Friday, May 27, 2016

Some Things that are Hard to Understand

The Bible is a book with a wealth of things to offer. But there are in it “some things that are hard to understand.” 2 Peter 3:15-16

One of these is in Mark chapter 7 where a woman who is not a Jew asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus replies to her, verse 27: “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

This sounds harsh, maybe even cruel to us. That’s why we cannot stop at that passage. We need to search the Scriptures to find out what else they have to say about this subject.

Jesus knew he had come to save people from all nations. In Matthew 8:5-13, he praises the Roman Centurion for his great faith. Jesus says that many will come from other lands to sit with Abraham in Heaven

From early in the Old Testament, God promised that the whole world would be blessed by Abraham’s descendant.

Genesis 12:3

Genesis 22: 18: and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.”

Maybe Jesus used this incident in Mark 7 as a lesson for his disciples and other Jews. Maybe it’s a parable, with a strong, shocking picture, to teach us … so many things.

My opinion? Truly, you can’t buy a Snickers bar with the amount of money you can get for my opinion. But I wonder if, first of all, this wasn’t simply for that lady, the mother.

She was a Greek, so she knew the Jews wouldn’t want her around. But she wanted her daughter healed, so she behaved with desperation, with bravery, with hope that this man Jesus she’d heard about could help her.

First of all, Jesus would have wanted her to accept him as her Savior. Maybe he knew he had to push her even further than she was willing to go, to make her think even more deeply about who he was.

The Bible is sometimes hard to understand. But God, with grace, has promised us the Holy Spirit to help us find the meaning.

John 16: 13: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Husband's Love

Murray loves me.

My husband Murray doesn’t like putting things together—furniture, other “needs assembly” things for the house. He can do it, but it doesn’t come easy to him, and it frustrates him.

Recently, I said, out of the blue, “I wish I had an exercise bike.” Then I forgot about it.

Until one day our neighbor knocked on the door and told me a truck had just dropped off a box for us that said, “Exercise Bike.”

That job went a lot better than Murray thought it would, and in just a couple evenings, I had my new bike set up in the living room.

I call it Charger, and I’ve been pretty good about riding it almost every day for seven weeks now.

Murray was encouraged by the bike, so he agreed to get me a porch swing. That didn’t go quite as smoothly.

When he opened the box Murray said, “There’s at least a hundred parts.”

I didn’t think so, but as I stood by him as he put it together, I decided he was right.

“I’m helping,” I said. Mostly I held tools and washers and other parts while he worked, or picked up things that fell. He could have done it without me there, but I said, “I’m here to encourage you.”

Just putting the frame together was the first session. It’s amazing to me how many parts there are in just the outside frame.

But that went okay, so Murray thought surely it wouldn’t be hard to get the seat together.


Again, a lot of parts and quite a bit of time, but finally it was done.

When Murray said, “I did this a hundred percent wrong. I’ll have to do it completely over,” I thought surely not.

We had both the seat and the backrest on backwards.

We took a break from it the rest of that day.

Murray started the next day with excitement. “This is going to be easy.” And it did seem to go a lot faster this time. “I’ve learned how to do it better since I’ve already done it once.”

Finally the seat was ready to hang. Except …

Murray went through everything in the box multiple times. The springs that connected the seat to the frame were not included.

So we had to wait almost a week for the company to send us the springs. Putting the final parts together took less than three minutes.

Who would go through something like this unless he loved me?

Of course, this isn’t a surprise. We’ve been married almost twenty-nine years, and I have many memories to show me that Murray loves me.

A memory that probably touches me the most was how, when I spent six weeks in the hospital after an accident a few years ago, Murray came every day and spent almost the entire day with me. And not because he didn’t have anything else to do.

I’ll never be able to explain to him what an amazing difference this made to that experience for me.

Sure, we have disagreements. We’re two very different people. But I pray that every time I sit in my new porch swing, I remember that I have it, not because it was easy, but because Murray loves me.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Aggressive Grace

I just read a book that promised me God can make a masterpiece out of the mess of my life.

Grace: more than we deserve, greater than we imagine
By Max Lucado

Lucado used active, vibrant words and glorious pictures—from the Bible and from today—to tell of God’s grace to us and the wonder we can have by handing that grace on to those who hurt us.

God searches for us to give us grace. He sent his son to die for us because of his love. He loved and searched and died for us while we were still sinners and not interested in him. That’s aggressive grace.

Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Max Lucado pointed out that grace is not just mercy. Mercy forgave the sin of the thief on the cross. Grace took him to Heaven that day. In the Old Testament book of Ruth, mercy met Ruth’s needs. Grace married her.

Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, touching the filthiest part of them, the job of the lowest slave. He washed Judas’ feet, as well as those of all the other disciples, who’d in some way disappointed him.

What a breath-stopping truth—he washes away my filthiness.

One of the pictures in Lucado’s book: An artist in Brazil made a piece of art which became famous, from a trash dump and pictures of the poor people who searched the dump to survive.

From the mess of David’s acts of adultery and murder, God brought the masterpiece of His Son.

Aggressive grace. Like wave upon wave crashing against the beach, never weakening, never running out. God doesn’t dispense grace with an eye dropper but with a fire hydrant. He pours grace into our lives like pouring from the ocean into a dixy cup. Generous, rich, lavish, cascading.

And he leads a dance of grace. What he gives to us we can then give to others.

Another picture—the story of a woman who forgave the young man who’d thrown a frozen turkey through her windshield, putting her in ICU, and bringing permanent damage to her face.

The lady said God gave her a second chance at life, and she wanted to do the same for the young man. She asked for a light sentence for him, held him in court as he sobbed, said she wanted the best for him.

Retaliation might feel good for a minute, but it’s a poor long-term comfort. This lady found the real comfort.

Ephesians 4: 32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I see the inside of my heart, my thoughts and words and actions to others, and I want to weep for the ugliness so often there. As Paul said, who will rescue me?

Romans 7:24-25: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Grace lets us into God’s family, but that’s not all. His grace helps us daily to live more like Jesus.

Romans 5:10” For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

I thank God that he can take the mess I’ve made of my life and, with his vibrant, aggressive grace, turn it into a masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.