It was just before Jesus was arrested and crucified. While Jesus and the disciples were at their last meal together, Jesus stunned everyone in the room by wrapping a towel around himself, pouring water into a bowl, and bending down and washing the feet of each disciple! Why would He do this? Why at this time? As I have thought over events in my life as a pastor, I have come to a conclusion about my relationship with the Lord. He doesn’t owe me an explanation. When He does something in my life, He doesn’t hold a news briefing with a time for Q and A. While washing the disciples’ feet (a task ordinarily done by a slave), Jesus did tell them one thing: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). In our faith walk with Jesus, we don’t have to anguish over trying to figure out everything. Our “task” is to take the risk and let Jesus do His will in our life…whether we have a clue or not as to what He is doing. In His comments to the disciples, Jesus creates a contrast between now and later. We won’t always get it now. We often scratch our heads as we face unexpected surprises and challenges to our faith. The now becomes the arena where we must exercise what we say we believe. As we walk with Jesus, we can trust Him in the moment because we recall all the times in the past when He has proven himself faithful. This is the “hindsight” that sees from the vantage point of later. We must believe that what we cannot see or understand in the now will make sense in the later (even if the later means heaven). As we anticipate the joy of Resurrection Day, we look to Jesus and realize that He had to pass through the now of present pain and great chaos in order to experience the later joy of eternal victory! So, let’s remember that in this world sometimes we will sigh, “I don’t get it!” But our greatest need is not “getting it” as much as trusting our way through it. Just trust Jesus right now. You will understand later.
The name Rehoboam may not mean anything to you, but you need to read this. Rehoboam was the fourth king of Israel, who started his rule at the age of 41. His father Solomon and grandfather David left him fabulously wealthy and powerful. The people, however, were not pleased with the high taxes that had been imposed by Solomon and sent a delegation to King Rehoboam to ask for some relief. Their request was quite simple: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:4). Rehoboam told the people he would consider their request and give an answer after three days. Now ancient history reveals that most kings surrounded themselves with advisors, and he was no exception. The king went first to the elders and asked for their advice. They told him, “If you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants” (1 Kings 12:7). Tragically, Rehoboam rejected this advice and sought out the advice of the friends with which he had grown up. Their advice to the king to proclaim to the people was, “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:11). For Rehoboam, it was all about power and domination. So, he spewed out his arrogance to them. The next thing you know, the kingdom separated, and Rehoboam lost more than half the people of Israel! Because of the king’s blunder, the years ahead were filled with strife and wars between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. I wonder how many times Rehoboam must have reminisced, If only I had humbled myself and served the people instead of trying to show off my power. There are many lessons from this event, but let me leave you with one. Make sure you seek out the right people for advice. Don’t surround yourself with pals who tell you just what you want to hear…appealing to your pride and vanity. But what will you do in the end? Seek the advice of God’s Word and godly people. A final hint: godly advisors may be older and more experienced at life than you are! May God bless you with godly wisdom and good decisions.
These days, when I walk outside and see people in their various masks, 2 Corinthians 3:18 often comes to mind: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [or reflect] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” How I long for the days when we will be able to walk in public with unveiled faces again! Paul, though, is making a reference to an amazing story recorded in the Old Testament. When Moses came down from his meeting with God on Mount Sinai, he wasn’t aware that his face was radiant from being in God’s presence. In fact, his face was so bright that the people were afraid to come near him. Moses adopted the custom of putting a veil over his face when he was around people, only taking it off when he was alone in the Lord’s presence (Exodus 34:29-35). Did you know that, when you spend time with God, you begin to radiate with His glory? Like Moses, we might not always be aware of it, but, to the people around us, it should be obvious. The more time we spend with God, the more His nature flows in us, through us and out from us. (Paul describes God’s nature as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.) In a dark world, where selfishness, turmoil and pessimism are the norm, people are awed by the glorious light of peace, hope and sacrificial love. Unfortunately, many Christians, like Moses, cover up God’s glory when they venture out into the world. Perhaps they don’t want to offend or they’re afraid that they can’t answer every argument. So, they remain silent in discussions about morality or the truth of the gospel. In the presence of those who are desperately stumbling around in darkness, they hide their light under a bushel. “Let your light shine before others,” Jesus commands, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We are called to reflect God’s glory in the world, and so bring glory back to Him. Oh, that we might walk around in this needy world with unveiled faces!
Jesus said, “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Social distance? Yes, I get it. It’s not good to be crowded together, draping over each other like curtains. The challenge we face as Christians is how to obey Jesus’ command to love…while at the same time keeping our distance. Thankfully, little by little, the restrictions are easing up. With the increase in vaccinations and the decrease in COVID cases, we “see the light” of social gatherings gradually coming back to some sense of “normal.” I am so thankful for the gift of technology which has allowed so many to watch online. As a pastor, my concern going forward is for those who will choose to stay “virtual” indefinitely. This is not a judgment for those who choose to continue to stay online until they feel ready. However, along with viewing, there needs to be creative steps to stay connected to real people. The question becomes, “How will I continue to love others as Jesus commanded me?” We must do all that we can in the circumstances we find ourselves. We cannot allow a virus to diminish our capacity for love and compassion or slacken our obedience to share His light through good deeds. I believe in the Church of Jesus Christ! In talking to other pastors, we share the same concern. How can we help those who have left the church…who seem to have fallen into the cracks of isolation? First, we need to be examples of Jesus’ love. As I look back over my life, I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the body of Jesus—expressed through a local congregation. Staying relationally connected is sometimes difficult and can even be “painful.” However, the pain of real relationships far outweighs the pain of loneliness. God created us to learn to love each other. And God created the Church so that we could find our purpose and place in His body…loving and serving one another. As each of us obeys Jesus, His Church becomes strong and “built up” in love. What an honor to be a part of His overcoming and eternal Church—expressed through the local church. As for me and my house, we choose to love Jesus through loving His people. The Church of Jesus Christ is the only true hope for our world.