Prayer can often be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides.
That is one of the reasons why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real. As elders, they probably had lessons in prayer.
We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves. My own heart gets pretty creative as I display self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that really is the prayer that touches his heart.
When you talk with Jesus, do you truly talk to Him?
Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?
Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?
The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.
For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;
Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.
“And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.“
1 Samuel 18:11, ESV
“And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.“
1 Samuel 19:10
King Saul has gone mad.
We need to understand that David had a different heart. We see that he would leave Saul’s spear in the wall. Remember that David was the giant killer, the boy who faced Goliath. I don’t really think that David was really afraid, he knew God’s protective hand was on him and this made the difference.
Saul’s spear shows up later in David’s life, and it becomes a vital component in his growth as Israel’s next king.
But David doesn’t know it yet.
1 Samuel 26 is David’s second encounter with the spear of Saul.
The scene is in the wilderness and David’s on the run. Now the badlands are a good place to hide as any Western movie knows. I think David had his scouts and I suppose that there were also men who knew every rock and cave in that wasteland. They were hiding from Saul.
“So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was—Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.”
1 Samuel 26:7
Sneaking into Saul’s camp was a bold and audacious move. Saul was sleeping and scripture says that David’s companion desperately wanted to kill Saul, but David refused, David, looking through the darkness lighted on Saul’s spear. Perhaps he remembered back to when Saul tried very hard to kill him.
He avoided that spear a long time ago, and now he escapes it again.
The tables have completely turned. Given a chance to end King Saul’s life, he refused; he would not kill him. When you think about it, many problems would’ve been solved, and David would take his rightful place as Israel’s new king.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:21, ESV
The Greek word for “overcome” is νικάω which can be translated as “to conquer or to come forth victorious.” It is also used when someone is arraigned before a court of law but wins the case.
Inherent in this definition is the idea of a test that one passes with “flying colors.”
To follow Jesus means to entirely reject the spear. It’s not for you. Never.
“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.”
Frederick W. Robertson
Like David, we are to trust the Father. We’re to be secure in His timing. And yes, we each must use kindness and brokenness to overcome dark things. When you think about it, Jesus also faced evil without defending Himself. The spear showed up again and we see that our Savior allowed it to pierce His side on the cross.
You must leave the spear in the wall. You mustn’t use the spear when it seems you can wield it at the perfect moment, And like Jesus you need to allow it to save your enemies from their sin.
These three spears are evidence you “have God’s heart.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
As believers, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty. We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But to pass out a guilty sentence is God’s exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly. We don’t.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to pronounce a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger.)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (These are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes.)
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this dark night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in a position to judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore.
I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, like a fly on the wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?
Jesus made himself a slave on purpose.
Or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it? Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. (Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.)
But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was Deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.
He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoys the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other.
He showed us a real leader in action.
And isn’t making disciples all about loving (and washing) someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen, and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.
Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.
There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short-circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight of the platform?
The Church was never meant to operate like this.
That’s what Jesus said. Instead, it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege and the adulation? I know I can’t.
Peter was classic Peter.
It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).
Jesus still washes His people. He has not changed.
He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.
The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.
“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”
“Suddenly Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”And he went away, weeping bitterly.”
Matthew 26:75, NLT
Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.
“A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend.
Peter is known for:
being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
finding the tax money in a fish’s mouth, Matt 17:24-27
having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8
Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature affecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’ on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.
A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.
Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. And none of us have immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, we’re apostate.
We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior.
Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead, we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.
Peter, near the end of his life, goes full circle and uses a very precise Greek word foundin only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the exact words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”
“Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with an inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.”
“Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
“To men and women everywhere Jesus says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”
“Whoever defends himself will have himself for defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.”
“How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers.”
“Lord, make me childlike. Deliver me from the urge to compete with another for place or prestige or position. I would be simple and artless as a little child. Deliver me from pose and pretense. Forgive me for thinking of myself. Help me to forget myself and find my true peace in beholding Thee. That Thou mayest answer this prayer I humble myself before Thee. Lay upon me Thy easy yoke of self-forgetfulness that through it I may find rest. Amen.”
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. If it’s clear out, it’s amazing what you can see.
Probably the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico though, while camping on the beach. As I lay there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there were 10x more stars than ever before.
Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic.
I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone and reduced to a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.
Reflecting on this, I now realize I had experienced “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.
It seems we have traded our awareness of a truly Almighty God, and in turn, we get to pick all blackberries we can haul.
We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.
Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us has the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”
“David asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”‘
2 Samuel 9:3, NIV
This crippled man was named Mephibosheth. He was injured by the actions of a nurse; she dropped him as she was trying to escape the palace (2 Sam. 4:4). It was not of Mephibosheth’s doing, but someone else made a mistake, and it totally and irrevocably changed his life.
He would always be disabled.
If you haul out your old musty commentaries, you’ll find that Mephibosheth’s name means, “shame,” and I really believe that this would’ve been an integral part–maybe ‘subtle’ is a better word here, of how people treated him. But David was a different sort of king (as kings go), and he elevates Mephibosheth to the feasting table.
King David wants to include him!
Interesting. I believe that there are a great many people like Mephibosheth. They’ve been injured by someone else’s stumbling. It seems we pass these things on to each other. And the lameness we inflict may not be physical. It may be spiritual or emotional. Sometimes we injure others without knowing what we have really done to them.
Jesus made some powerful statements about people who injure others.
Some of the most vicious and evil woundings that are done are usually on a moral or spiritual level. People can heal physically over time, but the wounds of the spirit are incredibly devastating. When someone harms us on this level it can completely undo us, for a lifetime. (And perhaps, maybe forever).
We are capable of much evil. We affect others in ways we don’t understand. We need to seek God’s grace right now; we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diminishing or minimizing what we have done. A vital point to consider: We cannot go on crippling others without injuring ourselves.
Wounded people wound. But healed people can often become healers themselves.
We can read of King David’s truly majestic treatment of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He actively blessed him, and perhaps that is the proactive action we ought to take. We must make the effort– to bless others.
As a king, this was a very minor incident. Hardly worth recording in the lofty affairs of state. But as a man–to restore Mephibosheth, was definitely one of his greatest decisions. Kindness and gentleness should always be a key part of someone who is in authority, especially over others.
There’s another concept here– we discover something that is profoundly true about us in Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. It’s here, in 1:5, that we see that God our Father, acts like David, and receives Mephibosheth; just like God receives us to Himself. We find that we’re adopted, loved, and held, and we get a prime place at the table!
We may use crutches, but we walk by faith. And that may be the greatest lesson in this portion of scripture–and the most profound experience we can have as believers.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”