Observations

I’m presently on the last flight leg home from spending a week with a team in Aza Cualpa, Honduras. We spent our days in the mountain village of San Antonio, split between Vacation Bible School with the children, and re-roofing a school, re-purposing the school’s old doors and rafters into some tables and benches, and fencing in the school grounds. The week was very fruitful, and several spiritual themes kept threading a path through my experiences. I can’t help but know that God was doing the weaving.

As is always the case when getting outside of the familiarity of my surroundings, I became immediately aware of how inpatient, complaint oriented, and truly baby-ish I can be about my schedule, my comforts, and yes, even my faith. I watched people live happily and joy-filled in what initially I would have labeled squalor, and I saw myself in a new, vivid awareness of how self-focused I truly am.

The families in San Antonio only got power to their one- and two-room concrete or dirt floor homes 24 months ago, and still only some of the homes have running water. Those that do have water still have no sewer systems, nor have its occupants ever had the experience of a hot shower. Incidentally, this is a tropical area with frequent rain and mud everywhere. This was yet one more thing I chose to complain about, but here were these lovely people oblivious to the mud. I found myself marveling at not only their joy, but also in how clean and fresh they were able to keep their clothes by hand.

Thank you, God, for revealing my immaturity by relying on the things I have in my life to provide me happiness and joy, rather than finding them in the satisfaction of my relationship with you, with those around me, and with the work that you’ve placed before me.

Another observation God brought to mind had to do with my tendency to play it safe. In fact, if we’re all honest, much of our prayer life focuses on our requests to be safe and healthy. Rather, shouldn’t we take the attention off ourselves and our comfort and instead ask God to make us dangerous for his Kingdom’s sake?

I realized that in the weeks leading up to this trip, I had spent more time in prayer about keeping me safe on my travels and protecting my family during my absence, then on God opening opportunities for our team to break down the doors of hell. If we truly know Who’s we are, and what our purpose is, we’ll start caring a lot less about our well-being and a lot more about the vanquishing of the enemy who is on the prowl for as many as he can devour.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that I am secure with you. I have nothing to fear about what can happen to my body, my family, or my possessions. When I let go of these apprehensions, my focus will be on how I can be better used for Your kingdom.

Lastly, God revealed to me how incredibly small my vision is. Because I have so many resources available to me in the United States, it’s ridiculously common that instead of relying on God’s power to accomplish more than I could ever imagine, I instead plan carefully to do things that fit within my ability to manage. I realized this week that when I only do the safe and easy things (and often to even spend more than a little token time in prayer about them), it’s for one of three reasons— 1) I don’t believe that God can or wants to be bothered by my day to day needs or projects, or 2) because I don’t believe God is powerful enough, or 3) I’m not attempting big enough things that are beyond myself and my own resources.

So much good work is being done in and around the city of Aza Cualpa by a single woman running a children’s home. Not only does she run the home for a small group of children, but she oversees a school that reaches many more children in the community, and organizes construction and outreach projects for those in need in her city and the surrounding mountain villages. Prayer and reliance on God are not optional for her. They are vital. And they need to be vital in my life as well so that God’s glory can be shown.

Thank you, Spirit, for opening my eyes this week to what you are doing around the world through ordinary people who walk in great faith of what you can and will accomplish. Help me expand the vision of what you want to do through me.

This past week has revealed a lot about what has been lacking in my faith. Getting outside of myself and my comfortable space allowed God to do a little house cleaning while I was away. Look prayerful look around your own life this week. Ask God to highlight some areas that you can surrender more to His will in your life.

– Jeff Williams is the marketing coordinator and design and feature consultant of the soon to be released PrayList app for iOS and Android. Quiet your mind— a richer prayer life awaits. PrayList.net

 

{TIME | More Than Missions – Short Term Missions!}

http://www.timeministries.org

http://www.morethanmissions.com

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Dirty Feet

I’m not a big fan of commercials; generally speaking, I find them quite annoying. But there is a particular type of commercial that really drives me crazy, you have seen many of them yourself, you can’t miss them since they are always on TV. They are commercials that deal with carpet cleaners, and they inevitably involve kids or pets walking across clean white carpets with muddy feet. Maybe I don’t like these commercials since once inside our home everyone removes their shoes.  Whatever the case, sometimes commercials can provide vivid pictures of spiritual realities for us, realities that Jesus even taught about—and I have come to see that these commercials do exactly that in vivid fashion.

You may remember that during Jesus’ last Passover he washed the feet of eleven of his disciples (John 13.5-20). I specify “eleven” because by the time this event had occurred Judas had already left to the group in order to betray the Lord. Just a little background before continuing, while foot washing was a regular occurrence in Jesus day, it was always relegated to slaves at the bottom of the totem pole.  In some cases, Jewish slaves were excused from such a degrading task because making a Jew wash the feet of another could potentially make them ceremonially unclean—which was a big deal for Jews in that day.  Why would foot washing be considered so degrading you may ask.  Well you have to remember that in Jesus’ day, there was no such thing as sewer drains and road cleaners—there weren’t even cars for that matter.  Consequently, all travel was either by foot or by animal, and if you didn’t grow up on a farm then you should know that animals are never concerned about finding a bathroom, they just go whenever they feel the urge and wherever the urge hits them. Consequently, in Jesus’ day it was quite common literally “step in it” if you will. If you think that your modern feet get little dirty by the end of the day then just know that there is no comparison to what would cling to the average foot of a first-century pedestrian. Think about it, we at least wear shoes and socks, but for those walking in nothing but sandals, there is no limit to what you body would touch. Trust me, but the time the disciples showed up for that last Passover, their feet were probably pretty rank and dirty.

As we know, Jesus first attempted to wash the feet of Peter, at which Peter immediately objected. I think we all can probably relate to Peter’s objection. Intuitively speaking, it just didn’t seem right, let alone make sense. Why would any right-minded follower of Jesus allow him to do such a humiliating and menial task?  Consequently, Peter withdrew from Jesus—which if you think about it, is probably never a good idea. Nevertheless, Jesus responded by explaining that if Peter wanted to be identified with him then it was necessary that he allow Jesus to clean his feet. Upon this requirement Peter suggested that Jesus not only wash his feet, but also his hands and his head as well. Jesus’ reply is very interesting, in verse 10 he remarked that “The one having been bathed has no need except to wash the feet, certainly you are completely clean” (my translation). Later, Jesus affirmed that all of his remaining disciples were “clean” (exact same word) because of the teachings that they had received from Jesus (John 15.3). Simply put, since Jesus’ disciples had believed in him and accepted his teachings, and since they would all come to know and trust in his substitutionary death, then Jesus could speak of them as having been completely “bathed.”  Consequently, in Jesus eyes they were spiritually clean. In other words, his blood would inevitably cleansed them of all of their iniquities—all of them, whether past, present, or future; consequently, all of their sins were paid for on the cross.

Right, but there was still those stinky dirty feet! Why the foot fetish Jesus? What’s the big deal since you have saved us, since you have bathed us, and since we are “certainly completely clean”; why focus on our feet? Well, let’s go back to those dreaded commercials. Remember that they always involve kids with muddy feet coming from outside into the home and leaving dirt everywhere. Now let’s move from the theoretical to real life, when your child walks across your clean rug with his or her muddy galoshes, do you stop loving them? Do you disown your children because their grimy feet have stained your beautiful carpet? Of course not, but neither are we willing to put up with the mess they are covered in, or the mess that they have created your home. As much as we love our kids, that dirt and the grime still bothers us, and although we love our children, we still want them to be clean and enjoy a clean home. Demanding that kids help keep their homes clean and orderly does not mean that a father or mother has ceased loving them—the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, truly loving parents require their children to regularly bath, if for no other reason then for their own health and well-being. And so it is with Jesus. Even though Jesus loves those who have received him, and sees them as eternal cleansed of all of their sins; he still is offended at the worldly grime clinging to our spiritual feet. While our souls may be eternally cleansed in the eyes of our Lord, our spirits are constantly picking up the world’s grime. Just like our feet are the first to come into contact of the earth we live on—and thus the world, so also do our spirits become influenced—and thus tainted, with the ways of this sinful godless world.

For those of us that have received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Jesus has cleansed our souls of the full penalty for all of our sins (Rom 5.1; 10.9-10; 2 Cor 5.21). Nevertheless, every day we walk around in this sinful world, and as we do its immoral grime clings to our spirits and begins to influence us. Whether we realize it or not Jesus finds that predicament distasteful, if not offensive. The world’s rebellion and rejection of all that is holy affects our hearts, our minds, our attitudes, and inevitably our actions. Try as we might, it is not possible to go through our daily lives without it constantly infesting our minds and hearts with how it thinks and acts. Paul put it this way, “Not that I have already obtained the resurrected life, or have already become perfect, yet I press on for that which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3.12). Think about that for a moment, Paul knew that on this side of heaven he was not morally perfect in the same manner as Christ!  If Paul understood that he was incapable of sinless perfection in this life, how much more so should we also recognize this inescapable fact for ourselves?

So the next time you find yourself worshiping the Lord or praying during your quiet time, as you are bringing him all of your hopes, desires, and needs, remember this simple picture—he sees you coming, and although he loves that you are running to him in devotion, the first thing he will want to do is clean that worldly grime from your precious feet. If we are not willing to first allow the Lord to clean the world’s grime from us before we climb up in his lap, then we have forgotten what Jesus is really all about, which is holiness in his people. Instead, let us take some time and be like David, who while worshiping the Lord wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Wash me and I will be whiter than snow” (Ps 51.2 & 7).

 

-Monte Shanks, Ph.D., Guest Blogger

About Monte: I and my wife have been happily married for 30 years, and we have 2 adult sons. We currently reside in Southern Indiana just minutes from Louisville, KY. I teach New Testament studies fulltime for Liberty University in their graduate degree program, as well as occasionally serving as an adjunct faculty for Southern Seminary.  I also run “Ologos Weblog” at WordPress.com, which focuses on discipleship, Christian leadership, and current biblical and cultural issues facing today’s churches. I have written several journal articles, and authored Papias and the New Testament, which is published by Pickwick Publications.

 

{TIME | More Than Missions – Short Term Missions!}

http://www.timeministries.org

http://www.morethanmissions.com