Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Extravagant Forgiveness

There are two occasions in the New Testament where Jesus was anointed by women with expensive perfume.  The latter was just before his crucifixion and He said that He was being prepared for burial.  This is recorded in Matthew and Mark.  The first anointing was by a sinful woman and it was early on in Jesus' ministry, before even John the Baptist was beheaded.  This is recorded in Luke's gospel.

 Luke 7:36-50 NLT
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Let’s step into the woman’s shoes…

She was sinful.  That is all the Bible says.  There is no clarification on it.  Sure we can suppose and some have even given her sin a name, but we don’t know for sure.  With her UNNAMED SIN, today, we CAN relate.  This could look a lot of different ways.  Prostitution, abortion, fornication of other kinds, murder, theft, embezzling, stripping, or drug or alcohol addiction.  Those are BIG public sins.  What if this sin is a little more subtle or even a sin that is so private that no one knows about it but her, but it is eating at her.  Bitterness, unforgiveness, or silent rage, maybe she ran out on her children, maybe she was a habitual liar, or a bully, or had a pornography addiction… the list goes on.
She had heard of Jesus, but she felt worthless, so the only thing she thought she had that was worthy of Jesus was this treasure … her dowry … her life savings … she probably lost all hope of having a normal life so what is the use of having this expensive perfume.
She had a yearning to see this Jesus, so she went where she knew He would be.  Nearing his presence, she began to weep uncontrollably.  At this point no water was necessary and she didn’t have a cleaning cloth, but she did have her tears and this beautiful head of hair ... her crowning glory ... the best, most undefiled thing about her.  She approaches.  She breaks open her best, and pours it on His feet.  She weeps more.  She kisses … not in lust or impurity, but holy, worshipful kisses.  More tears … drying and cleaning the dusty, dirty feet of the Love she’s never known … with her beloved hair.
She may hear the conversation above her, but she, seemingly unaffected by it, keeps up this act of worship for the entire time.  As she washes Him, He washes her!  He doesn’t consider her untouchable, which makes her weep even more.  No righteous person has allowed her to remain in their presence before, let alone allowed her to touch them, even when her motives were pure.  She just wants to love!  She really wants to be loved … rightly.
A friend of mine during a message once said, “He will kiss even the dirtiest of cheek!”  There is nothing about me or you that will make Jesus turn from us, in fact, He is wooing us even now.  He delights in us!  Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure.”  (NLT, emphasis mine)  His presence is drawing anyone who opens their heart to seek Him.  Maybe you’ve heard that there would be a teaching or opportunity to meet Jesus, but felt that you were not worthy of His time.  In ADVANCE He decided that YOU are worth it!  This is not an, “Everyone but me,” thing.  This is a you thing!  He loves you!

There is an allegory in the Old Testament in the book of Hosea.  Now the whole book gets pretty deep and is confusing, but the beginning of the book shares a story of a man named Hosea and compares that relationship to His relationship with Israel or the People He LOVES.  Hosea was VERY righteous and esteemed, and God asks him to marry a prostitute.  We’re talking a pure and righteous man marrying a used up woman.  He obeys, she runs away and gets pregnant by another man.  He BUYS her back!  He shows her selfless love!  This is an example of the love that Jesus has for us.  "'When that day comes,' says the Lord, 'you will call me "my husband" instead of "my master."’"  The price he pays was 15 pieces of silver, some barley and some wine.  Quite a price to pay for someone who has been unfaithful and is cheating, even at the moment they are being bought back.
Over and over again in the Word, God is redeeming or buying back or loving back people who don’t think they are worth it.  He is still doing that today.  While human beings may fail to show the true love of Jesus, He never has quit loving you.  He wants you to just come home and the price He paid was more than 15 pieces of silver.  It was His own life.

For those of you who have been around the church a while and know this story particularly, you may have always heard it told about worship and breaking the alabaster jar as an act of worship to God.  That’s good, but this is also a redemption story.  This is my story.  This is your story.

Are you the one who has never felt wanted by the church, especially?  By Jesus?  Do you think that He has kept a record of your past?  He knows that your extreme forgiveness will bring extreme worship.
Notice that this woman worshiped without singing or playing a note!

Are you the one who is in the church and has been on the fringes because you have felt disqualified by your past?  He decided in advance to bring you into His family.  You delight Him!

Are you the one who loves Jesus and serves Him faithfully, but there’s just that one thing that you’ve been holding on to that really prevents you from coming fully before Him?  Remember He has been building relationship with you all along and wants you to come closer, because He knows there’s room!

Yes, this story is often about extravagant worship, but it is also about extravagant forgiveness!  Let Him wash you as you wash Him!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Leave A Mark

I was looking through my blog posts and found several unpublished drafts.  This was written in 2013 and never published.  I don't know exactly what I was going through at the time, but here it is.

A week or so ago, I read a question asking what we believe God is ultimately calling us to.  I had a hard time with that.  I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now, but haven't considered where I will even be in 5 years.  Am I still going to homeschool?  Am I still going to teach at church or be a worship leader?  Am I even going to keep my unsporting license or will I be back in nursing full-time?  I prayed through all of that, but I still don't have an answer to any of those questions.  I'm really okay with that, too!  Here is what I do know, I am going to leave a mark!
This is not a vision of grandeur or a pipe dream.  I am going to leave a mark in history during my lifetime.  If I happen to have done that already for someone, then great, but my life isn't over and I'm going to do it again and again until I can no longer move or speak.  I am not satisfied with just being a piece of wallpaper, I'm going to be a usable vessel.  When I leave this world, I don't really even care if my name is remembered or even my face.  The mark I desire to leave is a knowing of the Creator of the universe.  The One who formed my face and called it lovely.  The One who made my voice and desires to hear it speaking and singing praises to Him who is Worthy of all praise!  I want to make known Jesus!
By my actions and by my words, I desire that others will want to know this Jesus, the Word made Flesh.  I don't want that they would be turned off to Him because of my hippocracy!  I am human, but I want to live what I believe.  When others see the best parts of me, I want them to know that it is Him in me.  I am not good in my own power.  I read a poem to my kids and it took me looking up word to help explain the meaning to them for me to grasp it as well.  Wow!  It is powerful and reinforces what I've already been contemplating.  I will share the last few stanzas here:

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Wow!  I want to leave footprints on the sands of time!  That's my goal.  I won't do bizarre stunts so that people will be talking about me.  But, if He calls me to do something unusual, I don't want the fear of man to hinder my obedience.  I would even be grateful to be a nameless mention, but my action remembered as was the Samaritan woman at the well or the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet.  Lord, give me words of Life!
When I have spoken His words to someone and they hear with their hearts, let it be His voice they hear, not mine.  Let my heart not be offended when they do not remember that I was the vessel for the delivery of the message.  May I be reminded that I prayed that all glory be to The Lord of Hosts!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Drawing Near

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
That has been on my heart this week and I can't shake it.  I actually had it as though it said, "Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you."  Jesus didn't say that exact line.  While he could have said that, it is not recorded in the gospels.  This is a portion of scripture in James 4:8.  It is not even the whole verse nor even the whole context.  Yes, it can stand alone; however, it has more fullness when looking at the whole context.  I'm always amazed when what I thought I knew is only a portion of the fullness of what I can know.

James 4:1-10 NIV  What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
    “God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
I am not a deep theologian, but from this text it appears that James is speaking to a group of people who are not getting along.  James is writing to them and giving them truth and some pointers to overcome these issues.  There are battles within them.  They ask for things with wrong motives.  They are not humble.  He says in verse 7 to submit to God and resist the devil.  Come near to God and He WILL come near to you (verse 8).  Purify your hearts.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up (verse 10).  Don't talk about each other.  I believe that out of the overflow of the love you have for Christ, these things will come. 
Holiness isn't something to just sign up for and BOOM you got it.  It is something to work at.  Righteousness is something that comes through seeking the Lord and finding Him.  There are struggles.  There will be struggles.  Jesus was even tempted, and by the Word of God, He overcame.  He desires a relationship with us and in light of that relationship, our desires will be drawn toward Him and no other.
I'm doing studies on the Gospel of John and the epistle of I John in my church right now and it seems like there's a theme in the message Jesus gives to His disciples right before His crucifixion in John 13-16 as well as the message in I John.  I leave you with a few of these scriptures as well as portions of Isaiah 55.  May there be for you Shalom, His peace.
John 13:34-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 14:12-14  12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 15:5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:9-12 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
I John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Isaiah 55:1,6-9 
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.