Judywebb’s Weblog


What is it God cannot Do?
July 24, 2008, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Sojourn Ladies' retreat

What is it God cannot Do?

Have you ever asked yourself the question–”what is it that I think God can not do?” It seems completely wrong and sacrilegious to think that there is something that God can not do– and yet we tend to live lives of sacrilege. We put up a good face and tell ourselves and others that we are so full of faith. We believe God for everything, but when it all comes down to it there are a bunch of things that we think God just can’t manage. It may be that God is too busy with important things to deal with your minute details, he does not have time to handle your situation. It may be that you think it is unfair of you to ask God to do some things in your life, because you have time to do them on your own, why bother God, or because you think you are just not that important.

Just when you are about to beat yourself up for your lack of faith, take heart, you are not alone. There are folks in scripture who we see had placed some limitations on God’s abilities. Let’s walk down scripture lane… Abraham decided with the help of his well meaning wife that he was going to have to help God fulfill His promise of a son by sleeping with his wife’s handmaiden. That sure did not turn out well. Peter raised his sword to Jesus’ captors, just in case Jesus did not have the situation under control. It was sweet Peter, but let’s be real, Jesus is God and He can handle any situation. Mary thought Jesus was too late to heal her brother Lazarus and she wept as a woman who had no hope. The onlookers said “could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Little did they know that Jesus had a plan far greater than healing a sick man, he was going to raise a dead man. How the disciples mourned in that upper room when Jesus was in the grave. Surely, it was all over. They would go home, having lost their greatest friend, rabbi, hero, it was over. Jesus told them he would be back, but they never understood it. Not until that empty tomb and that sweet visitation from Jesus when he allowed them to see his scarred hands and feet did they believe.

What is it you think God can’t do? It may look like He is not doing it. It may look like He hasn’t heard your prayers. It may feel like He is busy with the war in Iraq or with evangelizing tribes in South America. But sister, take heart. Do not be anxious in the waiting. Do not lose hope. There is nothing that God can not do. But will he do it? Does He care enough to respond? Yes, “there is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for a friend”. Jesus loves you beyond your imagination. He hears your prayers. He will bring you to a place of peace in the waiting. He will move in ways you do not see or understand, and He will show off a little bit on your behalf. Can He do it? Yes, because nothing is impossible with God. Will He do it? Yes, he will answer your prayers in a way that will bring you great joy and peace. He will move. It may not be the exact thing you are praying for, but it will be far greater, and the very thing you needed, and at just the right time. Stand back, lay your concerns at Jesus’ feet, and marvel at His strength to bear your burdens.

What is in your life right now that you wonder if God is really able to handle?

Recall a time when God answered a prayer in a miraculous way.

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for his faithful work in you life in the past, and committing to trust Him with your today.

Advertisements


Speak to the Rock
July 24, 2008, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Sojourn Ladies' retreat

<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } H5 { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Speak to The Rock

Do you know what it is like to be really thirsty? It is that awful feeling that your mouth is filled with cotton balls and you are just dying for cool water to wash them away. I have been really thirsty before, but I am not sure I have ever known the thirst that the people of Israel knew when they walked through the wilderness. Imagine, you are with about a million people, following God through a barren wasteland. As you walk you remember the sweet wine of Egypt, you remember that even though you were hot in that mud pit, there was a well nearby, and you could drink deeply of it’s life giving waters. You remember that you once had a home to go to at the end of the day, and you ate sweet fruit and savory meat. After walking down memory lane, reality sets in… tonight you will camp in Rephidim, and there is no water there. Thirst, uncertainty, longing… is this what life will always be like?

Exodus 17 tells us the story:

Water from the Rock

1 Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.”
So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?”
3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”
5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

The Lord brought water from the rock, but it was a violent rending that yielded water to quench their thirst. It was struck, and out of the breaking, waters flowed. This was the first time Moses got water from the rock. There would be another time, in their future a rock would flow forth, only this time the circumstances were different. The account in Numbers 20:8 says that God told Moses to speak to the Rock. Speak to the rock, how crazy is God to ask a grown man to speak to a rock? It’s a rock, how much more impressive it is for Moses to flex a little muscle and whack at it with his stick! Not this time, God had another plan. Moses did not obey God and he did take a stab with the stick. The waters flowed, and the people were contented, but Moses did not receive the blessing.

So why does God change his tactics. Striking the rock worked the first time, why change the plan for the second time? I believe the answer, among other things, is intimacy. The first time there was a breaking, the rock gave life after it was broken. 1 Corinthians 1:4 says “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” The Rock they struck was a foreshadowing of Christ being struck. His death was violent and gruesome and his blood flowed to cleanse us and meet our greatest need of salvation. The second time at the rock did not need to be so violent. It was Moses coming to Christ and God said “speak”. This time instead of a great breaking there was an invitation to intimacy.

I believe that God is calling us to intimacy. We are all so very thirsty. God has all of us on a journey through some sort of wilderness, it is where we learn dependence on God. It is where we learn to speak to the rock. Jesus told a lonely woman pulling water from a well, “ but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Speak to the Rock today. Let the living waters flow afresh on you.

How does your body react to extreme thirst or hunger? How does it affect your mood and wellbeing?

What are the symptoms that you are in “dry” spiritually?

How do you approach the Rock to find your heart needs met?

Write out a prayer to God thanking Him for the intimacy He offers to you, and committing to Him that you will speak to the Rock for all the longings of your heart.



A Bittersweet Journey
July 24, 2008, 6:51 pm
Filed under: Sojourn Ladies' retreat

A Bittersweet Journey

The Apostle Paul so boldly said that he had learned the secret of contentment– that He could do all things through Christ who gives him strength. Good for Paul. He had arrived at a place that many of us feel is far out of reach– we need a passport to get there and we don’t even know how to fill out our application for a passport. He said he was content, but what is it to be content. I told a friend of mine I was speaking on contentment and she said “is anyone really content?” I was like, wow, you are right, is anyone really content? Isn’t it the kind of thing that God does to take us to a place of contentment only to ruffle our feathers a few weeks later. We are at a place of peace and contentment and then bamm– something crazy happens, or bamm, feelings of doubt and fear creep in, and then we are a wreck. Our husbands or friends are totally freaked out because they are like– you were fine yesterday, what is the deal today? We are in a constant struggle to be at peace, to be content. So what is the trick of it? And why does God throw the wrench in our good day that makes it a tough day?

I want you to know that whenever God asks me to teach a topic that he also makes me live it out a bit. That means that I have walked down this road of contentment to utter despair in which the mood swings seem to be as fast as if I were on a real roller coaster. Click click click to the top, so fearful, what will it be like when we crest this hill, we are getting really high up, to the sheer exhilaration of that down slope– hands raised in the air, screaming woo hoo at the top of my lungs. Believe me, I have been there. I am there, today, I am there. I am on that roller coaster. I am believing God has placed me on the ride of my life and trust me when I say there are those scary uphill climbs when you have time to think about how dangerous this thing really is. But maybe at the end of the ride I will get to buy that t-shirt that says “I survived the Sooper Dooper Looper”. How cool would that be?

At the end of the ride, I will get to say that I did, and I didn’t die.

I think God is o.k. with the roller coaster. I actually think he designed it a bit. He wants us to go through some adventures with him. We need to learn to trust Him, He needs to clean some things out of our lives. It is all part of the journey. I think my favorite example of this is Israel. They were a mess– and I say that very lovingly because even though I look at them and shake my head, I think they could look at me more than a few times and shake their collective head as well. They were on a sheer joy to sheer despair track with God.

So here is the story– Israel was God’s chosen people. They were special to God. He made them promises and blessed them, but they also had some tough times. We are going to look today at life in captivity, to their amazing deliverance to life in the wilderness. Life in Egypt was no picnic. They were slaves to the King and had to build his cities for him in the cruel heat and sun. Day in and day out they suffered under taskmasters who would whip them and drive them to their breaking point. They called out to God, but had little hope that He would hear them. Until the day came– Moses had heard from God and was sent to Egypt to deliver God’s people. God had heard their cry. So the people packed their bags and went with Moses in the middle of the night and before they knew it they were sipping margaritas poolside in the promised land. Actually it was quite different. Moses was fighting an uphill battle. Not only did he have to convince the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, he had to convince the Hebrews that they could go. It was a long fight and Pharaoh’s heart was hard and God had to visit Egypt with many plagues before Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go. The final plague was the ultimate devastation. The firstborn of Egypt were killed while God’s people were sparred.

So God’s people are on the run. They are set free and they are making their way to a new land, the land that was promised to them and their children. The coast was clear. In fact, not only were they let go but they walked out of there with the riches of Egypt. They carried off gold, silver, clothing, whatever they wanted, the Egyptians gave to them freely (Ex. 12:33-36).

God led them out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. He did it! They were free. Until they hit the Red Sea and they were stuck. And before they knew it the Egyptian army was hot on their trails. They started to panic– did God lead them here only to have them killed? Why go through the trouble of all those plagues if God was just leading them to their death? But God, arose– he held Egypt back with fire and led His people through a sea that He made dry. It was glorious. God had them on a spiritual high. It was like the greatest mountain top experience ever. Here you are walking through a sea with water piling up on either side and your feet are staying dry! All of Israel crossed over and then the waters fell on Pharaoh’s army. Splash– they were gone and all of God’s people made it safely to the other side.

They sang this song they were so excited:

Exodus 15:1-13 and so on….

Exodus 15

The Song of Moses

1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying:

“I will sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!

2 The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

3 The LORD is a man of war;
The LORD is His name.

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

5 The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone.

6 “Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power;
Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces.

7 And in the greatness of Your excellence
You have overthrown those who rose against You;
You sent forth Your wrath;
It consumed them like stubble.

8 And with the blast of Your nostrils
The waters were gathered together;
The floods stood upright like a heap;
The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue,
I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil;
My desire shall be satisfied on them.
I will draw my sword,
My hand shall destroy them.’

10 You blew with Your wind,
The sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

12 You stretched out Your right hand;
The earth swallowed them.

13 You in Your mercy have led forth
The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength
To Your holy habitation.

And Miriam sang out Exodus 15:21

21 And Miriam answered them:

“Sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”

They were there. They had seen God do wonderful things. Their fears, and anxiety were all pushed to the side. It was a day of rejoicing. I am sure you have felt that way. You have felt that great exhilaration of God showing off on your behalf. You remember the day that he saved you. I remember well, sitting in my sister’s room in the middle of the night. She was cornering me with the gospel. I wept and wept because I knew that God loved me just as I was. I did not have to earn his favor, I did not have to strive to be good enough for him. He rescued me. He was the one who reached down to pick me up. I was rescued. I was so full of joy. If you are honest you can probably all look back and see times when God really flexed his muscles for you. You can see a moment when he rescued you from a stupid decision, or from danger. You can remember a time when you felt so close to him that you were afraid to move or you would bump into him. We all have those times in which we jumped up and down and sang songs of joy that God had forgiven us, he saved a loved one, he healed a sick person, he drew you to a place of intimacy.

I can look back and I can build markers at so many places where I can say– yes, God here is where you parted the red sea for me. Here is where you showed up. I remember standing in the Czech Republic in a town square and just proclaiming the gospel, and people responded. I remember sitting on the beach in Italy with teen girls holding sand in my hand and telling them that this is how much God loves you, more than all the grains of sand in the sea. Those were moments where God was flexing his muscles. He was calling girls out of darkness and into wonderful light. I remember sitting in a car with a concerned mom and hearing God invite me to ask her about herself and not just her daughter. Does she really know me, and she received the Lord. It is more than just seeing God rescue people from death, God has spoiled me in so many ways. He has allowed me to take vacations and the whole time I am just walking around saying– wow God, you are knocking my socks off.

I was 32 years old when I got married. It was a long wait. God had so much for me to do and so much to do in me before I married. I remember standing up on that platform with my husband on our wedding day. The presence of God was real, so powerful and there we stood, just in the middle of it, enjoying God, amazed. You see you can think of those mystical moments. Those times when God was doing everything right. Those times when you just want to soak it all in and you don’t want to miss a drop of the blessing of God. Maybe it was the birth of your child. Can you remember, after 9 months of waiting and wondering you get to hold this baby in your arms and somehow she resembles you and your husband. Somehow she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life. It is these moments in our lives when we just want to shout out to God. You are good! You are beyond my imagination! You are powerful! You are mighty to save! These are the moments we savor. These are the moments in life when we just raise our hands, look up and scream for joy at the top of our lungs because we are racing downhill and it is so exhilarating that our stomaches are doing back flips.

That is where Israel was. They were in that moment. They were so full of joy, so blessed, so rescued. They could just stand there and get the giggles before the Lord. He had been so good. He had been so good.

Here is what the word of God says happened next:

Exodus 15:22-25

The Waters of Marah and Elim

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a] ) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Things were going so well. And then comes the bitter waters. Imagine their disappointment. They had just gone from the top of the world to the bottom of the dump. Were they going to die of thirst? Did God just lead them out here to make them die a slow agonizing death? To Israel’s credit the word grumbled does not mean they were throwing a fit. They were just showing their dissatisfaction. They were upset. You might say they had a right to be upset. It had been 3 days since their last major miracle and they were thirsty. So here is the question for all of us.. Why does God lead us to bitter waters? Why does he allow us the sheer joy of his rescue only to lead us to bitter waters. It was God who led them there. They were not walking in rebellion and happened upon bitter waters. It was God. It was part of God’s plan, part of his design that they taste this water and it was bitter to them. I think the answer to the question comes when God says “I am the Lord, who heals you.”
I think God will lead us to places of bitter waters because he wants to show us a reflection of what is going on inside of our own hearts. He showed Israel that they still had little faith in Him even though they had been miraculously rescued. There was still the bitterness of Egypt in them, they still carried the emotional and spiritual diseases of their place of bondage. They did not leave all their “emotional baggage” in Egypt, they packed it up with them along with the gold and silver they plundered.

He also showed them that he could make the bitter waters sweet. God can make the bitter waters in your life into a sweet spring. He only needs to extend his hand. I am pretty sure that many of us have experienced some bitter waters in our lifetime. For me, recently God has shown me that our struggle with trying to have a baby has been bitter waters. It has been a place where God has led us and we have been sitting by this river wondering what to do with the bitter water. It sure leaves you thirsty. It sure leaves you longing. But for what? For what are we ultimately longing? They wanted sweet water, Jeff and I want children, but what is the longing? The longing is for God bring healing to our hearts. I am quite sure it is not God’s heart for us to stand there looking at the bitter water and licking our lips in desperation, thinking that we need to drink that stuff. No, it is poison, but God has led us there so we could see that He is the God who heals. He is the God who unpacks the baggage of bitterness and fear and gives gifts of peace and hope instead. It is all apart of us coming to know Him better. It is all apart of us being drawn into intimacy with God. When we come up on hard times we are brought to a place of greater dependence on God. There is nothing we can do to change things, but God can. God can make the bitter waters sweet. God can bring healing. God can use this time to prepare us for something much greater.
A friend of mine last week shared Revelations 12:11 with met

We overcome by the “power of our testimony” ( Revelations, 12:11

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death). We do not overcome by only faith or service or knowledge. This time is all part of the testimony. They seem like bitter waters now, but they will be sweet. I continue to pray and expect.

God is developing a testimony. He is giving you a powerful message that you would not be able to have if you had not stopped by bitter waters. He will not waste a moment of your wilderness wandering. He will not waste a single tear that you have shed by those bitter streams. He will use it as a time where he can do some work in your heart to heal you, and He will use your testimony to bring healing to others.
And so after he led them to Marah, he brought them to Elim–

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

Don’t we love Elim. A time of rest. A time to recover. Times of Marah were in their future, but there would also be Elim, and there would be more Red Seas as well.

Here we are on this journey. I don’t know in which place you find yourself. Are you just coming through the Red Sea singing the praises of God, are you standing by the waters of Marah, or are you sipping from the well of Elim? Either way, there is contentment to be had. The Lord is with you. He is leading you, and you can trust in His loving kindness.

I want to close with this Psalm which beautifully shows how God leads, just allow yourself to meditate on it:

A Psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
Forever.

Small group questions:

Describe a time of “Red Sea” crossing in your life

Describe a time of Marah (bitter waters)

Describe a time of Elim

Which of these times do you find yourself in right now?Psalm 23



Contentment in Grace
July 24, 2008, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Sojourn Ladies' retreat | Tags: ,

Contentment in Grace

How many of us are carrying around heavy burdens that we picked up long ago? Oh you have gotten used to them. They have become sort of friends, familiar, predictable. They are just the way that you are. It may be that you call him chip and he sits there on your shoulder and every once in a while you pet him, and remind him of why he is there. Let’s see, when did you first get your place on my right shoulder little Chip, my you have gotten bigger haven’t you? You have gotten heavier too, you need to lose some weight! But you are my little chip and I keep you around because after all, if I let you go there will be this gaping hole on my shoulder. So what is the chip on your shoulder that has been so heavy for you to carry? Mind you, I am not trying to belittle your chip. I know he is there for a good reason, but I am wondering, how long are you going to keep him? I think you would be so pretty if I could see your face better– you know, without chip getting in the way.

Now that I have probably offended nearly everyone here let me assure you that I have had my own chip to deal with. Honestly, I may have had my own bag of chips and each one had it’s own ugly name. They were named things like “rejection”, “abandonment”, “people pleaser”… the list could go on but I think you get the point. They were all there for a good reason. Life was hard growing up. My Dad abandoned our family. He chose a can of budweiser and an 18 year old red head instead of our family– at least that is the way I saw it. That is when I picked up the chip named abandonment and rejection. How could he leave us for that? Were we not good enough? “Jump on board little people pleaser”. I am going to have to be good enough for everyone else because I am afraid that they might leave me too. The problem is that I walked around with these chips for so long that they just became apart of how I dealt with life. I would assess situations and relationships through the lenses of rejection, abandonment, and pleaser.

To be honest with you I was pretty good at it. I had enough charisma to always be accepted by friends and family. My Great Grandmother would always call me the obedient one– ahh stroke that people pleaser chip. My mom was always so proud of me. I honestly had so many friends at school that I would go home in junior high and wonder why all these kids wanted to hang out with me. That rejection chip would speak– you better be funny, you better be cool, you better be a little adventurous or else they may not like you anymore. I was a 7th grade mess. I was so popular but I secretly had these feelings of fear that it was going to all come caving in on me. I was going to be rejected. They were going to find out that we were poor and they would definitely not want to be my friend then. Oh gosh, how am I going to save the money for guess jeans so they will still want to hang out with me? I saved it, not sure how but I had my priorities straight. I was able to save every penny I got from birthdays and Christmas to dress myself in designer digs with a special spot on each should for the chips.

Probably the biggest chip that I carried on my should was religion. I loved God. I wanted him to be so happy with me. I tried so hard to be a good girl but to no avail. By the time I was in 8th grade I had gotten into trouble. We had moved to Germany and I fell into a crowd that was into being a little naughty. I was crushed. I was always so obedient and could just see this staircase to heaven that I was making with every good grade, every dish washed, every floor vacuumed, every good deed I had done. I literally had this idea that I was trying to good deed my way to heaven. Ah, the chip of religion had me in the greatest bondage. I knew that I could not make it. I knew that for every good thing I did there was an equal bad thing. I was taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. What a mess. So here I am in 8th grade with my bag of chips and my desire to be accepted– pretty much by anyone, God, friends, my dad… And I was a mess.

It was at this point that God did a most miraculous thing. He saved my sister.  I immediately saw a change in her, she was joyful. I couldn’t deny God’s power.  We started to attend a new church. It was a little Baptist Church plant. Every week the pastor would invite people to salvation, he would say raise your hand if you want to accept Jesus. I knew I wanted to accept him. I knew that my staircase had hardly gotten off the ground and I was scared to death of hell. I didn’t raise my hand. Chips were weighing me down. Then one night I was having a sleepover in my sister’s room. She shared the gospel with me and all of a sudden that chip of religion was losing it’s ground. God opened my eyes to his grace. He opened my eyes to the fact that I did not have to earn my spot in heaven. Amazing Grace. I was saved. I was not just saved and life as usual– I was radically saved. I became Judy the evangelist. I went about it with passion. God began a love affair with me and my life changed continually over the next,… well it is still changing.

So I was saved and I said goodbye to my bag of chips. Well not really. And that is the problem. We get saved but we still have our chips. We still come to God with a mess on our hands and instead of offering it up to God we keep it to ourselves. Honestly, I think God is too gracious with us to attack every chip at once. Those chips have become intertwined into our emotions, responses, even our personality. I think he works through our issues in a way that is over time, thorough, and complete.

Today I want to ask you this question– do you think God’s grace is enough for you to manage to lay down those chips at his feet? I know for many people they struggle with believing that God is really gracious. I think when we carry chips on our shoulders long enough we get to thinking that maybe God has a chip on His shoulder. Maybe he is tired of us always messing up. Maybe he is weary of our missteps and is up there shaking his head that we are not yet perfect. I mean after all you may have been following God for a long time and you are not yet perfect? What is the problem. I recently spoke to a girl who was struggling to believe that Jesus’s work on the cross was enough to cover her sins. She felt like her sins were too big for Jesus to be able to forgive her. She wore the chip of shame. How could God forgive me?

I understand the chip of shame. I carried it for a while when I was in college. I was so busy trying to please God and get the whole campus saved that I lost sight of grace. I was so busy serving God and so busy with school that I was begging God for strength to do it all well. One of my good friends told me “Judy, I am praying that God will give you a broken heart”. I thought she was crazy. I was like, Nancy, can you instead pray that God will help to lead these Bible Studies and do well in school? I was scared to death to have a broken heart. I had always been so tough, always put a good face on in front of others, and she was praying for a broken heart. Believe me when I tell you that God broke my heart. He went crashing in with grace and mercy, but he did do some serious chipping away at the chips along the way. The verse that became a constant comfort to me at the time was Psalm 51 “16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  17 The sacrifices of God are [c] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God did not want me to come to him with all this stuff that I was doing for him to be impressed with me. He was not asking me to get 10 people saved a week and read a book of the Bible a day. He was sweetly saying to me, “Judy, I want your heart, broken and sorrowful, just as you are…” I was so free. I was so full of joy. God was not like my dad, he was not going to abandon me for another woman because I did not measure up. He was not going to reject me when he saw those broken places in my heart. He was not going to turn His head in shame over the sins that I committed. He was embracing me. I remember just sitting in a field on a dark, windy, October night and weeping before the Lord, and He was there, embracing me. Bringing mystery and grace to my broken heart. God was standing up in the middle of my chips and lifting them off my shoulders. The first miracle of setting me free from the fear of rejection and abandonment, God was assuring me, I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I was receiving grace.

My friend, I don’t know what your chip is. Do you struggle like I did with fear of God rejecting you because you are not enough or you are too much? Let me read this story to you:

Luke 7

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his 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.

39When 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.”

40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41″Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This women got it. She got the point of grace. She heard Jesus was in town. He was having dinner at the home of an important man– a Pharisee. She was not intimidated by the situation. She wanted to see Jesus. She did not care that the Pharisee hated her. She did not mind that she was not invited. She just went barging in there and ran up to Jesus. Tears in her eyes she fell at Jesus’ feet. She must have known something about Jesus. She must have heard that he had done some amazing miracles. She had to see him. Not because she was blind, lame, “sick”, but because she was broken. She needed to receive the love Jesus had for her. Can you imagine how many men had “loved” her? Can you imagine the chips she carried on her shoulders? The ones that say she is unwanted, used, dirty, but those did not keep her from seeing Jesus. I am just amazed by her courage and her brokenness. She was approaching a holy man. She was approaching a man who was clean, good, pure, and she just slobbered all over him. She just broke down and drenched his feet and wiped them her hair. She was just a mess before Jesus. That’s alright you know, you can be a mess before Jesus. He looks at her with compassion and says she is forgiven, saved, go in peace. Notice that Jesus did not itemize her sins to the crowd. He did not say I can give you forgiveness for this but not for this. He just declared her forgiven. He said her future will be peace.

My friends, lay down those chips before the feet of Jesus. Drench him with them. Allow God to break your heart and to do some healing. You have not out-sinned God’s grace. You have not been so sinned against that your heart and emotions will be permanently bruised. You may think, I get it. My sins are forgiven. I know that God loves me, I receive His grace and Amen! Hallelujah! I rejoice with you that you are not living under the burden of your own sins, but are you living under the burden of another’s sin? Do you believe God’s grace is enough to heal those broken places in your heart that are there because someone has hurt you? Do you believe God’s grace is enough for the one who hurt you? Do you believe His grace is enough to cover over the guilty one? Or, do you want revenge?

Imagine with me how the apostles felt when Jesus saved Saul and made him Paul. That is a little outrageous don’t you think? I mean after all, Saul was there at their dear brother Stephen’s death holding the coats of the men who were doing the killing. Can you imagine what that would have been like? Watching your dear friend killed by an angry mob throwing stones at him, calling him names, hating him, and seeing Saul just standing by nodding his head, looking satisfied. That is the guy that Jesus has just saved and has called to be an apostle? In fact in Acts 9:26-27  it says

26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”

How could God forgive Saul and give him a new name? How? Through the blood of Jesus Christ, why? Because that is what God does. He takes really messed up people and does mighty things through them. Saul was an accomplice to murder and a hater of Christ. That is alright, not too much for Jesus to handle. He knocked Saul off his horse. He forgave him, he redeemed him. How about others in scripture who have similar track records. King David was an adulterer and a murderer, and yet he was called a man after God’s own heart. David had a broken heart before the Lord and God forgave him. God forgives. God extends grace, and so should we.

You know the Lord’s prayer is very dangerous. It says forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Wow– do I want God to forgive me the way I forgive others? Um… probably not, that means I can’t hold anything against some one. That means I have to let them off the hook, but what they did was so painful, yes, but what I have done has cost a great deal of pain to my God, and yet he has forgiven me. Matthew 18

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[

That is a lot of forgiveness. That is what God asks of us. I have been forgiven much, I must love much.

I don’t want you to think that this thing of forgiving others is easy. It is actually a really tough trial. I also don’t want you to think that it is just a matter of your own strength and determination that will help you to forgive. No, it is a supernatural thing. God does it. He gives you the grace to forgive others. You come before him with a willing heart and he will give you the grace to forgive even the deepest hurts.

A couple of years ago my dad called me on my birthday. I was shocked because he had not called me on my birthday in a long time. He wished me a happy birthday and then asked me if I would read the scriptures at his wedding in July. I told him I would and cordially ended our conversation. I walked back to the dinner that Jeff had made me because it was my birthday and shockingly told Jeff that my dad called– Over the next months I wondered what scriptures I should read at the wedding. I jokingly thought of reading some parables that were about people being slackers and showing up late. Then God did something in my heart. He showed me that I had unforgiveness for my dad and he was going to redeem that broken part of my heart. I thought I had forgiven my dad, and I did in my flesh and will. I had let him off the hook but I had also written him out of my life. Here was God doing a major work of surgery to remove that bitter root I had in my heart over my dad. He healed me. I repented of the feelings I felt toward my dad and God rushed over me with a powerful love for my dad. I never knew I could love him like that.I read the scriptures at my dad’s wedding. And they were scriptures of blessing and promise that God led me to read. I also surprised my dad by praying for him and his wife during the ceremony. I prayed the kingdom down on them. I gave it all I had and I laid it at God’s feet. It was so healing, so life giving. God will help you to forgive and he will heal your heart as you lay your chips on the table, or as the sinful woman did, you shower his feet with your tears.

I want to close with a story that has always been so powerful to me.

John 8

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early
[a] in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught[b] in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded[c] us that such should be stoned.[d] But what do You say?”[e] 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.[f]
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up
[g] and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[h] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[i] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[j] Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and
[k] sin no more.”
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

What an amazing story of grace. The pharisees are so ready to pounce, even to kill a woman. They are so ready to take their vengeance on this dirty, adulterous woman. They bring her to Jesus to test Jesus, to see if they can get Jesus to condemn her or to see if Jesus is going to stone her. They are an angry, calculating mob. She is a frightened, guilty woman. Totally humiliated, full of shame she stands there half naked in front of a crowd of blood thirsty men, and in front of Jesus. I love Jesus’s response. He bends down to write in the dirt. Certainly that is not what the pharisees expected. Then Jesus throws a wrench in their whole plan. He drops the bomb- let the one without sin be the first to cast a stone. A heaviness falls on the crowd, and eldest to youngest they drop their stones and walk away. And Jesus is left standing there with the woman. He is the only one able to throw the stone, but he says he does not condemn her, and gives her leave to go and sin no more.

We can find ourselves too often in this passage. At times we are the woman, at times we are the pharisees, at times we are the crowd just watching in bewilderment. Here is the challenge, the woman was guilty. She could have stood before Jesus and said, “stone me, I deserve it”. She could have argued for her just punishment. She didn’t. She accepted grace and walked away. The pharisees could have thrown that stone, but they didn’t because they knew they had sinned. Let’s be like them. Let’s accept the grace of God as sufficient for us and for those who sin against us. Let’s receive grace to heal our broken hearts and lets extend grace to those need it. But ohh, you may say the pain of betrayal runs too deep, I can’t forgive- but God’s grace is enough. Oh, I have sinned too often I can’t be forgiven– but there is grace. Paul says in

2 Corinthians 12: 9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

His grace is enough. Lay your heart at his feet. Know that He loves you. Know that He will give you the grace to love even your enemies. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, how even saying his name helps us to remember that He is enough.