Wednesday, April 29, 2015


                There was a time when it was possible for men to have close male friends and women to have close female friends without the expectation of sex hanging over their heads. Somewhere along the way, we have reduced love to sexual intimacy. I have heard a number of politicians and public figures say that no one has the right to tell you who you can love. What they are saying is a half-truth with a hidden agenda. We are free to love anyone who is willing to receive our love. But what these people are really saying is, no one has the right to tell me who I can have sex with. That is a very different thing.

                In our sex-crazed society, we have elevated sex as the only true expression of love. If I cannot have sex with a person, then I cannot truly love them. This is a logical fallacy and a dangerous one at that. For example, I can have deep love for my children, but it is totally unacceptable for me to have sex with them. My point is not that sex is not a part of expressing our love, but that sex is not the only way to express our love, or even the best way.

                The Bible tells us that we are to love one another. It is one of the highest virtues of a godly life. In fact, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he responded by pointing us to love.
 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

                Later, Jesus told his disciples that love was to be the distinguishing feature of their lives. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

                Much later, Peter emphasized the importance for us to carry out Jesus’ command to love one another. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

                Love is so much broader and deeper than having sexual relations with a person. In fact, without genuine love, sexual relations becomes meaningless. The kind of love that Jesus called for is sacrificial and others-centered. It is being willing to give ourselves away for the good of the other person. Paul defined genuine love in 1 Corinthians 13.

                Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

                All of these qualities can be lived out in a relationship without sex being thrown into the mix. The Bible is very clear that God has placed boundaries around sexual intimacy for our good. Sexual intimacy was designed to be shared between a man and a woman, in the context on marriage. It serves the purpose of creating a bond between a man and a woman, within the context of pro-creation. Of course, sexual intimacy is not limited to having babies. It can, in the right context, create a strong emotional and spiritual bond.

                When we dislodge sexual intimacy from the boundaries that God has set, we turn it into something far less that God intended. It becomes an insatiable appetite that begins to control us. Sex becomes an end in itself. We can see this in the proliferation of pornography and sexual abuse.

                Loving another person, whether the same gender or not, is not ultimately about sex. We can deeply love others without sex being in the equation at all. Genuine love is about sharing life to the fullest, within the boundaries that God has established. Just being friends is in fact one of the highest forms of love. It is freely sharing life, without expecting something in return.

                 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:9-13


Tuesday, April 28, 2015


                I was watching a British detective show, Inspector Lewis, on PBS last night. The story centered around the issue of homosexuality and the church. The Christians were depicted as stuffy, closed, spiteful people. The gays were depicted as loving and compassionate. Because of the influence of a church program, a young, gay man committed suicide. This led to a series of related murders, as each of the Christians was eliminated. Near the end of the story, Sergeant Hathaway reveals that he was, in part, responsible for this young man’s suicide. The two had been friends when Hathaway was studying to become a priest. The young man had come to Hathaway for advice regarding his homosexuality. Hathaway had told him that he would be condemned for his sin. Because of that encounter, Hathaway left seminary and went into police work.

                I came away from that show feeling discouraged. I was discouraged because of the way the Christians were depicted. But, I was even more discouraged, because Hathaway had spoken the truth, but in a way that caused harm, instead of healing. Neither side in this scenario were virtuous. Both sides were vindictive and abrasive. Yet the Christians came off as the real villains.

                It raises the issue for me of how do we speak the truth in love? That phrase is taken from Ephesians 4. To understand what it means, we need to look at it in its context.

                 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
                 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16

                If we are going to speak the truth in love, we need to first become spiritually mature. It is the job of the church to train and equip people in Christ-like living. This is based on the solid foundation of the truth of the gospel and a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Too often, we settle for a superficial, naïve faith, rather than a full, deep faith. We teach simple, Sunday School answers to complex issues, which may make us feel good, but fail to connect with the real world around us. A true sign of maturity is being able to deal appropriately with complex issues.

                If we are going to speak the truth in love, we need to understand our culture. Many Christians today are confused, frightened and disoriented by our culture. For good reason, they see it as a threat to our faith. Yet, we are bombarded by skillfully created publicity programs that obscure the core issues and put Christians on the defense. Many people, who are marginal in their faith, or have no faith at all, are swayed by these slick public opinion campaigns. We need godly discernment to understand how to approach people with understanding and compassion.

                If we are going to speak the truth in love, we need to see people through Jesus’ eyes. Jesus never wavered on the truth, yet treated everyone with respect and compassion. He was able to address significant and difficult issues head on, because people trusted Him. They knew that He genuinely loved them, so they were willing to listen when He spoke. If we want people to listen to us, we need to demonstrate that we genuinely care about them. Instead of attacking them, we need to come along side of them and love them in the name of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that we excuse their sin or soft-pedal the issues. It does mean that we approach the issues with compassion, instead of anger.

                No matter what we do, if we speak the truth, people will be offended and fight against us. We can choose to be aggressive and argumentative, which might make us feel righteous, but will only build higher walls. Or, we can choose to speak the truth in love. We will not tear down all the walls, but we will also not add bricks to the top layer. The way that we approach those who disagree with us will either close the door of communication or open a door of dialog.

                Paul’s instructions to the Colossians is still a good game plan for us today. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


                Do you see your faith as an integral component of every part of your life or as a separate compartment of your life, distinct from other compartments, such as work, home, leisure, etc.? I raise this question because our culture today fosters the later and discourages the former. We live in a culture that increasingly marginalizes and compartmentalizes faith. It is OK for you to be a follower of Jesus, as long as it is a private experience, and does not intrude on other aspects of life.

                The Bible gives us a very different view of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our faith in Christ is intended to permeate, infiltrate and transform every aspect of our lives. It becomes the standard upon which we measure success, fulfillment, purpose and meaning. Our faith is not to be a hobby we indulge in our free time. It is to be the foundation upon which we build all of life.

                In Paul’s letters to both the Colossians and the Ephesians, he challenges them to step up to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He calls them to live a life worthy of their faith in Christ. Paul did not just set before them a theoretical ideal. He gave them some solid guidelines of what living a life worthy of Christ looks like.

                 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

                Let us unpack this passage and see if we can discover some practical steps we can take to step up to our call as followers of Jesus.

- Seek to understand God’s will for you.
                Paul prayed that the Colossians would know God’s will through spiritual wisdom and understanding. We have turned “God’s will” into something complicated and very specific. We tend to think of God’s will in terms of what job should I take? Where should I live? Who should I marry? These are not unimportant questions, but they miss the point. Jesus summarized God’s will for all of us in two straight forward commands: Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. We need wisdom and understanding to know how to do this. God’s will is not primarily about being in the right place at the right time. It is primarily having the right attitude wherever you are.

- Strive to live a life worthy of Christ.
                Decades ago it was popular for Christians to wear a WWJD bracelet. It stood for “what would Jesus do?” It quickly became a meaningless cliché. But the idea behind it was correct. As we live our lives, we should try to see things through Jesus’ eyes. How would you act, in a particular situation, if Jesus was physically standing beside you? Then act that way. We honor or dishonor Christ by the way we live out our daily lives.

- Bear fruit through good works.
                What Paul is saying here is that we need to strive to be productive in all that we do. We honor God by bearing good fruit. That fruit takes many forms, but it is most commonly seen in how we interact with others. So in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul defines what Christ-like, good fruit looks like. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

- Get to know God better.
                The way that we build a significant relationship with another person is by truly getting to know them. We have to move beyond a superficial knowledge to a more intimate knowledge. This is accomplished through spending time with that person, sharing experiences, and doing life together. So it is with God. If we are truly going to step up to our calling in Christ, we need to cultivate a deep relationship with God through Bible study, prayer, worship and service.

- Learn to persevere.
                Perseverance is the ability to keep going when the going gets rough. It is the quality to sets marathon runners apart from sprinters. The Christian life is a spiritual marathon, yet we often approach it as a sprint. If we are going to step up to our calling in Christ, we need to learn to keep pushing forward and not give up the race. Our faith is refined through godly perseverance in the face of trials. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4    

- Cultivate a thankful spirit.
                In our self-absorbed culture, genuine gratitude is in low supply. When we think that we deserve the best in life, we are not thankful for what we receive. We either complain that it isn’t enough, or we take it as something we are owed. Paul challenges us to remember that we were slaves to sin and death, until Christ rescued us. All of life is a gift from his hand. He owes us nothing, yet he has given us everything. We of all people should be overflowing with gratitude.

                Most of us are guilty of stepping aside and allowing the prevailing culture to lead the way; to shape our lives. It is time for us to step up to our calling in Christ. It is time to take control of our lives and live lives worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


                What does it mean for us to be Christ-like in our everyday lives? When Christ walked the dusty paths of Palestine, people from every background and every walk of life were drawn to him. He had a magnetic personality. Today, it seems that the poles of our magnet have been reversed, and instead of attracting people, we are repelling them. People today dislike openly religious people. The football player, Tim Tebow has become a whipping boy, in part, because of his strong Christian beliefs. Religious leaders are looked upon with suspicion, because of the failure of some. I read this morning of a US Catholic Bishop who has resigned from his post, because he covered up the sexual abuse committed by one of his priests. What does it mean for us to be Christ-like in our world; to be genuine spiritual influencers?

                The Bible talks much about living out our faith in Christ-like ways. We often think of these instructions in the context of the church body. This is how we should act toward one another. That is very true. It should be a hallmark of every church. But, sometimes, we fail to see the application of these truths to our everyday lives. I want to look closely at two passages of scripture that can guide us in being better spiritual influencers in our everyday world.

                First, let us examine Colossians 4:2-6. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

                Here are some practical steps we can take that come right out of this passage.
- Intentionally and insightfully pray for your workplace, co-workers, neighborhood, etc. Pray for their success, their well-being, and their spiritual lives. Be observant about what is going on and take those things to the Lord.
- Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel in appropriate ways. This includes having the discernment to know when the time is right, and the courage to speak up.
- Be a student of your culture. Instead of being distant from those around you, try to understand who they are and why they act the way they do. See yourself as a missionary in a foreign culture trying to penetrate the culture for the cause of Christ.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to be a positive influence in another person’s life. Encourage the discouraged. Celebrate with those who are rejoicing. Lend a hand to those who are struggling.
- Fill your conversation with grace. This includes the tone of your voice as well as the words that you use. Be the kind of person others like to talk with, not the one people avoid.
- Do your part to make people thirsty for Christ. Don’t be pushy about your faith, but also don’t be afraid to define your life by and through your faith. Show people the transforming power of God’s love by the way you interact with others.
                The second passage is Ephesians 4:29-32. The passage gives us some very specific actions we can take to be a genuine spiritual influencer in our everyday world. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

- Make your speech positive, not negative. As James reminds us, the hardest thing for us to control is our tongue. Think before your speak. Ask yourself if what you are about to say is helpful or hurtful. It is better to remain silent, then to be drawn into the hurtful gossip that often permeates the workplace.
- Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We think of the Holy Spirit guiding us in worship and Bible study, but often fail to see Him guiding us in decisions and actions at work. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we act as if He is not a present reality in our lives.
- Actively eliminate negative attitudes and behaviors. Paul’s list seems rather severe, but the things he lists are all too common in our everyday world. They start with the attitude of our heart, and emerge in our words and actions. As we become aware of these negative character traits, rather than excuse them, we need to work to eliminate them.
- Actively install positive attitudes and actions. We all learned in science class that nature abhors a vacuum. If there is an empty space, something will rush to fill it. It is not enough for us to try to eliminate negative attitudes and behaviors. We need to fill those spaces with positive alternatives. Paul focuses on three critical character traits that really can make us Christ-like: kindness, compassion and forgiveness. We have received these from Christ, now we can give them to others.

                It is not easy living a Christ-like life in our world. People will take advantage of you. People will misunderstand you. People will make fun of you. But, remember that ultimately what matters is not the opinion of others. What ultimately matters is the opinion of Christ. So as Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24,Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.


Friday, April 17, 2015


                Two men were walking along a path in the woods. The first man walked with his head down, staring at the ground before him. As he walked, he complained about the path. It was too dusty and rutted. It was full of rocks that hurt his feet and roots that tripped him and caused him to stumble. The second man walked with his head held high. As he walked, his eyes were scanning the trees and the sky. He celebrated the beauty of the day. He rejoiced in the way that the rays of the sun filtered through the leaves of the trees, bathing the path in soft green light. He marveled at the birds soaring in the sky and the squirrels skittering along the branches of the trees. Both men were in exactly the same environment, but with very different experiences.

                Our attitude shapes the way we view life. If we have a positive attitude, we will approach life positively. If we have a negative attitude, we will approach life negatively. Our attitude affects more than just our emotions. It affects our physical and spiritual health.

                Recent studies among elderly people discovered that a person’s attitude toward aging dramatically affects their experience. Senior adults who see getting older as becoming useless, helpless or devalued were less likely to seek preventative medical care, more likely to suffer memory loss and poor physical functioning, and more likely to die earlier. Senior adults who viewed getting old as a time of wisdom, self-realization, and satisfaction functioned at a significantly higher level. They were 44% more likely to fully recover from a physical set back and, on average, lived 7.5 years longer than their peers.

                Long before researchers began studying the effects of our attitude, the Bible instructed us to raise our mental sights to a higher level. We are encouraged to adjust our attitude to reflect our gratitude and commitment to God. We are called to elevate our thinking above the circumstances of life and see the one who transcends those circumstances.

                It is not surprising that we live in a world filled with discouragement and depression. In the Western world, we are experiencing the highest standards of living in human history, yet we are depressed. The reason is that when we leave God out of the equation, when there is no transcendent truth that goes beyond our physical world, there is no hope. If life is a closed system, as some believe, then life is reduced to an equation of diminishing returns.
                The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a different perspective on life. Life ceases to be closed ended and diminishing, and becomes open ended and expanding. The promise of Christ is eternal life. That does not just mean long life, it means full and fulfilling life. In Colossians 3:1-2 Paul encourages us to stop focusing on a finite world and start celebrating our new life in Christ. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

                What we choose to focus on shapes our perspective and our attitude. What we focus on becomes a filter through which we see all of life. If we focus on all of the negative things going on in our world, the world becomes a very dark and scary place. We become discouraged and defeated. Our negative attitude effectively blocks out all the positive things in our world. Yet, stop and think. Is everything in the world bad, dark, foreboding? NO! There is beauty, compassion, kindness, creativity all around us, if we have the eyes to see it. Paul challenges us to do that very thing. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

                The default attitude of our world is negative. It is clear in the headlines in the newspaper, the stories on the evening news and the home pages on the internet. Negative images far outweigh positive ones. Satan is the ultimate terrorist, and he is doing a great job causing us to live in fear. If we are going to change our attitude toward life and our world, it will take intentional effort on our part. We will need to start viewing our world through a different set of filters, godly filters that see things from God’s perspective. So Paul challenges us to stop being passive and start taking control of our attitude. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

                King David lived in a hard world. He often struggled with discouragement. But, David knew how to adjust his attitude. In Psalm 103, he challenges himself to reflect upon all that God had done for him. His challenge hold true for us as well. Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- Psalm 103:1-2

                As Paul reflected upon his life, he saw things from an eternal perspective. He could have become discouraged and depressed by all that he suffered. Instead, he saw everything that he had experienced as a part of his journey toward something far greater, some of much greater value.    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Tuesday, April 7, 2015


                The Easter Season has passed. The special services are a memory. Easter Sunday has been recorded in the history books. But the reality of the resurrection goes on. The challenge for all of us is to live in the reality of the resurrection.

                After that amazing Sunday, when the reality of the resurrection was revealed, first to the women, then to the disciples, Jesus continued to appear for 40 days. He appeared to the disciples both in Jerusalem and back in Galilee. The disciples needed these extra, spiritual boosts to prepare them for what was ahead. They had some emotional baggage that they had to work through.

                Even though they knew the reality of the resurrection, the disciples were still discouraged and confused. They really didn’t know what to do next. For three years, Jesus had been their constant companion. They could depend upon him; they could lean on him. Now, everything had changed. Periodic appearances by Jesus were exciting, but they were countered by days and hours of going it alone.

                Eventually, the disciples decided that it was time to go back to their old way of life. John 21 records that Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John all went back to fishing. They labored all night, but caught nothing. Early in the morning, exhausted and defeated, as they were making their way back to shore, someone called out to them. “Any luck? Did you catch any fish?” A chorus of discouraged “nos” echoed back to the shore. Then the voice told them to cast their nets, one more time, on the right side of the boat. When they started to pull them back in, they could feel the weight increase. They pulled harder and faster and soon the boat was filling with fish; so many that they couldn’t get the net into the boat.

                As John struggled to pull the net in, he became aware that he had experienced this before. Suddenly he realized that it was Jesus standing on the shore. He turned to Peter and declared, “It’s the Lord!” Peter suddenly realized the truth as well, and so he took off his outer garment and dove into the water, swimming as fast as he could to the shore. The others followed dragging the net with them. Peter stood, dripping wet, gazing at Jesus, as he tended a small fire. Moments later the others arrived. Jesus broke the tension by telling Peter to bring some of the fish they had just caught. Peter helped haul in the net. Someone took the time to count the fish; 153!

                After breakfast, Jesus invited Peter to take a walk down the beach. Peter felt ashamed, defeated and disqualified. With directness, tempered by compassion, Jesus confronted Peter’s shame and reinstated him. “Peter, I am not done with you yet. There is much work to do and I need you to lead the way.”

                Sometime later, Jesus met with his disciples for the last time. It is recorded for us in Acts 1. Jesus restated his commission to these men who he had invest so much into. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 Then Jesus was taken up before their eyes into the clouds and he disappeared. Look carefully at what happened next.

                    They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
    Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.  Acts 1:10-14

                Did you see it? They were frozen, trying so hard to hold onto Jesus. God had to send two angels to break them out of the fog and to get them busy. “Don’t just stand here gazing up into the sky. Get busy doing what Jesus told you to do!”

                Easter is an amazing time of the year. It is the climax of the Church calendar. Many people will attend church on Easter Sunday. They figuratively gaze at the risen Lord, with awe and wonder. Yet, many of them will just go back to their old routines. Nothing will change. They need to be challenged to begin to live in the reality of the resurrection. In fact, we all do.

                For many of us in the church, there is a letdown after Easter Sunday. The big events are past. We breathe a sigh of relief and we return to business as usual. Instead, we need to hear the message of the angels. Stop standing around. Get to work. Now is the time to be those witnesses that Jesus commanded us to be, while the message of Easter is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


                Today is a special day on the Church calendar called Maundy Thursday. It is the day that we look back upon the Last Supper; that pivotal event where Jesus called his disciples into a new covenant in his blood. The term Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get our English word mandate), from a verb that means, "to give," "to entrust," or "to order." On this night Jesus entrusted his disciples with the New Covenant, symbolized in the Lord’s Supper. At the heart of this night is intimate communion with Jesus. This was Jesus’ last time of close fellowship with the disciples before he went to the cross. On Maundy Thursday the Church comes together to remember and reflect upon that New Covenant that Jesus passed on to us.

                This day, April 2, also happens to be my birthday. It is a day for me to pause, remember and reflect upon my life. It was in the year 1954 that I came into this world. It was in the year 1959 that I took my first step toward new life in Christ. It took place in the basement of our church, following Sunday School, when I responded to the teacher’s invitation to invite Jesus into my life. In simple child-like faith, that is what I did. My journey of new birth began on the day. The reality of that decision came home to me a number of years later, when I was 13, sitting at a campfire service at Stony Glen Camp, in Ohio. On that night, I came to realize what it means to follow Jesus and live in the New Covenant. I have been learning how to do that from that night on.

                For many reasons, this is a day to remember and reflect. All four Gospels record events from Jesus’ final hours with his disciples. In Luke’s Gospel, the heart of this day is spelled out in Jesus’ own words. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:15-16) Jesus “eagerly desired” to connect with his disciples in a new, different and significant way. Jesus led his disciples through the traditional Passover meal, which was intended to remind them of how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. He took those familiar symbols and infused them with new meaning. He took the unleavened bread, broke it, and declared that it represented his body, which was about to be broken for them. He took the cup of wine and declared that it represented a new covenant, not through the blood of animals, not through the old sacrificial system, but through his shed blood.

                 Just as the Passover reminded the people of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so now, the Lord’s Supper reminds us of our deliverance from our slavery to sin. Maundy Thursday is a day to remember and reflect upon what motivated Jesus and what it cost Jesus to free us from our bondage to sin.

                Jesus was motivated by love for us. He was eager to share his life so that we can have life eternal. Jesus was willing to give his all to redeem us. Paul summarizes the heart of Christ in Philippians 2:6-8. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Jesus, out of love, willingly set aside his glory to take on our humanity, to suffer life as we suffer life, and to die in our place.

                On that fateful night, in an upper room, in Jerusalem, Jesus extended his love and compassion to all of his disciples. Knowing that Judas would betray him that very night, Jesus still extended love to him. Knowing that all the others would abandon him, he still poured out his heart to them. He did it through his words and his actions.
                Knowing what was ahead for Jesus, reflect upon what he was willing to do. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 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 13:2-5) Jesus took the role of a servant to set the stage for a new order of living. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17) 

                Later, John records that Jesus instructed his disciples about their future; what was to come, how they were to live, and the Holy Spirit who would become their constant companion. Than Jesus prayed for the disciples and for those who would follow; for us! At his time of greatest anguish and struggle, Jesus prayed for us! (John 14-17)

                We are often quick to rush to the good news of Easter Sunday; an empty tomb and a risen Lord. But we should not overlook the journey that gets us there. It was a journey of compassion, sacrifice, struggle and love. Tonight our church will gather for a special communion service to remember and reflect upon Jesus’ journey and ours. Whether you attend a service tonight or not, take some time to stop and reflect on the significance of what Jesus did for you.