Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If You Knew...

I was listening to John 4 in the car last night and something struck me that I couldn't wait to dig out this morning.  Jesus and His disciples were travelling from Judea to Galilee and passing through Samaria.  It's around noon and the disciples leave Jesus to go and find some food in the nearby village.  Jesus is sitting by a water well when a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  Jesus asked her for a drink and she is shocked.

I have heard and read this passage many times.  I have heard it preached but something registered for me as never before.  Verses 9-10 say, "The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?... Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you; 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." (emphasis mine)  So what did she know?  Her reality was that she had had her 3 strikes and she's out!

First, she was a Samaritan.  To us, those may be just words, but in Jesus' day, the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other so much that a Jew would never condescend himself to speak to a Samaritan!

Secondly, she was a woman.  In that culture, women held very little worth.  For a man to address a woman was not the common practice.

The third strike hasn't been disclosed to us by this point but you can be absolutely assured that it was ever-present in the woman's mind and we're told later (vs. 17-18) that Jesus Himself was completely aware of the details of this woman's life.  This woman had had five husbands and the man she was with at that point was not her husband!  Even by today's standards, that would cause some eyes to roll.

Does that help you understand her shock at being addressed by Jesus?  Now hear what He says to her... If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you... you would have asked him... These are the words that captured my attention!  If you knew the gift of God...  What is the gift of God?  It's the Good News of grace!  This woman's reality to this point was condemnation.  She had 3 strikes against her and the people she encountered had written her off.  Grace was an unknown commodity, but then, she had never met the Savior before!

Do you hear what the Savior is saying?  No matter who you are, where you're from, what you've done and how the world views you, He is like no one you have ever encountered before!  Grace - undeserved favor - getting a gift we don't deserve - is His specialty!  And if we could get our minds wrapped around this truth, we'd be running to Him and asking Him for that living water which satisfies our deepest thirsts and makes us truly live!

Romans 3:23-25 (ESV) says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Here's the same passage in plainer words... Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. (The Message)

Lord, no matter the apparent reality of who I am and how I've messed up, may I recognize that I've never met anyone like You before!  You know everything I've ever done and yet You extend to me that precious gift of grace!  May I continually receive it from Your nail-scarred hand!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who Said It Would Be Easy?

I am coming to the conclusion that a lot of discouragement could be avoided if I changed my expectations.  Not lowered them.  Not raised them.  Just changed them to be in line with truth and not buying into subtle lies.  I was reading in 1 Timothy 6 the other day and was struck by these words...

But as for you,  man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called..."  1 Timothy 6:11-12a

Note the words that the Apostle Paul used... flee, pursue, endurance, fight, take hold...  None of those are passive words!  Each one demands action and energy!  So why do I seem to live with the expectation that if I am living in accordance with God's will that life should be easy, blissful, without struggle?  This is not biblical!  I don't know how it happened.  I know this with my head but somehow I lost track of this truth in my emotions...

Why are we told to flee unless there are going to be things that try to take hold of us?  Why pursue if godly traits were going to characterize us without effort?  Who needs endurance unless they feel the urge to give up?  Why about fight or take hold?  Friends, we are told that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). We're told that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood - but we do wrestle (Ephesians 6:12)!  We are told to press on toward the goal, straining towards what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12-14).  That assures us that we are going to experience resistance pushing against us!  Expect it!  Be alert for it and don't be discouraged!  We are told to "take heart" Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33)!

Father, thank You for showing me that I was discouraged because I was listening to lies.  I fell into the trap of believing that You were somehow letting me down and that I was failing because walking on the narrow way was difficult.  Father, when I think that way, my eyes tend to fall from You and put all of the pressure on me.  When I try to live this Christian life apart from You, I do fail, but when I trust You with all of my heart and not lean on my own understanding, You bring me through victoriously!  And Father, please help me to remember in all of this, to not listen to lies on the other extreme.  You really do have good plans for me.  Plans to prosper me, not to harm me.  Plans to give me a hope and a future.  Thank You that I can always take You at Your word.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transform Me

O LORD, You're not at all like me.
Your ways - they pure and holy be!
O LORD, I'm not at all like You
So full of grace and mercy too!
O LORD, I need Thee every hour!
I need Thy great transforming power.
Please change my heart and thinking too
Until, O LORD, I look just like You!