The GOD of the Towel–Day 2

This week, we are considering Jesus’ act of humility and service in John 13:1-17 in the context of our lives as men. Humility is the key word I am inviting you to meditate upon this week.

What does the word mean? Humility is a freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God. The Greek philosophers despised humility because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness to them. This is not so with God. God calls us to be humble and the “meek’ are the ones to be victorious in Him. Jesus is the supreme example of humility, and He is completely adequate and of infinite dignity and worth. Biblical humility is not a belittling of oneself, but an exalting or praising of others, especially GOD (John 3:30; Philippians 2:3). A humble person, then, focuses more on God and others than on himself. Biblical humility is also a recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and worthless. Yet, because we are created in God’s image and because believers are in Christ, we have infinite worth and dignity (1 Peter 1:18-19). True humility does not produce pride but gratitude.

With all this in mind, are we humbling ourselves with our women? Whether it be our mom, or wife, or sister, or girlfriend, or fellow Christian or even those ladies we come into contact with our eyes…are we elevating God in our life and therefore humbling ourselves so that we can serve? There are a lot of snares Satan lays before us to keep us from this way of living. What might that look like?

Do we find the “needs” of the very person who has nurtured us through life inconvenient or bothersome? Do we keep lists or wrongs or do we keep lists of “all we have done” and think in our hearts “why can’t they do as good as I am?” Do we find those special quirks that are part of a special being God created annoying and avoid rather than celebrate? Are we “bossing” more than “leading” or “serving”? Do we allow our lust to color our view of women so that we miss the most important part…their souls? Are we more interested in being served, or entertained, or pleased than we are in filling ourselves with the humility of God demonstrated in Jesus so much so that we can’t help but let it pour out to those precious ladies God has blessed us with or has put in our way for one reason or another?

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have all this figured out? Even when I am doing my best, the snares Satan has laid before me are still there and if I lose focus, get tired, get annoyed, etc…that is when I step into one and it is a scary thing to be trapped by my own selfishness. In order to avoid this, my only hope is in Jesus. I need to abide in Him…fill my heart with His love and word, allow His Spirit to guide me while I continually commit myself to a heavenly perspective so that I can be a blessing today. God is both our Creator and Redeemer! Our existence…our righteousness…our ability to humbly serve the ladies in our lives is completely dependent on Him! (John 15:5; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Take some time and meditate on this today. Boldly go before your Father and ask Him to humble your heart and strengthen your service towards the women in your life. Be a blessing because you are blessed…and I am blessed in you. Lead on brothers!  Serve well!

The GOD of the Towel

By the time you get to reading this, the week will be already started and the pressures of time and responsibility will have started to push against you.  Thank you for taking time to consider these thoughts as we work in “Drawing Closer to God”.  To do so, I am thinking back to a sermon I have heard Brother Cicero deliver both to the general assembly and as part of a the first men’s leadership study I ever attended.  The sermon and lesson is titled “The GOD of the Towel” and provides great thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on our God, on ourselves and how we need to and can draw closer to Him through His Son Jesus.  The word to keep in mind as we do so and throughout our discussions this week is “humility”.  We are called to be servant leaders in our spiritual lives, in our homes, in the Body, at work, and as we interact with those in the world.  There is no greater example of a servant leader than that of Jesus and we read about it very clearly in John 13: 1-17.  I encourage you to take some time and look over these verses and I will reference them as I go.

In this passage of scripture, we have Jesus humbling Himself and washing the feet of the apostles as they are gathered together in the upper room, leaning around a U-shaped table and preparing for the feast.  What is an interesting amplification of the significance of what Jesus is about to do is what is on the minds of the 12.  Jesus, God in the Flesh, is about to wash their feet and the 12 are thinking about who will get to sit in the chief seats…further one of them, Judas, is thinking of betrayal.  Take a minute and apply that to your life.  As God works mightily in your life…do you find yourself self-centered or faced with the strong luring of a specific sin?  We all struggle and are not much different than the apostles in this situation from time to time…and it is no secret to God.  With the apostles (as with us)…Jesus knows all this, but still He proceeds and in what He accomplishes is the beginnings of the much need explanation of the bigger picture…of who Jesus IS and why Jesus is HERE.

So take time today and read these verses over and meditate on them with this thought in mind…Our God is a servant and He is working and preparing our hearts for service.  Reflect on your life and consider how He is accomplishing this.  Conider whether or not you are opening your heart to this transformation.  If you aren’t or are struggling, what is getting in the way?  Finally, consider how you might be a servant leader in all aspects of your life, with the responsibilities God has given you and the talents/abilities He has blessed you with.  Think on these things and let’s use this lens tomorrow and consider the women in our lives.  Lead on brother…and serve!

 John 13:1-17; NKJV

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”  12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it?

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
(Isaiah 10:15)

In Isaiah 10, God is calling out Assyria for destruction because of their arrogance and pride (Isaiah 10:12). The Lord used the Assyrian empire as the rod of His wrath to punish the nations, including Israel and Judah. But that does not mean that God approved of the Assyrians or that they were righteous.

The Assyrians were very arrogant in their pursuit of power and destruction. You can see the arrogance of the Assyrian kings in that they attributed all of this military victory and dominance to their own strength. God was not recognized nor magnified in their victories.

For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”
(Isaiah 10:13-14)

In verse 15, we see a piercing question asked by God:

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

Listen, buddy, God says, you are just an axe in my hands. I’ve never seen an axe or a saw strut around and boast. They are just wood and metal, instruments in the hands of the master. That is the point of God through Isaiah here, Assyria was merely an instrument in the hands of the Almighty and Righteous God.

Please keep this in mind today, guys. There is no cause for boasting in anything other than the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31; Galatians 6:14). Be very careful of your words and who gets the credit and glory for who you are and what you do.

We are merely instruments of His righteousness.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
(Romans 6:13)

You Shall Not Rule with Severity

‘You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.
(Leviticus 25:43)

‘…But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.
(Leviticus 25:46)

‘Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight.
(Leviticus 25:53)

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
(Ephesians 6:9)

Today, please consider the above collection of verses about how we “rule over” one another in the workplace.

Both in the Old Testament and the New, the Lord called His people who had servants to treat them with respect. Paul had to ask his Christian brothers to “give up threatening.” If it wasn’t happening then there would be no need to tell those men to give up threatening.

Some guys only have one way to communicate…bark out orders. They do not know how to sit down and reason with someone. The concept of looking at the other person as someone who has a brain and has value is foreign to them. Do what I say or else. It’s my way or the highway. If someone brings up an opposing idea or another way of doing things, they get defensive and blow up. Any one who dares challenge them is treated like dirt, shut down and cast aside. The volume goes up along with the intensity and then people just back down and cower from fear and give in to their ways. As long as you march in step with them, you have nothing to fear.

Have you worked for a boss like that? Have we treated others like that?

This is not the spirit of Christ, nor was it the spirit that God wanted of His people in the Old Testament.

Give up threatening. Don’t rule with severity. Think of what these passages teach, especially the one in Ephesians 6:9.

  • Remember that the people who serve you belong to God. All of us belong to God. Everyone of us is created in the image of God. One of the ways to help you give up threatening is to see the eternal value of the people you are trying to lead. We can get so consumed with our own importance or our own mission that we fail to see the relationships and the value of those relationships.
  • Keep in mind that you have a Master in heaven. He is watching. He will judge, and there is no partiality with Him. If we mistreat others, God is the one to whom we will report.
  • You should show the same attitude and spirit to them. Notice Eph. 6:9 says, “do the same things to them.” Those same things are laid out for you in Ephesians 6:5-8. The servants were to do the will of God from the heart with sincerity, and the masters were to do the same things. God asked the servants to keep their eyes on Him with a spirit of fear and trembling, and He asked the same things from the masters. There are not two sets of rules, but sometimes we can live that way. We would never accept the kind of treatment that we deal out to others. God says live by the same rules.

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
(Colossians 4:1)

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
(Psalms 92:14)

Dear friends, Stephen and Samantha, shared this video with me about a wonderful 92 year old woman, Dr. Audrey Evans. Please take 10 minutes to watch this video. Think about how this Dr. knows her purpose and lives it.

Meet Dr. Audrey Evans

Naomi became Obed’s Nurse

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him (Ruth 4:16)

The book of Ruth begins with pain, grief, loss and bitterness, but it ends kind of like the book of Job. Naomi’s life was “restored” and her old age was “nourished” by this little grandbaby Obed (Ruth 4:15).

Obed didn’t take away the grief and memories, but he did help Naomi revive by giving her a new purpose. “Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.”

There are tremendous blessings and benefits that come from serving and caring for others.

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account (Philippians 4:17).

According to Paul, there is a “fruit that abounds” to our account. Paul did not mean, nor do I, that we serve to get something. God knows our hearts. But if we are serving and sacrificing for others, God sees it and promises blessings will come our way. But those blessings are not about money and material kickbacks.

For Naomi those blessings were that this child would restore her life and nourish her in her old age. Our life is restored and nourished when we pour ourselves into serving the people around us God has placed in our lives.

You have seen those “before” and “after” shots of people on those infomercials, right? Some “revolutionary” new treatment takes someone who is 90 and makes them look 15 again. Well, I would love to see the before and after shots of Naomi. The Naomi of chapter 1 who walks slowly back into Bethlehem wanting to be called “Mara,” and the Naomi of chapter 4 who holds this little bundle of joy called Obed.

The name Obed means “serving,” I believe, which is fitting.

Naomi did not “retire” in the kingdom of God, she was called by God into the service of a young child. There is no retirement in God’s family, no one is “put out to pasture” like a crippled, old horse.

Find someone to serve, someone to care for. Look around, especially within your congregation and see someone who is discouraged or going through some trial and find a way to brighten their day a little.

Be a Naomi for an Obed today.

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).

Some are givers, some are takers

Some are givers, some are takers…which one defines us? The passage we are going to look at today showed two very different agendas. The Jewish leadership was at the temple to take (steal, really). They had turned God’s house into a den of thieves, according to Jesus.

That day, Jesus restored the temple back to its original purpose. He drove out the corrupt money changers, and He began healing the blind and the lame. Children were running around praising Him as the Messiah. Because of Jesus, the temple once again became a place of healing, a safe place for the broken, and a haven of praise.

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES AND NURSING INFANTS YOU HAVE PERFECTED PRAISE’?”(Matthew 21:12-16).

Some Are Givers, Some are Takers

Because Jesus came to serve, the blind and the lame found a welcome place in the temple. When our attitudes at the church building are all “me-oriented,” then the broken will not come to us. We wouldn’t even notice it anyways, because if we are “me-oriented,” the broken can offer us nothing.

So, when we go to worship services this Sunday, what is our agenda? Do we view it like a movie theater, we pay some money, sit down and are entertained and then go our way? Is my expectation for a perfect service, flawless music, awesome sermon, and for everyone to treat me perfectly? Are we full of ideas and critical of how the doers are doing things? If so, that’s a taker’s attitude.

Or do we see this as an opportunity to serve and to help heal? Do we come with our sleeves rolled up and ready to offer our assistance? Are we on the search for the brokenhearted? Do you look for new faces? What about taking a young college student or a struggling mom out to lunch? Take note of that widow who faithfully comes every time the doors are open, but doesn’t say much. Build a relationship with that dear elderly brother or sister. Notice that preteen who comes with her grandparents that may seem a little distant. Try to create conversation and show her you genuinely care.

Jesus came to serve, the other Jewish leaders came to take. Let’s decide to follow Jesus’ example.

Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand

The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master (Potiphar) saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate… (Genesis 39:2-6).

This morning, take time to think of Joseph’s character as a servant to Potiphar. Also, consider how Joseph’s behavior created the environment of trust within Potiphar. Joseph was made the “overseer” of all Potiphar’s house. He was given “authority” over all that Potiphar had.

In order for a man to put everything he had under the oversight of another, what kind of trust had to exist? If you are going to hand the keys to your house and the account numbers to your bank over to another, you would completely trust that person’s character first.

That is what we see in the relationship between Joseph and Potiphar here.

Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand

I want to consider two questions and directly relate this to our relationship with the church family.

Am I like Joseph?

Can the leadership in our congregation completely trust me to follow through with the responsibilities given to me? When I say I will do something, do I keep my word? Do the elders/shepherds in our congregations see this quality of Joseph within us? This is the same kind of mindset that Paul saw within Timothy; Paul knew without a doubt he could count on him (Philippians 2:19-23).

Am I like Potiphar?

I know the focus of this passage is on Joseph, but I see a great quality in Potiphar here as well. He was willing to delegate and completely hand over the reins of certain matters to Joseph. He did not micromanage Joseph. If we are in a leadership position, are we looking for those Joseph-minded people in our congregations?

Are we willing to let loose of some control in order to let others oversee certain affairs? This relationship is a two-way street. Joseph could have all the greatest character in the world, but if Potiphar was not willing to let go of control, Joseph would never shine in his new given responsibilities. Letting go of control is very hard for us, isn’t it?

Take a lesson from Potiphar here, and look for the Joseph’s in your church. Let them thrive and grow and be challenged. This is the same thing we see of the apostles in Acts 6:1-7. The apostles appointed seven Joseph-like men to take care of the widows and gave them “oversight” in this matter.

Let’s be a Joseph in our work, but let’s also be a Potiphar in how we delegate responsibility to others.

What Now Lord?

Thanks, Andy Harrison, for sharing this article about Ralph, entitled, What Now Lord?

 “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:25-26

Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know an old man, let’s call him Ralph.  Don’t worry, he wouldn’t be offended, he’s in his 80s and calls himself an “old man”.  Ralph is really nothing special to look at and in many ways is just your average elderly person.  He’s got white hair and wrinkles and has been in a wheelchair for a number of years.  He is soft spoken and his voice can get a little shaky when he talks.  Ralph lives in a very modest assisted-living facility with a few other elderly people.

But when Ralph was younger…oh man, that was different!  He was a pilot in the Air Force and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  For those who don’t know that is just a couple ranks away from a Brigadier General.  After his military service he found a home in the financial sector, responsible for significant sums of money.  One of Ralph’s passions in life was raising prize-winning Doberman Pinschers and he has pictures and trophies testifying to his accomplishments.  There was a lot about his life that one could envy.

But, as with all of us, time caught up with Ralph.  His wife got ill and died a number of years ago.  He started to lose muscle control in his legs and was forced to use a walker.  It wasn’t long until he deteriorated to the point of needing a wheelchair.  Because of Ralph’s physical condition, he was no longer able to take care of his dogs and he had to find them new homes.  Speaking of homes, he had to sell his and give up his freedom and space for a single room in a small assisted-living facility.

I suspect Ralph’s story is not that different than a lot of people in their 80s.  If I live long enough, I’m sure my decline will have a number of similarities.  What has impressed me (and humbled me) is his outlook and attitude throughout these stages of life.  So many people meet the loss of status and power and physical health and freedom with anger and bitterness but Ralph has embraced these changes with one simple question, “What now Lord?”  In every situation he sees opportunity to continue working for the Lord.

When he was forced to sell his house he spent time in prayer and decided that if the house sold he would use the money to support the preaching of the gospel.  He has confidently stated, “When I die I don’t want one cent left to my name.  I want it all used up for the Lord!”

When Ralph found himself lying in bed one night, shortly after moving into a small assisted-living facility he went to God in prayer and said, “Here I am.  What now, Lord?”  Shortly after that he realized that there were lonely people in that facility nearing the end of their lives and he could be a comfort and an encouragement to them.  He got busy and he shared Jesus.

After Ralph could no longer support his weight with the walker he was forced to stay in a wheelchair.  Many of us might consider this a greater restriction but Ralph turned it into an opportunity.  At worship he took his seat with him everywhere he went, all over the auditorium.  Instead of sitting in the same place, next to the same people, week after week, Ralph wheels around and sits by different people all the time.

Ralph is the very definition of a servant and he realizes that the Lord’s people don’t “retire”.  Wasn’t Moses 80 years old when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt?  Ralph is not stuck on “how things should be” or “this wasn’t part of MY plan”, he simply does the work that is in front of him.

Now here is the kicker and a little bonus lesson in humility that I received.  I started my relationship with Ralph thinking, “Now there’s someone that could use some attention and encouragement.  I should be a ‘good Christian’ and help that lonely old man.”  Maybe it didn’t sound just like that in my head but you get the picture.  A few years have gone by and I don’t know if I’ve helped Ralph but one thing I do know:  I have learned a ton from him.

“Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:25-26