Monday, February 29, 2016

The Towel and the Apron


[Photo of someone washing another person's feet]

“…they [the first converts in
Achaia] have addicted
themselves to the ministry of the saints.”
—1 Corinthians 16:15 KJV

“They refreshed my spirit and yours
also. Such men deserve recognition.”
—1 Corinthians 16:18 NIV

How many of us spend years in the mundane? We tell ourselves we were made for greater things. We have professional training, or notable achievements and experiences. We have traveled widely and known famous people.

It seems that God, in His wisdom, prepares all of us for greatness by making us servants to others. And much of that work entails baking cookies, or changing diapers, cleaning bathrooms, or encouraging sick acquaintances.

I am encouraged by what Jesus did. We read about the night of the Last Supper with His disciples in John 13:3-5:

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.

Jesus used this occasion as an opportunity to teach His followers. In the same chapter of John, 13:14-16, He said:

“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.”

Jesus, in another place, (Mark 9:41) talks about giving a drink of cold water to someone in His name as an act of love.

In his little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, a record of conversations and letters by Brother Lawrence, we read of this “lay brother” who worshipped as much in the kitchen as in the cathedral.

Brother Lawrence said:

Lord of all pots and pans and things…
Make me a saint by getting meals
And washing up the plates!

And he could say:

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament. 1

So, whether God calls us to bring up grandchildren as our own, or nurse a family member, or serve communion bread to our congregation, we need to hear Him say to us, as He did to the believers in Hebrews 6:10:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Wear the apron cheerfully, knowing you represent Him to others!


1 Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1973. p.8.



Monday, February 15, 2016

Clenched Fist or Open Hand?


[Photo of a baby holding up a fist]

“If anyone would come after me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me. For whoever wants to
save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for me will save it. What
good is it for a man to gain the whole
world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
—the words of Jesus found in Luke 9:23-25

Perhaps he held a penny tight in his palm, or a piece to a puzzle, or a tiny animal from his barnyard play area. Any adult trying to get the toddler to release the dangerous-when-swallowed item knows the war of wills this entails.

We like to hold on to things, opinions, and plans that we have made, too. Although we don’t shout “MINE!” when confronted with the loss of such items, we feel it deep down. We want our own way. And, we clench our fists all the more when we get challenged to surrender to someone else.

Jesus knew the struggle we have when He asks us to surrender control, and comfort, and those things that we think will make us happy. Yet, He wants us to look beyond what we can see—what we experience in the moment—so that we can get a look at the eternal things He sees for us. God wants to give us so much. He wants to see us present our open hand to Him in order to receive what He wishes to give us. And, He wants us to extend that same open hand to others, so we may give them what we possess.

God knows the dangerous things we shouldn’t have in our possession. He knows that these wrong things will take us down the wrong paths. He know that these wrong things will try to take over the mastery of our time and energies. He sees what would happen if we were to “swallow” such things and own them. He knows they will bring us to our ruin.

During this time of Lent, when others urge us to “give up” something in order to deny ourselves some pleasure, we ought to think, not so much on the things that would fulfill the obligations we feel, but rather on the things God wants to take from us: the sins that so easily beset us, our unsurrendered wills, and the things that crowd Him out of our hearts.

Jim Elliot, the missionary to the Ecuadorian Huaorani people, who suffered martyrdom in 1956, famously said:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Let us so live that we will not make God pry our fingers from dangerous things. Instead, let’s freely open our hands and allow Him to take from us what He wishes to take, in order to give us all that He chooses to give us. If we do, we will surely find the way to blessing!



Monday, February 8, 2016

Buried Treasure


[Photo of a partially buried treasure chest]

“If you look for it [wisdom] as
for silver and search for it as for hidden
treasure, then you will understand the fear
of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
—Proverbs 2:4-5

Don’t we all remember stories from childhood of buried treasure? Reading such accounts, we wished we could be surprised to find some rare and expensive fortune. Yet, God clearly entices us to search His word for jewels He has waiting for us.

To find most buried treasure takes work to search diligently for and to dig up. Similarly, it takes work to diligently comb the depths of the Scriptures and “dig up” the marvelous truths stored there.

Puritan writer, George Swinnock puts it this way:

Precious things cannot be had without the greatest difficulty. They that desire great reward must run through many dangers. Nature herself will not bestow her precious treasure without much labor. Dirt lies common in the streets, but gold is buried deep in the earth. Stones may be found everywhere, but pearls are hidden in the bottom of the sea. 1

As with buried treasure, to find the deep truths in Scripture, we need the element of discovery. We read a story in 2 Kings 22 in which a young King Josiah instructs his men to supervise the renovation of the temple in Jerusalem. As they worked, recorded in verse 8, we read:

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.”

What follows tells the story of revival and renewal of the covenant among the Lord’s people. The discovery of God’s written Word literally changed their society.

Not only should we seek the hidden truths of Scripture, but we should also meditate, rejoice, and follow what we learn there. In the longest chapter of the Bible, Psalm 119—which line-upon-line expounds the glories of God’s Word—in verse 11, we read:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.

Beyond just discovery, there exists the obligation to obey. We discover the treasure, not to merely enrich ourselves, but in order to purposefully live out the precepts given there to the glory of God.

As an exercise of “digging for buried treasure” in God’s written Word, take one loaded verse you find and meditate on each word, seeking definitions and exploring the ramifications. Look for examples in Scripture that make that verse come to life. Pray the words of the verse. Memorize it!

As you spend time like this, uncovering deep truths, you will exclaim as Hilkiah the high priest did, “I have found it!” Have fun digging.


1 From “Works” by George Swinnock, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 308.



Monday, February 1, 2016



[Photo of furniture]

“Also regard not your stuff; for the
good of all the land of Egypt is your’s.”
—Genesis 45:20

Stuff—my how it accumulates! Generally speaking we don’t think about all the things we have until we are forced to clean out or get ready for a move. Sometimes we simply rearrange our “stuff.” Other times, we give it away or sell it in order to get rid of it.

When Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers who sold him into Egypt, he informed Pharaoh, in whose service he now worked, that they and his father had come from the land of Canaan seeking food during a time of intense famine. So, magnanimously, the king gave to this family of shepherds the beautiful area of Goshen in which to live.

It was during this conversation that Pharaoh told them to leave their “stuff”—as translated in the KJV—behind. These brothers, hateful, spiteful, and murderous of their brother Joseph, were now given a rich future of plenty in the choice area of Egypt.

I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote of this exchange:

How Joseph’s goodness contrasted with their former cruelty. They sent him naked to strangers, he sends them in new and rich liveries; they took a small sum of money for him, he gives them large treasures; they sent his torn coat to his father, he sends variety of costly garments; they sold him to be the load of camels, he sends them home in chariots.” 1

The parallels to God’s grace, given to us in Jesus Christ, couldn’t be stronger. Obediently, we come to Him carrying our “stuff” from our sinful past. Knowing we have betrayed Him, rebelled against Him, and treated Him with contempt with our behavior and our rejection of Him, He comes to us and says, “Leave your stuff behind. I have greater riches for you than you could ever imagine. Come to me.”

In John 6:37, Jesus Himself, the King with whom we come in our famished state, says:

“Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

God wants us to leave behind the stuff of our sinful past. We can come to Him, with nothing, and He will fill us with His riches. What an unequal, but blessed, exchange!


1 Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982. p. 57.