Friday, October 31, 2014

The Sinful Woman

Luke 7:50 (NIV)

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

She is held as an example of the kind of humility and service that God loves.  We’re never even given her name and she’s only known as the sinful woman; the assumption is that she has lived an immoral life.  We have few details of her existence before or after her meeting with Jesus but we know her life changed because she met Him.

As the scene opens we see her at the feet of Jesus.  She is weeping and her tears are falling on His feet and she’s wiping them with her hair.  She has brought with her expensive perfume and is pouring it out on Jesus feet as an act of blessing and honor.  She is broken and wounded. 

There is no place set for her at Simon’s table; she is an intrusion.  We have no idea what drew her to Jesus.  Had she met him earlier that day?  Did she know of His character and love?

Simon, the religious leader who was hosting the event, took offense to the presence of the woman and the spectacle she had created at his dinner.  Jesus, perceiving his grumbling, turned to him and pointed out his hypocrisy and actually contrasted him with the woman who he had judged. 

Jesus compliments her humble heart and acts of worship as the kind of service that pleases God.  She is the uninvited guest and Jesus treated her as the guest of honor. 

Jesus had only two things to say to the woman.  First He said, “Your sins are forgiven.”  He set her free!  Gone were the chains that had defined her life.  Then He said, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

Perhaps, like this woman, you feel as though you don’t belong at Jesus’ table.  Yet humble worshiping sinners are Jesus’ honored guests.  He gives them new life and sends them with a reason to serve Him.     

Friday, October 24, 2014

Four Lanes

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble… Psalm 46:1 (NLT)

He occasionally appears at one of my regular lunch spots, first emerging as a speck in my rear view mirror. I make my way through the drive-thru, order up my Number One—no pickles and a half Coke/half Diet Coke—and then make my way over to an adjacent parking lot where I stare at the traffic, eat my lunch, and enjoy the quiet. I watch with amazement as he pumps his way by me in his wheelchair, wheels across the parking lot, and heads toward the busy road.

As my friend nears the traffic, an incredible transformation takes place. He looks out at the four lanes of cars racing by, and an expression of determination washes over his face. It’s not a gritting-of-the-teeth resolve but more of a joyful anticipation. I’ve seen him do this numerous times, and he always sports that same cheerful look.

Today I spotted him again, only this time he had additional spectators: two young women in a car not far from mine. With hands cupped over open mouths, they watched him negotiate each lane of traffic as cars rushed by. Will he make it? Can he do it?

When he reached the other side, as he always does, the ladies broke into tearful, joy-filled applause and pumped their firsts in the air in sincere admiration. As I observed them, my heart, too, was filled with joy for my friend’s accomplishment. 

I thought to myself how God must cheer for us as we put on our game face and greet the tasks that await us each day. I don’t know if this young man knows Jesus, but there’s certainly something within him that generates a spirit of enthusiastic determination. It reminds me that when I face a daunting challenge, I have Jesus’ help…and so I have reason to smile inside, too.

When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:2 (NLT)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rain Delay

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:5 (NIV)

As I stared out the airplane window at the rain, I tried not to feel irritated that my trip was once again delayed. It had been a long overseas trip, and this was just one more delay in a series of delays. I considered reading the airline magazine, but I had read the same one on the trip over two weeks earlier. So I zoned out for a few minutes, and as my mind wandered, I happened to notice a yellow square painted on the ground just beyond the edge of the airplane wing. A stenciled message warned, “No Standing.”  That made me curious. Why was standing prohibited in that particular area?

A few minutes later the pilot fired up the engines, and I got my answer. The yellow box marked an area that was in close proximity to the engines. I observed the falling raindrops get violently sucked into the powerful engine. Now I understood the warning on the yellow box.

The powerful pull of the airplane’s engine reminded me of the powerful pull of the world’s system. We often underestimate its power. Materialism, selfishness, greed, lust, hatred—these are just a few things that strive to pull us in as we struggle to overcome the world.

In 1 John Chapter 5 we read about overcoming the world. What is the key? The power to overcome the world begins with our trust in Christ. It’s all about Jesus. The same power that raised him from the dead allowed Him to overcome the world. He’s the author and finisher of our faith. If we are to overcome the system of this world and all its trappings, we must be connected to Jesus Christ.

Are you depending on Him today? Are you connected to the Overcomer?

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pursuing Purity

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:3 (NIV)

It was “Ask the Youth Leader Night” for the kids at church, and everyone was putting their questions into the hat. The evening always provided interesting discussion centered on questions about faith, the Bible, and everything in between. Tom pulled the first question out of the hat as all eyes focused on him.

He glanced at the question on the piece of paper and paused for just a moment. Then he said, “Here’s a dating question, it says ‘How far is too far?’” Without much hesitation, he started right in. “You see, here’s the problem: This is really the wrong question. The right question is how far away from trouble’s door can I remain?”

Tom’s astute answer was right on. Too many folks ask the wrong question. They wonder how close they can get to the fire without actually getting burned…when they should be more concerned with staying as far away as possible from the fire! Scripture uses the same object lesson.

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? Proverbs 6:27-28 (NIV)

Purity is the total absence of contaminants. As an example, the purity of gold is measured in carats. The purest gold is 24 carats or roughly 99% pure gold. Eighteen carat gold would be 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals. The point is that if you want the purest gold, you need to keep all the other impurities out.

Is there anything in your life that has become an avenue to impure thoughts or actions? TV? The internet? Books? Video games? A particular relationship? A certain style of music? If you want to maintain a pure life, then it might be time to make some radical changes to avoid being burned.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Things Above

Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

My day is already filled up and it hasn’t even begun yet.  The car needs to be washed and vacuumed out and there’s an important NBA game on at 6.  The kitchen faucet is dripping indicating a leak somewhere and a possible trip to the hardware store.  It’s time again to clean out the garage and there are some things that need to be returned at the mall.  Oh and yes if there’s time the wind has blown the back patio full of leaves and it needs to be swept again. 

Sometimes it seems like we just go from one day to the next filling up every moment with so many “pressing” matters.  Life goes flying by and we get caught up in its whirlwind and all too often the first things to go are the very things that keep us focused on eternal matters.  Things like spending time with our heavenly Father.    

The truth is that even Jesus would occasionally slip away from the crowds or the business of His life to spend time with His Father.  So if even Jesus needed time with the Father then I suspect I do too.  It’s one thing that helps me set my mind on things above.

Sure, getting the garage cleaned is important and so is the NBA game but sometimes all of these important things can swallow up a whole day.  Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize that I haven’t even talked to my heavenly Father and I know I need that to get my perspective realigned.  So today I’m resolved to spend some time with God and get my thoughts on things above before the business begins. 

Luke 5:16 (NIV)
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.