Archive for February, 2013

The Full Extent of Love

The Herald News February 13, 2014

“…he now showed them the full extent of his love.” John 13:1

My wife is all wet. The truth is: she is smarter and wiser than me, and is almost always right about everything. But she likes to be all wet.

I haven’t talked this over with my daughters yet, but I think we should have a continuous flow of young grandkids so I can enjoy the exuberance and joy it brings out in Cheryl.

The grandkids call Cheryl Anya, and when she is with them, there is no greater display of love. It’s wet, too. You see, her favorite thing is to give baths to the kids. Your mind can visualize this right now, can’t it? Young kids in a tub, water toys, bathtub letters that stick on the wall, a smiling grandmother hanging over the tub, H2O everywhere. Everywhere…

In John 13, the Apostle Peter had an issue with washings. With the crucifixion near, Jesus was in the midst of washing the feet of the disciples. Peter completely missed the symbolism and example of service by Jesus and resisted Jesus’ humble act. Rebuked by Jesus but still protesting, Peter—like us—tells Jesus to give him a bath all over. I think Peter was trying to be honoring but his impetuous-self got in the way of understanding.

Verses 8-10 have an interesting interplay of words behind the scenes. Jesus, ever mixing direct statements, veiled truths, and figurative language, forcefully responds and teaches: some cleanings are temporary. But He exclaims, “When I wash your feet tonight Peter, something far greater is portrayed. Except for one, all of my disciples—and yes—even YOU Peter are forever clean.” For Christ’s followers the towel and basin depict a single act (the cross) and we are forever clean before God when we embrace the cross. Merrill Tenney writes about John13: “The work of Christ draws a permanent line between those who have been cleansed and those who are not clean.”

It helps in our own losses and crosses to focus on this “full extent of his love.”

A good friend tells the true story of a college student who received the news that his father and siblings had all been killed in a plane crash. My friend went to his dorm room to see him but he was gone. His attention was drawn to a card on display with these two words: “Think Jesus.”

Cheryl’s great joy in bathing our grandchildren is quickly, naturally coming to an end as the kids grow older. By contrast, her love for our grandkids is impregnable and unending, and pictures our unassailable Father and the full extent of His love for those who follow His Son.

I’d be honored to hear of a time when “Think Jesus” was all you could do at:

The Deepest Call

“…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:18

What a meeting! My brother-in-law’s heart transplant team stood in his room post-transplant, grinning and laughing like a room full of kids in an all-you-can-eat-for-free chocolate candy store. They laughed in several languages. One giggled in Polish. All of them were giddy with delight at the success of the transplant.

At one point, the heavily accented, near seven foot tall German chief surgeon put his hands together recalling the moment he clutched the new heart and described how he knew it was strong and the one—especially after ten months of waiting and one failed attempt. I can see his hands together and that indescribable delight right now.

The heart is the center of our physical and spiritual existence. God keeps reminding me, last year with my own heart stent and now with Tom.

I started out 2012 encouraging us to pursue making Jesus Christ our greatest delight (Psalm 37:4). About my one painting class I wrote: “The first strokes that morning came when we covered the canvas with a foundation color. Still wet throughout the session, that color became the influencing, infiltrating color for every shape and color. The palette would include many shapes and other colors, but they were only successful with the necessary foundation.”

Similarly, Mark Buchanan said, “Our first and deepest call is to know Christ and be conformed to him. All specific calls derive from and are anchored in this greater one. Too often we rush to the specific call without firmly established in the deeper one, and end up disappointed, not fulfilled.”

Today’s verse gives the broad principle of how this happens in real time. How? As Jesus comes to have first place in everything. He is the substance and compass in decisions, responses, and plans. Contemplatives are in danger of waiting too long; doers risk acting too quickly to consider Him.

Every weekend a young friend sends me a cute picture—or two or ten—of her two year old daughter. I love it, and my wife has increased my phone txts to accommodate this. This young mother couldn’t be a happier mom—as she should be. She is such a portrait of delight.

While writing this column a picture came through. Pigtails! It reminded me of my girls. Teasing, I responded and then asked if she had anything to say for this column. She took a minute and sent this quote: “Everyman dies but not everyone really lives.”

My young friend is appropriately enjoying the life God has given her through her daughter and husband. Yet, her deeper delight—and our deepest call—is the One who made her daughter and died for her. With the Psalmist we, in Christ, sing, “…in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Thank you Father and Son, for your daily presence of joy and pleasures with you forever!

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