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Posts from the ‘devotional’ Category

A scandalous gospel.

I was asked to contribute a devotional to SOLA’s series, “The Women Jesus Loved,” so with some encouragement from JE, I chose the woman from Luke 7.

This devotional was written as God reminded me last month of the bitterness of my sin and the sweetness of His grace.

I pray it blesses you.

This article was first published at SOLA.



Author’s Note: Text from Luke 7:36-50 (ESV) in bold

She lived during a time when men were said to have thanked God daily that they had not been born women. Behold, a woman of the city.

Not only that, she had embraced an unmentionable sin for so long that it had become her identity. Who was a sinner.

Or in hushed voices, maybe “prostitute.”

When they saw her coming, they quietly avoided her. Cross the road. Avert your eyes. Raise no greeting. Her doorway is the doorway to hell (Proverbs 7:27; 9:18), and her uncleanness is contagious, so keep your distance.

Simon the Pharisee knew her. Everyone knew her, so Simon judged Jesus for what he assumed was ignorance because surely, it could not be informed acceptance.If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Yet something had transformed her. A woman like her knew she did not belong in anyone’s home, much less the home of a Pharisee. What brought this sort of woman here? But she came, braving the finger-pointing, the whispers, and the risk of being thrown out.

She came for Jesus, and she came prepared. When she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s home, (she) brought an alabaster flask of ointment.

How did she know about Jesus? Did she overhear neighbors questioning if he was the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:38; 4:21)? Did she hear in the marketplace that he healed the diseased and demon-possessed (6:18)? Was she among the crowds when he taught, “Your Father is merciful” (6:36)?

She must have known he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (7:34) because little else could explain her brazen act. Standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Scandalous. How dare she touch the Holy One?

Her actions were a silent rebuke to the false teaching of her day. No, God’s kingdom is not for the proud; it is for the poor in spirit (6:20). It is for those who mourn (6:21). It is for tax collectors and sinners (15:1-2). For the crippled and blind and lame (14:21). The prodigal (15:11-32). The prostitute (7:50).

But she did not show up to refute false doctrine. She simply wanted to love Jesus. And the members of her body that were once presented to sin as instruments for unrighteousness she now wanted to present in his service (Romans 6:13).

He had walked and taught among the crowds in dirty streets, but when he entered Simon’s home, Simon did not task a servant to wash Jesus’ feet or even give him water to wash his own feet. Simon opened his house to Jesus but not his heart, and he withheld a most basic gesture of hospitality. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”

In sharp contrast, here was this who and what sort of woman bending over Jesus’ soiled feet, washing them with her tears and gently wiping his feet with her hair. After pouring precious ointment on his feet, her worship overflowed in reverent kisses to his feet. Simon was regarded better than her in every way, but Jesus knew their hearts (Luke 2:35). “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

What would evoke such costly love and worship from this woman?

Costly forgiveness.

Jesus had something to say to Simon. “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

No doubt she was the debtor who owed five hundred denarii. Her sins before God were legion, but God himself absorbed the cost and canceled her debt. Her sins were neither excused nor minimized, but – hallelujah! – they were forgiven. Every single one.

Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.”

And her love was the fragrant flower that grew from the seed of divine forgiveness. She loved much because she was loved much first (1 John 4:19).

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

This was hardly a genuine question. More likely, they were mocking Jesus’ implicit claim to be the moneylender, God himself. He came to cancel their debts, but they rejected him and grossly underestimated their debt. Thanks, but no thanks, they could pay it themselves. They needed no Savior; they had themselves.

So, justification was not for the self-righteous who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinful woman.” Justification was for her who cried, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14)

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus’ words were more scandalous to the Pharisees than this woman’s past. But his words were true. God’s kingdom was for her and, by God’s grace, those like her.

Us.

I shall not want.

“When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.”

(Audrey Assad)

It’s easier to say no to the leeks and meat pots of slavery
after I’ve drunk of living water and had my fill
of the bread of life.

From a place of fullness, not
a place of hunger, do You bid me say,
“I shall not want.”

Hearts wide open.

When we fix our eyes on “me and mine,” our hearts contract.  When we fix our eyes on “Christ and His,” our hearts expand.

God give us hearts wide open.

Only what’s done for Christ.

Only one life will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

This was part of a poem written by C.T. Studd in the 19th century.  My childhood pastor lent me his book, a biography about C.T. Studd, when I was in high school? college?  His book was highlighted, underlined, well-loved.

And I don’t remember all the fine details from Studd’s biography, but I remember this:

He left everything.  Wealth, family, and as many would say, most of all, a promising career as a top British cricketer.  He and six others left the spotlight of cricket (the most popular sport of the time) to preach the gospel in China.

This meant something to me in theory back then, when I was still dreaming of the future and finishing school, but this means something to me in reality now, tottering between the obscurity of motherhood and home life and what I’m sometimes ambitious to become, whatever the avenue.

The world says to hustle for your dreams.  Your dreams matter.  Dreams that, if I’m honest, are often so wrapped up in self glory and pride.

But he knew what was more important than hustling to fulfill his own dreams: hustling for the gospel of Christ wherever and however God sent him.

No one in China was impressed with his cricket skills.  They didn’t even know what cricket was.  They didn’t know his name.  But that didn’t matter.  His life was for Christ.  He wasn’t out to make a name for himself.  He was out to make the name of Jesus Christ known.  To make Jesus’ name alone great.

And he could have come in all the pomp of what his social bubble said he was, but he came, meek and lowly.  He even took on Chinese garb, controversial as that decision was at the time.  But he changed even his dress so that his clothes and dress would not be a stumbling block or point of distraction while he preached the gospel there.

Contrary to what the cricket and high-powered British world said of his decision, or what others might say now, his wasn’t a life wasted.  It was a life sown deep into the ground that the harvest might be a thousandfold by the grace of God.

Because imagine when he finally stood before his Savior.  His response wouldn’t have been, “I was the best at cricket!”  “I bought all the nicest things!”  “I had the most fans!”  “People roared and cheered the loudest for me!”  It would have been, “Everything.  I gave You everything.”

And I need this reminder every day.  Only what’s done for Christ matters.  Only a life given and “lost” for His sake — so that we might find Something Better.

Sacred work.

“Write upon the doors of thy shop and chamber, … This is the time on which my endless life dependeth.”

Richard Baxton

Reminded today about how the Puritans approached work.  Any work.

To them, the only work worth doing wasn’t obviously “sacred” work.  Secular work, too, could be sacred when consecrated to God and done for His glory and gospel.

They believed that it isn’t so much the work at hand but the heart doing the work that makes the difference.  So whether I’m changing diapers, cleaning, doing calligraphy, or anything, I can still have “heavenly affections” in “earthly employments” (Thomas Gouge).

I’m still wrestling with this in real life though.

I still wonder if what I’m doing now is as significant as what I originally wanted to do with this season of my life (Bible translation).

But what can I say?  His hand has surely led me in this way.  And maybe it was done so that I wouldn’t glory so much in my vocation as in my God.

So whether it be through learning a new language and preaching the gospel that way … or learning calligraphy and preaching the gospel that way … or learning to care better for my family and preaching the gospel that way … in all ways, let me be completely given to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

If I don’t find eternity so obviously in my work, let me bring eternity to my work … through my worship, trusting in God’s redeeming power.

What a Friend.

(I wrote this post some time ago — but these thoughts revisited me today, so I’m finally posting. ♥)

As I sat downstairs late last night after everyone had gone to bed, I began to wonder about my friendships, and doubt began to puncture each one.

And this old hymn — one I sang so many times in childhood — came to mind.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

And I realized — these moments of doubt in regard to my friendships usually come when I’m not rooted in my friendship with Christ.

Do I have any true, unshakable friendship where my friend pursues me without fail and loves me without condition?  Any friendship where my friend truly rejoices with my every joy and weeps with my every grief?

Yes.

Yes, I do have a Friend like that.

Praise be to God, He is my perfect, unchanging, all-surpassing friend.

And all other earthly friendships can rest on that immovable friendship.  No matter if they are whole or broken, inspiring or disappointing, well or ill.  If Christ’s friendship to me satisfies my whole heart, I need not search for perfection anywhere else.

And I can pour out love, I can pursue, I can vow unfailing friendship even in the face of failure.  Because I have a Friend who does that for me.

The one Jesus loves.

I shared this on my Instagram already, but I wanted to save it here for memory sake, too.

Every morning during breakfast, the kids and I read from the Bible and Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  We really cherish this time together, and it’s as beneficial for my soul as I hope it is for them.

I’d been thinking a lot about identity, and last week, I took this poignant devotional from Sally’s book to heart:

When you first meet someone, she might ask, “Who are you?”

And you might say, “Well, I’m So-and-So.  And I am very good at this thing and that thing and here’s where I live and this is my family and –”

But do you know who God says you are?

The one Jesus loves.

 

On temptation to sin.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

A friend sent this verse to me recently when we were sharing about the temptations that come with toddler difficulties.  Temptations to be angry and sin, temptations to be disgruntled and ungrateful.

But God is faithful.  He will provide.  Let me never believe otherwise.

And may my husband and children see this truth fleshed out in me.

My core identity: “His.”

Calligraphy and design have been a surprising detour for me.  At heart, I still identify as a writer.  But the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether that’s accurate, because at different stages of my life, God has always provided different creative outlets for me to worship Him, express myself, and point to Him.

During high school, it was piano and song; during college and my single years, it was writing; and during this season, it’s still writing but mostly calligraphy.

But calligraphy, and all the aesthetics that come with it, is new to me.  I’ve only been into it for a year and a half (off and on in the beginning), so being known as “the calligrapher” still makes me feel uncomfortable.  It doesn’t feel completely like my own skin yet.

In the beginning, I struggled with this.  I wondered if I should drop calligraphy.  I wondered if it was changing me.  I wondered if I was becoming too much about aesthetics and see-able beauty than inward, lasting beauty.

JE never got that sense.  He laughed a little at my wrestlings.  To him, it was just another hat I was wearing.  At one point, he told me, “Don’t let your pursuits define you.  You define your pursuits.”

He’s right.  I didn’t need to be defined by the calligraphy world and its values. But I forgot I could redeem this pursuit, shape this pursuit, for His purposes in and through me.

Looking back and inward a bit, I realize my struggle was one of identity.  I kept allowing these hats and temporary roles define me to the core.

Rather than seeing myself as a bondservant who took on piano, writing, calligraphy, motherhood, etc., as my Master gave them to me as gifts for a season, I saw myself as pianist, writer, calligrapher, mother in a core sense.

The only role I am to the core is that of His daughter and bondservant.  Everything else is a garment that I put on and take off, according to my Master’s calling.  I’m not of this world so as to take on the world’s labels to my inmost person.

This is good, because if my hands fall off and I can never touch a pencil, paintbrush, pen, or piano again, my identity suffers no loss.  I am still His.  My identity is secure, because it relies on my immutable God, not on these earthly garments which will pass away.

But while I’m still here, in everything, I’m called to be a conduit of His grace and goodness (a la Tim Challies) and His ambassador to this foreign world — whatever the role, whatever the means, whatever the season.

I am not my “hat,” but I wear my hat to His glory until He tells me to get another one or do away with these hats all together.

Her greatest crown.

So touched by my dear (and talented) friend Steph’s words as she reflects on pruning down in different areas of her life:

my biggest female role model is the no holds barred mover and shaker, the Proverbs 31 woman. i desire her industrious spirit, her strength, her value to her husband and children, her savvy, her wisdom. but her greatest crown is her fear of the Lord.  this is what i strive after, a deep and enduring worship to my Maker.

Especially that one part — “but her greatest crown is her fear of the Lord.”

It doesn’t matter what else I think I may have achieved in this life.  May my worship and fear of the Lord be the crown.