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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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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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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Uncategorized

Women of Christ’s Lineage

How many of us have examined our personal history? Our legacy? Have you ever visited one of those sites that explore your ancestry? Or perhaps you know stories that were handed down word of mouth. My aunt recently went to an ancestry site, and found some interesting facts about our family. Among the treasures of the past she located documents, censuses, marriage licenses, and so on. This has helped her to learn a great deal about our relatives, and to dig up a number of interesting facts.

 To some a family legacy is not that important; whereas to others it is essential.  To the Jews it was their identity, providing the essence of who they were. So as Christmas approaches, I would like to take a look at the genealogy of Christ. (Yes, a genealogy, but it is in the Bible so don’t ditch me now.) This is an often overlooked part of Jesus’ history, but something very meaningful to Him and His Jewish family. We as Christ’s followers, however, tend to skip over it, and leave it out of the Christmas story altogether. After all, it’s boring, irrelevant, has nothing to do with the advent of Christ. Hmm. Perhaps you can tell my opinion is different from many Christians.

While I am not going to write out the entire genealogy from Matthew chapter 1, I ask that you look carefully at some of the names in His lineage, and take note of the women who are mentioned.

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,and Jesse the father of King David,David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

 The writer mentions four women with interesting backgrounds. First of all, in Genesis 38 we find Tamar. This particular Tamar is not the one raped by her half-brother, Amnon (David’s son), but who waited by the road dressed as a prostitute in order to entrap Judah. Why had she done this? The answer is simple when you consider the culture of the day. She was Judah’s daughter-in-law (I know, ewww, but hang with me) whose husband (Judah’s son) Er, had died. Judah had promised that she could marry his son Shelah when he grew up, but failed to keep his word. And she wanted a child, hopefully a son. Having a child in those days especially a son, was essential for a number of reasons. Long story short, when Judah was confronted with the evidence, he had no choice but to admit his blunder. He was the man who had sex with Tamar and now she was pregnant. Not only that he had broken his promise to her, and admitted that he was more wrong than she.

 Next woman on the list, Rahab, (Joshua 2) who the Bible frankly tells us was a harlot. She helped the Israelites to capture Jericho when they first came into the Promised Land by hiding the Israelite spies. She and all those in under her roof were protected by a simple red chord displayed outside her home. She went on to marry an Israelite named Salmon. Not only was she a woman of ill-repute but also a Gentile, but she recognized the God of Israel.

 Third woman mentioned is Ruth. You may remember the story of Naomi whose husband and sons died while they were living in Moab to avoid a famine in Judah. Ruth, a Moabite, and one of her daughters-in-law insisted on going with Naomi back to the land of God’s people. Ruth’s tender words to her mother-in-law are well-known: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17 NIV) Who was Ruth but a heathen woman from a foreign land? Yet she loved her husband’s mother so much, she literally could not leave her. The wonderful love story that follows of a man named Boaz who “spoke tenderly” to her and became her husband is a romance that touches the heart. 

 The fourth woman is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. It’s difficult for me to find fault with her. Some say she was raped by King David, that he was the one purely in the wrong. Others seem to think that she was a willing participant in the affair and, perhaps by bathing where David could see her, provided ample temptation (no excuse for the king in my mind). But if David as sovereign of the land, called her to the palace, she had no choice but to go and to do as he bid.

Four women listed in the genealogy of Christ: Tamar who played the harlot and becoming pregnant by her father-in-law; Rahab, a heathen prostitute; Ruth also a Gentile who loved her Jewish mother-in-law and became a follower of the one true God. And lastly Bathsheba who some would call an adulteress. No matter, she is still one who gives us a wonderful insight into God’s love.

 I think we can learn from this that God esteems women. He loves them and can take broken, perhaps shame-filled lives, and redeem their past mistakes, making them into something beautiful. What a reversal—the honor of being named in His Son’s lineage!

You and I will never receive that particular prize, but isn’t this adequate evidence that God does indeed take lives that seem messed up beyond repair and love those individuals into His kingdom? You may think your hurts, your sins are outside the reach of His love. Your shame and guilt may have wreaked havoc on your conscience. You believe your deeds have done the same to your relationship with Him. But God is there, unashamedly waiting for you, wanting with all of His heart for you to know His love. His arms are open.

 

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