understand WHY, but what you are going through is not a surprise to God.

Only God knows what "sentencing" we might receive in our lifetimes. Only God knows what is really going on in our lives, as we live out our situations that feel like final sentencing. But the words of Jesus should comfort us whenever we go through these times. Remember what Jesus said to Pilate: "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." Jesus spoke directly to His life sentence, recognizing it was part of God's bigger plan. While I will not pretend to know what is going on in your life, there just might be a bigger plan than you realize as you look your sentencing in the face. God might actually have a clue as to what is going on, and it is no surprise to Him.

So, at the risk of sounding silly, I'd like you to take a moment and speak to your sentencing. Think of that situation right now that feels like a life sentence, the one you'd LOVE to never see again. Speak to it and say the words aloud, as Jesus spoke them: "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." This is now your opportunity to embrace what God is allowing you to experience and know that God can and will use it for His glory, for His master plan in the grand scheme of things. This doesn't mean what you are going through will be easy; it just means your perspective on it should change. Your situation has NO power over you, only God has that authority.

1. What is going on that seems like a final sentence?
2. How can a different perspective change how you experience life's situations?
3. How can you speak to your situations each day like Jesus did?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: John 7:28, John 19, Romans 13:1, Heb 13:17

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Panic the End is Here

Panic the End is Here
April 4, 2011
Matthew 24:7 "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places."

The end is near, this is certain. If there was ever a day to be concerned about the end times, it would be now. The Bible says that nation will rise against nation; there will be wars and rumors of wars; there will be famines and earthquakes; there will be false teachers. Wow, all those things were in the headlines on every major news channel just this morning! The Middle East is a ticking time bomb, the unrest in Libya is frightening, and the earthquakes in Japan have been horrendous, not to mention the leaking radiation as a result. If ever there was a time when the signs of the end are fulfilled, it is now. The end is near, this is certain. BUT, is it cause for concern? Is it time to panic yet? Is it time to run for the hills?

Jesus said there would be signs foretelling the end of times, and we have been seeing those signs everyday. Jesus called them 'birthing pains'. Listen to his words in Matt 24:6-8:
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains."

Birth pains? Rarely does a pregnant woman, just days away from her due date, hold her newborn in a few minutes time without any notice of labor. A woman's body gives her signals, signs, that her time to give birth is near. Those birth pains (labor pains), are a sign, a warning, telling everyone that they need to be prepared for the coming birth. Labor pains, no matter how uncomfortable for a woman to bear, are a good sign that birth is imminent and a child will soon arrive. A woman knows these pains will lead to her anticipated result, the child for whom she has been preparing. If those warning signs of labor are heeded, then preparation can be made for the necessary people to be involved in a safe delivery, with no surprises. But if those birthing pains are ignored because of ignorance or fearful denial, everyone can get caught off guard, resulting in a traumatic birth experience. Jesus said the signs of the end times would be just that, signs giving us a warning of what is to come, signs to be embraced.

While these signs are to be heeded, they are not cause to panic. Notice Jesus said, "See to it that you are not alarmed." If we take notice of these signs, just as when a woman is in labor, we can be prepared. If we heed the warning that the end is near, we will be prepared, not scared. Jesus doesn't want us to live in a state of fear, but in a state of respect for what will occur. If we look out for the warning signs, then we will be waiting expectantly and not caught off guard.

When we heed Jesus' warning, we will be prepared in all facets. We will ensure our lives are right with Him. We will ensure our loved ones have had a chance to right themselves with the Lord. We will ensure our neighbor knows about the Lord and the coming end, so he can be prepared, too. We will live our lives in such a way as to be found doing the Lord's will when He returns. He expects this of us and has given us these warning signs to be prepared. It is for our own good. Don't be alarmed when you read the headlines, when you see the signs of the end; they are birthing pains. See them as an opportunity to keep yourself alert and ready. But woe to you if you choose to ignore them.

1. What do you think when you read the headlines in the news?
2. How can you live without panic but instead preparation?
3. How could you make sure everyone else is aware of the soon coming end?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 24, Mark 13