Category: Jesus (Page 1 of 58)

The Ad Gets Us

I want to share a few personal observations about the excellent He Gets Us commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on February 11. If you have not seen the commercial… Wait. I know you’ve seen the commercial. I know at least 123.4-million people have seen the commercial and you are one of them. In case you need to view it again before you read my comments or you’re compelled to watch it after reading, here it is:

The ad gives us several beautifully enhanced photographs of different people in a variety of settings adopting the posture of our Savior Jesus Christ, obeying the direct command of our Lord, stooping down and washing someone else’s feet. A police officer washing the feet of a Black man in an urban alley. A White landowner washing the feet of an older Native American. A Pro-Life protester washing the feet of a pregnant girl outside an abortion clinic. An oil man washing the feet of an environmental activist. A White woman washing the feet of her Indian neighbor. A Black woman at a protest over an unidentified issue washing the feet of a counter-protester. A Black and White man sitting together, each with a foot in the same bucket of water, smiling in a post-mutual-foot-washing moment. The ads ends with the dramatic tag-line, the Scriptural, historical, traditional, Christian fact that “Jesus didn’t teach hate; he washed feet.”

Powerful.

Truth.

Genius.

Most people seem to believe this whole two-year campaign is aimed at non-Christians to give them a more realistic view of our King. In dozens of these ads, Jesus is depicted as homeless, as a refugee, as persecuted for his non-conformist actions, as being an outsider in his own community–all of this is true according to the Gospels and are critical facets to the biblical picture of our Lord–to show non-believers that Jesus understands them. He gets us.

But I believe this whole campaign, and particularly this Super Bowl commercial, is aimed at the Christians. It’s a dramatic way to remind us of the identity and the priorities of the King we claim to follow, and to rightly judge those among us who talk and act toward the outsiders, the foreigners, and the marginalized in decidedly un-Christ-like ways.

In almost all the pictures in the ad, it’s very clear who in the photograph has the power and who doesn’t. It’s obvious who’s got the advantages, the rights, the money, and the law. And in those pictures, it’s the person in power who is washing the feet of the one who has no power. These are moving images of people you and I can relate to–pictures of us–setting aside our rights, putting down our megaphones and protest signs, forgetting our claims and beliefs about law or justice or political party platforms long enough to obey our Lord and serve the needs of others. Meet the needs of others. Just like Jesus commanded us to do.

That last night at dinner with his disciples, Jesus got down on his hands and knees and washed their feet. He was their Lord and Teacher, the Gospel says. He was by far the most important person in the room. But he made himself the least important person in the room when he washed their feet. He gave up his power and authority and assumed the posture of a servant. He served. He met needs. He “showed them the full extent of his love,” it says. And when he finished, he said, “Wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

The commercial is reminding Christians that this is our King and this is his Way. Like Jesus, we are called to reject the ways of the world, to reject the ways of power and authority and threat and division–snap out of it!

Jesus didn’t teach hate; he washed feet.

Most of those getting their feet washed in the commercial are representing, generally, groups of people who have been hurt by Christians and, in a lot of ways, in the name of Christianity. Christian values. Again, generally speaking, these groups have experienced hate from those who claim to be acting out of loyalty to Christian principles and Christian rights. The ad is for Christians, calling us to return to love and grace, forgiveness and mercy, service and peace–the authentic Christians values.

If this ad has anything to say to non-Christians, maybe it’s offering hope that there are still some Christians in America who love and serve and forgive and show mercy in the name and manner of the One we follow. Maybe it could even be an apology on behalf of the King’s subjects.

It’s a wonderful commercial, effective on so many levels at presenting Gospel truth in a compelling way.

And, yet, lots of Christians hate the ad. Predictably, I suppose. Sadly. These Christians, ironically, fail to realize they are not judging the ad, the ad is judging them. Most of those expressing displeasure with the ad fit into the categories of people depicted doing the foot-washing. Evidently, these Christians do not like being portrayed as Jesus-figures of love and service in a world of violence and division. Why do they hate the ad? Because they see themselves as what they know deep down they should be but, because of their misguided loyalties to worldly kingdoms and worldly ways, they can’t.

I know which of the pictures made me flinch. I know which photograph caused me immediate concern and put a big balloon-sized question mark above my raised eyebrows. I know exactly which picture did that to me. It was only one. And it got me. It judged me. It convicted me. It took a couple of minutes, but it corrected me. It reset my priorities. I’m thankful. Praise our Lord.

We don’t judge great art; great art judges us. Your reaction and response to the ad reveals a lot, I think, about you. The Super Bowl ad says Jesus Gets Us. He does. That ad gets us, too.

Peace,

Allan

Here’s an Idea

For too long, too many Christian churches and whole Christian movements and denominations–Christians like us–have framed the existence and purpose of the Church with being in a fight. That’s our dominant metaphor: we’re in a culture war. We’re always fighting something or fighting against someone or a group of someones. We’re always being attacked, we’re always under siege, always in danger of losing something or having something taken away. It’s been our running theme. We’ve got to fight. We’ve got to fight. If we don’t fight, who will?

Fight?

Our Lord Jesus looked Pilate right in the eye and said, “My Kingdom is not of this world; if it were, my servants would fight.”

What if we finally gave up that whole idea? What if we laid down our defense mechanisms? What if we framed our relationship to the world and to our neighbors and to our enemies in ways that lined up better with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ? What if we laid down our power and our rights and our weapons so we could love others, even if it costs us? Especially if it costs us!

What if we really believed that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness? I know, laying down our weapons and rights in order to love sounds like a recipe for making the Church weak. But, in fact, Nothing. Could. Make. Us. Stronger.

If we just had a little faith. Just a tiny amount.

Please, Lord.

The situation is that our lives and this country and the whole world is even more troubled than anybody thought. And the people around us know right now, more than they’ve ever realized in your lifetime, that the answers cannot be found in government or science or technology. The answers will never be found in politics or parties or protests or platforms. It won’t work. It’s never worked! They’re looking for the way, the truth, and the life right now more than they ever have. And you’ve got it all in Jesus Christ!

Why would we offer anything other than that?

Just an idea.

Peace,

Allan

 

Put On Your Simla

When Boaz starts taking an interest in Ruth, the meddling mother-in-law hatches a brilliant plan. She recognizes the reality of their conditions and she moves to seize the opportunity in front of them. Naomi instructs her widowed daughter-in-law to “wash and perfume yourself, and put on your simla” (Ruth 3:3). My NIV translates the Hebrew word simla as “…put on your best clothes.” But the word simla just means a regular robe. Your normal everyday clothes. Simla is just a generic robe by both men and women. It’s not a special dress. It’s not a special anything. And that’s the point.

Remember, Ruth is a recent widow. Her husband died like four or five months ago. And Ruth has probably been wearing special grieving clothes. She’d been wearing something that designated her as a grieving widow and Naomi’s telling her to change into an outfit that would send a different message.

The exact same wording is used in 2 Samuel 12 when David is grieving over the illness of his newborn son. For seven days, David was in a state of mourning, fasting, and praying for his son. When the child died, the Bible says David got up, washed, put on his lotions, and his simla, his normal everyday attire (2 Samuel 12:20). He’s signaling that his grieving is over now. I’m back to business.

That’s what Ruth is doing here. She’s changing into another set of clothes that say she’s available for marriage. She’s not grieving anymore. She’s not focusing on what she’s lost. She’s moving forward. She’s prepared and ready to seize the opportunity in front of her.

As children of God and followers of Jesus, we need to put on the right clothes that signal to the whole world that we are ready and prepared to seize the opportunities around us.

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~Colossians 3:12-14

The people around you are seeking what’s really important. They’re searching for something trustworthy and true. The people you’re running into every day are disappointed, disillusioned, and divided. But they’re open to something different. They want something or someone that’s real and solid and dependable. They want an answer to everything that’s gone wrong, they’re looking for a solution to everything that’s broken. That way, that truth, that life is our Lord Jesus Christ and the time is right now to make him known to a desperate world.

Clothe yourselves with Christ!

Your life, your words, your actions, your attitude can be living proof to everyone around you that good overcomes evil. You can show people by how you behave that love is greater than hate, that unity is more fun than division, that forgiveness always beats revenge, and that peace is far more effective than violence.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” ~1 Peter 2:9

Not just the things you engage in and the ways you act, but also the things you refuse to associate with and the things you say “no” to are a powerful witness to the only One who can truly fix what’s wrong.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” ~1 Peter 2:12

Peter didn’t come up with that. He’s quoting our Lord from the opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount.

“Let your light shine before all people that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:16

Think about it. What if you and I remained calm when the other people around us are anxious and frantic and demanding? Everything is turned up so loud right now. What would it mean to others if you were quiet and calm?

What if you and I spoke with humility and grace? Instead of saying things and forwarding things and reposting things that insult and disparage whole groups of other people so the people like me know exactly where I stand, what if we only said thing that were encouraging to others and the only thing that came out of our mouths was intended to build those other people up? I believe that kind of language would really stick out as special.

What if you and I tried to love everybody? What if you and I were known for how kind and graciously we treated others, even when we disagree? Especially when we disagree! I really think that would get noticed. And what if we committed to that right now instead of later?

“[All the commandments] are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ …Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here… Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ!” ~Romans 13:11-14

Put on the clothes that signal to the world you take very seriously your vows to the Lord. Wear the simla that communicates a deep commitment to the ways and means of our King.

Peace,

Allan

The Other Question

Charles Sheldon wrote a book in 1896 entitled, “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?” The book proved to be very popular and was widely read. It questioned the thought processes and actions of Christians as they lived their lives at the turn of that century. Now, 128 years later, we express that same wonder in T-shirts and bracelets and bumper stickers:

What Would Jesus Do?

It’s a good question. But if another question isn’t given equal billing alongside it, we wind up with answers that are only half true. As we walk, we must also ask:

What Is God Doing?

Jesus tells us and shows us what to do and how to do it–and how not to do it. At the same time, he tells us and shows us what God is doing.

Jesus is God in action. Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is God speaking. Jesus is God hugging lepers. Jesus is God forgiving sinners. Jesus is God protecting an adulterous woman who’s about to be killed. Jesus is God blessing little children. Jesus is God giving sight to Bartimaeus and giving life to Lazarus. Jesus is God calling down judgment on religious posturing. Jesus is God weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus is God living among us and showing us how to join him in living that life.

The other question reminds us that God’s Kingdom is present tense, God’s eternal will is unfolding around us in the present, God’s love and mercy, his forgiveness and grace are being poured out presently. In and through his Son Jesus. And in and through his children and followers of Christ.

What would Jesus do? What is God doing? What would we do? What am I doing?

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” ~ 1 John 2:6

Peace,

Allan

Assurance for the New Year

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!” ~Jesus

These ancient words of our Lord are not about what happens after we die. This is not supposed to increase our faith in Christ for everlasting life after death. These words are intended to move us to new levels of confidence for living right now. Jesus is pushing us to new heights of assurance in God’s faithfulness to us right now. We don’t have to sin! We never have to compromise! In the middle of the mess, we can live fully for our Lord and his coming Kingdom because his victory is ours!

Scripture doesn’t ignore the bad stuff. The Bible guarantees there will be bad stuff. Living in this world as a follower of Jesus means you’re going to experience some trial and tribulation. You’re going to encounter opposition. There is suffering in this world. There are people who hate Christians in this world. There are so-called Christians making things worse. There are the normal problems that come with living in a fallen world. And there is the devil himself. But Jesus reminds us that none of that opposition has a chance.

No one can successfully condemn you. No one can ultimately defeat you. Christ died for you. God raised him to life for you. And he is your divine intercessor. Nothing can ever separate you from his love and his victory. So you can be a full-speed, brakes-off, no-looking-back follower of Jesus. You can take risks for the Kingdom of God. You can be extravagant in your forgiveness and acceptance of others. You can be lavish in your love for everybody, including your enemies. You can be all in, all the time and never be swayed by the world.

Jesus overcomes the world for you. His victory is your victory when you are in him. It’s your victory when you embrace him in faith–his triumph becomes your triumph. His eternal life, his righteousness, his holiness, his redemption belongs to you! That’s why it’s called Gospel. It’s really good news!

Jesus says, “Take heart. Take courage! I have faced your enemy and I’ve conquered it. I have fought your battle and I’ve won. In fact, it’s a blowout, it’s a rout. It’s not even close. You can’t do it. Never. You don’t have a chance. But that’s okay. I’ve already done it for you. And I’m doing it right now for you and in you and through you.”

As you start 2024, listen to our Lord Jesus. It’s a promise. But it’s also a call. It’s a call to live for Christ and his Kingdom right now today.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take courage! I have overcome the world!”

Hook ‘Em.
Allan

Leading Lavishly

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love out to us. He doesn’t weigh it on scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love. We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine. That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s impossible: God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love. We are his children. That is what we are.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. Matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me! God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven is you do this one thing or keep this set of rules or follow this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, every single one of your sins — all of ’em; name em! — are all gone forever! God’s forgiveness is total and complete! Your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west! They are all hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again! God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out again and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s grace is lavish and complete.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

This is not an incidental or isolated remark from our Lord. This comes right between “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is our doorway to salvation and the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. And in the middle is the key contrast between his purpose and mission and that of the thieves and robbers: They come to take, Jesus comes to give. They seek destruction, Jesus seeks abundance.

From the fullness of his grace we have all  received one blessing after another. God gives the Spirit without limit. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Rivers of living water for all to drink. You will bear much fruit and your joy will be made complete. You will  do greater works than me. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ lavish life-giving abundance. If we wrote them all down, all the books in the world wouldn’t hold them!

The apostle Peter says we shepherd like our Chief Shepherd. We treat those in our flocks the same way Jesus does. With lavish love. With limitless grace. With inexhaustible forgiveness. With unmerited favor. We give everybody in our church life to the full.

Peace,

Allan

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