Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Need to Wash More Often

I was thinking about this the other day: How often do towels need to be laundered? I’m pretty sure the towel I’ve been using lately hasn’t been washed for, well, a while. And whether this is good or bad I don’t know, but I’m okay with it. It’s not like I’m using it to wipe off muddy boots or something.

Actually my wife does most of the laundry in our house, and there’s a good chance that she’s washed this particular towel a time or two without my knowledge. Which leads me to say I’m thankful, very thankful, for all that she does in managing our household affairs. I’ll put it this way: if it were up to me to get the towels washed, the Cubs would have a better chance of winning the World Series before I got around to it.

It’s probably not every day. Just like you don’t have to get your oil changed every day. It wouldn’t hurt anything, and it might be a little helpful to your car’s engine to change it every day. But you can go for a while using the same oil. You can go for a while using the same towel. Three months or three thousand miles sounds about right, whichever comes first.

But you can’t go that long without needing the forgiveness of your sins that Jesus provides. I know that my heart needs to be cleansed daily from the stains of sin. And yours does, too.

Jesus taught this truth to His followers in the familiar account of when He washed the feet of the disciples (John 13). He knew that His hour had come, and on the eve of His crucifixion on the cross Jesus showed them the full extent of His love. He rose from the supper table, laid aside His outer garments, wrapped a towel around His waist, poured water into a basin, began to wash His disciples’ feet and dried them with the towel.

I imagine you could have heard a pin drop. This was not a job for a King. In fact it was usually reserved for the lowest slave on the totem pole to wash the feet of the guests in the home. Surely the thought of any one of the disciples doing this job never entered their minds. They were probably shocked when their Master took on this task. But such is the love and humility of Christ for the world!

But there’s a sudden break in the silence when Jesus gets ready to wash Peter’s feet. Peter blurts out, “Lord, You’re not going to wash my feet, are you?” Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” To which Peter mistakenly answers, “Then, don’t wash just my feet, wash my hands and head, as well.” Jesus then says, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”

What does this curious conversation tell us? Obviously there’s more to it than wiping dust off of a guy’s feet. Jesus is talking about sin and the need to be cleansed from it.

On one hand the footwashing symbolizes the cleansing that is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. The old hymn says it well: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” It was during that supper later that Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to His followers, saying “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). Jesus death on the cross washes our sins away. Unless we’ve come to Him in repentance and faith to receive this cleansing for our sins, then we have no part with Him, we do not belong to Him and have no salvation.

Jesus then applies this footwashing in another way. Peter wanted the full works deal, but the Lord told him he was already clean. He had already been bathed, that is forgiven, saved and justified by God’s grace through his faith. He didn’t need to be saved again from sin’s penalty, but He did need to be cleansed from sin’s staining effects from walking along dusty roads. The full bathing pictures being born again, while the need to wash regularly symbolizes forgiveness for ongoing sinful actions.

The good news is that you can be cleansed from your sins today, friend. If you’re already saved, you don’t need to be resaved, but you do need to keep coming to Christ for the forgiveness and cleansing He offers. Three months or three thousand miles is too long to wait. If you’re not saved, you need the bath of confessing your sins and turning your life over to Christ as Savior and Lord. Why not receive Him today?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trusting God in Uncertain Times

To say that we are living in uncertain times might be the understatement of the year. “Uncertain” hardly captures what’s going on.

Just a quick look at national world events shows how volatile our situation is. Who’s ready to trust Iran or North Korea with nuclear weapons? How many peace treaties signed by Middle Eastern countries make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? How many mothers are praying for their sons’ safety in places like Afghanistan today?

What do you make of the recent wave of earthquakes that have taken hundreds of thousands of lives and caused destruction and displacement for countless others? Where do you suppose the next one will hit? Who knows what’s going on with this volcanic eruption in Iceland, and what the fallout will be?

When will our national economic crisis be over? How many more people will lose their jobs, their homes, their investments and retirement savings? What’s going to happen to our country economically down the road as a result of the huge government bailouts and stimulus packages?

Does anybody know what to make of the passage of the healthcare reforms? What changes will this mean for the way medicine is practiced? How will this affect the care you receive from your doctor?

The uncertainties of our day not only appear on the national and international stage, but they also show up in our personal relationships. How many children will go to bed tonight worried that their parents are going to get divorced? How many wives will go to bed worried whether or not their husbands will even come home? How many widows will go to bed after yet another day when the phone never rang and no one came over?

How many parents wonder how in the world one child turns out to be a fine, productive citizen while their other one ends up in jail? And how many parents only wish their child would end up in jail so at least they’d know where he is, rather than being strung out on drugs and sleeping under a bridge in the middle of some city?

We are living in uncertain times. Have you ever noticed that life doesn’t always work out exactly like you’d planned? Does it seem that God is distant, unavailable or unconcerned, or maybe non-existent? It’s easy to become frustrated, discouraged, anxious and depressed when the uncertainties of life begin to multiply.

So what’s the answer? How should we live in the midst of uncertain times?

The answer is this: Trust in the Lord. Sounds too simple, I know, but it’s true. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Even though the uncertain circumstances of life may seem overwhelming, God is still in control. He’s a pretty big God, in case you haven’t noticed.

If He is able to speak the creation into existence and sustain all things by the word of His power, don’t you think He’s able to carry you through if you’ll trust Him? And if He’s demonstrated His love by giving up His Son Jesus on the cross, don’t you think He’ll graciously give you whatever you need if you’ll trust Him? And if two sparrows are sold for a penny yet not one falls to the ground apart from the will of our Father in heaven, then don’t you think that to Him you are worth more than many sparrows, and that there’s nothing to be afraid of if you’ll trust Him?

Trusting God doesn’t mean that everything will work out like you want it to. One writer says it this way: “Authentic faith isn’t intense, religious positive thinking that is intended to produce a certain outcome. Biblical faith means that we trust in God. Period. Not in a particular result. Not in a happy ending. Faith simply means that we trust Him, knowing that whatever the outcome may be, life will still be okay because He is in control” (Steve McVey, GraceVine, March/April 2010).

Proverbs 3:5-6 says it best, and says it all for those who long for a solid place to stand when the uncertainties of life try to shake your faith: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life Is Hard; God is our Refuge

I’m not saying life’s situations are not difficult, sometimes extremely difficult, but what I am saying is that there is a God who will bear your burdens if you give them over to Him.

I can’t even tell you exactly how it works. There’s no magical formula, no special prayer, no routine to follow, nor any hoops to jump through. There’s just Jesus – a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus, who loved you enough to take the nails for you on the cross. Jesus, whom death itself could not contain, for He conquered the grave and rose in triumphant and glorious victory when He broke the chains of sin and death by rising from the dead and now lives forevermore.

Yes, life is hard. I know that. Maybe not to the extent that you know it. You may be dealing with broken relationships that have left you scarred for life. You may be struggling with an addiction that’s eating you up from the inside out. You may have bitterness and anger from decades ago that’s robbing you of the enjoyment of life.

Life is hard, it’s true. You may be traumatized from an abusive relationship. You may be wondering where your next meal will come from. Your body may be in such pain that you don’t even want to – or can’t – get out of bed in the morning.

Who ever said life would be easy? You may be feeling like the whole world has turned against you. You may be all alone without a single friend who really knows you. You may be so depressed you’re thinking about ending it all.

Or perhaps all your troubles have been your own doing. You may be drowning in guilt over something you’ve done to someone. You may be reeling in regret over some terrible things you’ve said to somebody. You may be cut off from those you love because of your own attitude and actions.

Life is hard. Adam and Eve sure messed things up for everybody when they fell for Satan’s lie. And we sure haven’t done much better since.

Is there any hope? Is there any way out? Can anybody help me? Is there anyone who really cares about me?

The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes! You may have some big problems, but God is a pretty big God. You may have some mountain-sized troubles, but God is a mountain-moving God!

Here’s what He says to you today, and listen closely: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Do you doubt the love God has for you? Look to the cross and see! Do you wonder whether or not He is able to deal with your situation? Look at the stone that’s rolled away from the tomb! Do you question whether or not life is worth living? Look to His Word and know that Jesus has said, “In me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!

Friend, if you will come humbly before the Lord, casting all your cares upon Him, then somehow, someway He will prove His care for you and at the right time in the right way He will exalt you. In Him there is forgiveness of sins, cleansing and restoration. In Him there is a living and abiding hope. In Him there is peace that passes all understanding. In Him there is joy unspeakable. In Him there is life – new life – abundant and eternal!

I pray that you will come humbly to Jesus right now, repenting of your sin and receiving Him as your Savior and Lord. And I pray that you’ll rejoice in the Lord always and give thanks in all things. Not all your troubles will automatically go away, but you will have an anchor for your soul that will hold, steadfast and immovable, no matter how hard the storms may blow. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Pr. 18:10).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wiper Blade Musings

I guess you’ve got to be smarter than the blade. For some reason I cannot figure out how to get my new wiper blade put on the arm correctly. Maybe I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box. I just hope it doesn’t rain soon.

The last time it rained I couldn’t help but notice that the wipers weren’t doing their job very well. At least on the driver’s side, right in the middle of my line of sight, of course. Why is it never the passenger’s side blade that goes bad, way up toward the top of the windshield, or maybe down low, where it doesn’t effect your vision?

So I’m driving during our last big rain and I’m hunching down in the seat as much as I can to try to get better visibility. That gets pretty uncomfortable after a while. Then I try to sit up as straight and tall as I can to look over the streak that’s left blurry by the faulty wiper, but that’s not easy either.

Finally I pulled into O’Reilly’s and bought a new blade. Since it was still raining pretty hard I didn’t bother trying to install it right then. Now, my wife tells me that when she’s gone in before to buy a new wiper blade, they put it on for her right then and there! They didn’t even ask me if I would like for them to install it. Probably because it was raining. Or maybe because they figure guys ought to know how to install a stupid wiper blade by themselves!

Well, I’ve got some news for O’Reilly’s. Some guys don’t! And I’m one of them!

Come to think of it, there are quite a lot of household projects and automotive and lawnmower repair jobs that I’m not real adept at handling. Amy’s pretty well figured out after 16 plus years of marriage that if it needs fixing, she’s better off asking my 10-year-old son to do it than me. Otherwise it might just have to wait until one of our dads comes down for a visit. We usually seem to stockpile a list of things for them to do while they’re here. Or if the need is urgent, we have a handy neighbor and a couple of skilled laborers in the church who generously come to our rescue.

So I admit there are some things I’m just not good at. And this article lacks sufficient space to fully exegete that truth! But there is one thing that I hope to do well: To live a Christ-like life and to preach a Christ-centered gospel. OK, that’s two. I’m not much good at math, either.

I may not know how to put on a new wiper blade, but I want to know how to live a Christ-like life. I want to know how to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). I want to know how to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14).

I may not know how to put on a new belt for my lawnmower, but I want to know how to “Put on the full armor of God so that [I] can take [my] stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11). I want to know how to “put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12) and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14).

And I want to know how to preach a Christ-centered gospel. The apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth describes his ministry like this: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). That’s the kind of “know nothing” I want to be! If the only thing I know well is the story of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion for our sins and His resurrection victory over the grave, so be it.

So, the message is clear: let your wife take the car in to get a new wiper blade!

But the real message is clearer: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This past Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross provides forgiveness for our sins, and whose resurrection provides the promise of everlasting life. The promise is for “whosoever believeth in Him.” Does your life reflect a heart that’s believing in Jesus?