An Audio Devotional for Maundy Thursday

My friend Tim Briggs asked me to help out on a Spotify playlist he was putting together for Holy Week. (Be sure to check out Folk Hymnal, the group Tim writes for!) The end product is fantastic. Each day features alternating spoken word devotionals and songs that continue the narrative or give space for reflection. I worked on Maundy Thursday (today). The recordings don’t feature my voice because my recording wasn’t good enough to use (sorry again, Tim!), but I wrote the material being spoken. I’ve included the text for the spoken word portions at the bottom of this post.

Maundy Thursday Devotional

(Here’s a link to the Maundy Thursday playlist in case you can’t see the Spotify embed, and here’s the master Holy Week playlist where you can find the rest of the week’s devotionals.)

Spoken Word Text

Devotional 1

Jesus knew he was about to be betrayed. Death was so close he could taste it. But instead of losing his appetite, he reclined at a table with his disciples. Jesus had loved these men while he was in the world. Now he was about to show them the full extent of that love. He rose from the table, laid his outer garment aside, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began washing his disciples’ feet. In a day where you mostly traveled on foot and wore sandals, this would have been a dirty job. Only the lowliest of servants would have done it. Yet here we see the Christ, who created all things and for whom all things were created, stooping down to wash the very feet he made.

Devotional 2

When Jesus came to Peter, he declared, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet? … No, you shall never wash my feet.” Here we see two men — Jesus and Peter — with very different identities. Peter, who had not offered to wash anyone’s feet, saw himself as unworthy of the love and service of Christ. Jesus saw himself as a servant who ranked no higher than anyone else. When Jesus explained to Peter that he could have no part with him unless he could be served by his Lord, Peter replied, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Though Peter had yet to understand what was happening, he was experiencing the kind of love and service that would set the tone for the Christian faith.

Devotional 3

Though he would soon taste death, Jesus wanted his disciples to taste life. It was the night of the Passover Feast, when God’s people remembered the time God passed them over as the angel of death swept through Egypt, killing every firstborn child and beast. Jesus held up a piece of bread and explained that it symbolized his soon to be broken body, and a cup that represented his blood about to be spilled. This must have confused the disciples; the body and blood had always been supplied by a lamb and a goat. But Jesus’ meaning is clear: He was about to become the lamb and goat. He was going to receive on himself the sins of the world and be cast outside the city gate. His blood would be poured out on the cruciform altar as the payment for our sins.

Devotional 4

“When [Jesus] had finished washing [his disciples’] feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’” Remarking on this passage, Charles Spurgeon said, “Blessed is that servant who is quite content with that position which his master appoints him — glad to unloose the latchet of his Lord’s shoes — glad to wash the saints’ feet — glad to engage in sweeping a crossing for the king’s servants. Let us do anything for Jesus, counting it the highest honour even to be a door-mat inside the church of God, … for the saints even to remove the filthiness from themselves upon us, so long as we may but be of some use to them, and bring some glory to God.”

[Video] A Roadmap to Personal Renewal

I got called in to pinch hit for my pastor when he came down with something nasty and lost his voice. So I reworked an old sermon on Hezekiah’s renewal from 2 Chronicles 28-30. Here’s video of the sermon. (Note the now ironic intro mentioning Tiger Woods not winning a major for several years … which he did when he won the Masters yesterday.)

Sharing our lives

This is a message delivered to group leaders based on John 13:34-35; 17; 1 Thessalonians 1 & 2; 1 Peter 3:15.

1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

7 …We were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-2, 4, 5; 2:7-8, 11-12, 17-20 NIV

About two years ago, I read this and other passages like it and found myself left with one really uncomfortable question: Do I love anyone like that? Continue reading “Sharing our lives”

Be doers of the Word

This is a message delivered to group leaders based on James 1:19-27.

I’ve noticed something as I’ve talked to group leaders over the last 12 months or so that I didn’t expect. Many of you, many of us and many of the people in our groups, have this nagging sense that we’re not doing something right. That something’s off.

You meet every week with your group, but it seems like you just do study after study and talk about the same issues over and over again. You’re not sure why it bothers you now when it didn’t before, but you’re scared to bring it up because you think no one feels the same way.

As I’ve leaned in closer to understand more about what they’re feeling, I’ve come to think it’s actually something many of us are feeling as Christ followers, not just as group leaders. It’s more fundamental to our identity as Christians than our role as leaders.

But it’s not something most of us want to raise our hand and talk about, because we feel like admitting it means we’re somehow lower down the spirituality ladder. Since most of you who might feel that sense that something’s off, let me break the ice and just say it:

Many of us are not finding fulfillment in our walks with God.

We’re not sensing His Spirit, we’re not feeling His presence, we’re not more joyful than last year, we’re not loving our families better.

We’re not sure why; we just know that’s how we feel.

But like any good group leader, we think the answer’s just one more curriculum, one more book, one more Bible study away. We think that if we can just hear the right thing, listen to one more thing, that maybe it’ll get us over the hump and we’ll experience deeper spirituality.

I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve experienced this.

Over a period of about 12 months, God revealed to me what the problem was in my life, and I believe it’s the same problem many of you might be wrestling with today. Continue reading “Be doers of the Word”

A different kind of community

This post is an edited version of a message I gave on 6/26/16. You can listen to the audio here

I read something recently that busted me, see if it gets you too. It’s a typical day in the life of a fictitious family named the Johnson’s, see if you can relate:

Bob and Karen Johnson both rise at 6:00 a.m. On this day, Bob hurries to leave the house at 7:00. He opens the door to the garage, gets in his car, and pulls out of the driveway. He spots his new neighbor taking out the trash and waves to him with a forced smile. As Bob drives down the road, he reminds himself that this neighbor has been in the neighborhood now for 2 years and he still can’t remember his name.

Karen has worked out an arrangement to be at work at 9:00 a.m. so she can drop off her two children at school on time. As Karen is making her way out of the driveway, her son announces that he left his lunch inside.

The easiest move for Karen would be to go back in through the front door, but she sees her next door neighbor, who is retired, beginning her yard work for the day. While Karen would love to catch up with her, she’s afraid if they engage in a conversation the children will be late for school, and then she’ll be late for work.

So, rather than risk being late, Karen makes her way back to the rear-entry garage, opens the door, and goes inside. She grabs the lunch, and off they go.

Fast forward to 6:30. Bob and Karen arrive home after getting the kids from school and heat up dinner. After dinner, the dishes are cleaned up, homework papers are checked, and the children get ready for bed. It is now 9:00 p.m.

At 9:15, Bob and Karen finally sit down. They are too exhausted to talk, so they turn on the TV and watch it until the news is over. Finally, at 11:30, they crawl into bed. A couple of words are exchanged, mostly business-like talk concerning tomorrow’s details.

Sound familiar?

But what busted me more was what came next, which was this:

The Johnsons appear to have a wonderful life. They own a house in a nice suburb with a two-car garage. Their house is surrounded by a six-foot high fence for privacy for their patio and grill. Bob and Karen have two children – a boy and a girl. They each have jobs and everyone is in good health.

Yet, if you could enter the hearts and thoughts of Bob and Karen Johnson, you would discover that they have dreams and fears no one else knows about. While they’ve never voiced it to anyone, there’s an increasing sense of isolation, distress, and powerlessness growing inside them. In a nutshell, the Johnson’s have done a fine job at keeping up with the Jones’s, but they still aren’t happy.

Continue reading “A different kind of community”