“When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, 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, NLT.)
The Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner wasn’t too happy when an immoral woman crashed the party. It seems he might have been trying to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt when he imagined Jesus must not have known the kind of woman she was. No self-respecting Jew would have allowed it to happen, so he must have been unaware of her sordid past.
Jesus did know and he didn’t stop her from expressing her gratitude and love for the mercy and grace she had received from him. He knew what was in Simon the Pharisee’s heart and he knows us today. He knows who we are and what we are and loves us anyway. Thank God for a Savior with a reputation for hanging out with sinners like us! May we be like the woman in this story, unafraid to show our gratitude and to tell the world of his love and mercy.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1, NLT).
A friend is someone who knows all about us and loves us anyway. We like this about our friends because it means we can trust them with our problems, our silliness, our bad moods and our dreams! True friends don’t judge, criticize or condemn, rather they try to see beyond what’s on the surface to what is going on inside us.
God is our truest friend, the one who sees all the way into our hearts. He sees the good and the bad, the past experiences that made us the way we are, our desperate, unfulfilled needs and the resulting motivations that impel or compel us to act the way we do. And he loves us anyway. He doesn’t stop loving us even when we turn away, question him or get mad because we don’t like the way he works, as in the case of unanswered prayers. We can laugh with him, cry with him and even yell at him—nothing will change the way he feels toward us. The amazing thing is, he wants us to be his friends too!
“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18, NLT).
I’ve stated many times here how we need to be careful not to anthropomorphize God—to ascribe human thoughts, feelings or characteristics to him, to make him like us. But it’s also important to realize that when God came to earth as a human being, he did become just like us. He was still God, which is hard to wrap our minds around and presents us with a bit of a challenge when trying to know and understand God. He will always be a mystery in many ways and that’s a good thing.
One way he became like us was in his suffering. Jesus experienced all the pain and anguish this world has to offer, including a horrendous death on a cross. He entered into our suffering and let it enter him. Because he was willing to become a human in every way, he can understand and relate to our pain and even feel it with us—and help us through it.
“God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure” (Ephesians 1:9, NLT).
In the course of a day, I find many moments of pleasure, beginning first thing in the morning: my first cup of tea, the cool, quiet minutes before my day starts, the sun lighting up the hills near our home. Experiencing pleasure, which is enjoyment or delight, is unique to humans and comes from God. He’s given us this capacity, hopefully leading to gratitude for all we’ve received.
Our capacity for pleasure is minuscule compared to God’s. Can you imagine the pleasure he feels as he surveys his creation? But it seems his biggest pleasure is his plan to bring everything together in Christ (verse 10). It’s what all of creation has been waiting for, the here but not yet here reality of God’s kingdom on earth. As we participate in the life of Father, Son and Spirit, we also get to share in his pleasure as we anticipate the fulfillment of his plan.
“For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory” (Psalm 32:7, NLT).
One of the fun parts of riding my bicycle is watching the ground squirrels scurry back to their hiding places as I get too close for their comfort. They can really run! Sometimes I surprise them and sometimes they surprise me. They have holes everywhere for quickly taking cover.
At times we can feel like a ground squirrel, sunning on a rock, enjoying the morning when out of nowhere comes a hawk, a snake or a wild cyclist to shake us up, disrupt or even destroy our lives. Squirrels escape to their burrows but where do we go? God is our hiding place, the one we can run to anytime, anywhere. He doesn’t make all the dangers in life go away, but he provides the safety of his love and grace, giving us strength to face and get through the troubles, and even gives us a song as we go!
“For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory” (Psalm 84:11a, NLT).
In southern California, we have silly names for the weather. We have wind events and rain events (I guess because they are so rare) and in June, we have June Gloom. This means the marine layer of clouds comes over land, and if we’re lucky (imo) it even comes out to where I live. I say lucky as I really enjoy the quiet and the feeling of being fogged in. It stays cool a little longer, which relieves the heat of the early summer.
If the sun never came out, I’m sure it wouldn’t feel so lucky. We need the sun for light and warmth and I’m sure a lot of other things to do with our little galaxy we’re not even aware of. This verse says God is our sun. He gives light, warmth and life to the whole earth. No wonder ancient civilizations used to worship the sun. They had the right idea, they just didn’t realize the identity of the real sun—God, the giver of life and our shield, who gives grace and glory.
“‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage! I am here!’” (Mark 6:50b, NLT).
When a child is frightened, parents often tell him or her, it’s OK, I’m here. I’ve said it myself, even though I may or may not have been able to change the scary circumstance. A child will calm down simply because of the parent’s presence.
Jesus often told people not to be afraid, even though what was happening around them was quite frightening. In this instance, the disciples were on a boat in a raging storm. They saw what they thought was a ghost coming toward them, which further terrified them. He told them not to worry before he climbed in the boat and calmed the winds, adding “I am here.” We are fearful of many things in life but because we trust in the presence of Jesus, we can take courage and stop being afraid. He will calm the storm and even if he doesn’t, he’s here to talk us through.