Monday, June 20, 2011

The freedom that only God can give.

I have the privilege of going to a speaking seminar this week with one of my mentors. I will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the "SPEAK-UP WITH CONFIDENCE SEMINAR" where I will be critiqued and will have the honor of fellowshipping with other women who are influencing people in their own unique way. I have a lot of mixed emotions about it all right now because I am painfully aware of all of my many shortcomings, but I am trusting that God can do good things through me in spite of me and I am trusting that He has something to show me through this seminar that will matter in the future. I am hoping to have all kinds of exciting nuggets of wisdom to share with you all by the time I get back. If you are a friend of mine, would you please be in prayer with me that this week be a time of God speaking clearly to my heart and pray for my sweet husband who is taking time off of work to tend to our three rascals?? :) In the meantime, here is one of the messages I have prepared and plan to share in the time that I am there...

I think that sometimes if we can just label a person it helps us to feel better about ourselves. Our words have power. If I can just label someone as being “stupid” for instance, then I might be able to convince myself that it’s their fault for anything that they do that I do not like, so I don’t have to take any kind of blame at all for them being the way they are. If I told you that a girl was forced to sell her body in an effort to feed her starving brothers and sisters…well, then, you kind of feel like you have to care about that girl, don’t you? But, what if I told you that there was woman who was proud to be a prostitute? She sleeps with as many men as she can possibly find-and whether those men were married or not makes no difference to her, well…then what? You might have a word you’d like to call her, don’t you think?

Luke 7:36-50 tells us about a sinful woman, a prostitute to be exact, who came weeping to Jesus over her past sins. She came to him at a time when he was with the Pharisees. These men knew all about her reputation, and carried strong opinions about her. They also carried a high status, according to the society in that time. They were thought to be very wise and dignified, and she was considered to be one of the lowest of lows. If anyone was going to be labeled anything you can bet it was her! The Pharisees mocked people on a regular basis who did not carry their status, knowledge and wisdom. When they saw what was going on they questioned Jesus out loud. All the while, she continued to offer her sacrifice to Jesus, weeping. He saw her heart. He knew her hurts, her questions, her doubts without her actually saying a word. His heart went out to her. The Pharisees thought he lacked discernment and questioned that if he truly was the Jesus they thought he was he would not be allowing her to touch him like that. Jesus didn’t fear them. He fears God only. God’s assessment is the only one that matters, and Jesus knew that. Jesus turned to the woman, and boldly and unapologetically spoke God’s message to her. In doing so, he answered the questions heavy on her heart that day that she had yet to voice. His message to her was this, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Mark 5:24-34 tells us a different kind of story. It’s a story of a woman who was also looked down on, but for different reasons. Instead of having a reputation for being “overtouched”, as was the case of the prostitute, she had a reputation of being “untouchable”. She was labeled “unclean”. She was hemorrhaging. By giving her a term “unclean” it gave the rest of society permission to avoid her at all costs. After 12 years of being ashamed of who she was, spending all the money that she had looking for a cure, and continually getting worse in spite of the doctor’s efforts, she gained the courage to find Jesus in a crowd. She thought if she could just touch his clothes than she would be healed, and nobody would have to know that she touched him. Tired, but determined, she made her way through the crowd and caught up to him. She grabbed for his cloak and immediately her bleeding and suffering stopped. (vs. 29) For her to be in the crowd was unacceptable, and yet Jesus calls her out right in front of all her critics. “Who touched my clothes?” he asks. Afraid, she slinks back as people act like it’s no big deal and he should just move on. He is indignant. “Who touched me?” he asks again, looking around. The woman fell at his feet, scared, and trembling. She told him her story. He stopped everything and listened to her story. She mattered to him. In a crowd of people who considered her a nuisance, he put the spotlight on her, and cared about her. When she was done speaking, he cut through the chaos of the crowd and referred to her with an endearing term, “daughter”, that meant that she had a special place in his heart, and was like family to him. With one word he answered the question closest to her heart. The one that she gave up asking long ago, “Am I worthy that anyone would associate with me ever again?” He goes on to say, “Your faith has healed you”. In front of all those who had been judging her, he not only accepts her, but says that what she has done is blessed and admirable. It was her courageous faith that healed her. He establishes a new identity for her. “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

In both of these stories Jesus cuts through the noise of all of those around him and he focuses on the one person who was coming to him in faith, asking for the freedom that only he could give. In both stories his point was clear, “I see you. I get you. I know you're not stupid, crazy, or useless. It’s going to be okay because you came to me in faith. From this day forward, you are a new person.” He turns to you now and speaks that same message over you, “When you come to me in faith, I wipe away your past. I give you permission to grab hold of that right this minute, to carry yourself with pride and dignity from this day forward, even when other people tell you that you’re a disappointment or a lost cause. Don’t listen to those guys. I’ll deal with them. YOUR faith has saved you. YOU have been remade. And from now on, YOU may go in peace.”

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