On the Receiving End

Many years ago, I had the privilege of going to Jordan to minister to Iraqi refugees there who had formed their own church. On the last evening, our team was invited to the pastor’s home for dinner and as we entered their home it was apparent that there was more to the evening than we expected. The pastor and some of his team washed our feet as we came in, to honor and show their appreciation for us coming. I must admit, I didn’t feel comfortable at first. To have these men, especially the pastor washing my feet was very foreign to me. I was a “Peter” at that moment, saying to myself “why, and really you don’t need to.” (John 13:6-9)

Of course, I didn’t say those things out loud because it would have been rude and ungrateful. I didn’t know what a spiritual experience it would turn out to be, and one I would never forget. They, like Jesus, were modeling beautiful humility which in turn humbled us. It was done out of their love for Jesus and for us. Serving others is part of the calling of all believers but accepting being served is just as important I learned.

Remember the story of Jesus and the sinful woman in Luke 7:44? Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet . . .”

That story holds many lessons, but I think it is a great example of Jesus who needed nothing from anyone, graciously receiving. This was not the norm at all, but Jesus knew her heart and he was modeling how to receive or to be served. Jesus was normally the one teaching, feeding, and healing, but he wasn’t too powerful or proud to receive this gift from a “sinful woman.”

Sometimes when we desperately want or need help, our pride or shyness can keep us from asking for or accepting it. We might feel very comfortable helping others and serving but haven’t learned that it’s okay to be the one who helped or served. When we don’t, we deprive someone else of the blessing of giving. Even though Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive if you can’t be humble enough to receive, how can you be a servant?

Jesus showed us how to be gracious receivers. Can you think of a time when you were reluctant to ask for help or receive it when offered? Ask the Lord to show you why and how you might do it differently next time.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant

Reciprocity Not Required

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.

I love it when salespeople knock on my front door or call (although my wife doesn’t like it or that I enjoy it!). They usually have a pitch that goes something like this, “I’m so and so and I think we have an opportunity to mutually benefit each other by…”. I always want to hear what they have to offer because maybe I can get something for free and they love talking because so many people shut the door or hang up the phone on them. Realistically neither they nor I are acting out of a mutual best interest, so the conversation ends with me in trouble with my wife or kids and the salesperson walking away empty-handed. Reciprocity is this idea of creating a win-win, or both gaining from exchanging help. Of course, to make this work it has to go both ways, both parties need to give to get. Jesus did things differently, he didn’t look to get something back, or look for his gain. He looked just to benefit others by serving people.

Jesus’ leadership style started a trend that we still follow today, Servant Leadership, so it must have been pretty effective. Jesus shows us by washing his friend's feet without looking for someone to wash his own feet that reciprocity does not always require reciprocation. On a practical level, Jesus took care of a lowly job that he was overqualified to do. It benefitted his friends (clean feet), it benefitted the host (clean floors), but it was not something someone like him normally did and no one offered to clean his! Jesus was modeling a way to live and lead that started with humility to cause a change in the way everyone else was to act.

Jesus shows us we don’t have to do things just to get something in return, that we can be okay just serving others, and that we know that God will take care of us. Here is my challenge for you, where can you serve someone else just for the sake of the kingdom? Where can you help someone in need, where it might go unnoticed? Can you take a chance today or this week and follow Jesus’ model? If you need help with ideas or to do something, we would love to talk to you!

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

Who’s the Master?

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

When Jesus says to his disciples, “no servant is greater than his master” in this passage, who is the master? If you are like me, you quickly answer the way that every Sunday School child is trained to answer all the questions… “Jesus!” Right? Is that how you answered? That is how I have always thought about this passage: Jesus is the master and his disciples are the servants. However, the more I think about it, the more I have a feeling that this is not the best way to interpret this passage. Now, let me be clear, ultimately, Jesus does want us to see him as the person that we would follow as our Lord and Master. However, in the context of this passage, I would like to suggest that Jesus is not the master, but the servant.

You might want to go back and reread John 13:1-17 to get the full context, but if you remember, Jesus just finished washing the disciples’ feet. Although Jesus was the leader of this group and was the least likely person to be washing feet, he got down on his knees and washed all 24 stinky feet. Why did Jesus do this? As vs. 16 says, “I have set you an example…” Jesus was redefining what leadership is. Leaders are to take the role of the servant. So, right here, after playing the part of the servant, the next word out of his mouth is a statement about servants and masters. So, I don’t think that leaves us any doubt on who the servant is… it is Jesus. However, then that begs the question that we began with… “Who is the master?”

Maybe Jesus is making a much bigger point than simply encouraging his disciples to be servants. Maybe he is suggesting that the reason he has become a servant is because he is not greater than his own master. Well, who is Jesus’ master? God the Father. What Jesus is saying here is that God is a servant at heart. When Jesus washed the disciples' feet, he was showing us what God is like. Wow! Sit with that today. The God of the universe wants to wash your feet. In fact, the God of the universe tells you, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” How will you allow God to wash you today?

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

Offensive Servanthood

Right before the apostle, John writes of Jesus washing the disciple's feet, he pens a description of what was in Jesus’ mind. This is John 13:3.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going back to God…

This is an interesting place for one’s mind to dwell. Jesus' choice to humble himself and wash their feet might be the opposite of what many people around us would choose. Do the richest people around us (those who could be described as having everything placed “into their hands”) often humble themselves and intentionally do the tasks that most people around them do not want to do?

Too often, church people spiritualize service. I learned this after my oldest was born. My mother-in-law had flown out to join us for the birth. I had just taken a new job and didn’t feel like I could be away much, so I was not much help at home. During those weeks, she cleaned for us, did laundry, and every day when I got home from work, had a wonderful meal prepared. Several times in those weeks it was steak and potatoes. What a treat! When the day came for her to fly home, just before taking her to the airport, I stopped her in the kitchen in order to thank her for the help and all the ways she blessed us. I said something like, “You have been an amazing servant to our family!” I thought it was a compliment, but she got mad.

You see, she was not a regular church attender and when I said she had been an amazing servant, she didn’t feel complimented at all. Instead, she felt insulted. I tried to insist that the use of the word servant was a good thing, but she assumed I was looking down on her; like a slave.

Has serving lost its sense of muck and lowliness in your eyes because of the spiritual significance you may have attributed to it through the years? In some ways that is good, because like Jesus showed, believers exist to serve and not be served. But maybe in some ways that is bad, because like Jesus showed, it really does require elevating others and stooping down to lowly tasks, where they really could look down on you, for the sake of where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

Crunchy Omelet

One time a long time ago, I got up the gusto to make my folks an omelet. I figured I knew how since I’ve been watching my Mom making them for as long as I could remember. I set in on cracking some eggs in a bowl and discovered that my mother has been performing minor miracles my entire life. I could not properly crack the egg. I accidentally did things to those eggs that words would struggle to adequately describe. I did my best to fish the bigger shards of shell out and presented the sad fruit of a few hours of labor to my poor folks for dinner. They generously thanked me for my hard work and eventually put together a backup dinner, only properly prepared this time. In some ways, the hungry crowd in John 6  was like me, unable to provide a sufficiently decent meal for themselves at that moment.

Jesus took what was available, as meager as it was, and multiplied it until people were satisfied. I’m guessing each fish was unique, somehow pre-cooked to perfection, and ready to go. He did so in a timely manner too, the people were hungry, it was already very late in the day and he had to feed more than 5 thousand people before dark. No physical law of matter was going to hinder him. Jesus’ compassion casually breaks any law that would get in his way, man-made or otherwise.

Let’s make sure we are among those who follow Jesus, let’s make sure we are in that crowd. Jesus is very faithful and dependable to provide for our practical needs. We tend to veer towards self-reliance much like I wanted to make a gourmet dinner. Why would I ever choose my crunchy omelet over the abundant feast Jesus has for us?

Jonathan Duncan

Are You Truly Satisfied?

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

In his book, The Heart of the Enlightened, Anthony De Mello tells a story:

A Quaker had this sign put on a vacant piece of land next to his home: “THIS LAND WILL BE GIVEN TO ANYONE WHO IS TRULY SATISFIED.”

A wealthy farmer who was riding by, stopped to read the sign and said to himself, “Since our friend the Quaker is so ready to part with this plot, I might as well claim it before someone else does. I am a rich man and have all I need, so I certainly qualify.”

With that he went up to the door and explained what he was there for. “And are you truly satisfied?” the Quaker asked.

“I am, indeed, for I have everything I need.”

“Friend,” said the Quaker, “if you are satisfied, what do you want the land for?”

As we see in the story of Jesus feeding the five-thousand, everyone ate and all were satisfied. Satisfaction or contentment for many of us is elusive. I know it’s elusive in my life! The moment I feel like I am content with the things that I have, my lot in life, Apple releases a new iPhone and I find myself green with envy and dissatisfaction. So, the question that the Quaker asks is the question we strive to answer every day; are we truly satisfied? If we are looking for people, things, and gadgets to satisfy our needs, we will ALWAYS leave disappointed. Why? Because temporal things can never satisfy the eternal desires written on our hearts.

What the people don’t realize, and what Jesus so perfectly illustrates later in John 6, is that the only way to be truly satisfied and content is to partake of the bread of life. Jesus is the end of our quest for satisfaction. You will find nothing great and nothing beyond the satisfaction that only Jesus brings. It is through faith that Jesus becomes the well that will never run dry, and in the process, he not only satisfies our desires but he also sets us free from chasing the things that can never and will never satisfy. Are you truly satisfied? If your satisfaction is found in the sufficiency of grace, the answer is and can be yes.

Pastor Seth Redden
High School Ministry

The Ultimate Catering Challenge

We have a God of order, not of confusion. A God of harmony, not of chaos. A God who is complete, unified, and peaceful. God’s very creation of the world was done in an orderly manner. Genesis 1:16 tells us that God made a brilliant light by which to see during the day, and another for the night; but that light isn’t as bright, otherwise we couldn’t sleep! To say that God loves orderly systems does not limit him but rather it only emphasizes how very intentional he is about his love, purpose, and plan for each of his children.

John 6 tells the story of a hungry crowd. They were hungry to hear Jesus but also hungry for food! The disciples discover a boy who has two fish and five loaves of bread. So with that, Jesus instructs the disciples to have the people sit down. Jesus wasn’t in a hurry. He had a huge catering job to complete so he went about his work in an orderly fashion. Could it be that the order, simplicity, and organization were a demonstration of God’s power? Could this process have further prepared the hearts of the people to receive the truth that Jesus was about to proclaim?

In verse 11 it says, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” I wonder if some in the crowd were tempted to jump up and try to take control, thinking that they knew best. Or there may have been others who were simply anxious about whether or not they would receive any food at all. There was quite possibly a degree of restraint and trust exhibited on the part of those who were receiving the meal. Was Jesus teaching a lesson before he even opened his mouth? The crowd was learning to let go of control. In surrender to the process, by allowing the system at hand to prevail, they discovered God’s provision.

Was it then that the crowd realized the miracle that was at hand? Jesus didn’t even need the loaves and fish, but they availed the opportunity for him to demonstrate his power and provision. Could it be that this miracle, this orderly process of feeding 5000 was a demonstration of God’s intentionality that would eventually cause people to turn an ear and embrace the words of their Savior in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Who are you putting your trust in today? A world of chaos or a God of intentional peace, purpose, and love.

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care & Counseling

I Surrender All or I Commit to This?

In John 6:9, Andrew speaks up when Jesus was testing his disciples about how they were going to feed masses of people that traveled to hear him teach. Andrew says, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” No more is written about the boy. Was the boy offering the food he had? Normally, that’s how we picture it; a gift, surrendered for Jesus to use and multiply. Is it possible that Andrew took it from the boy because, at that time, the boy was at the mercy of the adults who were in charge around him? The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is told in all four gospels, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not mention the boy. In those records, the disciples simply report that they have five loaves and two fish. We can only imagine how the transfer of the loaves and fish actually took place, but sometimes in life surrender happens voluntarily and sometimes it happens through force or fear.

In the book The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority: Getting the Upper Hand on the Underworld, Adrian Rogers writes of a conversation he had with Josef Tson, a revered Romanian pastor who was an author and the president of the Romanian Missionary Society. Tson lived through years of exile and persecution in a cruel Communist regime. Rogers asked Dr. Tson to share what he observed in the American Church.

Tson’s response may surprise you. With some hesitation, he replied, “Well, Adrian, since you have asked me, I’ll tell you. The key word in American Christianity is commitment." Tson did not see that word in a flattering light. He believed it was a bad substitute for the older and better Christian teaching: surrender.

Tson elaborated on the difference between the two, “When you make a commitment, you are still in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give his money, commit to automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he chooses to do, he commits to. But surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told. . . . Americans love commitment because they are still in control. But the key word is surrender. We are to be slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is a wide divide between the practice of committing some part of one’s life to Christ and the practice of surrendering all to Christ. Take some time right now to evaluate and pray about which practice looks more like the way you walk with Jesus.

Pastor John Riley

Jr. High Ministry

The Situation

One day at work, years ago, I was driving in San Diego and of course, traffic was really bad. I had the great idea to cut down some side streets and find my way around all the traffic. The downside was that there was a parade and there was no way to get where I needed to go. I sat there just watching people walking, talking, and enjoying the day.  There was nothing else I could do. This is what I picture when I read John 6:1-15.

Jesus’ actions had created quite the following, especially since it was almost Passover and many more people were coming into town. Jesus and his disciples traveled primarily by foot and they had been taking care of a lot of people! They were hungry, tired, and all their extrovertedness had been depleted. Of course, there was no break, instead, thousands of weary and hungry people kept following Jesus. Imagine what the townspeople must have been thinking or imagine what it must have been like as one of the weary and hungry followers! Now put yourselves in the role of the disciples.You have given everything you thought you had and yet people wanted more. This would have been a challenge for most people because there were just too many people to take care of.

Jesus took the opportunity to once again show God’s love and kindness to so many people in need. Where my heart might have failed and out of exhaustion I might have thrown in the towel, Jesus was about to do something truly amazing and unique. I appreciate his miracle a whole lot more when I understand the whole situation. Sometimes I (maybe you as well) need to step back from the life situation we are in to see the whole situation.

I still remember sitting back and enjoying the parade when I stepped back to realize my helplessness in that situation, all I could do was watch and pray. One day you might find yourself frustrated, tired, or hungry and you might need to see the whole situation.  Jesus can help you, he is ready to be there for you, will you give him a chance? If you need someone to pray with or talk to, we are here for you.

Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

Earning vs Effort

I have to admit that I don’t have kids who rise to attention whenever I call their names. They don’t respond with “yes sir,” whenever I ask them to do something. In fact, I have a feeling that my kids are pretty normal kids who often complain and argue and try to get out of doing anything we ask them to do, especially their chores. My three kids are also rarely on the same page on any topic, unless that topic is their joint opposition to doing their chores. One day, my kids all ganged up on us and said, “Why do you need us to do chores all the time?” My wife and I looked at each other and almost laughed out loud. We explained to these little humans that we don’t NEED them to do chores. In fact, it would be a whole lot easier for us to just do the chores most of the time. We could get them done a lot faster, we wouldn’t have to spend time asking them to do it, and we’d get the chores done the way we want them done. That would make a lot more sense. So, the question is, why do we keep asking them to do chores? It’s because as their parents, we know that it is good for them to learn how to contribute and show a little effort.

I think that this is how God, our Father, sees us. He doesn’t NEED us to “do our chores.”He doesn’t need us to do anything. He can do whatever he wants and he doesn’t need our help to do it. However, he wants us to be involved, not because he is lonely or bossy, but because he knows that it is good for us to learn how to contribute and show a little effort.

The problem is that as humans, our natural bent is toward earning. We often fight for what we are owed. We earn money, but we also earn privileges, rights, positions, influence, respect, and on and on. The American Dream is that this country would be a place in which everyone’s effort would directly correlate with what they earn. If we’ve learned anything lately, it is that this is still just a distant dream, but we are so entrenched in the attitude of earning, that we can’t think of a way out. But deeper the problem is that this attitude and expectation of earning affects everything we do, even our faith.

One of the big temptations that we face is to confuse effort for earning. Just because God wants us to show effort in our faith, doesn’t mean that he is doing so from an attitude of earning. God’s desire for us to show some effort comes as much out of a heart of love as any good parent’s. Just like it would be terrible for any child to think that a parent’s love is dependent on the amount of effort they give, so it would be terrible to think that God’s love is dependent on the effort we give to faith. Effort is supposed to flow from love, not to earn love. So today, go and show some effort, but not from an attitude of earning, but from out of a heart of love.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor