Is there room in the church?

Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

Matt 21:12-14

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

My friend Dave Drozek wrote in response to this passage…

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck with the way The Message put this.  It changed my whole thinking about what Jesus did in the temple.  Maybe he wasn’t so upset about what was being done as he was about what was NOT being done in the temple.  Business and organization had pushed out those in need, those who were inefficient, those who drained our resources, rather than serving them!

Is this what we do today?  Are we all about expediency?  Do we really want “those people” in the church who are emotionally needy, who want to monopolize our time and conversation?  Do we want those who are on the margin of society to sit next to us, to require that we smell them, maybe even to help them in some way?  Don’t we rather prefer to sneak in, talk to our friends, and leave quickly, avoiding eye contact with the unlovely?

What would Jesus do if he came to our church today?  Hmm….

Footwashing

Footwashing“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5

The natural question is… why would Jesus wash his disciple’s feet? That seems odd. I wash my own feet. But I wouldn’t wash my friends feet. And I certainly wouldn’t my friends feet just before dinner at the dining room table.

Let’s understand the cultural context. There are no cars or bikes. So people walk everywhere they go. The landscape is sandy. The roads are unpaved and dusty. Donkeys, horses, and other cattle, used in the transportation of goods, are relieving themselves on the road and sidewalks that everyone walks on. The street is the sewer system. After walking a mile or two to get to dinner, the guests feet are a dirty, dusty, disgusting mess. With all sorts of crud squished between their toes.

It would be like throwing a house party and each of your guests stepping in a pile dog poop while walking to your front door. Are you going to let them in with their shoes on?

In Jesus’ day, a servant would wash the feet of each guest as they entered the home to remove the dirt and crap.

The first part of this verse says… “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God”

Catch this! The entire world – all of creation – is under the authority and power of Jesus. He is the President – King – Prime Minister – CEO – Lord over every government, civic group, business, and society in the world.

He has every right to be honored, revered, feared, and served. Jesus didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything for us. Instead, we should be asking, “What can I do for you?”

But Jesus striped down to his undergarment and picked up a towel, to help us clean up the mess we’ve made in life. He set aside his rights and privileges as God to become a servant to you and to me – to the people he created that should be serving him.

We don’t know why a servant wasn’t there to wash the guests’ feet. But regardless no one offered. No one was willing to sacrifice their greatness and play the role of a servant except for the guest of honor.

Jesus did at the dinner table what no one else in the room was willing to do.

Spiritual Metaphors

mcquaid_rideIt’s hard to describe the significance of an encounter with God in such a way for others to fully appreciate the magnitude of the moment.

While cycling home from work today, I was met by the Holy Spirit. He was in the wind that pushed against me, moved with me, and carried me faster – a metaphor of the mission he has called my family and me to in Northern Virginia. When the Spirit of God pushes against me – He strengths me. When the Spirit moves with me – He refreshes me. When the Spirit carries me faster – He empowers me.

On a 47 degree day, when my body is working hard, the wind cools me – just as the Spirit of God cools me as I labor in Jesus’ mission and fight for His cause. May the Spirit of God continue to strengthen, refresh, and empower me in His mission in Northern Virginia as the wind did today on my ride home – a journey that is ultimately taking me to my eternal home!

There is nothing quite as exhilarating and freeing as peddling over 30 miles per hour with the wind to my back – so it is with the Spirit of God.

Free Wheelchair Mission

After viewing the following video, God spoke powerfully to me through a conversation with Michael Bayer the Medical Director and Co-Founder of Free Wheelchair Mission. You’ll want to watch this video prior to reading further.

In most countries when parents have a crippled child, the child is viewed as a curse for their parents’ sin. The parents do most anything they can to change their image in the community by hiding or disposing of their child – their curse. As these Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Islamic children age, they pray to their gods for relief from their shame and condition. When seated in their new wheelchair for the first time, their shame is replaced with joy; life fills their body. In this moment, Michael shares that sitting in their new wheelchair is the image of sitting in God’s loving hands. This loved child of God, then asks, “What god sent you?”

Michael responds, “Jesus did. Let me tell you about Him.”

After talking with Michael, I journaled, “Jesus what do you want me to do? I will do it. Figuratively, what wheelchair do you want me to bring to the people of NOVA? What do you want me to bring to the people living in NOVA that so significantly meets their needs that they ask the question, ‘What god sent you?'”

“Jesus did. Let me tell you about Him.”

 

 

How to study the Bible

This blog post is intended to provide another avenue in studying the Bible. It is called “Dwelling on the Word”. I will use one of my personal God moments with you from 1 Peter 5:1-11 to give an example of how this process works. When you are done reading, practice the discipline of “Dwelling on the Word”.

Before reading 1 Peter 5:1-11, take a moment to (1) ask God transform your life through His word. As you read, (2) underline any phrases that catch your attention. Now take take a few minutes to (3) re-read and reflect on the phrases you underlined. Then (4) answer the following questions for each phrase you underlined:

  • Why did these phrases catch my attention?
  • How does my life presently align with God’s standard?
  • What is God affirming in me?
  • What do I need to repent of?
  • To whom do I need to ask forgiveness?
  • How does God what me to live differently?
  • What can I do today and the remainder of this week to grow in what God just revealed to me?

Note: These questions may change slightly based on the passage you are reading or the phrase that catches you.

For our purposes, I am going to focus one of the three phrases that caught my attention to help you understand how this process works and reveal how God is working in my own life through this passage.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Why did this phrase catch my attention? The parallel between self-control and the ability to stand firm in relationship with Jesus and others caught my attention. It is amazing how self-control enables me to overcome temptation and difficulties, but self-control doesn’t come easily. It comes only by disciplining myself to do what I don’t really want to do.

So am I self-controlled and alert to the temptations and difficulties that have the potential of hurting my relationship with God and others? Well … no. At least not as much as I could be. This verse doesn’t say, “exhibit self-control when it is easy or convenient”. It implies 100 percent of the time.

So what is God affirming in me? Well … I’m definitely not perfect. I still have room for God to grow me, especially when it comes to practicing disciplines that produce self-control. Other people are not my standard for self-control. Jesus is my standard.

So what do I need to repent of? Honestly … speaking harshly to my daughter in moments of frustration and impatience.

Who do I need to ask forgiveness from? My daughter (she is 6).

How does God want me to live differently? God longs for me to communicate my love for her as I patiently affirm her beauty and character while correcting her inappropriate behaviors and attitudes.

What can I do to grow in self-control? I will change the image on my computer desktop to one that shows the beauty and godly character of my daughter. Every time I see this image, which is approximately 20 times per day, I will write down a positive attribute of her beauty or character. Prior to correcting inappropriate behaviors or attitudes I will affirm three of the positive qualities I see in her that I have previously written down. I will practice this discipline for the next 7 days.

By the way, I need accountability on this. So feel free to email me, whether you know me or not, to ask if I am living out what God has taught me? I’ll be honest. You may also want to ask what God is teaching me as I live out this discipline.

Now … What does God want to reveal to you?

To discover more about the role of the Bible in changing our lives, read my blog post titled “Don’t Study the Bible” by clicking here.

 

 

A Short, Annoying Dweeb

ZacchaeusI have always perceived Zacchaeus as a short, annoying dweeb – an image that emerged from my Sunday school experience as a child. Luke, however, communicates a very different picture. Though short, Zacchaeus possessed great wealth, influence, humility, leadership, and a whatever it takes attitude. More importantly, he is pursued by Jesus to be restored to God.

Now that I better understand the true nature of Zacchaeus, I’m curious. Why did Jesus pursue him? Yes, I know the no-brain-er Sunday school answer – to bring him to right relationship with God. But why Zacchaeus? Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd of relationally, emotionally, financially, and physically needy people who like Zacchaeus were spiritual confused. So, why did he choose Zacchaeus? I’m not giving the answer to this one. Instead, I invite you to personally wrestle with the question and determine how Jesus wants to modify your approach to living His mission.

As for me, I’m praying that God introduces me to a modern day Zacchaeus – a wealthy, influential, humble, community leader with a whatever takes attitude, who in his own process of being restored to God, will lavishly offer his wealth and influence to tangibly meet the needs of others.

I believe this relationship is an important part of fulfilling Jesus’ mission as we start a new church and community based organization that exist to restore people to God and others.

God sized dreams

sail-boat.jpgI read this prayer on  Perry Noble‘s blog titled Disturbed.

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little. When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord.” – a prayer by Sir Francis Drake.

This prayer is very fitting to a prayer I wrote in my journal a few months ago. May it always be true in my life.