In the Book of Luke chapter 22:24-27 we read these words.
Luke 22:24 The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest. 25 So Jesus told them: Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends. 26 But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant. 27 Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant.
I want to get a glimpse of what is happening here. Jesus had been with the disciples for over three years. They had witnessed His many miracles, heard His teachings and been privy to many of the intimate unknown messages He delivered and modeled. Jesus was with the disciples in the upper room celebrating the Jewish Passover, but He was instituting the first Holy Communion. He took the bread, broke it, gave His Father thanks and explained to those gathered around Him that His body would soon be broken just like a loaf of bread is broken in half to eat. It was a powerful metaphor but it left the disciples with the familiar “deer in the headlights” look on their faces. Then Jesus took the cup, gave God thanks and praise and told the disciples that the cup represented His blood. His blood was going to pool on the ground under the cross for the sins of humankind. Through His sacrifice He was going to establish a new and everlasting covenant between humankind and God. But the disciples were clueless! They didn’t get it! I’m not so sure I would have either. How about you?
Instead of putting two and two together they were only focused on themselves. It was all about them! In this Scripture, Jesus is talking about saving the world and they’re fighting over who would be the greatest! Have you ever heard the phrase, “a box of rocks?” Jesus knew that it was time for extreme measures. All of the on the job training they had had over the past three years was getting ready to disappear into oblivion. It was still all about them! Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and as He knelt down to wash the disciple’s feet. I can’t help but wonder what was going through their minds. I can only image the silence that must have taken over the room. “What in the world is He doing?” “He’s not supposed to do that!” “That job is for the servant of the homeowner to do!” “Jesus is our King … not our maid!”
Jesus continued that night to individually go to each disciple, humble Himself and wash their feet as the master’s servant would normally do. Jesus had just shared a meal with them, but now He was on His knees washing their feet. As He continued going from one to another, He finally came to the stubborn one, Peter. “You’ll not wash my feet Jesus!” “You’re the King!” I wonder if Peter actually thought that Jesus had momentarily forgotten who He was? Ridiculous! But then Jesus stuns Peter with a rebuttal that should send shivers down our spines. “Unless you allow Me to wash your feet, you will have nothing to do with Me!” Could it really be that Jesus was serious? What Jesus was essentially saying to Peter and to us is that unless we allow God in human form to serve us, we can never be forgiven and be in an eternal relationship with Him. God has to serve Humankind in order to accomplish His will. Think about it!
As a believer in Jesus, I have to allow God the opportunity to do His work. And God chooses to work as a servant in many cases. In this scenario, one had to accept that “It was not about you” in order to comply with Jesus’ request to serve in love. You had to give it up, to let loose, to throw away, to trample upon our own sense of pride, arrogance and self-worth as the King of Kings kneels down to wash our feet. Humility and Lordship mixed perfectly!
NOTE TO SELF: Let Him work, I can’t do it myself
As a Christian you will always find opposition just as Jesus did. There will always be those that chose not to believe in the Scriptures and how they represent God and His character. Even in the church today we find this. Currently the United Methodist Church is struggling and striving over various issues of lifestyle. Questions surface in this debate like; “Isn’t God a loving God?” “Would God really exclude someone from a loving relationship with Himself?” “If so, is God’s word still relevant in the culture today?”
TRUST seems to be the heart of the issue. Do we really take God at face value and trust in Him or not? Do we really believe that He can dictate His Word for humankind and deliver it to us in the Holy Scriptures? Do we believe that His Word is timeless and still applies to life today? If we really trust Him how can we deny what His Word declares? Does not trust in God mean trusting in something that we do not comprehend or necessarily agree with? In the Garden of Gethsemane didn’t Jesus say “Not what I will … but what You will?” How about us?
Realize this: opposition will come from good hearted well-meaning people that firmly believe in what they are upholding. For the most part they are not evil or trying to undermine God’s Word, but are people that have been misled, just like in the garden of Eden when Satan asked; “did God really say not to eat from that tree?” Hence, the introduction of doubt! Is it possible that many of the disputes in the church today and in our personal lives are simply based on a lack of faith and trust?
You see trust in God does not come by way of complete understanding, He is incomprehensible. His ways are much higher than ours. Trust only comes when we are willing to accept what He says to us and to let it settle in our hearts as in the heart of a trusting little child. Jesus asked the father to forgive those that were persecuting Him because they didn’t know what they were doing … so what’s changed… nothing that I see …
NOTE TO SELF: I’m as guilty as those that persecuted Jesus, trust in what God has said, not on my own understanding … even when I don’t like what He said …
I was attending a large contemporary church in Grand Rapids Michigan. At the time I was also heavily involved in a Prison Ministry. Every month, volunteers would meet at my house for a pizza party and stuff over 1,000 envelopes with Christian materials that were being mailed throughout the country. This was tedious work, and after several years the number of volunteers started to dwindle. So I told the staff at the church that I was looking for more volunteers.
One Sunday after the worship service a very disheveled lady approached me as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee. “I would like to volunteer.” “Excuse me” I said, “What do you want to do?” “I want to help with your prison ministry, you know, mailing your letters!” Grace was a middle aged woman with some staggering physical issues. She was extremely overweight and her clothes looked like she had drooled all over the front of them and then slept in them. Grace appeared to have a great deal of emotional baggage also and frankly, I wasn’t sure I could trust her to do what needed to be done. The blouse she was wearing had food stains all down the front of it and her shoes were worn out and muddy. But there was more, Grace had problems speaking. She would stutter and stumble over her thoughts and at times seemed to be unaware of all that was going on around her.
I explained to Grace that each month there were almost a thousand envelopes that needed to be stuffed and over five thousand sheets of paper that needed to be folded. A daunting task! “OK,” she said. At this point my chin was dragging on the floor picking up crumbs from the table next to me! Was this really God’s answer to my prayers for help?
I decided that I would box up all of the materials for the next mailing and take them to her house and just see what happened. This is ridiculous I thought! She looks like she can hardly take care of herself much less stuff all these envelops and keep it all straight! But…. whatever!
The following week I had a hard time finding the address that she had given me. When I finally found the address I thought I must be on the wrong planet! The house at that street address looked like it was condemned! As I made my way through the debris splattered yard I felt a sense of shame. My house was very nice, but this one was a mess! Could this really be where she lives? As the door opened there was Grace. This time she had on a different dress but it still had the tell-tale food stains flowing down the front of it. “Oh man, what am I getting myself into?” I thought. As I went through the door the reality of Grace’s world struck me. It was a barren room, with a large TV blaring. There was an unfriendly smell of stale food and mold, and the place looked like a hurricane had gone through it! Was I going to leave my precious prison ministry materials with her?
But then I met the source of her dilemma, her children. Grace was the mother of two severely autistic Children. The television was their source of engagement with the world. As the children would move around through the house they would always end up back at the TV. When it came to meals, the stains were tell-tale signs of trying to get her severely handicapped children to eat. As I made my way into her world, further and further I questioned if she would be the best choice with which to leave such responsibility. I had to make a decision: is God the captain or not, was it about me or God? Immediately the children were drawn to the new obstacles that were in their way. Boxes of letters, envelopes and stamps. What have I done!
Grace was a woman that faced daily challenges I rarely had ever considered. And as her name implies, she did it with grace! In her own way, Grace wanted to follow the calling that Christ had placed on her heart. She was already caring for her family as best as she could, but she felt God calling her to help with the prison ministry. It was a humbling experience that day to walk out of her house realizing what challenges I would face that week compared to hers. And she still wanted to answer the call of God on her life! In reality, God was her captain!
For many months Grace did a fantastic job! The envelopes were stuffed and organized, placed in the mailing trays properly and always ready to go at the agreed upon time. Grace was truly a measure of God’s grace in my life. Wow, did I learn a lot about myself, God and others through that experience!
NOTE TO SELF: Stop judging others, let God do His thing!
In any walk of holiness and communion with God there is the inevitable reality of mutiny. As I understand the story of Satan and one third of the angels being kicked out of heaven, I see the human tendency towards mutiny against God. Maybe its pride or selfishness but the problem is there. I can go along for a while but eventually I want to call the shots and make my own decisions. After all I have intelligence, wisdom and the ability to reason. I am an intelligent person, with wisdom and can do for myself.
11 The LORD's word came to me: 12 Human one, sing a lament for the king of Tyre. Say to him, The LORD God proclaims: You were full of wisdom and beauty, the image of perfection. 13 You were in Eden, God's garden. You were covered with gold and every precious stone: carnelian, topaz, and moonstone; beryl, onyx, and jasper; lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald. On the day that you were created, finely crafted pendants and engravings were prepared. 14 You, a winged creature, were installed as a guardian. I placed you in God's holy mountain where you walked among the stones of fire. 15 From the day you were created until injustice was found in you, your ways were assured. 16 But because of your trade, your oppressive business practices piled up, and you became impure. So I expelled you from God's mountain. I removed you, winged creature, guardian, from among the stones of fire. 17 You exalted yourself because of your beauty and corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I will cast you down to the earth in the sight of kings, and I will make a spectacle of you. 18 Because of your corrupt trade, which surpassed your many other sins, you made your sanctuaries impure. Therefore, I will bring fire from your midst. When it has consumed you, I will turn you into dust on the earth in the sight of all who see you. 19 Everyone among the peoples who knows you will be appalled because of you. You will become a terror. From that time on, you will be nothing.
This scripture account is a difficult one to understand. The story is about the fall of Satan from Heaven and God’s presence. Satan had become filled with pride because of who he was and his beauty. Basically, Satan was “full of himself!” He had a “tie-tac” too!
It appears from the story that there is only room for one on the throne of Heaven. In fact not just one but the Holy One! This story illustrates for me that regardless of how special we are, God is the only One that is supreme. Nothing is greater than He is, not even me! So back to the question at hand; is God my captain or not? AARRRGGG!
NOTE TO SELF: Joe, get over yourself
Things are insane right now! The whole world is in utter chaos! Just today I read that Climate Change is fueling wildfires in the western states, as well as creating massive hurricanes. So far we have seen 20 different hurricanes, and the meteorologist are running short on names! Sea levels continue to rise year after year as the ice caps melt, while the government talks and talks and talks…
Yesterday the UN issued a 411-page report on the crimes against humanity involving the leadership of Venezuela. Every day we see tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases in the USA, and learn about over 130 different vaccines being developed and tested. Nothing yet! The economy is so bad that the Federal Reserve is leaving the interest rate at near 0%, after all no one has any money. School has started back, but corona virus has terminated anything that was considered normal, and today I need to start thinking about what Christmas services will look like this year. I wonder if people will decorate their mask like reindeer?
God, what are we supposed to do?
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
I remember when I worked for Ford Motor Company in the early 1980s. I was one of many young hires working in the Customer Service Department answering phones. This was awesome! I had hit it big! I had a college degree behind me, a new job with a prestigious car manufacturer, and a big enough ego to have kept the Titanic afloat. After all, I had worked hard to gain my education and the world was now my playground. Ford Motor Company was lucky to have me, or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
Back then it was important for me to look the part of a young aspiring business executive. I had to wear the right clothes, the right jewelry and more than anything I had to portray the right attitude. My life at that time … was very much all about me!
As I climbed the corporate ladder I wasn’t concerned about anyone but myself. I started competing with the others in my office for position and income. I had to “look” professional and “act” like I had the entire corporation at my fingertips. This included my family and even more, God.
One day, I made a special trip to the mall to shop for the perfect “tie-tac!” I wanted one that was gold, not too gaudy and looked like a million dollars but cost less than ten. The next morning as I adorned myself with this trinket, I remember looking into the mirror feeling like I was Henry Ford himself. I was quite impressed!
Today more than thirty years has passed. Just a few days ago I was cleaning out my dresser when I stumbled across that same tie-tac. It was cheap looking, and the diamond in the center was so small that I could hardly see it, I’m sure there is one in there. Somehow my ego back then must have magnified it to the enormous proportion I remember. At Ford, it was all about me!
As a believer in Christ I have to accept that my life is no longer my own. My life now belongs to Jesus! It’s what I call the “volunteer Indian-giver.” Jesus created my life and gave it to me freely but now I have a choice, to hold onto it for my selfish gain or to return it to Christ for His plans and purpose. The right thing to do is to return it, but the miracle is that when I return it I am blessed tenfold. There is much more blessing, contentment and joy in living a Christ-centered life than a Joe-centered one!
NOTE TO SELF: Lose the “tie-tac”
Let’s settle this once and for all! Is God the captain of your ship (life) or are you? In the world we live in we have become use to directing our own lives. We look out for our own interest and our own long-term wellbeing. We have things like Life Insurance that protect us and our families when someone dies. This caring for our well-being is not sprinkled down from heaven by God, we have to do it! We have to set up the insurance policies, make the monthly payments and follow through when they come to term or when someone actually dies. God’s not doing this, I am, and quite frankly I like it this way! No one looks after number one like number one! Right?
I like it when God sends me information like the GPS in my phone. When to turn, how many miles to go and what time I will arrive. I like it when God looks ahead and watches for roadblocks or dangerous curves. As a Christian I say that God is my Captain and my life is His, but in reality, I struggle with this application. I am like Peter sinking in the waves as I watch myself and my surroundings instead of focusing on Jesus. Of course, there is another possibility; God is my Co-Captain!
A co-captain is someone I can listen to or not. I can argue my point without giving in to directions on a particular subject. A co-captain is an equal and a brother-in-arms. But as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ I have to submit my life, my will to the lordship of Jesus. I can’t argue my points but instead embrace the divine direction and judgement of Jesus. Can I do that? Will I ever do that? God will You help me do that, or am I doomed to a life of sober mediocracy?
NOTE TO SELF: Chose God … even when you don’t want to
In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, he opens with a challenging statement, “It’s Not About You!” Those four words represent one of the most difficult principles one could ever hope to apply to their life in some degree. In a way, those words seem very foreign in a world of immediate gratification and self-centeredness. After all I can go to Burger King and “have it my way,” I can order a new car with the equipment that I chose to have or I can make hundreds of personal selections as I walk through Walmart shopping. Regardless, in 21st Century America, we can have it our way!
For Christian believers today, these words are extremely difficult to apply to our daily lives. I vote for the candidate I want, I chose the place I will live and I literally make thousands of choices for myself every hour of every day. How can this life not be about me? Maybe Rick Warren means something else? Perhaps the meaning of this perplexing statement is hidden in the agenda I have for my life. After all God gave me this life, right? God surely isn’t an “Indian-giver” is He? “Have your life but give it back to Me!” “Aaarrrg!” I don’t think so.
One of the principles Christians wrestle with in this statement of Rick Warren’s is the concept of our lives being blessed by giving up dominion over them. Or put another way it is the idea that we receive tremendous joy and contentment by living for God and not ourselves. But there are problems with that. I still humanly want my own way and don’t like being told what to do! After all, my idea of fun and fulfillment is probably different than God’s! Can the two co-exist and bring Godly fruit? Even more, does it really matter?
NOTE TO SELF: I’m not done with this question yet!