Could I? Would You?

Would I be welcome in your church if I showed you who I really was?

Could I take off this mask of pride and feel your warmth and tender love?

Would I be welcome in your home if I showed you all my pain?

Could I worship next to you in all my naked shame?

Could I cry, confess my sins, kneel down and have you pray?

Or would I hear your judging words as you turn and walk away?

Would I be welcome in your heart as a fallen child of God?

Would you show me His affection, His mercy and His love?

Would you gently wipe my tears and then hold me in your arms?

Or would you hold up your right hand and point me to the Psalms?

Would you love me at my worst with all my guilty stains?

Or would you sacrifice our friendship to protect your ‘holy’ name?

Would you stand by me when EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. has walked away?

Would you help me on my feet, forgive and love me ANY WAY?

WOULD. YOU. BE. LIKE. JESUS?

WOULD YOU?

The Gospel is Forgiveness…

SCRIPTURE

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20 : 21 – 22

OBSERVATION

I am immediately struck by the image of Jesus breathing on His disciples engulfing them in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, it is interesting to compare the four gospels and the individual commissions that were recorded.

The Gospel commission of Matthew 28: 19 – 20 it says “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. 

Mark also records a similar commission in Mark 16 : 15, 16 – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”. 

Luke 24:26 – 47 says “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem“.

John 20 : 21 – 22 says “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

APPLICATION

I think in order to understand the Gospel commission and message, we have to look at all four commissions.  These are the commands that Jesus gave pretty much in the order that He said them.

  1. Marks says go into all the world – Luke says to start in Jerusalem and go into all nations.
  2. Marks says preach the gospel – Luke says repentance and remissions of sins should be preached to all nations and John says if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.
  3. Matthew says make disciples – John says He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Matthew also says to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, as demonstrated by John the Baptist did.
  4. Matthew says to teach them the commandments that Jesus taught.

If this is the order in which we are to do make disciples, we should be going out preaching a message of forgiveness.  We should be asking people to repent and to do their best to eliminate or reduce their sins, but knowing that through the blood of Jesus, all of our sins have been erased (remission can be considered in both contexts meaning to eradicate or decrease).  We should then be making disciples of people through baptism, and lastly we should be teaching those disciples in more detail about God’s love. Once those disciples know enough about God’s love, they graduate to become apostles and are given the same commission to go out.

If we look at Jesus’ ministry – that’s exactly what He did. He went to people, forgave them and healed them and told them to sin no more (John 5:14, 8:11). I am sure that many of those that Jesus healed became believers and were baptized.  Therefore, we need to be careful to copy the exact method that Christ gave us in order to reach people.  Going to people with  messages on the wrath of God, fear, everlasting life, how bad they are, what they need to stop doing or even topics on health or a vegetarian lifestyle can never ever be as effective as a message of forgiveness.

Moreover,  it is evident in John that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples before they went out to forgive people. If we are to be as empathetic, forgiving and loving, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit before we go out into the world to make disciples of God’s children, leaving our judgments and prejudices at home.

PRAYER

Blessed Father

You are indeed worthy to be praised.  Thank You for taking us through another week.  Thank You for teaching us the Gospel of Forgiveness that we should be spreading to all nations. Teach us to accept and commit to Your ways and to not deviate from them towards our own.  There are many people out there who need to hear this Gospel and through forgiveness many people will come to know You.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we can be forgiving as Christ is and draw crowds to You as He did too.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Reject or Rejected…?

SCRIPTURE

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.   But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”  John 5:43

OBSERVATION

During 5th chapter from verse 24 – 47, Jesus talks about how life and judgment are through the Son.  Jesus appears to be expressing His human side and is very frustrated with the Jewish people, the people who were supposed to receive Him, His very own people.  He has been as honest, open and loving as He could be.  He has testified to God’s amazing powers by healing numerous sick people and doing miracles.   Yet, the Jews refuse to humble themselves and treat him with scorn and contempt. The attitude of the Jews appears to be over-righteous, argumentative, accusatory and unforgiving with little personal insight into their own misdeeds and ignorance. The very scripture that the Jews claimed to know and were so haughty about, is the very scripture they could not comprehend, even when the scripture was personified before them in the form of Jesus.

I also thought about how Jesus felt when He came in His Father’s name and was rejected, and yet the Jews were willing to accept others when they came in their own name.

APPLICATION

There are times when the very people that we expect to accept us, instead reject us and it hurts even more when it’s people that we thought would care, like family or friends.  For some people there isn’t anything that we can do that can ever be good enough. Though we may show them the love of Jesus, by expressing care, understanding and forgiveness, just like the Jews,  they  may never see it even though they read about it in the Scriptures every day.

Furthermore, I have heard some spouses complain that their husband or wife does not listen to them, and yet when they hear the same information from someone else who in reality should have less influence, their spouse is quick to respond. It’s the same way Jesus felt when people were more willing to listen to less credible folk.

We need to be aware that despite our honorable intentions, rejection will come and it will not be easy.  Moreover, we also need to be aware when we may dismiss someone’s advice or help, because we take them for granted such that we diminish their contribution.  We need to be especially careful that at these times we do not send away the very help that God brought to us, in answer to our own prayers or His promises to us.

PRAYER

Dear God

Thank You for another day of studying and learning about the life of Jesus. Sometimes people challenge our patience, character and faith and this can be frustrating and hurtful, especially when it is friends/family. It is comforting to know that Jesus felt the same pain that we do when we are rejected and our opinions diminished, so that He understands how we feel.  But help us to know that we can also inflict the same pain on others and not to reject them.  While it is easy to point out the fault in others, it is more important that we have insight into our own behavior, so that we can humble ourselves and seek Jesus, the One who came in Your name and in whose Name we pray.

Amen.

Did Jesus Accept Divorce?

SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

OBSERVATION

I have always wondered about the purpose of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.  I notice that following Jesus’ request to call the Samaritan’s woman’s husband, she responds by saying that she has no husband.  Jesus agrees and says that she has spoken the truth.  He then goes on to say that she has had five husbands and the one she is with is not hers.

But how can she have married five husbands, yet according to Jesus, have no husband?  Surely, according to traditional views, Jesus would say that she has at least one husband, with the first marriage (where there is no death) being the only spiritually acceptable one?  Furthermore, how could she have gotten to her fifth husband without being stoned for adultery because she remarried four times?

Or did all of her husbands die? It seems unlikely, even so, what Jesus said would then be correct, she has no husband for they are all dead.  But why mention her dead husbands?  All He could have said is, that the man she is with now is not her husband.  Why would it be relevant to raise her past?  After all, Jesus says everything for a reason.

Another explanation is that she ‘had’ – meaning had sexual intercourse with five men who are another woman’s husband.  However, the term generally used in the Bible for sexual intercourse is ‘to lay’ or ‘to know’.

Lastly, could she have had five husbands and was legally and spiritually divorced from them, hence she really had no husband.  As a consequence of her five failed relationships, she decided to live with the last man so that she would not have to go through the humiliation of another divorce? If so, was Jesus accepting the validity of a legal and spiritual divorce by stating she has no husband?

While I believe and fully support the ideal for a marriage partnership to be life-long, we know that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart.  However, according to some studies, the word divorce has been wrongly translated.  The original Hebrew word used for ‘divorce’ actually refers to an old practice of men who ‘put away’ their wives (separated  or left them with no legal divorce).  For her survival and that of her children, the ‘put away’ wife would remarry rather than prostitute herself. But because she was not legally divorced, she committed adultery and this is why God hates ‘divorce’ that is the practice of ‘putting away’.  Moses requested that a legal document be produced to protect women who were often oppressed, impoverished and unjustly stoned, (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  A legal document allowed the woman the freedom to remarry without condemnation of adultery.  It has been suggested that the word ‘divorce’ in the Bible should be read using the words ‘to put away’. (For a general read on Divorce and Remarriage –  http://www.bethelministries.com/divorce.htm). Let us not forget that God legally divorced Himself from Israel, also issuing them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).

APPLICATION

What was the purpose of this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman such that He raised her past and present?  I think that Jesus gently brought her into the awareness of her failed relationships and her current actions living with another man, but I think it was the reason behind her failed relationships that Jesus was asking her to explore.  Before He mentioned her husbands, Jesus told her that He  has living water, and if she drinks His water, she will never thirst again.  I believe Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman – whatever you are seeking in these men, can be found in Me.  He was stipulating that He (Jesus) is the love that she has been searching for and once she accepts God’s love, she will never search for this love in another man or earthly relationship again.  I know this is a lesson I need to hear and accept.

PRAYER

Father God

Thank You for another day enjoying this miracle called life.  I thank You for the institution of marriage which ideally should be a life-long commitment.  I thank You for the opportunity to look at divorce from a different perspective.  Help us in this day and age to learn to treat people who are divorced with more compassion and care, rather than with judgment and failing.  I know that You understand because You Lord were also divorced from Israel and You bear no shame.  I thank You for the example of love and empathy that You showed to the Samaritan woman while explaining to her that we need to find love in You first.  Without the knowledge of Your love it will be difficult for any of us to truly know what love looks like and this may eventually lead to failed relationships.

Help us all to be grounded in Your wonderful gift of true unconditional love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Note:  Your comments are welcome, but please note that this a controversial and sensitive topic. I ask that all words are written respectfully and with love.

It’s Okay to be Human…

Today I’ve been thinking about how unforgiving the world can be when we make mistakes. Some days it is hard to be ‘human’, to be imperfect in a world that expects you to be perfect and get things right… All. The. Time.

I remember my child coming home, feeling they had been unjustly dealt with at school. It was the first time they had forgotten their homework, and they had been ‘disciplined’ as if they were a repeat offender. I felt their pain. Everyone forgets something from time to time – it’s human. I had to remind them that it was okay to forget, it was okay to be imperfect, it is okay to be human.

This world does not always offer you a second chance. One seemingly small mistake or error in judgment can be disastrous to your life or the lives of others, and in some cases you can be judged by that mistake for rest of your life – the label sticks. Sometimes we judge others harshly, until we find ourselves in a similar situation. It is my prayer that I can grow with God in offering forgiveness to my brothers and sisters who make mistakes, as I know I need that same forgiveness.

I am thankful that God knew me well enough to know I would make mistakes despite my efforts. He lovingly set up a plan to forgive and redeem me. With Jesus – there are no worldly labels regardless of what we have done. Jesus gives us new chances every day. We may sin one day, and be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, through the confession and repentance of our sins, the following day.

With Jesus, I have a Friend, a Brother, and an Advocate. With the Holy Spirit, I have the comfort and strength to walk with God in this unforgiving world with my head held high. With God, I have the unconditional love of my Creator, my Father. Amen.