Christ's Love

Messed Up by Sin, but the Good News is….

I have entitled my blog “Find His Love” for a very specific reason—my desire to help women better understand the tremendous love God has for them as individuals. (And as I have said before men, you are welcome to read along.) I know what it is like to doubt God’s love. I know what it is like to hear over and over that He is love, yet to feel unloved and ashamed before Him and the world. Even after I became a Christ-follower, I struggled with these feelings. And I am one of those who believe that feelings are important. God created emotions. He understands our emotions. Furthermore, God wants us to love Him with all our:

  • heart
  • soul
  • strength
  • mind

(Luke 10:27)

Seems like “emotions” or “feelings” are included in that list somewhere.

So I developed a mission to help followers understand and yes, feel(!) God’s love more deeply by studying the way Christ demonstrated that love. What a powerful force we would be for His kingdom if we could but begin to grasp the concepts of that magnificent love.

The Problem of Sin

And yet lately, I’ve been thinking more about the world in general, and of those who have no clue about who Jesus is or what He did. I have also been burdened by the horrors that seem to increase in our world every day. Atrocities haunt us when we turn on the news or get on the internet. Hatred. Starvation. Desperate refugees. Beheadings. Sex trafficking of women and children.

Here in the United States, we still see hunger, homelessness, a plague of adultery, and yes, human trafficking. Why do we see so much suffering and chaos in this world? Why do I suffer? Why are children hurt and scarred for life? Every problem—from the violence of ISIS to our educational woes to the aggravations at work and at home—can be summed up in one word: sin.

I know we don’t like that word. But sin is the problem—throughout the world as well as in our individual lives. When sin entered into the world, death also entered, along with sickness, the violence we see in nature; the whole world became skewed from God’s perfect plan.

And believe it or not—that is the good news. Because sin can be redeemed. Sin and the damage to our lives can be healed and even used by God.

Was Jesus really the Christ? 

Jesus, the Son of God came to redeem sinners as the Messiah. But perhaps you think He was just a man, a good man, a good teacher. You may believe Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. But I promise, Jesus knew who He was, and I’d like you to see a few of the ways in which He proclaimed Himself:

Jesus called God His Father, and the Jewish leaders understood what He was saying.                      “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.  In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:16-18 (emphasis mine)

“I Am the Bread of Life”
“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” John 6:35

Jesus Said He Could Forgive Sins
While healing He declared: “‘…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—’Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God…” Matthew 9:8

“I am the Light of the world”
“‘…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…'”  John 8:12

I have come that they may have life, abundantly”
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:10, 27-2

I am with you always”
“‘…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”   Matthew 28:20

“I am the way, the truth, the life”
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

If you believe the Bible has any historical value, you see that Jesus made some pretty amazing claims about Himself and His Father.

But How Could He Die for my Sin? He was a Human Being and He Sinned, Didn’t He? 

The direct answer is a simple “no”. Since Jesus made Himself equal with God, and God does not sin, He could not either. But other Scriptures support this concept as well. In Hebrews 4:15, the author states: For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB)

I’ve provided a link to one site listing the Scriptures that deal with His sinlessness. http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Jesus-Christ,-Sinlessness

So How do I Respond?

Perhaps you think you have lived a good life, and have never done anything so bad that you need a Savior. “Surely I can make my own way in this life, and come out all right.” That seems reasonable. But take a look again at John 14:6 (above). Jesus claims He is the way. And according to Romans 3:23 we have all sinned. Yes, Jesus loves us and He forgives. But He only forgives when we become willing to turn from our wrongful deeds. While Jesus declares “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, we must also realize that He died to save us from sin, not so that we keep on sinning. So believing He is the Son of God and that He died for us must be accompanied by a heartfelt repentance (turning from sin and to God).

Or you may be thinking you must get my life right first. Notice what Jesus says though, God wants to give us eternal life. And Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life. A gift that is given out of love is not something we must earn. And it is only by believing that God can make us right with Him. Jesus is the One who makes your life right.

Perhaps you feel a certain emptiness in your soul. May I suggest that the filling you need is Jesus the Son of God? I know I felt that hole in my life for a long time. I needed to understand that I could never be good enough to gain God’s acceptance. His acceptance only came through a moment in time when I told Him I believed and agreed to live for Him. Praying a prayer is not necessarily what it takes as you may have been told. Believing and turning from our own ways invites Him to make our heart His home.

This video may be a little dated, but I hope you will enjoy it. It is entitled “The Hole Story”

References:

http://www.everystudent.com/wires/whodoyousay.htmlAccessed September 3, 2015

Parker, Troy. “The World’s Messed Up.” Worldview series Part 4. Sermon presented at Church at Red River. Shreveport, Louisiana, August 30, 2015  http://churchatredriver.com/media/worldview-2/

Scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.

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Christ's Love

Is Jesus Ever Cruel?

I hope you have a time to pray and and spend time with God every day. I know when I talk with my Lord, it seems as though He speaks to me in sweet words of encouragement, kindness, and love. I so enjoy these times with Him for I can almost feel His physical presence as He puts his arms around me like a loving parent comforting a child or someone holding a tiny puppy in their hands.

Of course, He often helps set me straight or warns me of behaviors I need to change, but it seems it is always done in a gentle, loving manner. Ah yes, we can have a “cuddly” relationship with Him. And of course there are some qualifiers to having such a relationship, but as a Christ-follower, this is what I often experience.(See note below.)*

Yet in Scripture it seems that Jesus is not always so kind. While there are several examples of Jesus’ “unkindness”, for today let us look in on Him and the twelve as they interact with a Syrophoenician woman, a non-Jew or Gentile.

The story begins in Matthew 15:21-27. Jesus has gone to the region of Tyre and Sidon with His disciples after a tiring day. A woman approaches Jesus, frightened and desperate. Her daughter is demon-possessed and while the Bible gives no picture, I am sure the child’s behavior would evoke horror in the heart of a loving mother. (Other portions of Scripture associate demon-possession with blindness, inability to speak, wearing no clothes, wandering in the tombs, and being thrown into fire and water. See Matthew 9:32-33, Mark 5:1-20, Mark 9:22, Matthew 17).   She persists to the point that the disciples urge Jesus to send her away. They are annoyed “for she keeps crying after us.” (Matthew 15:23, NIV) And what does Jesus do? He seems to completely ignore her!

Can you imagine how this mother must have felt? She is desperate so she begs the One whom she knows can heal her daughter, and He will not even answer. We’re not told how many times she begs Him or how long it took for Jesus to answer, but when He does it almost seems He is responding to the disciples’ request: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 NASB)

Wait a minute. Jesus came for all mankind, to save us all from our sins, right? For the “whosoever”‘s of this world, didn’t He? (See John 3:16) Hmmm, can’t believe He said that to her. Yeah, I hear a lot of head-scratching out there. Well…let’s just stand back and see how she reacts to these words.

Perhaps to our surprise, this mother persists and falls on her knees (or bows or worships depending on your translation) before Him and begs again.

Jesus says: “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (verse 26)

Okay, before we get upset about this and think “how unloving”, again let’s get mom’s reaction.

““That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”  And now Jesus replies:  “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” (verse 28. NLT) And finally! Her daughter is healed.

Can you be honest and admit that if you had been in that mother’s shoes, this situation might have tried your patience a bit?  Well, let’s take a look at some possible reasons for Jesus’s answers.

So why did Jesus initially ignore her? Why did He tell her He came only for the “lost sheep of Israel?” And why on earth refer to her (and all the Gentiles for that matter) as “dogs”?

To the first question, Jesus may have been testing her in some way. Her patience maybe? Her faith? Or maybe He is allowing her to be an example for us because He knows she will keep asking. Honestly, I am not sure but notice she does not give up.And does her begging seem to bother Jesus? The disciples, yes. But not Jesus. Not in the least.

He then talks about His mission to the Israelites. Did he want her to understand the importance of that mission?  For He had indeed come for the lost sheep of Israel so that these chosen people could spread the gospel to the Gentiles, to all nations. Perhaps He honored her by explaining this. Or maybe He is testing her patience again. At any rate, she reacts by falling on her knees and asking Him again.

When Jesus next refers to her and her people as dogs, telling her it isn’t right to throw food to them before the children are fed, we might think of the whole statement and especially the word “dogs” as an insult. Well, not really. He could very well have meant little pet dogs, you know the kind we have today who win our hearts when they rest their head on our lap and look at us with “puppy dog eyes” or who wag their tails off when we come home. (I mean after all, who else is that happy to see us?) I think Jesus is referring to dogs in a loving way. (One version actually uses the word “puppies.”) And she responds readily “True Lord.” Wait….What does she say? She’s agreeing with Him? So it seems. But she doesn’t stop there, instead she gives this incredible statement that complements his illustration. “But even the dogs will eat the crumbs from the master’s table.”

She could make do with the crumbs. Whatever He is willing to give her would be enough. I believe she is saying “You are enough, Your blessings are enough, whatever You give will take care of my daughter’s needs, I trust You.”  At any rate, Jesus knows her heart, and listen to what He says next (wait for it):  ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”  He compliments her. He grants her request. Perhaps we can learn from this woman that God is waiting for us to cry after Him, waiting for us to come to Him desperate to have our needs met.

Yes, He knows your needs but as I am sure you know, He still wants us to present  them to Him. And if you still don’t think Jesus’ response is what you would expect from Him, remember, He deals with different individuals…well, differently. He knows how to talk to people, including you in your situation. So don’t be afraid to ask. And to keep on asking. To cry out with a pain-filled heart and to expect something in return. He really is listening.

Sources for this blog: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/15.html and Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda, Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in the Scriptures(Grand Rapids:Zondervan,1999),357-358

*God does not speak to me aloud, but in that “still, small, voice” and if it truly is Him speaking to my heart, what He says will never contradict His Word.

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Have you ever been publicly embarrassed either by your own actions or the actions of others? Ever been ridiculed? Ever wanted to defend yourself from accusations that may or may not have been true? If you have, you may understand the feelings of the woman I want to talk about today—the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

As we slip onto the dusty streets of Jerusalem, we see her surrounded by a group of men. They seem very smug, and her eyes are on the ground. I try to imagine how she feels as the Pharisees and teachers of the law force her to come with them. Perhaps they give her a shove, watch her stumble, and roughly pull her back to her feet. She is completely vulnerable to their whims. It’s hard to tell from our vantage point, but did they even allow her to get dressed before they hauled her out into the streets? They will tell Jesus she was caught “in the very act” so it seems likely that she may not even be clothed. Can you sense her fear, her trepidation, or perhaps the anger as she takes one step closer to more humiliation? It must seem like a long walk especially in the midst of these men who—probably unknown to her—only want to use her to entrap the teacher Jesus.

They at last bring her to a halt. She looks up from the ground and sees she is at the Temple.  And there is the teacher Jesus. A man who has caused all kinds of furor surrounded by a crowd. Not a small crowd either, not by any means, and they force her to stand in front of them.

The Bible does not say anything about the woman’s emotional reaction but at this point, her heart must be pounding. She can probably hear the blood as it pulses in her ears.

The men approach Jesus as he teaches. They ask Him what to do with this woman, inform him of what she was caught doing. He doesn’t answer right away, but starts writing in the dirt. So they keep questioning him. He finally stands, gives them an answer which they probably don’t quite comprehend at first, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus then bends down to write in the dirt again. The woman waits. Does she think about his words “let he who is without sin…”? Does Jesus somehow know that many of these men have sinned with her or with other women she knows? Does he know that the man with whom she was “caught in the very act” is among these accusers? As His words begin to sink in, she hears a solid thump as something heavy falls to the earth, hears more, a steady rain as the older men leave. The younger stay longer, grow uneasy. But one by one they leave. All of them. When she glances up, she sees stones scattered around her where the men once stood.

And he sees them too—the stones lying impotent on the ground with no one to cast them. He then asks her two questions. “Woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Lord.”

And He answers, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

We like to think this passage depicts Jesus as a completely nonjudgmental person who does away with the old Levitical law, and gives the woman a “get out of jail free” card. You broke the law, but hey everyone sins so those men, they just need to go easy on you. “I’m okay, you’re okay” kind of thing. Well, not quite. While this is indeed a sweet story of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy, there were a few things going on that we might not see with a surface reading. The following may seem a tad technical but I ask you to keep reading.

First of all, the Levitical law stated that both the man and woman were to be brought forward. So where was the man? It is truly not inconceivable that the man whom she had been caught with was among the accusers (as I alluded to above). And others of them were not just guilty of sin in general, but were probably guilty of the same ongoing sin, the sin of adultery. And Jesus knew it. This pricked their guilty consciences, and they left with the tables turned on them, “intimidated into silence by their realization that Jesus was privy to their sexual indiscretions.”

Secondly, when Jesus saw that her accusers were gone, He asked her what could be considered a legal question. The Law of Moses stated there had to be at least two witnesses to the offense so he verified their absence by asking “woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?” and she confirmed “no one, Lord.” She therefore, under the Law could not be punished for her sin. No witnesses, no execution.

Third lesson: we often gloss over the statement in which Jesus says “Neither do I condemn you…” Oh good, Jesus doesn’t condemn me for a-n-y-thing! I can live as I want and Jesus will still love me. Well, yes, He will still love you, but the next part of that statement puts her actions as well as ours in a different light. He tells her “go and sin no more.” In today’s vernacular, He might be saying something like, “Stay away from that mess. It will only get you in more trouble.” Jesus showed His love to this woman in two ways: by not condemning her, and by telling her to stop sinning. Jesus does not want us to stay in our sin. It is not good for us. It is not harmless. It is not something we can “handle”. He loves us too much to let us bear its weight alone.

And while we need to be careful about not “casting the first stone”, Christ did not mean we should not confront another when they are in a continued pattern of sinful behavior. He often confronted the Pharisees and other religious leaders, calling them some pretty unflattering names. He also gave us permission to help pull the speck out of our brother’s eye, once we had removed the log from our own eye (Matthew 7:5), and Galatians 6:1 teaches that the spiritual believer is to help restore those who have wandered from the faith.

While I’m glad this story is popular, it is an example of how the Bible can be misconstrued. God forgives, He does not wish to condemn. But (and this is a big but) He does not want us to keep on sinning.

Please hear me. God loves us enough to accept us and love us as we are. But He also loves us enough to help us out of the mess we are in.

My prayer is that we would learn to accept the gentle (and maybe not so gentle) rebukes from the Holy Spirit and from God’s word when we have strayed.  I also pray that we would learn how to restore other believers when they are caught up in sin. Of course, we need to be careful in the manner we do this. The Pharisees and teachers of the law give us a good example of how not to handle this responsibility. They seemed to enjoy lording the woman’s sin over her. To not only take her through the streets, but also to make her stand in front of the huge crowd gathering around Jesus must have taken a patent heartlessness (John 8:3). Let us not be like them in our actions or in our minds, but rather restore with a gentle spirit as the Bible teaches, “keeping a watch on ourselves.” (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Quotations as well as background information are from:  http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1277

Christ's Love

Brought to Him in Shame

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