Extravagant Love

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at this feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”  Luke 7:36-38

These verses were part of our Sunday School lesson last week.  The point of the study was that we are not only to love Jesus, but to love him extravagantly, like the sinful woman in the story.  The Pharisee was offended by the woman’s actions.  He thought to himself,

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is –that she is a sinner.”  Luke 39

He didn’t realize that he also was a sinner, and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  No matter how “good” we are, we fall far short of God’s standards.

Some of the questions from the study were very challenging to me, so I thought I would share them here.

  • In what ways could we express extravagant devotion to Jesus today?

Those in class listed things like prayer and helping others.  However, if the key word is extravagant, then shouldn’t we not only pray, but pray constantly and fervently?  Shouldn’t we not just give to the church and to the needy, but give sacrificially?

  • With whom do you relate more: Simon the Pharisee, who knows the Bible and is very active for God, or this woman, who is recklessly abandoned to love Him?  Explain.

Most of us wanted to say we fell somewhere in between.  This is a hedging way of saying, we’re not really there yet.  In honesty, we probably fall closer to the Pharisee on the spectrum of devotion to Jesus.  This is something we need to admit and work on.

What about you, dear reader?  Is your love for your Lord and Savior extravagant?

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Stinkin’ Thinkin’

It seems to me that there is a lot of what a friend of mine once called stinkin’ thinkin’ going around these days.  We humans are unfortunately prone to believe what we want to believe whether it’s logical or not.  A young lady I once worked with refused to read a book I suggested  because the scientist who authored it did not accept the theory of evolution.  She said she believed in evolution, and didn’t want to read anything that was contrary to her belief.  Well, okay!  Nothing like closing your mind to other opinions.  I think this kind of reasoning is what’s behind so much of the anger and hate among people today.  We’ve decided that not only are the people we disagree with wrong, they’re BAD.  Only a BAD person would disagree with certain things.  There is no need to consider other opinions because the one we hold is right and all others are bad. The fact of the matter is we’re all BAD and the correct name for that is SINFUL.  But that’s another thing we don’t like to mention these days.  We prefer to say we just make mistakes.

If you’re wondering what got me on this rant — and I admit, it is something of a rant– here it is.  My daughter, who recently had a baby, has been telling me about some of the “dos and don’ts” of pregnancy and young motherhood.  She says, no pregnant lady these days would dare to be seen in public with a cigarette or a glass of wine;  she would be surely censured for not caring about her unborn child.  People she doesn’t know well have come to her and said, “You’d better be breastfeeding!  It’s what’s best for the baby!”  A clerk in the baby store told her, “Don’t use a crib that’s been passed on to you — those things are dangerous and have been recalled!”  Now some or most of things are correct, however here’s my question …. why does a nation that allows abortion practically up until the moment of birth care so much?  If you can abort your child, why does it matter if you smoke, drink, bottle feed or use unsafe equipment?  Isn’t that also the mother’s choice?  Why is an unborn child, or a newborn for that matter, worthy to be protected so vigorously if you want it, and destroyed if you don’t?  What kind of illogical stinkin’ thinkin’ is this?  If anybody can explain it to me, please do.

All Photos

I don’t think people who are pro-abortion are bad, but I think they’re misguided. They’ve been convinced that in order to be “politically correct” they should be okay with abortion. After all, women deserve to have “control of their own bodies.”  I think they’ve closed their mind and denied a reality they don’t want to look at. I know that many women have abortions because it is the easiest thing to do;  they may be afraid, alone or desperate and abortion fixes the immediate problem.  I sympathize with their plight; but we need to help  them to make a good choice instead of encouraging them to opt for an easy way out. We all need to examine our opinions carefully instead of blindly accepting the dictates of our culture. Rant over.  Get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

 

This Is Our Time – Book Review

This review is longer than usual because this book deserves your attention.

Trevin Wax is a well-known evangelical millennial and after reading this book, I can see why.  He manages to take modern day situations and show how they relate to God’s word.

Starting with the introduction, Trevin engrosses the mind and engages the thought process by telling us that our neighbor is not where the battle is, but rather the battle is with the lies that are told by the powers and principalities that engage us daily through the media. There are 8 chapters in the book.  The first 4 deal with the habits that impact us on a day to day basis.  The last 4 are based on the larger myths that animate our society. Every single chapter holds a wealth of information that opened my eyes to things that I have been doing and not even been aware that I was doing them.  I enjoyed this book so much that I am going to give a chapter by chapter review.

Chapter 1 deals with how our cell phones, internet practices, and even our friends can lead us to have a formed opinion instead of an informed opinion of ourselves, by narrowing our information intake to model our “Christian beliefs.” This constant affirmation of our views leads us to the myth that our “beliefs” are always right.

Chapter 2 is about our interaction with movies, TV shows, etc.  As most of us realize, a lot of the things we watch are fictional but the constant immersion into this alternate reality can pervert our true reality.  Often, these movies and shows tell us the lie that our fulfillment is found not in God but in emotional and material things.

Chapter 3 – This chapter addresses how we use society’s goals to map out our future.  Often, doing that leads us on a faulty path away from God.  God’s word leads us on a true path with a glorious ending.

Chapter 4 – Our all-time favorite myth of all, shopping and material things can make us happy.  We have turned our year into one shopping event after another.  Instead of being thankful for what we have in November, we are planning to buy more on Black Friday so we can be happier.  Ads that target our longing to be accepted through the labels we wear, the car we drive or the newest electronic gadget have turned shopping into a substitute “Religious” experience.

In these first four chapters, there were several quotes that stood out.

“The primary myth the smartphone tells you every day is that you are the center of the universe.”

“Desensitization is not a sign of spiritual progress but of sensual dullness. Do not confuse the ability to be unfazed by depictions of sin with spiritual maturity.”

“True courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong – for yourself and everybody else.”

“The lie is not that you wouldn’t be okay without it.  The lie is that you’re going to be happier with it.

“The American Dream is about shopping for happiness.  The Kingdom Dream is about experiencing joy in God.”

Now onto the last four chapters.

Chapter 5 – Here the Author reminds us that we are not “at home” on this Earth.  We forget that this is not where we will spend our eternity but it is only where we spend a short tie in the span of our lives.  We, as Christians, have become too much “of the world” and have failed to remember to just be “in the world.”  This chapter also delves into the trap of politics, where sometimes politics become so central to us it becomes our alternate religion.

In Chapter 6 Trevin deals with the thought that we look at marriage as the pinnacle of our relationships, instead of making it the foundation of our lives. He does a great job of delving into common fallacies that pervade our societal beliefs and shows how each and every one of them steers us wrong and why.

Chapter 7 – Another common myth – Sexual freedom is a sign of a mature society and a sign of our freedom.  We have gone from a society and culture where sexual restraint was a sign of maturity into believing that sexual relations are a sign of maturity.

Chapter 8 This chapter is titled “As the World Wobbles” I admit I was confused as to what the content of this chapter would entail.  After reading the chapter, the title fits perfectly. We, as a society, go back and forth with “the world is ending” to “the world is better now than ever.”  Read this chapter for more information on this.

The final four chapters of the book sum up the worldly myths we encounter daily.  Below are my favorite quotes from these chapters.

“So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of a church.  After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.”

“All marriages are broken, but what makes a marriage is they are broken together.

“Staking your identity in sexuality or pinning your hopes for happiness on sex is too low of a goal for a human being made in God’s image.”

“We can’t be faithful in our own time if we’re always longing for another.”

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it would make a great small group study.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Read it, Study it, Learn from it.  I sure did.

Purchase the book at the link below – You will not be disappointed

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/this-is-our-time-P005789993

 

Saint and Sinner? Really?

Yes, we Lutherans believe that we can be sinners (duh, of course) and at the same time saints, as part of Christ’s body the church.  This is one of the great mysteries of the faith, and part of our justification through the death of Jesus on the cross. We have been freed from the penalty of our sin.  Isn’t this reason enough to repent every day?  Shouldn’t we try to live up to the gift we’ve already been given?

You know you're a Lutheran when... you are saint & sinner and okay with that. #lutheran #humor

To return, or . . . not to return.

Hosea 14:1-2

“Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.”

When we sin, when we mess up and we really know we did . . . we want to do better. Most of us want to “fix” it. And maybe that can be okay if we keep our eyes on God in doing so. Because while work can never save us, wanting to try, to get up and do, or even the action of stopping a behavior because we know it’s wrong-is the beginning (action of) repentance.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” -James 2:18

In other words he has the desire to do good. To work, share, help, save, obey, because he has faith. Faith brought on by the hearing of God’s word which tells us we need to repent. We need to stop the bad that we do and return to our Father in heaven. Not only for our good but for the good of others.

Return with apologetic words and then words of encouragement, because the law meant to guard us. To keep us from certain death.

Galatians 3:24 “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”

If we ever wonder why we have a conscience, this would be the reason. It’s our flashing yellow light. When it goes off we have a choice to keep going, or return.

Searched and Known #3

 As sinners our natural response to biblical instructions is to say “no”.  It is our default position if you will.  God tells us how to behave, and we say no.  God says that our thoughts are to be about Him and our goal is to be His glory.  And we say no.  God says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  And we say no.  We must repent of that behavior.  We must repent of those thoughts.  We must repent of those emotional responses.  And we must repent of those times when we say “yes” but live no.

 Repentance is a necessary part of the Christian life.  When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the town church in Wittenberg he wrote this, “When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  And true repentance has to be more than simply saying some words on Sunday morning.  It must be heartfelt and life changing.

 True repentance is a willingness to let God change us in any way He so chooses—no limits and no exceptions.  And maybe that’s why we resist so hard.  It’s scary, isn’t it?  It’s scary to think that God would take me and make me something other than I am when I’m perfectly comfortable this way.  Most of you know the difficulties Joan and I have been going through with our home.  It is not easy to be constantly moving about from one place to another—sleeping here, eating there.  Wondering when we’ll be able to return to our place and get back that sense of normal life.  Believe me, we’re so looking forward to that day.

 That day will come fairly soon and things Joan and Terry will return to normal.  But when you and I repent of our sins, truly and completely, when we let God change us, there will be no going back.  There will be a new normal and a new level of comfort.  Things which we have long clutched to our chests will no longer be there for us.   Instead we will be Kingdom people—which is what we are meant to be.  Mark tells us that when Jesus began His earthly ministry He went into Galilee preaching Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  And citizens of the Kingdom are different.

 But friends, what a great day that will be for us because we do indeed bear a burden when we sin.  We know what our sin is and it weighs us down, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves.  But that burden will be lifted when you truly repent and allow God to do as He wills with you.  Instead of the yoke of sin we will bear the yoke of Christ, and it is light and easy.  Instead of the dimness of our natural vision we will see with a new light, the light of Christ Himself.  Instead of the confusion which so often rules our lives, we will have complete clarity, because it is God’s clarity, His gracious giving of His wisdom to the people of His calling. 

Searched and Known #2

Don’t we often behave as if God doesn’t know what we’re doing, hear what we’re saying, know what we’re thinking?  We go right along in our lives sinning away thinking that God isn’t paying attention.  We think we’re going to get away with something with God because the guy who lives next door or the spouse who sleeps next to you doesn’t know about it.  Yet the psalmist here tells us that God has searched us and known us—and that means in every single moment of our lives, from conception to death.

 God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  And that means we who are His chosen people must examine ourselves and repent of our sins before Him.  Christ has paid the price for our sins, He has borne our punishment, He has done all that is necessary for our salvation, but I’m not talking about salvation, I’m talking about being in a right relationship with God during this life.  Sin separates us from God even when we are saved.  It puts a barrier up between Him and us that keeps us from fully enjoying the grace He shows to us.  Repentance is about restoring a proper relationship with God after we have come to faith in Christ and believed in His atoning work.

 I suspect most of us have had difficulties with relationships in our lives.  We want to have a close relationship with someone, but there is always something that stands in the way.  Quite often that something has to do with a refusal to address differences and what seems an inability on someone’s part to repent of that feeling.  Central to all sin is the ego of man.  We want to be first and best, or at least we want people to think we are first and best.  It’s hard to go to someone and admit that you’re a failure or that you’ve not been the person that you should have been.  That failure builds walls that separate and isolate us.

 Surprisingly, we often have exactly the same problem in our relationship with God as we do in our relationships with other people.  We don’t like admitting we are what we are—failures.  Certainly we make a confession in all of our worship services, but even then we can hold back a bit, we can’t not bring all of our sins to mind, we can even hope God will be completely satisfied by that once a week statement.  But that isn’t really true.  God wants you to be honest with yourself about what you have done and to truly repent of that so that you can experience true freedom in your life.