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Friday, January 29, 2010

She's Been With Jesus

My friend, Tammy (over at Tammy On The Go), posted a statement on her Facebook page a few days ago. It struck a chord in my heart and I asked her permission to use it for this post. "The woman who washed Jesus' feet left the building smelling just like Him.".
I pondered Tammy's words for a couple of days before going to the scriptures and rereading the story (Luke chapter 7). As I read carefully and prayerfully, my heart was, once again, captivated by the love Christ has for us. I am amazed at the ability Jesus had to love, forgive, restore, and renew all those who sought Him with a pure heart.
Jesus had come to dine with a Pharisee named Simon. Since the Pharisees thought themselves superior in knowledge and intellect, one can only assume that Simon invited Jesus out of curiosity and arrogance, not out of respect and honor. It was the custom in those days to offer your guest water to wash their feet and refresh themselves from the dusty rigors of traveling by foot. It was also customary to greet your guest with an embrace of welcome, letting them know you were glad they were in your home. It is of note that Simon did neither. No honor was given to Jesus as a guest. Daily courtesies afforded any traveler were denied Him as He entered into the home of a man whose only mission was to find a fault in One who had no faults.
Into this gathering comes a woman---a woman of ill repute. A woman whose life was sin ridden and empty. Yet, she came to Jesus. The scriptures do not tell us why she came. We do not know what she had in mind when she appeared in Simon's home. Still she came, standing behind Jesus, so ashamed she could not raise her head to look into His eyes. Instead, she fell to her knees, weeping uncontrollably. Her tears mingled with dust on the Saviour's feet and she wiped them away with her hair. She had not come prepared to wash His feet, but she had come prepared to honor Him with an alabaster box filled with precious ointment. No doubt, this cost her much to purchase, the box itself being of great cost, the ointment so valuable that only a box of this material could preserve its fragrance. It was all she had to offer---the most valuable she had to give.
She opened the box at the feet of Jesus. Immediately the crowded room, filled with traveler's dust and empty hearts, became a fragrant repose. The scent of her offering filled the room as she tenderly poured it onto the feet of Jesus, kissing them all the while and honoring Him in the only way she knew. Bowing before the King of Glory, anointing His feet with a priceless ointment, she not only washed the Saviour's feet---she found cleansing for herself as well.
I cannot begin to imagine how she must have felt when Jesus finally spoke. After reproving Simon for his dishonor and lack of respect, Jesus immortalized this dear woman with words of love and forgiveness:

"...her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much..."

Turning His attention to the woman of sin He said to her:

"...thy sins are forgiven...thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

With the scent of precious ointment covering her hands, her hair, her face---with the memory of the voice of Jesus ringing in her ears---she left the house of the arrogant Pharisee with something money could not buy. She left forgiven. She left with peace. She left smelling just like Jesus. Wherever she went that day, all could tell she had been with Jesus---she smelled just like Him.
Oh, dear friends, so many times I have come to Jesus with my list of needs and requests, totally ignoring my need to first honor and adore Him. My forgiveness and peace, which comes from His dear hand, is lost in my "pressing" needs and the importance of telling Jesus what He needs to do for me. I leave my box unopened. But today, I am the woman with the alabaster box. Today I want the people I meet to smell Jesus on me. I want His anointing and His presence to be so rich that others can say, "She's been with Jesus.". I want the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon, the sweetness of the Lily of the Valley, to envelope me today so that others may see Jesus in me and glorify Him.
I am certain that this precious woman in our story today had no idea that she would become an inspiration to others because of her selfless act of love. I am also certain that we have no idea ourselves whose life we will touch because of our devotion to a loving Saviour. May the scent of His anointing follow us and may His glory be evident in our lives today. May those we encounter leave us saying, "She's been with Jesus.".

In Grace,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Running On Empty

I almost ran out of gas the other day. I had been out and about, running errands and paying bills (yuk), and had not paid attention to how much gas was in my car. Suddenly the gas light, accompanied by its little chime, lit up. I knew I had to find a station soon or I would be stranded. The problem was, I was about 10 miles from the nearest gas station, so I did what anyone else would do---I panicked!!! I berated myself for how silly it was to not check my fuel gauge---I lectured myself for taking the route I had chosen---and I blamed how "busy" I was for distracting me. Bottom line is, I was negligent and thought that I could travel farther before having to refuel. My judgment was faulty.
Once I returned home, with a full tank of gas, I just couldn't stop thinking about how easily I could have gotten myself stranded. I couldn't get it out of my head that my own misguided judgment nearly got me in a precarious situation. I felt out of sorts, frustrated, and anxious. I settled down with my Bible, looking to it, as I always do, for comfort and direction. I read a few chapters but couldn't keep my focus. I began to pray and ask God to reveal to me what was so persistently pulling at my mind and spirit. Very gently He spoke to my heart, "Daughter, you are running on empty.".
Suddenly, I knew why my heart felt heavy and why my spirit seemed subdued. The joy of the Lord had become hidden under the cares of everyday life. His peace had been replaced with my struggle to play "Miss Fix-It" to life situations. His love had been forgotten under the demands of work. Without time in His presence---without communion with Him---without His word hidden in my heart---my spirit and soul had been emptied out and I had nothing left on which to run. I was, indeed, running on empty.
Oh, dear friends, do I need to tell you that the rest of the day was spent hovering over His precious Word and hiding it deep within my soul? Must I describe to you the tears of repentance that fell down my cheeks as I asked His forgiveness for my thoughtless neglect? Yes, I must tell you that my weary being found rest and reprieve at His feet and, for a day, I was Mary, yearning to look into the face of Jesus. For a day, I was blessed to hover in His presence and find, once again, refreshing for my heart and mind. At the end of the day, I was full. My cup had begun to overflow.
How easily life takes from us the very things that we need to survive in today's society. We get lost in daily routines, task lists, deadlines, and obligations. How easy it becomes to put time with God to the bottom of the list---not intentionally---but it happens nonetheless. We come to the end of the day, weary and worn, giving God what is left over and hoping He will give us some small encouragement from on high. We come to the place where we are certain that we can handle things on our own with only a token recognition of God's ability to do above and beyond what we could expect or imagine. We remain unfulfilled and empty.
God makes no demands on us. He allows us to pursue our dreams, meet our goals, and live our lives. Through it all, He waits. Waits until we are ready to be filled, daily, from His wellspring of love, grace, and mercy. Waits until we realize how empty we can really be. Then He reaches down and, through His tremendous compassion, occupies our heart and fills it until we overflow. How blessed it is to lean on our Lord, knowing He can direct our lives far better than we ourselves.
I don't think I will allow myself to come so close to running out of gas again. It was a very scary experience for me. Even more frightening is a day without the presence of the wonderful God I serve. I yearn for Him, long for Him, cannot wait to feel Him near. He thrills me, fills me. I'm running the race, indeed, but with a full heart---a heart that is no longer running on empty.

In Grace,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Looking Ahead

Sometimes our past mistakes and failures hit us unexpectedly. Some thought or phrase, maybe even a song or a particular place will trigger the memory of a time or event we would rather forget. Unlike memories that we cherish and revisit fondly in our minds, these thoughts pull at us, drag us down, and fill us with remorse. We all have them, we all hate them, we all wish we could turn back time and correct some of the awful mistakes we have made.
The Apostle Paul had such memories. Such an awesome man of God he became, but, oh, the pain he caused and endured in finding the path to his destiny. Born a Roman citizen, he was entitled to all the luxuries such citizenship afforded him. He was highly educated and a member of the Sanhedrin Court---a position of high rank and honor. He was also a Jew and followed the law of Moses to the letter. As such, he could not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah of God and, so, obtained legal right to persecute those who followed the teaching of Jesus Christ. He was so zealous to protect the religious law he so deeply cherished, that he honestly came to believe that those who did not honor the law were deserving of persecution and imprisonment. On a journey of tracking down believers, his whole life changed in a moment of time.
Paul (whose name was Saul at the time) was struck down on the Damascan Road, blinded by God, and given instruction specific for his deliverance and healing. He heard the voice of God for himself and came face to face with who he was and what he had done. For the first time in his life, Paul was helpless and needed to lean on others to get to where he was going. God had a special plan for Paul, but He needed to get Paul's attention first. The end result was Paul's deliverance, healing, and acceptance of the teachings of Jesus and the yielding of his life to the will of God.
Paul is my favorite New Testament character. But, here of late, I have been thinking about the significance of Paul's words found in Philippians 3:13,

"...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before...".

It brings me to the realization that Paul had much to forget from his past. I am sure many times he had to shake off the memories of the faces of those he led to persecution. How many times did the faces of those he imprisoned haunt him as he journeyed from place to place? Did he ever hear the cries of the mothers separated from their children or the sobs of husbands and wives taken from each other's arms? I wonder how often he bowed his head and, once again, asked forgiveness for his ungodly crimes? Though he thought he was acting in the will of God at the time, once he came to really know God and His son, Jesus, his actions would rise up to haunt him.
I, too, have been in this place. My unkind words and deeds have often caused me grief. I have recalled the hurt looks on faces I loved, and the disappointment of those who had trusted me. I have looked back with regret that I didn't spend more time with my children, that I didn't pay enough attention to my parents or that I should have been more devoted to my church. I have chided myself over personal faults and failures and have, many times, questioned why God made me the way I am.
But oh, dear friends, I have learned, as Paul learned, that we cannot cling to the past and look to the future at the same time. Looking ahead, asking God's guidance day-to-day, doing the best we can to live above our frail humanity, these are the secrets to "forgetting what is behind". It is only through God and His amazing Grace, that we are able to move beyond ourselves and walk in the joy of the Lord.
My father says it so well, "The only thing we do when we dwell on the past is mess up the present. We can't change the past, but we can control this moment and the choices we make now.".
Perhaps there are some of you who, like me, struggle with the memories of past failures and mistakes. Let me encourage you to leave your past with our precious God who loves us so much. A dear friend of mine once said this to me, "It is a divine prerogative of God that He cannot remember something He chooses to forget.". If God, as awesome and great as He is, chooses to forget, can we not do the same? I don't know about you, but, today I'm doing my best to avoid looking back. I have my human nature to deal with but I have a God who gives me strength and overcoming power. I have come to realize that the best way to avoid looking back is to change my field of vision---I'm looking ahead.

In Grace,

Monday, January 4, 2010

It Started At The Well

She had come to the well at midday---long after the other women of the village had come and gone. Her steps were weary---almost as weary as her heart. She had spent her life living with one man after another, longing for a happiness that never came, searching for a peace that did not exist. Rejection had become her lifestyle. An outcast had become who she was. No one loved her---no one cared---she didn't matter. So, she came to the well the same way she lived her life---alone and neglected.
He had come to the well by necessity. His journey to Galilee led Him through the town of Sychar in Samaria. He was "...wearied with his journey...", hungry and thirsty. He sat on the well side to rest. Many people had come to Him for healing, deliverance, and salvation---He had met the needs of them all. He had poured out of Himself and given all He had to those who came to Him. Now, He had traveled so far and His body had grown tired. He needed rest, food, and drink.
They met at the wellside---the woman who had no life and the man who was the giver of life. She had given up all hope and He had all hope to give. She knew He was a Jew and speaking to Him was forbidden. He knew she was a Samaritan and needed the words He would speak. Their meeting was not coincidence but, rather, one of Divine destiny. This was her day and He was her salvation.
He asked for water to drink. She was afraid to honor His request. He told her about water that would allow her to never thirst again---living water that would satisfy, not the body, but the thirsting soul instead. A conversation began in which He was revealed as the promised Messiah. At that moment she began drinking from a well that would never run dry. Never again would she have to come to the well that man had made. Never again would she have to worry about what people were saying. She no longer had to seek the approval of men to satisfy the thirst of her soul. She had met the Deliverer and all that she had known before was if it had never existed.
Excitement and joy flooded her very being. A life that had been weary and sad was now exchanged for one of peace and love. Running to the village with the news, she knew she would never be the same. "Come see a man who told me all the things I've ever done..."---and they came. They came and they believed---they believed because of a woman who defied tradition and spoke to a weary man sitting by the well. A woman whose life would witness through the ages of the life changing power of the Man of Galilee. A man called Jesus.
I relate this story today because it tells of a woman who, through faith in Jesus, obtained a new beginning. The old life of sorrow and despair became one of joy and peace---all because of Jesus. As we face a new year, a time of new beginnings, may we all remember the woman of Samaria. May we all be reminded that life is never so dreadful, so unhappy, so unfulfilling, that it cannot be changed by the One who waits at the well. He knows we need Him and His unending supply of salvation and deliverance---and so He waits---waits until we are thirsty for a new life, until we are ready to drink from His well that never runs dry.

"Behold, God is my salvation: I will trust and not be afraid:
For the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is
become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of
salvation." (Isaiah 12:2 & 3)

I am at the well today, thirsty for more of what He provides, yearning for one more touch of His presence. Come to the life-giving water today and, as He promised, you will never thirst again. New life and a new beginning is not hard to find---it all starts when you come to the well.

In Grace,

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year---Fill It Well

One of my favorite movies is "Anne of Green Gables". It is the story of a fiesty young orphan who endears herself to an elderly brother and sister and becomes the child of their hearts. Anne has her share of mishaps and disasters--all due to an insatiable curiosity about life and an irrepressible imagination. Needless to say, these characteristics place her in many a childhood scrape. A beloved teacher gives her a nugget of thought that enables Anne to face each day with hope and faith: "Tomorrow is new with no mistakes.".
I share this thought because today is the first day of a new year. A year that stretches ahead of us with unlimited possibilities. We are given a new opportunity each day to live a life filled with joy, peace and hope. Some of the days ahead may be filled with unexpected sorrows---tears may fall and our steps may falter. But we must remember this---you need never fear facing an unknown future when you face it with a known God. Each day we will face is an opportunity to know our great God as a God of love, faithfulness, truth, honor, integrity and forgiveness. No day that lies ahead will ever take us from the presence of God but, rather, it will drive us to Him as we serve Him in good times or in the midst of difficult days.
The year ahead is new--with no mistakes. It lies before us and beckons us to fill each day with all the wonder and merriment we can. May we look for ways to make life rich and full. May we rejoice in the dawn of each day and thank God for His blessings at each day's end. May we surround ourselves with those we love---drawing wisdom from those who have gone before us and treasuring the innocence of those little ones coming along behind. May we laugh more and worry less. A new year lies ahead---fresh and with no mistakes. May we fill it well.

In Grace,