SCANDALOUS

“As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace, and undeniable truth.”

ONE of my favorite Bible passages is John 1:16. In the NKJV it reads, “And of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace.”  It can also be rendered, grace upon grace’ , that is over and over again, never stopping, just continuous grace! I  heard it described once in this manner…

GRACE. God’s wonderful, matchless, unwarranted riches of forgiveness and love lavished upon people like me who were enemies of God, not loving, nor caring about Christ, God’s only Son who, not only was with the Father as the Creator of the universe; but, became the sacrificial lamb. Beaten so horrifically and murdered in a way by which no human, nor any creature should ever be subjected. Yet, by His grace, He made me an heir to His kingdom, a son, righteous only by the blood of Christ; but loved with a love so deep, so pure, and never ending.

Imagine a beautiful mountain stream, fresh, sparkling clean, amazing in taste and unmatched in its refreshment and with the sound of the water flowing along, the wind wafting along, lightly in the trees, birds and animals gathering to enjoy the wonderful early afternoon sight. For me, the smell of lilac, fresh and flowing on the air makes the scene complete. In that scene, the flowing water is God’s grace. One pastor described kneeling at that stream and drinking in the cool water to his heart’s content. I picture it differently. I throw myself headlong into the water, submerging myself and coming to the surface where I stretch out in the stream and allow the water to flow over me, knowing that every second the grace is new, it is fresh, and it will never run out. Every part of me completely engulfed by the refreshing stream. I find myself completely lost in its embrace.

Bighorn Mountain Lake

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

Then, of course, we have Mary, a woman no stranger to immorality and demeaning relationships with apparently multiple men… not only did Jesus love her with grace unmatched by anything the world had ever known, but He allowed her to express her thankfulness by pouring rich, fragrant perfume in his hair and by that publicly show the depth of her love for Him… certainly the religious leaders thought it disgraceful, immoral, shameful… Jesus’ grace to them was all of those. Even to Judas, an apostle… he could not fathom how Jesus would allow such a thing. Although Judas’ concern was more for the money he was losing by not having his own hands on that perfume than the indecency of Christ’s allowing such a show of affection!

THE GRACE of GOD,  poured out on mankind by CHRIST… absolutely SCANDALOUS!

PRAISE GOD!

Drinking Deeply from the Well

In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall.

 

True North Ministry logo

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

 An introduction to True North Ministry ~ strengthening the hands that hang down and feeble knees and helping to make paths straight ~ (Hebrews 12)

When Christ taught lessons that became some of His dearest and most treasured, He took the listener, the learner, right to their own dry spot. He knew their hearts and where they most needed the refreshing truths of His Word. His talk with the Samaritan woman, who had come to the ancient well that Jacob had dug centuries before, came directly to the dryness of her heart. He told her that if she drank from the water of life that He offered, she would never thirst again. Although she thought of her physical thirst, Jesus had so much more to offer. (John 4:1-26)

Jesus planned the encounter with this Samaritan woman. He knew that she would arrive at the hottest hour of the day to draw water because of her position of shame. Even in the Samaritan community, she could not draw when the other women came to draw. She was too shamed by those around her to be permitted to draw water with the other women of the town.

How surprised she was when Jesus spoke to her. After all, she knew Him to be a Jew and no self-respecting Jewish woman would talk to a Samaritan woman; they were mixed-breeds, having been subjected to Assyrian slavery and inter-marriage. For a Jewish man and a teacher, a rabbi, to not only speak to her, but ask a favor of her was more than her mind could absorb.

Jesus knew all these thoughts were spinning through her mind. Still, Jesus understood the depth of the well from which He was able to draw and the depth of her need. When Jesus asked the woman to provide for him a drink of water, He opened the way for dialogue that would shine a straight ray of light directly to the darkest parts of her hurt. She was to find not only the refreshing coolness of the water of life that Christ could bring to her dry parched soul. Christ’s light banished the darkness from her life to provide her a direction for the future paths she could never find alone.

One of my favorite stories that I recall from my teen years, when I would stay up late at night to catch the A.M. radio station, WWL, New Orleans Louisiana. (I can still hear how they would say that call-sign!) It took just the right atmospheric conditions for their signal to reach NE Ohio; but I often was able to listen to the story tellers that came on late nights. One in particular was of a navy ship out at sea in a dark stillness. The captain of the ship radioed to the vessel he believed to be about to come on a collision course with his ship.

“Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Franklin, change your course ten degrees to starboard.”  Much to his surprise, the reply came:

“Negative. Advise that you alter your heading ten degrees to port.”

Furious, the Captain responded, “Sir, this is the USS Franklin, an armed vessel of the United States Navy. I order you to alter your course ten degrees to starboard!”

Once again came back the calm reply, “Negative, sir. Alter your course ten degrees to port.”

Fearing now that a crash was imminent, the still fuming Captain would not be swayed. His voice boomed over the radio waves, “I am a Captain of senior rank aboard a United States destroyer. What is your rank and vessel that you refuse to alter course under a direct order? I demand a reply.”

Calmly, the voice replied, “I am a Seaman, Second Class, sir.  I am the lighthouse.”

So often, just as pride made the Captain risk wrecking his ship rather than take the course of safety to which the lighthouse directed him, how often do we ignore the directions the Lord has given in His Word as a light to our path? The book of Proverbs has a verse that reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”[i]

True North Ministry is based on that simple proverb. The earliest explorers, whether on land or sea, sought the brightest star, the North Star. They knew that single light would direct them home. That star would always appear in the same place in the night sky. Its light was true. A single beam of light, the North Star never veered from its post, always there to direct sailors home from the sea and adventuring explorers home back from their excursions. A fancy star with all kinds of lights shining from it and around it would be useless as a guiding star. If the lighthouse would have cast out dozens of beams in different directions, it too would be useless for keeping ships from going aground on the rocky shores.

An author known for his entrepreneurial work in local business, Steve Adams, said this about a focus for anyone’s life work. He explained that it must be like a laser beam, not a disco ball. The same is true for a ministry. Our goals must align with those of Christ. When He told His disciples that they must follow Him where He was about to go, one replied that if they did not know where it was that Jesus was going, ‘How could they know the way?’ “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”[ii] If that is not an exclusive statement, then such a statement doesn’t exist!

One of the key problems in the post-modern world is its lack of belief that a single truth exists. Everyone’s truth is as credible s everyone else’s. That is just wrong and there is no other way to say it. The world is full of men and women just like the Samaritan woman at the well who found Jesus there. Their souls are as dry as an Iraqi sandstorm. They need the refreshing water of life that comes from the throne of grace. Millions of people are lost in that very same sandstorm and they cannot find their way. They need Jesus to direct their paths. There are those whose lives are adrift at sea, being tossed about by every wind of doctrine or ‘new’ thinking that comes along and they need the creator of the North Star to guide them safely home. Their pride may keep them trying to sail in another direction but eventually, they run out of headings to take as each one fails, and there is just one heading left to take; that is Christ’s. God’s Word informs us that those who seek to follow Christ are to: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”[iii] (The ‘Therefore’ refers back to the fact that God will discipline His children when they need it. So, the writer says… before, during and after that disciplining; do these things which will strengthen and help you and others.)

Tough times come sometimes because God disciplines. Sometimes they come simply because we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens, even too good people. Then, too, there are also consequences for our actions. In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall. That is the essence of True North Ministry. Will you join us in prayer daily as we seek God’s blessing on this new and growing ministry?

 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”[iv]