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Friday, April 14, 2006

"So Despised By The World"

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18).

Today we especially remember our Lord dying on the cross for the sins of the world. "Amazing love, O what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me."

Several years ago I saw a young man wearing a t-shirt that really caught my eye.  It boldly declared "Bad Religion" with the cross in a circle and a slash through it.  Remembering this scene brings to mind the words from one of my favorite hymns, "I love that old cross." It makes me wonder what this man's heart must be like to wear such a blasphemous shirt, indicating such a blatant despising of the Cross.

Paul wrote "Many live as enemies of the cross."  He apparently repeated this frequently to the Philippians ("as I have often told you before") and now he reminds them again, with tears in his eyes.  He had a difficult time in his initial ministry in Philippi where he, along with Silas, had been severely flogged, imprisoned and later run out of town. But I believe the tears were based on far more than this experience. Then, as now, so many lived in opposition to God's divinely appointed means of redemption. The cross was and is despised.

Many have lived as enemies of the cross of Christ throughout the two thousand years since the Lord's great sacrifice.  This opposition is expressed in various ways from contrary religious systems to decadent worldliness, from astute secularists to apostate "church" leaders.  In the nineties there was a "ReImaging" conference held among apostates where the cross and the blood of Christ were despised and mocked. 

Today, many, many continue to live as enemies of the cross of Christ. The blasphemous, fallacious claims in "The DaVinci Code" are misleading and seducing scores.  The hatred of Christ and His cross continues.

"But I love that old cross, where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain!"  Today join me in holding firm to the Biblical and historic Christian view of Christ and the cross.  Let us, like the apostle Paul, declare "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

On a hill far away
Stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old cross
Where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

O the old rugged cross
So despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God
Left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, Your physical death on the cross is an atrocious crime that makes us cringe.  It was an act of barbaric cruelty that we would not, in any way, be attracted to. But we realize it was God's redemption plan for all mankind and because of that I can say with the hymnist that it indeed "has a wondrous attraction for me."  Because You took the weight of our sin upon Yourself You provided a precious cleansing fountain, a healing stream from Your saving blood that provides forgiveness for my sins.

Today's audio resource is "The Old Rugged Cross".  Brooksyne played it this morning, along with "At the Cross" and you can listen here.  We also use it as a background to today's podcast.   

A special story from Brooksyne:  Audio (mp3) of this story read by Brooksyne:

A week ago I sat in a circle at church where we were discussing the meaning of Jesus' words as He told the disciples after he washed their feet "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15).   We asked ourselves, "Is Jesus saying that footwashing is an act we are to practice in the church for all time?"  Or is His example of taking the lowly position of a servant in washing the disciples' feet a principle of humility and servanthood that He was trying to teach?

As I mulled over these questions in my mind the Lord brought to mind that our footwashing service in churches today are traditions that are more ceremonial than out of necessity.  Since we all have modern plumbing and are able to wash regularly the practical need for having our feet washed is unnecessary in our society.

But then I pictured the elderly who have aching feet who are often plagued by bunions and other painful foot problems.  And then I considered the dreaded job they have in trimming their toenails that can easily grow into their skin if not cared for properly.  I immediately thought of my mother-in-law who had this problem. So I just threw out this idea, "Perhaps true heart-felt footwashing would be going to the nursing home and soaking some aching feet followed by a good massaging of those tender areas.  And then trimming those misshaped thickened toenails that the residents are unable to do themselves."

This idea did not leave me as God began to burden my heart for these dear folks I had just described.  Two days later I called a senior care home where I do hymn sings and asked the activities director to select several residents who are rarely visited or are unable to leave their rooms.  And most especially those who have trouble with their feet because I wanted to wash and massage their feet.

Yesterday I took my pail, towels, cleansers, etc. and made some calls along with Ester.  Here are some of the things I heard from the residents.  "I don't have any money to pay you" was a recurring theme.  It took me ten minutes to convince one resident that I was not there to get money or to sell her anything as she couldn't be persuaded that I wasn't trying to sell my services. After much persuasion and winning her over she finally said in a disbelieving tone, "You're really here just for me and nothing more."  This woman who was uncomfortable with the idea of a foot massage allowed me to massage her arthritic hands as she eventually let down her protective walls.  Her husband had recently been transferred to a rehab and she'd finally gotten a ride to see him.  She was so discouraged about his deteriorating health.  We had a good cry together and then I read from her Living Bible II Corinthians 4 and followed the Scripture reading with prayer for her and her husband.  Ester and I quoted Psalm 23 along with this needy resident and then she sang several Easter hymns with us.

Another resident had very troubled feet.  They were swollen and covered with an ugly rash.  In fact her feet, though they move slightly, don't coordinate their movement so a very short walk down a hallway can take up to 30 minutes.  Imagine the agony of going any short distance with this problem.  I soaked her feet and took a cloth repeatedly pouring water over her feet and legs so that the warm soak could refresh these weary feet.  And then we talked for probably 30 minutes as I rubbed lotion and massaged each leg and foot.  What marvelous stories she had to tell about her family that most people don't take the time to listen to.  She expressed gratitude repeatedly for the time we shared.

I share this story because of Stephen's prompting.  Certainly my experience at this senior facility was to be a personal experience prompted by the Lord.  But perhaps this will implant an idea in your heart for a way to reach some people right in your own community who are among the "least of these."  As the Proverb says, "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).  I set out to refresh others yesterday but I can absolutely assure you that I came away much more refreshed.

As we celebrated Maundy Thursday last night at our church and participated in a footwashing ceremony I couldn't stop the flow of tears that came involuntarily throughout the evening.  I had a genuine experience of footwashing that I'll never forget throughout the day that greatly enhanced my worship through the ceremonial footwashing that evening.

Here are some photos taken yesterday

Ester with resident 
Ester with resident

Brooksyne with resident
Brooksyne with resident sharing a hymn

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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