What I Need the Most

One sunny day several years ago, we piled the surfboards in the car and headed to the North Shore for a family day at the beach.

Towards the end of the day, we stopped at one last beach. The waves were perfect for my young kids who were learning to surf.

This particular beach consisted of two breaks: a small, gentle, inside break and an outside break which was a little more challenging to navigate. What we didn’t know was an invisible channel, known to have a very strong current, existed between these two breaks.

It was after 4pm when our three oldest children journeyed into the ocean. They were laughing, splashing and having a lot of fun, that is until the conditions changed.

Without warning, the skies quickly turned from sunny and serene to overcast and ominous. And as the sun began to set, the waves that had been gentle just minutes before, transformed into powerful waves with a potent current.

In fact, the current was so strong it quickly sucked my kids towards a dangerous rocky area. I watched from the shore as the waves and current battered them, dragging them further and further from shore!

I leaped into action, doing what I do very well – panic and freak out.

However, yelling at them from the shore, while creating a lot of attention and drama, wasn’t very productive. My kids were stuck and unable to break away from the powerful surf on their own strength.

So I enlisted the help of the lifeguards.

While the lifeguards saw the threat and acted quickly to help, my kids were so busy having a great time, they were completely unaware of the imminent danger facing them.

As the lifeguards paddled out to save them, my kids were incredulous that I would send someone to rescue them. In their opinion, they were perfectly fine and had everything under control.

Even today, if you were to ask my kids, they would ALL tell you the lifeguards were a nuisance that day.

They would tell you the lifeguards were ruining their fun.

They would tell you that the lifeguards were an inconvenience, interrupting their day at the beach.

They would tell you they didn’t need to be rescued.

Because they didn’t see their need to be saved.

When you don’t think you need to be rescued, the idea of a savior is a big “yawn”… a “sigh”… or maybe even boooooring.

For many people (perhaps this may even be your perspective), this is how they view God. They don’t see their need for him.

The whole idea of Christianity and following Jesus is inconvenient, interfering with their lives and ruining their fun.

But for those of us who have experienced the pull of life’s current…

For those of us who have been beaten by the swell of the waves…

For those of us who have been pulled under and tossed around on the ocean shore until we’re exhausted and sinking –

We understand the Story differently. We respond to the Savior with gratitude and sobering humility.

Because God came to do for us what we are powerless to do for ourselves.

He sent Jesus, to rescue us.

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2_10-11

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

God sent a Savior. Not a helper, not a life coach, not more rules or rigid expectations.

A Savior.

But until you come to grips with the fact that you need to be rescued, the idea of a Savior is an inconvenience, a “yawn”, or someone who’s just trying to ruin your good time.

But for those who have truly embraced their brokenness and are conscious of what Jesus truly did for them, our response is much different.

It’s not, “I have to…” or “I need to…”

When we think of Jesus we experience an unfiltered joy and unsolicited devotion. There is an appreciation and gratitude that extends beyond obligation because…

He saved me.

And that, my friend, is really good news for all people.

Talk it over…

  • Do you see your need for a Savior? Why or why not?
  • Why is a Savior waht we need the most?
  • How has your life been transformed by Jesus? If you haven’t taken this step, what’s hindering you from making peace with God?

The Uninvited Dinner Guest

 

Imagine that you’re invited to someone’s house—someone you hardly know—and you arrive to find the door open.

As you enter, no one greets you . . . in fact, no one even acknowledges your arrival. No one says hello, no one offers to take your coat, no one offers you anything to drink. How would you feel? What would you do?

In Luke 7, we read about a man who was hosting an intimate dinner party consisting of well-known, well-educated men from the community. It was a special event for the Pharisees, who were among the educated elite and religious leaders during this time.

They knew of Jesus, but had not embraced the new ideas that He had been teaching his followers. Yet for some reason, Jesus had been invited to the dinner that evening, and as a visiting rabbi, He would have been regarded as a guest of honor.

However, the arrival of Jesus at the home of Simon was largely ignored. Even the most basic of rules of hospitality were disregarded toward him. No one greeted him with a kiss (the customary welcome), no water was given for him to wash his feet (the most minimal rule of hospitality), and no oil was put on his head (an optional, but a thoughtful gesture towards guests during this time). This wasn’t an accident, mistake or oversight, but a deliberate slap in the face and everybody knew it.1

Yet, Jesus proceeded to enter and took his place reclining at the table. The tension mounted as everyone waited to see how He would respond.

It was during this dinner party that an unusual interaction began to unfold. To the astonishment of the host and guests, a woman walked in and approached Jesus while He reclined at the table with the other guests.

Even more shocking was this woman’s notorious reputation in the community. Women in ancient Jewish culture didn’t hold an honorable place in society and they were usually not acknowledged or even addressed in public. How much more appalling that this woman would somehow feel compelled to come near Jesus!

Something was different about her. She no longer had a seductive air about her; she no longer hung her head in shame. Instead, she radiated a joy, peace, humility and purity that had not been evident in her life. For after years of feeling dirty and discarded, she had changed.

This woman knew how it felt to be rejected. She knew what it was like to be ridiculed and shunned. Something inside of her demanded to give her all to Jesus, because, after all, He had given so much to her.

Ignoring the cold stares and callous comments, this woman boldly approached Jesus and began to kiss his feet.

Imagine the scene!

Before she realized what was happening, a wave of emotion rushed over her and she began to cry uncontrollably. As her weeping escalated and captivated the attention of everyone in the room, she then proceeded to use her hair to wipe her tears off of his feet!

The feet of Jesus that were unwashed by Simon upon His arrival are now washed by the tears of a sinful woman. Continuing with her display of gratitude, she took her flask of fragrant perfume and lavishly poured it on His feet. This woman withheld nothing, giving her all to Jesus, emptying herself at His feet.

But why?

What would motivate this woman to demonstrate such a display of love and affection towards Jesus?

As I reflect on this passage, I can’t help think that the reason this woman did what she did is because Jesus gave her what no one else had given her – forgiveness and acceptance.

When no one accepted her, He welcomed her. When no one loved her, He loved her as His daughter. When she was alone, He was her friend. When everyone judged her, He restored her. When everyone else labeled her a “sinner”, Jesus gave her a new identity as a child of God.

He valued her, not as an object, but as a woman created uniquely by God.

And when everyone else held her past against her, Jesus forgave her and offered her a fresh start.

 

Jesus explained it this way,

“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven a little shows only a little love.” Then Jesus said to

“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven a little shows only a little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Luke 7:47-48 NLT.

The Greek word for forgiveness used in verse 47 of this passage is aphiemi. It means to send away, to let go free or to pardon. When someone is issued a pardon in a court of law, their past actions are not held against them. They have been given a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning.

The woman in Luke 7 probably had a long list of things she would have done differently. You may, too. The good news is that God doesn’t want you to live in the past, nor does he want you to live under the guilt of the past in the present.

He has something much better for you. God’s forgiveness offers you—a fresh start, a clean slate. You are invited to the table!

And this is just the beginning. God’s forgiveness now enables you to enter into the fullness of life God has created for you to enjoy.

Think about it…

  • In your own words, define what forgiveness means to you.
  • Can you identify with the woman in Luke 7? How?
  • How does knowing God has forgiven you and given you a fresh start change the way you see yourself?

 

1John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) p. 206-207.

Issue of Identity – Part Two of Your True Selfie

Day Two

Recently, Brandon, our college-aged son asked me, “Mom, why did you give me a name that means, ‘a hill covered with broom’?”

Basically, we named our child after a prolific weed. Oops, parent fail.

Funny, but I don’t recall my Christian baby name book informing me about this one! I’m certain the definition in the book was rich with meaning and more profound.

Names are a funny thing, aren’t they? They’re given to us at birth and we have no say in the deal. But in many ways, our name shapes us, defines us and gives us worth.

Growing up, I always wanted to be named, Katie. Anytime we played school or house with the neighborhood kids, I wanted to be called Katie. I thought it was the most awesome name in the world.

But my parents named me Kristan – with an “a”. Nobody could ever spell my name properly. Even worse, I could never find my name on those cool personalized license plates in the souvenir stores. *Sigh*

However, there are other “names” we pick up throughout our life. Some names are healthy and good and some aren’t so good. Some of these names increase our self-worth, shaping us and molding us into becoming better people and some of these names scar us and hurt us deeply. Consider some of them with me…

  • Names we give ourselves
  • Names other people give us
  • Names that come as a result of past choices we made
  • Names we’ve come to believe are true about us
  • Names we’ve internalized and buried so deep sometimes we’re even unaware of the effect they have on us.

In the Gospel of Luke, we see Jesus interact with a woman who had been given a name by the people in her community.

Please take a moment to read the entire interaction from Luke 7:36-50.

When the Pharisee who was hosting the dinner party saw how Jesus interacted with this woman, he said to himself,

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39

While this Pharisee and perhaps the entire community had named this woman “a sinner”, Jesus saw her differently. He saw the woman God created her to be. He saw potential, purpose, and He provided an opportunity for her to experience a fresh start.

It’s so important for us to allow the right Person to name us. If we allow other people or even our past to name us, it will adversely affect everything – our relationships, our job, our self-worth, sometimes even our health.

These false names will steal our confidence, destroy our self-worth, hinder our ability to make decisions and keep us from moving forward in fulfilling the life God created us to live.

As a young mom, the name that continually haunted me was, “I’m not good enough”.

  • Not a good enough as a mom,
  • Not a good enough as a wife
  • Not a good enough as a friend
  • Not good enough at my job
  • Not a good enough as a pastor’s wife

And the more I allowed not good enough to define me, the more I tried to be good enough– to prove to myself that the name I believed was wrong.

As a result, I wore myself out to try to be enough. The harder I worked, I still felt like I was constantly falling short – not really from the expectations of others, but from expectations I put on myself.

Because of a name I had given myself.

Not good enough affected my confidence and led me to be insecure. It caused me to avoid situations when I felt it was too risky – too vulnerable and I may fail.

I worked like crazy trying to be the person that I thought everyone wanted me to be and I was horrible at it.

How about you?

What name do you have that you’ve yet to break free from?

Perhaps it’s a name someone called you or perhaps you gave it to yourself? Maybe it’s a label someone used to define you? Maybe you’re laboring under the guilt or shame of your past and you can’t seem to break free from it?

Let me encourage you today –

The way God sees you is bigger than your past.

His opinion of you is more valuable than the opinion of others.

My hope is that you will come to see – through God’s Word – a God-centered view of YOU!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husb

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

Questions

  1. What name have you given yourself that you need to get rid of?
  2. How has this false “name” has impacted you and shaped your identity?
  3. What step can you take this week to embrace your identity as a child of God?