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!

What We Don’t See

Image

Most everyone has seen the sketches that are brain teasers that if you look at it one way it is a beautiful young woman wearing a stole and another way it is a haggard old witch with a crooked nose and wart! I don’t know when you look at the photo on this page whether you can see it or not.  You may see it quite clearly or it may make no sense at all. Much of whether you can read it or not is based on your perspective, on your circumstances. Are you standing too close or too far away? Two people could stand in the same spot, one see it the other not. Why? Well, in this particular picture, the word that hopefully is visible to you is JESUS.

Very often, life is just like that. Sometimes it feels like we are in a place where no matter how hard we try, there are those around us – who have authority over us – that cannot see our intentions. For that matter, they don’t care about our intentions or how much we try. It seems as if their mission in life is to make us miserable every single day that we go to work or school, or wherever. We are beaten down every time we try. We do what they ask and it isn’t good enough. All of a sudden, just the thought of this person or seeing them coming toward you is enough to put knots in our stomach and you know that whatever is about to come out of their mouth, will not be good news for you. You begin to believe that no one sees your plight. No one cares. You are this small bug that every day someone is going to try to squash. Pretty miserable thought, huh?

Change your perspective. I shared with someone just recently in this kind of situation that Joseph, who God had told would be king of his people, ended up thrown in a well, waiting to be killed by his own brothers. When you are down in a well there is only one way to look and that is up!

You may not be in a well today. Maybe you are in a pile so deep that everywhere you turn the world is brown! It is time to change your perspective and ‘look up.’

What keeps us in the well or what keeps us in the stress or the deptression is often an issue of ‘what we don’t see.’ As cops we used to enjoy the line, “it’s not the cops you see that you should be worried about… its the one’s you don’t see!” Well, in this instance, you want to be aware of what you are not seeing.

There is the story in the Bible when Elisha, one of God’s prophets was in a house with a friend and they were surrounded by Syrians ready to storm the house – two Israelites surrounded by the Syrian army ready to take them… They had no where to go! Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of his friend because he could not understand why the prophet was so calm and unworried. When God opened his eyes to what he had not, previously, been able to see; this friend saw God’s armies, with chariots of fire, surrounding the would-be captors. He needed a better perspective. He needed to see what he hadn’t seen. (2 Kings 6:12-20)

My friend, with whom I shared part of this story, is in that kind of position. I mentioned that he may not have access to anyone here that will help or will listen, or even care for that matter. But, he needs to remember that he has immediate, unfettered access to the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, the Omnipotent – All seeing God and His Son, Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit residing in his very own heart.

He needs a new persepctive. He needs to look UP. He needs to focus on what he hasn’t been seeing and count on the One who is REALLY in charge… who REALLY DOES care.

It is true that my friend’s circumstances may not change. Joseph’s changed, from the well to Potiphar’s house and luxury then from Potiphar’s house to prison and there he stayed but the Bible says, “But the Lord was with him…” Eventually, God brought him out. He’ll bring you out too; in His way and His time and it will be PERFECT!

In the mean time, in-between time – focus on what we too often don’t see. Focus on JESUS. What can really improve our situation is – what we don’t see.