To Love Him

I’ll be honest.  There are some passages in the Bible that I’ve never really liked.  Luke 7:36-50 is one of them.  Guess what last night’s Bible study was on?

You guessed it.

In case you’re not familiar with Luke 7:36-50, it’s the story of a woman-with-a-less-than-stellar-reputation who very passionately anointed Jesus.  She was a “sinner.”  A prostitute.

It’s also the story of a man-with-an-impressive-spiritual-resume who very passively stood by.  He was a “saint.”  A Pharisee.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 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. (Luke 7:36-38*)
 

Luke 7

If I had been one of the dinner guests around the table that evening, I no doubt would have squirmed in my chair and looked away, cringing.  What she does is Awkward.  Embarrassing.  Inappropriate.

Simon, the host of the dinner, was also displeased with this uninvited guest, the party crasher.  Jesus told him a story:

“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 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?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41b-43)
 

Here’s the point:

Some sinners are greater debtors; but whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we are able to pay.” (Matthew Henry)

Let that sink in.

Now imagine Simon’s surprise when Jesus goes on to commend her and correct him:

“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. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. (Luke 7:44b-46)
 

This gal “got it.”  She understood that Jesus was a very special Guest of Honor.  Worthy of honor.  The ultimate V.I.P.  Suddenly she had my respect.  Her actions were actually the more “appropriate” response.  Because GOD was in the house!

Who can forgive sins but God only, and in Simon’s house God was present in the person of His Son.” (All the Women of the Bible)

She alone fell at His feet and worshiped.

Jesus continues:

“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.” (Luke 7:47-48)
 

This is the place in the passage where I’d always get hung up.  My problem was that I identified more with the “good” Pharisee than with the “bad” woman.  It seemed “unfair” to me that the one who had sinned more got to love more.

But really, aren’t we all “the woman” in the story?  We’ve each been forgiven MUCH.  So much more than we’ll ever know.  The woman shows us the only “proper” response as she gives Jesus the one thing He’s really after:  OUR LOVE.

The woman was, at least in Simon’s mind, a greater sinner. The woman was, as Jesus pointed out, the greater lover as well.” (Bob Deffinbaugh)

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50)
 

Isn’t it interesting, that:

Of all those who went to the dinner, only this woman is said to have left forgiven”? (Bob Deffinbaugh)

And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?  The question is not “What have you done?” but “What has Jesus done for you?”  The issue is not where you’ve been, but where He wants to take you.  I have no doubt that her life radically changed that day, and that many other lives were changed through her testimony.

My grandfather, at nearly 70 years of age, came to know Christ through a former prostitute.  He had been invited to hear her story at a church service one evening.  As she spoke, he realized, “If God can forgive her, then he can forgive me.”  He lived another decade, a forgiven, changed man.  I loved him and his story.

I now love the woman of Luke 7 and her story, too.

But most of all, I love “this man (who) goes around forgiving sins.” (Luke 7:49)

To know Him – to be forgiven by Him – is to love Him.

*All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

(Quotes from Bob Deffinbaugh are excerpted from an article called “Wordless Worship of an Unnamed Woman” at www.bible.org.)

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The Star in Our Faults

Star painting

I am weak;
Sinner, still.
Faults exposed,
Heartsick, ill.
 
Head bowed low,
Hand raised high.
Who will free me?
This, my cry.
 
Mercy dawns,
Purest light.
Heaven to earth,
Shattering night.
 
Perfect Life,
Violent death.
Faultless Lamb,
Final breath.
 
Veil now torn,
Victory won.
It is finished!
Love’s work, done!
 
Grace sufficient,
Covers scar.
Faults, forgiven!
Hero!  Star!

 

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25, NIV)

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The Gospel According to Beau

We kept hoping he’d figure it out.  Sleep on this side of the Pack ‘n Play.  Poop on the other side.  It was so simple even a puppy could understand it.  But after seven long weeks of hoping (along with almost daily baths!) we finally had to admit that it just wasn’t working.  It was time to try something new.

So we put away the Pack ‘n Play and invited this untrained puppy into…our bedroom.

It felt foolish.  Risky.  Counterintuitive.  He certainly hadn’t earned the privilege or proven himself trustworthy.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  So we did it anyway.

We scattered a few puppy pads around the room, praying that he would choose them over the carpet.  We made him a little bed next to ours and held our breath as he curled up, without whining, in a contented ball.  He slept peacefully, happy just to be near us.

I slept, fitfully, fearfully.  The next morning I cautiously peered over the side of the bed, dreading what I might find.  But lo and behold, he was clean and dry!  And so was the carpet!  We jokingly called it our Christmas Miracle.  In fact, he’s now gone an entire week with nary an accident or a bath!

It’s AMAZING.

Yet isn’t this how Grace works?

We, too, couldn’t help ourselves.  Try as we might we just couldn’t stay clean.  Then, one day, the Father lifted us out of the confines of the Law, which we had been unable to keep, and set it aside.  It was time for something new.  Jesus came, took our filth in exchange for His righteousness, and escorted us right into the very throne room of God.

We did not deserve such kindness.  We had not earned this trust.  Yet it was given to us anyway.

Grace.  AMAZING.

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”  (Romans 6:14, NLT)

When we gave Beau the run of our room, we weren’t sure how he would handle his newfound freedom.  We knew he could abuse it.  That’s the risk grace takes.  But being in our presence calmed and settled him.  It changed him.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NLT)

Grace changes us, too.  When we experience the thrill of being in God’s gracious, holy presence, sin loses its pull.  His law is now written on our hearts.  (See Hebrews 8:10.)  We want  to please Him.

We don’t do it perfectly.  Accidents still happen.  But our hearts are inclined in a new direction:  to stay near this One who has showered us with such extravagant grace.

As I lifted Beau onto my pillow for a snuggle the morning of The Miracle, a tear slipped down my cheek.  If I could love a helpless, ignorant puppy through this messy process, how much more must God love me?  If being brought near to us could change him, how might nestling even closer to God’s heart change me?

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)

Chris' pillow--his favorite spot!

Chris’ pillow–his favorite spot!

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Puppies and Poop

BathThat’s right.  You can’t have one without the other.  The trick is to keep the ‘other’ from getting on the ‘one.’  And on any other surfaces you’d rather not have to immediately sanitize.

Our first week with a new puppy brought a not-so-slight increase in laundry and baths.  (Good thing we live in the county, where we don’t have a water bill.)  I kept hearing that puppies don’t like to combine their bathrooms with their bedrooms.  Well, this little guy didn’t seem to mind that combo one little bit.

I began to dread the scene that awaited me on the other side of the bathroom door each morning.  There he’d be, all 2.1 pounds of him, jumping and scratching on the sides of his kennel, desperate to be picked up and held.  I was genuinely happy to see him and eager to embrace him.  But his condition was not exactly conducive to cuddling, if you know what I mean.

Laurel and I would fly into crisis mode, gathering supplies and scrambling to fill the sink with warm water.  He’d whimper and wiggle as we tried to work some orange-scented “Puppy Fun!” shampoo into the offending areas.  I wanted to say, “Stop fighting me!  I can’t hold you until I get you cleaned up!”  Eventually we’d get him bathed and bundled in a dry towel, where he’d sleep, spent from the struggle.  By then, Laurel and I needed a nap too!

Just like that four-letter word that begins with ‘s,’ SIN happens in our lives.  It goes hand in hand with our human condition.  And when sin happens, we also have a tendency to step in it, track it around, and make an even bigger mess.  We wonder why God appears to be distant as we cry out for comfort.  The truth is He longs to hold us close, but the issue of our sin must first be addressed.  We are helpless to clean ourselves up.

This is why Jesus came.

If you are still resisting Him, might I encourage you to stop?  Submit to His capable care and let His love and mercy wash away sin’s stain.  Relax in His strong grip.  Rest in His tight embrace.

You can trust Him.

If you know Him as Savior, then why not be quick to run to Him when you make a mess?  There’s no need to wallow in it or cower in shame.  Just confess your sin, gratefully accept His forgiveness and get back to enjoying your relationship with Him.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NAS)

It feels good to be clean.

And even better to be held.

Held

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Weeds

As we eagerly pulled up to the new house on our Closing Day near the end of August, we didn’t expect to be greeted.  But there they were, lining the driveway and waving at us.  Only they weren’t members of the Neighborhood Welcoming Committee.

They were weeds.

They seemed to have sprung up overnight, or at least sometime during the six weeks that had passed between our offer and the closing.  I didn’t recall a weed problem when we viewed the house.  But we sure had one now.  And there they were, taunting us, obscuring our view and robbing our joy.

Today we officially declared  “War On Weeds.”

As I spent the bulk of my Saturday stooped over, attacking these unwanted guests in our gravel driveway, I had plenty of time to contemplate the topic of Weeds. I also pondered how weeds can be spiritually symbolic of Sin.  (For this is what one does in order to avoid dwelling on how much one’s backside hurts while pulling said weeds.)  What follows are my thoughts…

1)  Weeds are part of life in a fallen world.

Weeds entered the world as a consequence of man’s sin, and they’ve been a tenacious opponent ever since:  “…the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” (Genesis 3:17b-18, NLT)  (We even have some nasty looking actual thistles on our property!)

Weeds interfere with growth and choke out life.  Ignoring or denying them will only make the problem worse.  So it is with the “sin which so easily entangles us” (from Hebrews 12:1, NAS)  We must acknowledge sin’s existence and impact on our lives:   “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, NAS)

2)  All weeds are not created equal.

During my extensive field research, I discovered that there are two distinct types of weeds:  1) The kind that come up easily from the ground with a firm tug, and 2) The kind that prefer to engage you in a vigorous game of tug-of-war.  Here is a picture of Chris with the latter variety.  (He dubbed this one “The Mother Ship.”)

(Note all of the weeds in the background!)

Now sin is sin.  But some sins are easier to confess and forsake.  Others (persistent areas of defeat, spiritual “strongholds,” addictions) are more stubborn.  I struggle with one such area.  (I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say that a recent examination of my closet revealed no less than five different sizes of jeans, all of which fit me at various times in the last two and a half years.  Yep.)

3)  Weeds must be pulled up by the roots.

The only way I can explain the sudden appearance of the weeds along our driveway is that the previous owner must have kept them mowed down while the house was on the market.  They were close to the ground and hidden from all but the most astute potential home buyers.  (Apparently we were not of this variety.)  While “weed-whacking” appears to alleviate the problem, it does not solve it.  The roots remain.

We can confess and suppress sin in our lives, but if we fail to deal with the root of our sin issues, they will eventually reappear.  Hebrews 12:15 describes a “root of bitterness” that can keep springing up, causing trouble.  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of pulling up familiar “weeds” over and over.  (I mean, how many times am I going to lose the same 10 or 20 lbs?)  I am asking God to show me the “root” of my struggles, so I can truly be free.  I highly recommend Lysa Terkeurst’s book Made to Crave, which has been helping me with this.

4)  Weeds can be prevented.

In my husband’s quest to conquer the weeds he came across an environmentally (and water supply) friendly recipe on the Internet, consisting of vinegar, salt and dish-washing liquid.  Apparently weeds dislike this particular combination.  Even though the view from our house is now mostly weed-free, we must be pro-active if we want to keep the weeds at bay.

If God had a recipe for living a life free from sin’s entanglement, I wonder if it might include some of the following ingredients:  the Word (Psalm 119:9), the encouragement of other believers (Hebrews 3:13), and prayer (Matthew 26:41).  Being pro-active in our faith means creating an environment that is sin-resistant and conducive to the kind of growth we desire.

5)  One day weeds will be eradicated.

As long as we live on this sin-cursed soil, our war with the weeds–both in the physical and the spiritual realm–will continue.  But we can experience victory.  Jesus overcame the power of sin on the cross.  One day He will remove the presence of sin altogether!

Farewell, weeds!

And on that final Closing Day, there will be a Welcoming Committee.  The house He’s preparing for us will be in perfect, move-in condition.  And I have a hunch the view will be amazing!

 

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