Friday, July 29, 2016

Change of Perspective-The "Good" Samaritan

So often in life, our perspectives are skewed or completely distorted. We live in our perspectives and think they are right until God brings us to the point of seeing that we are wrong. The truth will always win out over the lies that we and the world around us wants to carve onto the walls of our souls. So, I am reading about the story of the Good Samaritan for unknown number of times and God shows another angle, another perspective that is so profound. So let me retell the story that Jesus told. A Jewish man was on his way to Jericho when he was overcome by robbers, robbed, striped of his clothing, beaten and left for dead by the side of the road. A priest comes down traveling on this same road, sees the beaten, naked man and hurries on. What might he have been thinking? I have too much to do once I get to Jericho to stop and help this man. Someone else will come along and take care of him. Or maybe he is thinking, I have to be at that meeting at noon and I cannot be late. Someone else will have to take care of this man. Well, someone else does come by. He is a Levite and when he sees the man, perhaps his thoughts take a different path. Maybe he starts to get anxious and starts searching around the area to see if the robbers are still nearby. He thinks, I don't know where the robbers are but this could have just happened and I don't want to end up in this same condition. His fear motivates him to start walking faster and he tries to keep to the other side of the road near the bushes where he hopefully won't be seen. Alas, another someone comes by. This time it is a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews did not like each other, in fact, call it more like they hated each other, something like the Democrats hating the Republicans and vice versa. There was so much bad blood between them that the thought of a Samaritan stopping to help a Jewish man was unthinkable but in this story he does the unthinkable. Now, interestingly enough Jesus never specifically called him the Good Samaritan. That is a label we have put on this man. I think the label is fair enough but this new perspective might make you think otherwise. So, I have felt the perspective of the priest being too busy or I have some place to be and don't have time to stop and help someone in need. I have also been the Levite who was too fearful to step in and doing anything. I had never put myself in the position of the naked, beaten Jewish man on the side of the road. Imagine you are that man. You have had everything taken from you, you have been left naked in humiliation and you have been hurt not only physically but emotionally, mentally, within the deepest parts of your heart and soul. And then, Jesus comes by the road and sees you. He comes across the road to you. He takes you in his arms and carries you to an inn. He cleanses and bandages your wounds. He pays the innkeeper and tells him he will be back to take care of anything else. Jesus has gone above and beyond what this man needed. He did that for us when he came down from heaven, lived among us, died the brutal death on the cross and rose from the dead and came out of hell as a conqueror. When we die on the cross with him in our repentance and faith in him, than we too rise from the dead and become a new creation. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit given to inhabit us, live with us in the very own temple of our body. But we can still be swayed by the sinful nature that is in us. We can still choose to let our busyness or our own selfish motives drive our behaviors and lead us to not stopping to help someone in need. Or we can choose to cower in our fear and let it hold us back from doing what we know is the right thing to do, to help the person in need. Or we can allow the Holy Spirit to direct us, to give us the other-centered outlook and attitude, to give us the trust and courage to conquer our fears and do what Jesus would do. He wouldn't care who it was or what he may or may not have done. He would take care of the man. He would take care of you. Jesus concluded his story with the command, "go and do likewise". We have him within us to help us to be the "Good" Samaritan or, in other words and perspective, to be like Jesus.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Song of Songs

In this last week in the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore, she asked us to read Song of Songs 5:10-16. She asked us to write our own description of Christ based on these verses. I have to confess that this had me a bit tickled because I use to write poetry in my love struck young teen days but I have not really done any love poem since. I feel the stars glistening in my eyes as I read the verses I wrote about my Jesus. Oh how I love you!

My Love is my everything, my all and my being.
His head is crowned with glory.
His hair is soft and gentle as he.
His eyes gleam like the sun shinning on the waters of the sea.
His cheeks are glistening with the dew of sweat.
His lips are telling me of his love.
His arms are strong as iron and soft as fleece.
His body is glorious and bright like the sun when it rises in the morning and sets at night.
His legs stand firm and tall like the sequoias of California.
His posture tells me I am safe; he is on watch over me.
His mouth is like a river of chocolate with never ending goodness.
Oh friends of mine, My Jesus, My Love is mine and yours too.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Insight in Unlikely Places

Chapter 10 of Iscariot by Tosca Lee is a fictional account based on the true account of when Jesus healed the leper. It gives a vivid description of the understanding of what it meant to be a leper, how the society around responded to those with leprosy and especially the unfailing love that Jesus poured out onto this leper.
Leprosy was an affliction that was a walking death sentence. It was thought that anyone afflicted by this had to have sinned. The lepers were considered unclean and were not allowed to be in the presence of normal people. The lepers were destined not only to the agonizing physical symptoms of leprosy but to the excommunication from society, from the touch of the human hand, from being loved and forgotten. But God never forgets any of us and loves all of us with a love that will never fail, will always reach out and touch and love us.
This fictional representation of this miracle helps you see this miracle with new eyes. We are all unclean, not because we have leprosy but because we all bear the sinful nature that we have inherited from Adam and Eve. The spiritual death that came upon Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden because of their rebellion and sin against God is like a bright lite up room that is suddenly immersed in darkness. The Spirit of God can no longer connect with our spirit because his holiness won’t allow it. A Holy God cannot be in the presence of sin. This darkness of the spirit is passed on to us because that is what is there. Adam and Eve couldn’t pass on what they did not have.
Because we are unclean and sinful by nature, God had to turn away from us. We are the leper who has to be turned away from because of our uncleanness. But unlike humans, who shunned those with leprosy because of their own fears, we have a God who has no fear of our sin, he just can’t be in the presence of it because his Holy nature will not allow it. But God, in his goodness, made a plan so that the unclean could be made clean again by the blood of Jesus. His love for us is so great that instead of cleaning the slate and starting over with his creation, he chose to create a plan to save us, to make us new again, to give us the connection back to His Spirit. He chose to come down to us in a way that none expected; an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission, to forgive us of our sins, be the sacrifice for our sins, give us an eternal life and spiritual connection with the Father. Jesus didn’t have to die, he didn’t have to suffer the humiliating and excruciating torture and death on a cross. He didn’t beg for mercy or claim again and again that he was innocent and he didn’t deserve to die. He did what the Father asked him to do; he obeyed the plan that God had put into place. He obeyed because he loved his Father. He reached out and touched the leper and said I am willing because love motivated him. A kind of love that doesn’t fail, that isn’t repulsed or disgusted, a love that sees and does what is right and true. Jesus reaching out to touch the leper and to go against what society dictated was outrageous, unbelievable, unfathomable but Jesus was more than a man. He was God in the flesh and with God all things are possible. He can reach out and touch the sinful mess that we are and he sees only beauty and feels only love. What a gift! What a gift! It is almost too much for the mind to grasp. His love defies all. In the face of evil, he sees the creation he made and loves it, loves us and does everything he can for us no matter the cost.

Lord, I thank you for your goodness, your love that never fails, never ends. You have given us the greatest gift. You have taken the unclean messiness of my soul and made me clean. You have given me your Holy Spirit to light up and bring life back to my dead spirit. You fill all the empty places within and fulfill my every need. Thank you, thank you. These words will never be enough to express the gratitude for this gift but I will continue to say them to feel them. Help me in the day ahead to walk in your light, love as you love me and live out your purpose for me that all this may bring you glory upon glory. I pray this all in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Question Leads to Closer Connection to You

The sermon on Sunday was about a parable in the Bible that is often preached about so as I prepared myself in church on Sunday looking up the scriptures and read the parable again, I wondered how God would lead our pastor, Jennifer Holz into sharing something new and fresh about this passage. Interestingly, it started with that question that she thought to herself as she was preparing this sermon: Does the sower scatter the seeds intentionally? Whoa, I thought this is going to be more than I was expecting. Thank you God! This parable is often taught to show us the possible soils that we are in and how we have to prepare the soil of our soul to receive the Word of God. But her question led us down the trail of looking not so much at the soil and our own hearts but at the heart of God. She shared an example of how her and her two daughters worked at preparing some soil to plant grass. They raked and watered and had it ready to go. They spread the seeds in this soil. They weren't going to spread grass seeds on the sidewalk or in the rocks.  So why would God scatter seeds just anywhere? My first thought was simply because He can but the pastor elaborated further with the fact that God's abundance is unlimited. His seeds may fall on a path that has been trampled on and packed in by life's struggle, falls into the rocky soil that does not get enough water to nourish it, or falls into the field where weeds take over and choke the plant or into the soil that is ready to receive it; but in all cases God has a purpose. So, yes, it is better to be prepared, be the soil that is ready to receive God's Word and yet there is hope in that God has a purpose for us even when our soil is not prepared and ready. The pastors simple question was the beginning of readying the soil. She learned 4 words to help remember what it takes to keep preparing the soil of our heart and soul, to cultivate a space to grow:
1. Inspired---what about what you read in the Word inspires you?
2. Inquire---what questions do you have? none are too small or insignificant and all can lead to a closer connection to our Father.
3. Irk---what about what you have read in the Bible irks you? it's okay to be irked, frustrated or angry. Talk to God about it.
4. Require---what is God asking me to do? What changes need to be made within me?

Lord, we thank you for the gift of Your Word and we are sorry we are not always ready to receive it. We are thankful that in your greatness you get that we will fail at this again and again and that you still will use it for your purpose. Help us to be more ready, to cultivate the soil of our souls that we may grow more and produce more fruit that brings you glory. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.