Christ's Love

Overwhelmed

Oftentimes when I read the Bible, especially the Gospels, I am overwhelmed by God’s love for us, and by what Jesus did out of love while on this earth.

One example is before He celebrates the Passover with His disciples. In an intimate moment with these men whom He knows so well, Jesus performs the lowly job of washing their feet. The Son of Man bent down to cleanse the dirt (and who knows what else) off the road-weary feet of twelve men.

During the meal Jesus predicts Judas’s betrayal, and almost immediately, Judas leaves for a reason unknown to the others. And what is Jesus’ response after Judas is gone? He tells the others, “The Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him.”  Jesus knows what is coming. He knows Judas has betrayal on his mind.  A betrayal that would lead Jesus to the Cross. A humiliating, torturous way to die. I think not only of the dread Jesus feels, but the heartache of seeing Judas leave His side. For money.

But He longs for God to be glorified through Him so He is willing to face this manner of death. He loves those men and us with such a passion that He is willing to go to a Roman Cross.

Jesus words stayed on my mind today, and I asked myself “How badly do I want God to be glorified?” “How much do I want people to see the love of Christ in me?” I may not be called to give up my physical life, but what about wrong attitudes, anger, resentment or an irritable spirit? Am I willing to give those up? Will I choose to take His commandment seriously and love others just as He loves me? Am I willing to serve in the same humble way Jesus did?

The servant is not greater than his master.

Prayer:

Lord help me develop a heart to serve others and to treat them with the love you have for me.

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Christ's compassion, Christ's Love

Abundant Life

Read John 10:1-14.

Have you ever considered your life to be worthless or that people would just be better off without you? I know, I know this sounds rather melodramatic to some, but in the depths of depression, there are loads of people who feel this way. And telling someone in the throes of this despondency that God loves them may be like singing a song to a deaf ear that cannot comprehend.

Or perhaps we’ve never experienced such sorrow so we just want to tell that individual “cheer up,” “look at the bright side,” or if we’re a little more blunt, “suck it up.” Unfortunately, even with good intentions, this type of advice can cause even greater despair.

Perhaps you are in a low place right now and just want to give up. Can I tell you that your life is worth a great deal to God? Even in the midst of circumstances that seem overwhelming. Even when you have committed some horrible sin, or have been caught up in an addiction, or deserted, or wrongfully accused, your life is meant…well, to live.

Jesus promised us abundant life as we follow Him (John 10:10). An abundant or satisfying life does not mean that everything will go our way. No, we will suffer. He promises us this. But our lives still matter and are worth living, even if the circumstances are horrific.

In John 10:1-14, notice what Jesus says about thieves, and contrast it to what He says about the good shepherd. The thieves (the enemy, Satan and his forces) want to steal and kill and destroy. So, there may be literal attempts on our mortal lives, attempts to steal our joy, or attempts to destroy our very reasons for living. There will be hard times but that does not mean we can’t have an abundant life. Not if you think of abundance as having a rich and wide variety of experiences.

Mankind dreamed of flying for millennia, and there were some rather humorous attempts at flight in our not-so-distant past.* Did you know an airplane (or bird for that matter) essentially “struggles” to get in the air? Lift and thrust must overcome the forces of gravity and drag. But once at cruising altitude we probably feel only the forward momentum, and if we are not afraid to look out the window, we can view mountains, forests, farm land, cities, all from a new and exciting perspective.

Consider that Jesus knows us in our struggles and is with us as we struggle through our daily lives. The thieves may be right outside the gate or climbing the walls, but the Good Shepherd is fighting for us. He has already laid down His life so that we may have a full, abundant, and satisfying life. Yes, we will face obstacles. Yes, we may face real danger. But remember Jesus has overcome the most powerful enemy…that of death.

Even now, He fights for you.

He loves you. Yes, really. Walk with Him. Just walk at His pace, in His path, and let Him guide you to abundant life.

A Moment to Reflect

Do you believe the Good Shepherd fights for you?

Have you ever survived something that was a real danger to your life? Do you feel as if God intervened?

Take a few minutes to laugh:

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Christ's Love

Peace to You, My Children

Have you ever wished you could just disappear? Responsibilities weigh you down, and you want to leave them behind. That weight perhaps causes you to forget the good things, the blessings you have.

Maybe you feel this way now or have felt this way in the past. There is no peace in your home, in your job, your community, let alone in your country and in the world. You are tired of the bickering in politics. Yes, I “went there” because I have found that putting my energy into “whose side” I’m on can drain me. My fear of the future may haunt me because of what the politicians are doing or not doing. Or because of war or the threat of war.

The Eleven disciples who remained after Judas died are different from us though, right? They know they have to continue His mission. They’re not worried about the political atmosphere or the Roman’s torture. So, they go out and preach everywhere the Gospel and love of Christ!

Oh, wait. No, they don’t.

Instead, they go into hiding. Fearful of the Jews—which meant, by the way, the fear of the Jewish leaders—they disappear from the public eye. Huddling together, they lock the doors. But without a warning, instead of a dreaded pounding on the door, Jesus appears in their midst.

And is He ever upset with them! He reminds them that they’ve denied Him, deserted Him, and even fallen asleep while He asks them to pray (Matthew 26:36-45, 56, 69-75). I can hear Him saying, “Hey guys, you know the plan. Why are you hiding? I faced the same threats you’re afraid to face. Now get out there and do what I told you to do!”

At least that’s what He could have told them. But instead, His first words are “Peace be to you.”

Wow. I get so excited when I think of Jesus uttering those words to them in love. In absolute love.

They are frightened by His appearance, thinking He is a ghost or spirit. At this point Jesus seems disappointed with their doubt yet He tells them to “Handle me and see…” in order to assure them it is Him in the flesh. (Luke 24:36-40).

After this event (we don’t know how much later), Peter announces he is going fishing, and some of his fishing buddies decide to go with him. I’m not sure what motivates Peter, but he heads out to his former occupation. Apparently, Peter does not want the responsibilities of being a fisher of people with the obligation of not only catching them, but teaching and training them as well. No, he seems to be done with that.

So off they go. Back to what they’ve always done. The men fish all night as is the custom, but by morning, they have caught nothing.

Someone on the shore calls out, and the voice carries across the water, “Children, do have any food?”

With a weary sigh, they holler back, “No.”

Who is this guy anyway?

Maybe they should have known when He calls them “children,” but only after He tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they catch a net full of fish does Peter realize “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, being Peter, jumps in the water and swims towards Jesus.

When they haul the fish to shore, Jesus invites them to breakfast. He asks them to bring Him some of the fish they’ve caught even though he has already started cooking. He tells them to come and eat. He doesn’t fuss at them for fishing. He doesn’t tell them they should be ashamed for trying to net fish when he has told them to fish for people (John 21:3-13).

Do these reactions by our Lord surprise you? Don’t we sometimes see God waiting to fuss at us when we lack faith or when we turn back to our old ways?

But look at what Jesus does. He knows these men are hungry after working a physically exhausting and discouraging job. So, he prepares a meal for them. I also think He longs to sit with these men and enjoy their company before ascending to the Father. Just chill with his homeboys.

That is God. It is a beautiful picture of Him. He understands. He comes to us in our need and even in our doubts. He holds us close, sits with us in fellowship, and invites us to sup with him, to be nourished at his hand.

I know God disciplines us and guides us away from the wrong path, or even away from a good path to the best one, but He knows our needs too. He understands when we falter. He will come to us, remind us He is our peace, and remind us we are His children.

Perhaps He calls to you today. “Children, have you any meat?” If you don’t, He has something that will fill you.

No matter what your need, He longs to satisfy it. Bow to Him, set your longings at His feet, and trust Him to sustain you.

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Grief and hardship come to us all.

The heartache you and I face helps put comparatively minor circumstances into perspective. I have friends and relatives who are suffering, those who now have an empty place in their lives due to the loss of a spouse or loved one. There are others who are waiting—waiting for a job, waiting for news concerning their health, or waiting for a son, daughter, spouse, or sibling to return safely to them.

Grief is something all of us will face at some point or another. While nobody in my family has passed on this year, I have experienced some losses and have been reminded of the shortness of life. A few months ago, I lost a dear friend to cancer. She used to tell people that I was her special friend. Not only did we attend church together, we seemed to understand each other. We laughed at many of the same things, enjoyed coffee together, and her sweet spirit helped sustain me through some rough spots. But now she is in the arms of Jesus. I imagine she is happy in the extreme to be with the One she loves so dearly. Three more friends have also left this earth since then, all of them Christ-followers, all of them showing evidence of that fact. I am happy for them, but I grieve also—mainly for their spouses, children, and other family they left behind.

Two other friends face serious health issues. One has had a stroke and at a rather young age (I consider late fifties “young”). She made it to church after 8 months of absence. Another was awaiting a lung transplant when I originally wrote this. Just a few days ago, he got the call, and has successfully received a lung. He is doing well, but has a long road of recovery ahead.

Yet another friend surprised me when I saw him at church one Sunday morning, and he told me he had resigned his pastorate. He has no prospects right now, but made this decision because “it was time to leave.” He must be hurting even though he knows he is following God’s direction.

Hardships and struggle come to us all. This is an imperfect world, and we will face tragedy, loss of jobs, health issues, and a myriad of other disappointments.

Does this mean we have done something to displease God? Does it mean He is punishing us or is mad at us? Perhaps we even question if He still loves us.

I do not believe God is mad at you or that you have displeased Him. Yes, we can be disobedient but as a Christian, Christ has done all that is needed to please the Father and He is not punishing you. Realize that Christ suffered the punishment for our sins. Disciplining? Perhaps. Remember that discipline can be Him redirecting us, giving us a different perspective, or leading us to repentance. But realize that He continues to love you.

If you are suffering or grieving or struggling or fighting an impossible battle, realize you may be doing just as God wants. Don’t believe me? Allow me to point to Job who God said  was a righteous man (Job 1:1). As a result of his righteousness, he suffered terrible losses. God also told Job’s friends they were wrong in their criticism of him. He told them to ask Job to pray for them and He would accept Job’s prayer (Job 42:8).

While I cannot answer your big questions in time of heartache or tragedy, I will suggest what God may want from you. He may just want to draw you close as He invites you to sit with Him. (He has a HUGE lap.)He may want to take your worries, exhaustion, and nightmarish circumstances upon Himself. Perhaps He just wants to love on and comfort you. The Bible says that He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1) who comforts us in all our sorrows so that we in turn can comfort others.

Take a moment today to ask God for His comfort, for His direction in whatever situation you face. And do not isolate yourself from others who want to comfort you or just be with you.

When God comforts you, try to find someone who needs comfort, and pass what God has give you onto them. It may take time to be able to do this, but eventually, through your own sorrow, through your own tears, you will be able to see the needs of another.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Sorrow

God Loves You in Your Sorrow

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Christ's compassion, Christ's Love, Uncategorized

Washing the Feet of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Have you ever done something for the Lord that seemed a little strange to others, but you were so passionate about it that what others thought didn’t matter? The woman in our story today is one such person. She has a passion to worship Jesus. It seems there is something about Him that draws her—something that makes her heart ache to be in his presence.

One thing I want to mention before we go any further is that the other gospels record a story of a woman anointing Jesus. (See Matthew 26:6, John 12:3-7 and Mark 14:3-6). ) That may seem a little confusing, but for now just realize that some Bible scholars have had questions about these passages too. “Whether these accounts represent one event or two, or possibly even three, has been the subject of speculation for centuries.” (http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/women-of-the-passion-anoint-oil)

Identified only as “a sinful woman,” we see that she has a passion for Jesus and as a result, worships Him in a way that seems a little, well…extreme or “over the top” and definitely improper. She has, more than likely, seen Jesus heal, teach, raise the dead, and forgive. When she follows Him to Simon’s home perhaps she wonders if He could forgive her. Maybe she is desperate for the peace that His forgiveness might bring her.

However there are some social barriers in her way. Here she is—a known sinner (probably a prostitute or adulterer), inviting herself into the home of a Pharisee, a religious leader. She also plans to perform an act involving two things that were huge faux pas—touching a man in a society where men and women did not even address each other in public and letting her hair down for someone other than her husband.

But none of this seems to matter to her. Proper or not, she will show Jesus her love. So she anoints Jesus with oil and as she does, her eyes fill with tears, and she kneels at his feet without a word. I can hear the room grow silent. Her tears brim over, and unashamed, she uses them to wash His feet. I imagine she weeps a good bit moved by the fact that she is in His presence, before gently drying his feet with her hair. Think of it, here she is before at least fourteen men (probably more), touching Him and allowing her hair to fall freely over His feet.

At this point Simon begins to think. Perhaps he should not have for Jesus knows his thoughts–thoughts very logical to Simon–that she is a sinner, and if Jesus were a true prophet, He would not allow her to touch Him. First, Jesus tells Simon he wants to say something to him. Almost as if He’s asking for permission. But Simon’s okay with that and tells Jesus to say what’s on His mind.

So Jesus begins his reprimand by telling Simon a story about two debtors, one who owes a great deal and one who owes little. The generous moneylender forgives both debts. “Which one will love him more?” Jesus asks. Simon says that he supposed the one with the larger debt. (I think it’s cool the way Jesus let Simon figure that one out for himself.)

But He is not done.

Jesus points out Simon’s areas of negligence in performing the simple courtesies extended to visitors in that culture. Simon has not even called a servant to wash his guest’s feet. He did not greet Him with a kiss. And look at the “sinner”—she kisses, anoints, washes, and dries His feet. Not only that, but as Jesus says here, she offers these things with her own body—her tears, her hair—and performs the lowliest of services.

He then turns his attention to the woman, and I wish I could have seen the look on Simon’s face as Jesus said these words, comparing him, a religious leader to this “sinner.” We hope he begins to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words. Maybe he is angry at the rebuke, or perhaps he has a revelation about his own character. I like to think that he becomes less judgmental after this visit with Jesus and begins to show mercy to other “sinners,” realizing he is one also.

So what can we learn from this passage?

  • As Simon perhaps figured out, we seldom understand what is in a person’s heart. Maybe on the surface, their sin is more obvious than ours, but that does not make it worse. And Jesus accepts an offering made with a worshipful heart.
  • Jesus is not at all interested in convention. He not only allows the woman’s touch, He compliments her unusual behavior.
  • Jesus forgives sin. He has such a deep well of love he does not worry about who comes to Him; He doesn’t worry about being influenced or tainted by our sin. As a matter of fact, He appreciates the openness and sincerity of the woman in our story.
  • No matter what, Jesus longs to demonstrate His love to us. Some of us may have committed the very sins that this woman was guilty of or worse. He still desires that we come to Him and lay all that “junk” on Him. He can bear the weight of our sins and the shame we may feel because of it—and I may add, the shame we may feel from what others have done to us.
  • Perhaps like me, you become emotional in public worship. Other people may think you’re a little odd for making such a big deal over Him, but I don’t think Jesus minds that at all.

And by the way, the things we have done wrong and the wrongs that have been done to us are not who we are; they do not define us. Jesus sees His followers as righteous and redeemed, and you are of great value to Him.

I invite you to listen to the words of a beautiful song by Mercy Me:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXI0B4iMLuU

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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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