Spelling Bee-liever?

Just today, in an op-ed piece for NBC News via THINK, Megan Francis takes on the legitimacy of the spelling bee. Though Ms. Francis seems like a great mom who puts much thought, love, and care into the raising of her 10-year old daughter Clara, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with her conclusion: “I question [the spelling bee’s] usefulness as a regular, celebrated, school-wide event at the elementary-school level.”

Come on now.

My heart goes out to Clara and her mom. It really does. It’s no fun when you have to sit down after missing an important word. Or when you disqualify yourself because you’re such a pile of nerves that you can’t spell at all. Or when you have to re-live and re-live that one tragic spelling blunder that haunts you well into middle school.

It seems like yesterday. Mrs. Lockwood, my fourth-grade teacher, called out the word “donkeys” in the final round, and I confidently spelled it “d-o-n-k-i-e-s”. Then I heard it: Mrs. Lockwood looked at one of my two remaining opponents and said “donkeys”. I knew what that meant: I was done. Ouch. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the crucible of that spelling bee made a lasting impression on me. Believe me, I never misspelled “donkeys” again! Sure, the parents have to do a little seat-squirming, and the kids have to suffer a little embarrassment from time to time, but isn’t that pretty good practice for life? (I’ll even credit my love for spelling, at least in part, for my 2007 appearance on Wheel of Fortune, but that’s another blog for another day.)

I’m not trying to be insensitive here, y’all. I know that spelling doesn’t come easy to everybody, and I’m probably biased because it came easy for me, but I cringe every time I hear that we ought to throw out another of our childhood rituals. What could be inherently wrong, after all, with a good old-fashioned spelling bee?

O.K., so here’s the whole truth. About the same time that I was learning to be a decent speller, I also signed up for diving. Our small town was blessed with a retired Olympic diving coach, and he offered free lessons to every kid who wanted to learn. (I’ll include a pic of Coach “Moose” Moss at the pool he built out on his farm.) Well, I worked for a year to prepare for my first diving meet. The highest degree of difficulty for which I signed up was an “inward”. (You turn around at the edge of the diving board, jump backwards, and then quickly transition into a dive – while still facing the board.) Don’t be too impressed: I was only doing this from the low dive. (Why I’m admitting that to you I’m not quite sure.)

Anyway, it was the day of the diving meet, and my turn finally came. Our whole team was wearing green swimsuits, but mine seemed shinier than everybody else’s. The material was somehow a little off. You know how it goes when your mom didn’t exactly get your order right, but you just now notice it – when everybody’s watching. (When insecure and in doubt, blame your mom, right?) As I looked across the pool at the three judges assembled for the meet, I knew that this was going to be my shining moment! (The way it worked was this: about the time a diver came up out of the water, the three judges would announce their three scores – for everybody to hear.) So I completed my dive, with one slight problem: I didn’t quite complete my dive. I came up out of the water only to hear this – and in my mind it was breaking news heralded around the world: “Fail Dive” … “Fail Dive” … (wait for it) … “Fail Dive”. All three judges had declared it: I was no diver. (And I was never going to be a diver.)

But you don’t see me out writing op-eds against competitive diving, do you?

We each have our gift or gifts. The Apostle Paul made that point abundantly clear (First Corinthians 12:1-31), and I simply say “Amen.”

That same year, among other words more complex than “donkeys”, I learned to spell “phenolphthalein”. I’m not making this up – I was really proud of that word! In fact the mayor of our town, Willie B. Withers, gave me an old spelling primer – and in it Mayor Withers inscribed: “For Charles, the best speller in the country.” I never forgot that endorsement. I’m still proud of it.

I can sympathize with the parental angst of Ms. Francis, but surely there are kids like me who still need the spelling bee! There must be a connection between good spelling and rocket science. I’m absolutely certain of it.

By the way, who needs diving when you’re the best speller in the country?

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Impossible Dream

Do you remember Don Quixote?

I guess I’m revealing my age by simply asking the question. Quixote was the “mad” knight in a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners. The Broadway hit ran for 2328 performances and won five Tony awards, including Best Musical. From it was born the song The Impossible Dream.

It was Don Quixote’s dream that made the tale. His appearance seemed ludicrous. Makeup and powder in his hair – gray and disheveled. A twisted piece of tree limb for a spear. A barber’s shaving bowl for a helmet of gold. An honorable knight or a fool? That was the point.

There are images of grace in the story, and all of that is well and good. But in the end the man is just a man. It’s kind of like the curtain-pulled-back reality check of The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes life reminds us just how fragile and finite we really are. For some reason, this has been that kind of week for me.

Don Cash, at the age of 55, just died at the top of Mount Everest. After reaching his seventh and final summit climbing the tallest mountain on each continent, Cash has departed this life. He was so passionate about mountain climbing that he left his job to join the “Seven Summits Club.” Mr. Cash lost fingers to frostbite on earlier adventures, and likely succumbed to a heart attack on Everest – the world’s tallest peak.

I guess there’s something in all of us that can identify with reaching for an “unreachable star.” That being said, when I’m really feeling my finiteness, I’m sure glad that I have something to stand on that’s more steady than an impossible dream.

 

From The Book of Common Prayer

“Everyone the Father gives to me will come to me;
I will never turn away anyone who believes in me.”

He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead
will also give new life to our mortal bodies
through his indwelling Spirit.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;
my body also shall rest in hope.

You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother, and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious to him, the Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace. Amen.

 

That’s called “The Committal,” and I use parts of it nearly every time I preside over a burial. Why? Because, for those of us who remain, it’s both a needed reality check and a source of incredible hope!

You see, dear friends, IN CHRIST we have it all. The only alternative to gospel grace is chasing after the impossible. But, IN CHRIST – even in the face of death – “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). In spite of every human weakness and frailty, IN CHRIST our countenance is lifted up … and we find peace.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Change Constant

We have to say goodbye to The Big Bang Theory.

The wildly popular show premiered on September 24, 2007, and for most of its run was primetime’s most-watched comedy series. In fact it remains one of the most successful sitcoms in television history – and the longest-running multi-cam comedy of all time. It even surpassed Cheers, which is hard to believe if you grew up when I did. The Big Bang Theory has generated an estimated $1 billion and counting in syndication. The series has received 52 Emmy Award nominations and ten wins, along with seven Golden Globe nominations. And the two-part series wrapper ended on a strong note in the metered markets last night.

12 years. 279 episodes. And the elevator finally got fixed.

Change is a universal constant. Perhaps that is the takeaway. And it’s a good one for us to ponder as this week draws to a close, because it’s true.

We think that it was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said it first: “The only thing constant is change.” That was before Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. What did Heraclitus mean? That there is nothing stable in the world around us. Planning a summer trip to the Smoky Mountains? Even those mountains are changing. It may take millennia, but they change. Slowly but surely their shape is altered by time and external forces.

And not only the world around us changes, but we change. Surely you’ve noticed that we’re changing. We change physically, mentally, morally, and even spiritually.

Because everything around us – and even in us – is changing, ancient pagans saw their gods as deceitful, unpredictable, arbitrary, and even scheming. In our popular culture, more and more people are questioning the existence of God, as you well know. Others – even some who consider themselves Christ followers – are expressing serious doubts about the reliability of the Scriptures. And, among those who truly believe in God, many understand little about who He really is. This kind of confusion and uncertainty inevitably leads to overwhelming feelings of insecurity.

But. But. But.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8. No more hopeful words were ever spoken! James says it like this (1:17): Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Talk about a Big Bang!

But here’s the problem with sin. It makes us seek after permanence and security not in the awesome God who created and loves us, but in things which are also changing. The search becomes futile, my friends, unless it ends in Christ.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

In Christ.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

The Old, Old Story

What makes a church a “success”? Are increasing knowledge and improving behavior the standards of achievement, or is there more to the story? Is a growing budget or an expanding array of programs the sign of life, or is there something more?

Sometimes I fear that we’ve all been duped. Sometimes I feel like we’re captivated by the wrong things, and blind to the things that really count. Maybe you can relate.

What is the real truth about the church? I would propose to you simply this: we are no stronger – no better, no more successful, no more faithful – than how much we love and live the gospel of Jesus.

What does this mean? It means that you and I are to be constantly anchored in a universal, cosmic history of grace. The gospel, we must remember, is God’s grand declaration that something awesome has happened! There at Christ’s cross, the kingdom of God has triumphed! And it was a decisive victory – validated and proclaimed by Christ’s resurrection! The world will never be the same, and neither will we.

Do we still love our story?

Do we still live our story?

Or have we somehow become subtly enamored of other stories instead? The stories of the world are never as good as our story, but sometimes we get hooked by them nonetheless.

How do we assess ourselves in this regard? I would propose some indicators.

  1. We still love our story if we’re full of praise. When I’m praising God, there’s less room for me. As it should be. If the gospel story does anything, it reminds me that I’m not at the center of the universe – Christ is.
  2. We still love our story if we recognize our own bankruptcy. The world says: “you can do it.” But we know better. Only Christ can accomplish anything of value in or through us. A gospel-saturated life never forgets who I’m not … and who He is.
  3. We still love our story if we find Christ exceedingly beautiful. It’s O.K. to enjoy something which God has given us, but do we admire the Giver more? This is not an easy mindset to maintain, so the gospel helps keep us on our knees.
  4. We still love our story if we’d rather give life away than keep it. That one stings a bit, at least for me. I recognize my own sinful tendency toward self-preservation and self-advancement. I need a regular gospel reminder that I’m on mission. I am becoming less, that Christ might become more.
  5. We still love our story if we care about the one who’s on the fringes. If I’m really living out the gospel of Jesus, then I’m always looking around – just like He did. Is there anyone who needs encouragement? Is there anyone whose heart is breaking? Is there anyone ready to give up? “Here I am; send me.”
  6. We still love our story if we can spot a phony story a mile away. Are we gospel-soaked? Only then can we discern when the wolf comes calling. Only then can we hear that still small voice. Only then can we see with eyes of faith what others can’t see: the gospel truth.
  7. We still love our story if we’re full of hope. The world and the headlines are full of terrible stuff. Stuff that can make all of us want to quit. But our gospel story speaks into that malaise as well, and it reminds us of this: there is a God, and He is always right, and He is always good. History is “his story,” and He wins in the end.

The British missiologist Lesslie Newbigin said it like this: “It is not sufficient for the Church to attend to tactics: she must first attend to truth.” May God anchor us firmly in His gospel truth. There we must stand. Live or die, there we stand. There, and there only, will we flourish. Perhaps “the old, old story” is what we’ve been missing.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Desastre!

There is widespread suffering in the land of Venezuela. Massive demonstrations are overtaking the streets in some of the more urban areas, and protesters are being killed – including children. The scene is horrific on nearly every level. President Nicolas Maduro is hanging on to his brutal control of the country, at least for now, and the U.S. has not ruled out military intervention.

The United Nations has labeled the exodus of four million plus refugees “unparalleled” in South American history. What you and I are witnessing from a distance can only be described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern times. Desastre! That’s Spanish for “disaster.”

The suffering people of Venezuela are experiencing major power outages – complete blackouts – and the unavailability of everything that you and I take for granted: gasoline, car parts, groceries, and the like. Now there are crippling shortages of fresh water overtaking the nation. And I haven’t even mentioned medical care, which is becoming scarce. The nation is a complete disaster. I’m going to think twice the next time I’m tempted to complain about $3 gas.

And I am so very sad to report to you that young Venezuelan girls and women are prostituting themselves in order to survive. It seems that, wherever we turn in the world, human trafficking flourishes when poverty strikes. It is a desperate and deadly situation.

After a lifetime of ministry for Christ in the jungle, our friends Gary and Marie Dawson have decided to stay and serve in Venezuela! You may remember Gary and Marie from their visits to First Baptist Paducah over the last few years. Gary has preached here on a Sunday evening, and the two of them have shared their story in our Great Room. We’ve been able to taste their heart for gospel missions in a part of the world where missionary agencies have declared the territory too unsafe to penetrate.

If you’d like to supply some emergency relief for Gary and Marie, and for the desperate people whom they’re trying to serve in the name of Jesus, you can send a check (payable to Gary Dawson) to: Jeanne Bennett, 232 Bagwell Road, Roebuck, SC 29376

A couple named Dennis and Sandy have challenged the congregations who know the Dawson Family to lend a helping hand during this season of incredible crisis, and have offered to match dollar-for-dollar (up to $10,000) any contributions given by May 15, 2019.

Please, friends, pray for Venezuela. Just like us, the people need freedom and grace! The situation is dire, and the time is now.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

He Is

What are we to make of Sri Lanka? When tragedy strikes any part of the world, you and I are forced to re-think an appropriate Biblical response. With a death toll over 300 after the brutal Easter bombings, we are sadly reminded: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8:22-24a).

Strange, isn’t it? Sadness gives birth to hope! Paul connects the two, and so must we.

Pain and suffering – and in fact the troubles of the whole world – remind us that it is one big broken system. A colossal mess stemming from the Fall. But this brokenness is not merely on a cosmic scale. Paul also draws our attention to our own personal brokenness as Christ followers. This inward groaning is not just because life is hard, but because we are so vividly aware of how much brokenness has been caused by sin. It is widespread and rampant. It is everywhere. Paradise has been lost.

Here and now, we’re awaiting a promised redemption. But look carefully at the text: we wait eagerly, friends! Among the members of the congregation in Rome, the mental picture of “firstfruits” would ring a bell. You don’t pick the first grapes if they’re still hard and bitter. “Firstfruits” aren’t even a thing until something is ripe. What in the world does this mean? It means that you and I have been given the Holy Spirit – God’s very best! By giving us Himself, He is promising also to give us the Spirit’s fruit when we need it. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. These are not door prizes, y’all, but the very life of Christ!

So even when our hearts are ripped open by the troubles of this world, we who are in Christ can navigate according to a higher vision. We know how it will end. We know the rest of the story.

Not too long ago, our choir brought us the poignant words of Andrew Peterson …

Do you feel the world is broken? We do.
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do.
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do.
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do.

Is all creation groaning? It is.
Is a new creation coming? It is.
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is.
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is.

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave.

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is!

Does the Father truly love us? He does.
Does the Spirit move among us? He does.
And does Jesus our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does.
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does.

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave.
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son.

Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is! He is!

The shadows may be deepening, beloved church family, but so is the Light! The second Adam has re-opened Paradise! Sin and death have lost, and love has won! Yes! HE IS !!!

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Fusion Friday

 

This is often referred to as “Holy Week.” And rightly so. The days preceding our celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection ought to be marked by powerful remembrances of the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus! By the middle of the fourth century, many of our traditions related to this week were already established within the Church.

Why is Christ’s passion so important? For starters, it’s because that’s exactly what Christ demonstrated. That word “passion” can be found in Acts 1:3, where the Scriptures record that Jesus presented himself alive after his suffering

My point is that there can be no real celebration of Christ’s resurrection without a real acknowledgment of Christ’s suffering and death. Every day mattered that week, and every day matters this week. On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, every minute was packed with potent symbolism of King Jesus and His reign of peace. On Monday Jesus cleansed the temple, again demonstrating His kingdom authority and His unquestionable Lordship over every nation. And on it went. Thursday would include the Lord’s Supper, connecting the first Passover with our own deliverance from bondage. But every moment raced toward the sacrificial death of Christ.

And that would come on Friday: “Good Friday” as we often refer to it. On Calvary’s Cross, Jesus was forsaken so that you and I won’t be forsaken! By the shedding of Christ’s own blood, a new and eternal covenant would be ratified on our behalf. Commenting on this grand reality, Dr. D. A. Carson calls this moment “the fusion of divine, royal prerogative and Suffering Servant.” Wow!

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must REHEARSE the gospel. The old song got it right: “Jesus paid it all.” All. I contribute nothing but desperate need. Another old song went like this: “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.”

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must REFLECT upon my own need for a Savior. The Cross of Christ is my reminder that I’m not O.K., and it’s your reminder that neither are you. We need a new justice, a new righteousness, and a new power for living.

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must RECOGNIZE the inauguration of a new humanity. Christ’s resurrection is hope for me because the living Church – Christ’s own bride – is the most incredible reality on earth! Every time we gather, you and I can enjoy a taste of heaven.

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must REMEMBER my own finiteness. I’ll say it like this, simply: they would lay down their palms, but He would lay down His life.

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must RESPOND to the grace of God. Worship is in order, friends. What else could we do upon hearing and believing such good news?

If I want to get the most out of this week, I must REJOICE in my being numbered forever among the redeemed! Yes, “Fusion Friday” does put me squarely in my place. But there’s nowhere else that I would rather be.

I look forward to seeing you Friday evening at 6:30 in our worship center.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

No One

As I’m here in Texas to officiate at my niece’s fantastic wedding festivities, and just coming off of our own celebration of twenty-five years, I’m thinking a lot about marriage, family, and eternity. So I’ll send you an old pic (us) and a new pic (them).

Whether we’re young and idealistic or seasoned and cynical, marriage for the long haul requires a zealous and sacrificial love (Romans 12:9-18). To “live in harmony with each other” will at times test every fiber of one’s being, but our Lord never calls us to something for which He does not also promise to provide us with the required strength to complete the assignment.

When God calls us into covenant marriage with another believer, He calls us into a very good thing! That is because we serve a good God, and He delights in sharing His bountiful goodness with us (Psalm 145). As God is gracious and merciful to us, and as He extends His hand to provide for us every day and in every season, we reflect His own goodness by our mercy and grace toward each other. By doing what is right for each other. By faithfully being who we need to be for each other. This is a powerful and incarnational love made reality by the Holy Spirit in us.

And I’ll add one more thought about marital love. We have to choose, at least some days, to wear it. If we have eyes to see, Jesus is right here with us when we least expect it. Just like the eyes of two weary travelers on the road to Emmaus had to be opened and revived (Luke 24:31), so do ours. Our Savior is on the road with us. He is in our ups and downs, and He is sovereign over every nuance of our journey. Even the road map is His. Christ knows what’s coming over the next hill, so we can know that ultimately ALL IS WELL.

Let “no one” rob another person of this amazing portrait of Christ’s love for His bride, the church. That is not my counsel. It is the warning of Jesus (Mark 10:9). It is a sobering word, but it a word full of grace. You and I thrive only when we do things God’s way, and God wants us to thrive!

Briana and Brandon, and all of the rest of you who will soon be in the thick and thin of real-life challenges to those vows which you have made, hang in there! It’s worth it. Because right now counts forever.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Amazing Grace (Part 7)

As we wrap up spring break in this part of the world, we’ll also wrap up this particular blog series. Thank you for persevering with me on this journey.

How does the greatest persecutor of the church become the greatest preacher in the world? Grace! That’s the story of the Apostle Paul. What made the difference? The resurrection of Jesus!

In Paul’s case, the resurrected Christ met him on the road to Damascus. When it comes to you and me, if we are ever to know grace, the resurrected Christ must meet us as well! For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). The kind of victorious grace being described by Paul must stir in our hearts! And that happens in us for one reason: Jesus is risen from the dead! “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (First Corinthians 15:55). Just one verse earlier: “Death is swallowed up in victory!”

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 15:57) – friends, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Because we as Christ followers have resurrection power working in us, we will be tested. Do we really believe what we say we believe? Will we really look to Jesus in those moments when we sense no other hope? Am I really relying on Christ’s grace as the merit for my salvation? You and I will be tested in each of these areas, and more. Is our faith really real?

I’ll close with a few applications which I urge you to personalize as our celebration of Christ’s resurrection draws nearer …

  1. GOD IS FOR US! He has circled the wagons to rescue, redeem, and restore us. We will never be alone again.
  2. GOD HAS WON FOR US! The “it is finished” of our Messiah was more than enough. We are eternal beneficiaries of eternal righteousness which has been credited to us.
  3. GOD WILL DO THE IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP US! He will rescue us from us. He will win our daily struggle with sin for us. He will take us to the place of eternal safety prepared by Jesus. Christ’s resurrection assures ours.
  4. GOD WILL PREVAIL THROUGH US IN EVERY VALLEY THAT WE FACE! The “paths of righteousness” promised by David are already ours. We’re on the road with Christ, and He is leading the way home.
  5. GOD WILL INCREASE OUR FAITH WHEN WE NEED IT! Wonderful news indeed. Faith really is God’s gift to us, and forever it shall be. When we least expect it, joy will be ours. Joy unspeakable.
  6. GOD WILL SETTLE OUR HEARTS WHEN OUR MOMENT OF DEATH COMES! No worldly loss will triumph over us. No battle with sin will ultimately overtake or destroy us. No enemy will get the last word. When it’s all said and done, no voice will ever ring truer in our ears than Christ’s.
  7. GOD WILL RAISE US FROM THE DEAD! Even these failing bodies of ours will be refitted for eternity. At Calvary’s Cross death struck a ferocious blow, but death lost big time. So no disease, affliction, handicap, or sadness will write my last chapter. In fact it’s already been written, and it’s the most beautiful ending in the universe. In fact it never

Christ is risen, y’all! That is amazing grace. With a God and a gospel as glorious as this, why would we want to live any other way than His way? Grace is no license for immorality; in fact it is power to persevere in righteousness.

These truths are so wonderful that we ought to celebrate them every day. I think I’ll do that. How ‘bout you?

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts

Amazing Grace (Part 6)

We’ll soon be wrapping up this particular series, but this week and next let’s consider a couple of critical applications. After all, grace isn’t amazing until it’s experienced.

So what does grace look like? Well, in a nutshell, it looks like Christ. Do you remember when, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus took the posture of a slave and washed His disciples’ nasty feet? How strange! The God-Man, instead of controlling or manipulating others for His own advantage, chose to love them “to the end” (John 13:1). That is real love.

He could have told everybody off for their obvious failures of both faith and fidelity, not to mention all their other sins, but He did not. There is no comfort or support for Jesus at the moment of His deepest need for someone to care about Him, but He loves anyway. Wrapped in a humble loincloth is grace on display. Totally selfless love stooped, literally, all the way to the ground.

We know from the text that the schemes of Judas to betray our Lord for a cash reward are already well underway. And Peter, without an ounce of self-awareness, will soon deny Christ in order to protect himself. It will be ugly and awful, but none of it will stop the love of God in Christ. He loves the totally self-absorbed all the way to the Cross.

Can you imagine, for a moment, Jesus actually washing the feet of His betrayer? On the same night when the disciples are arguing about who among them is the superstar, Jesus literally strips Himself to show them what humble love is really all about. He shows us too, there before the feet of the one whose heart is already on the way out the door.

Perhaps the greatest enemy of your own life of love, and mine, is our desire to protect our own reputation. Think about it. In regard to themselves, the disciples chose honor. But in regard to Himself, Jesus chose shame. He would love others by the giving away of Himself. That makes absolutely no sense until we understand the gospel of grace.

Can I love an enemy?

Can I love someone who misrepresents me?

Can I love someone who has taken advantage of me, or even abused me?

These are the dilemmas we all face as we live in this fallen world. And they don’t get any easier. I think you can see that we can’t love in such hard circumstances without knowing how much we are loved. For five weeks I’ve tried to convince you that you can’t earn God’s love. Once you really grasp that, you can be free to love with a passion and power that were never yours!

This is our highest privilege, friends: to love as we’ve been loved! It defies all human reasoning. It tears down every wall. It shows a hopeless world, hope.

 

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts