Sawdust, Planks, Ducks, and GQ

I was reading over 1 Corinthians 6 this morning and letting it settle on my brain, in the midst of the whole A&E/ Phil Robertson “The Duck Commander” issue, thinking about what it all means to my life, and this is what I’ve come up with: there are a wealth of sins in this world and all of them are worthy of our disdain. But, because every single one of us is guilty of sin in our daily lives, it is far more efficient for me to focus on the task at hand – the beams of wood obstructing my own view and solid standing – before I even consider what may or may not be obstructing someone else.

If I’m truly living my life humbly in love and service for others, as Christ directed us to, I will have very little time or energy left to spend picking at the lives of others. I’ve got enough of my own problems. While each of the different translations makes the same point, I truly appreciate the way that THE MESSAGE interprets verses 1-5 in the 7th chapter of Matthew:

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

Defined

The question

Cliché and worn

Like an out-of-style

What Would Jesus Do? bracelet

Dropped like a hat

Casually

In this equally-worn

Small southern town

Are you saved?

Yeah.

I got saved on…

The date so easily recalled

Like the day you earned

Your drivers license

Because

Like other rites of passage

That is what you do

When you grow up

Down here

Unlike what is brought by

The fire and brimstone

Ultimatum as written

On the inside cover of

A pocket-size Gideons’ Bible

Handed to you

On the way to recess

By suited men

Just beyond

Your public school door

I breath peace

Born by hope

A notion that

Like a loving parent

His grace is infinite

Even with the pain that I’ve caused

Lying out in full view

Before Him

He holds me close

Whispering good news

That these tears

Are not cried in vain

Grace Beyond Eggs & Peeps

I’ve claimed to be a devout Christian before. The height of my claim came in high school when, for a few months, at least, I was set on the decision to attend a Seventh-Day Adventist college and major in Theology to become a pastor. For the most part, my spiritual life has been hit and miss since then.

The past couple years, however, brought about a growing acceptance of the concept of God’s grace. Essentially, there is nothing that I could do, or have ever done, to earn God’s love and acceptance. This realization has brought me closer to him than I’ve ever been or ever could become by learning to quote from the many writings of Ellen G. White or by refraining from doing the wrong thing on the sabbath (two big emphases of the Adventist church). Both of my hands are empty and free to serve now that I set my score card down.

My realization of the profound consequences of Grace on my personal life, has developed a greater appreciation of the events that the Christian Easter season celebrates. I grew up, as many kids do, coming out to the living room on Easter Sunday to find an Easter basket full of candy, treats, and usually a toy. The Peeps were my favorite. This was before they became available for every other holiday. I’m talking about the marshmallow, sugar-coated, yellow, pink, and purple chicks and bunnies. I still love them!

Sure, I was familiar with something related to Jesus being resurrected (or something like that), but, that was all on the periphery. My main focus when I was a kid was the candy, the oversized rabbit that stands on two legs at the mall, and egg hunts. Even in my mid-twenties I didn’t grasp the significance of “Good Friday,” as many people called it.

Last night I participated in a Thursday evening communion service in which we focused on commemorating Christ’s last supper with his disciples in the upper room. I’ve been focusing on this event in my personal readings over the past week as well. To me, this is where the truest character of Jesus is revealed. From the revelation that John the disciple reclined at the table with his head resting on the chest of Jesus, to the fact that the Messiah disrobed, wrapped his clothing around his waist, and washed each of his followers’ feet.

Though he knew he was about to suffer the greatest pain known to man, Christ spent this evening breaking bread with his betrayer, and providing food, wisdom, and comfort to his disciples. On the eve of the day when He would experience the greatest mental, physical and spiritual struggle to touch mankind, Jesus provided rest to his disciples and served even those who would, later that night, betray and deny him.

The next day he was unjustly executed. Three days later, on resurrection Sunday, he served all mankind by tying the knot of grace that binds, to Him, those who accept his generous invitation to eat with Him in His kingdom.

The hope and peace of my life rests on these events.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23

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.” John 13:3-5

Love A Sinner

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Reading this text this morning shed a new light, for me, on how Christians are supposed to relate to other people that, though we are not to judge, we know or suspect are wrapped up in sin. When Jesus told the disciples that they should love one another as he loved them, he was referring to the fact that he had just assumed the servant’s role in his interactions with them by washing their feet. He was making the point that serving others in a humble, selfless manner, is just the manner in which a person should be able to be identified as a follower of Christ.

The most interesting detail that I hadn’t paid attention to before, though, is that at the point when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Judas Iscariot had not yet betrayed Jesus. Jesus knew that he would, though. Yet, He still knelt down in front of Judas and humbly washed the feet of Judas as a servant would. Jesus could’ve used this opportunity to criticize, rant, scold, and ultimately dismiss Judas from the group of disciples on His own terms, but, he didn’t.

The reality is that, as Christians, we are much more likely to try to separate and dismiss sinners from our clicks, circles, groups, and congregations when we should really be bent down before them, serving them in a sincere, humble, and God-honoring manner. The saying, “Love the sinner, but, not the sin,” I think, applies here and it should apply more in our daily lives: to the adulterer, the addict, the thief, and the homosexual. Because as the bible states, we have all fallen short of the glory of God and His grace is the only hope that ANY of us have.

Beneath The Surface

Like a single point on the earth
Turning away from the sun
It becomes colder and darker
Until it rotates back to face the light

The dark is not to be ignored
Daily waves of life remind me of the present death
From within the dank and musty smell of hopelessness
They are waiting for a hand to be lent

Temporary discomfort is a given
Temptation all too likely
Because the night distracts
Clarity quivers and weakens

Like a diver sunk too deep
Panic sets in amidst the poison of neon
Returning to the surface becomes critical
To face the light again

Mere Assurance

Demons quietly folding up their tents with newfound humility
Creeping off into the dark with their belongings tucked under their arms
Is it wishful thinking or divine truth dusted off for me to see anew?
Rancourous winds dying down where even recently the storm swirled
Presently succumbing to the steady breeze of assurance

“He told people that their sins were forgiven,
and never waited to consult all the other people
whom their sins had undoubtedly injured.”

What Do I Need To Be Saved From?

We are all capable of evil. From the faint thought tinged with disdain to a pre-meditated act of murder, circumstances, environmental factors, self-serving motives, and fear spawn evil thoughts from the heads and evil deeds from the hands of all of us on a daily basis. This much is human nature and it originated in a garden where people were given the opportunity to choose for themselves.

Without a moral standard, what can be considered immoral? The presence in our culture of horrendous acts, scared people, and hate-filled words, and our collective dislike for such things, is a clear indication that both good and bad exist in this world.

Much like gravity’s pull, sin has a profound affect on our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. Without the righteousness of God (manifested in the life of Jesus) serving as a guide, the persistent pull of humankind’s sin nature will drive each of us into the ground.

Being “saved” (as much as I dislike the overused cliche) is all about realizing our individual inabilities to resist engaging in people-hurting, sinful activities, and, instead, humbly turning to Jesus for a better answer and a real standard for living

As long as people fail to live their lives for God, they will be living for themselves and people living for themselves can only be certain of one thing: death.