The Scandal With Jesus: Four Things You Should Know

 

Read: Matt. 1:1-17

Family drama anyone?

Jesus’s genealogy is an important part of the Christmas story, yet many times never mentioned.  If we look closely, we can see family drama as early as the 1st patriarch, and it doesn’t get any better the farther down we travel.  Jesus’s family tree is sketchy at best; He comes from a line of cowards (Abraham, willing to give Sarah to a foreign kings to save his life), sell-outs (Esau, Jacob’s brother Gen. 25:27-34), attempted murderers (Judah and brothers Gen. 37:17-19), liars, womanizers (King David), a harlot (Rahab), idolators (Solomon), and men who completely turned away from God entirely (Josiah’s sons).

So why did God chose to send His one and only Son into the world to claim DNA, or, at least in part, amongst such colorful characters?  Why did Jesus chose to give up His throne to be part of a family tree of ancient, middle-eastern yeehaws?  What does it mean for you and me?

1. What He says is True, and He sticks to His Promises.

Only God can fulfill prophecy; no ordinary person can make miracles happen out of nothing, nor can they orchestrate circumstances in time to play out just right so ancient prophetic tales can come true. Here are a few prophecies that point to Jesus, spanning 2,000 years before He was delivered in the small, desert town of Bethlehem, in a dingy, lowly manger:

Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham: Gen. 12:3 – Matt.1

Messiah would be a descendent of David: 2 Sam. 7:12-16 – Matt.1:6

Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, fulfilled in Matt. 1:18)

Born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Matt. 2:3-6)

Here is an extensive list of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.

2. God loves real people.

Whether you’re crazy, weird, drama-filled, dumb, fearful, cowardly, mean, or just plain full of yourself, God came for you (and me)!  He came to break the chain of spiritual darkness of family ties to chaos, unrest, sadness, fear, selfishness, lust, sexual addictions, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, hate, pride, and conceit.

I have a “once was lost and now am found” story.  I was raised in a Christian home from the time I was 6. My family was heavily involved in church and we had an extensive Christian community we surrounded ourselves with.  However, by the time I entered high school I had decided that God was just not cool enough for me to identify with.  I called it religion.  I stuffed it in my back pocket and closed the door to the closeness I once had with Jesus.  I told my close friends if they asked but my lifestyle was contrary to living a life of obedience to God (more on that later;) He waited for me.  When I was 19 I married, someone I thought was the man of my dreams but he was not God’s dream for me.  Eleven months and 3 days shy of our 1 year anniversary he told me I wasn’t the one for him. He said I couldn’t possibility be all there is to offer in a wife. OUCH! I told him we needed Jesus (it had finally hit me a little too late) and he said that if we couldn’t fix us God couldn’t fix us. (HUH! little did he know).  By the time I was 22 I was already divorced. Not a very good track record for someone who really wanted to meet Mr. Right one day. I walked further from God.  I filled my heart and life with things that pleased me but never filled me.  I tried to satisfy a void in my soul that was insatiable by human effort.  It was a void that could only be filled by true love.  The love of a God that not only knew me, chased me for 12 long years, pursued me, but was relentless in not letting me go down a dark path (even if I didn’t really think it was dark at the time).

I prayed. I asked God to come back into my life. I surrendered my will. My pride. My way. My plans. Everything. I just didn’t want to carry around the ugly, black, lonely baggage of divorce, the baggage that screams you’ve just been rejected and you’re unlovable and damaged and good luck finding love again.   And the only way I knew to do that was to turn to the only One I had heard really loved me.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8 ESV

3. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him.

Although almost everyone in His lineage has infamous claims to the “wall of shame”, God turned their lives around by using them to be part of His epic love story for humanity. If we let him, we too, can be the paragon of what He can do with you and me.

In my loneliest moment God touched an area of my heart that hadn’t been touched before.  He let me know I wasn’t alone.  I began walking in Him, surrendering moment by moment.  See, I had walked a God-less life for 12 years I had no reassurance of what a Christian’s walk should feel like; I hadn’t quite felt “Christian” in a long time.  It’s been 13 years since I made the decision to follow Jesus.  I get now that he uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  He’s been using the simple life of a very ordinary girl to do great things for Him.  They might not seem big to anyone looking in but for me to know that a God so big can be so present, that a God so mighty can take one small little life and turn it into a victory dance for all to see is totally extraordinary.

4. He can forgive anything…ANY.THING. (Just read about King David and Rahab), and I mean ANYTHING.

Grace is a real thing. If you haven’t read my article on grace , you need to do that 😉

Christians love to give away: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”) , but we forget to give away John 3:17, the proceeding verse:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)

Jesus came to rescue us from our own depravity and fill the void within that only He can fill.  He wants to change us from within and make us new.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46 NIV)

The scandal in Jesus’s family tree gives us proof that He can turn sad endings into (eternal) happily ever afters. It demonstrates that even though He is perfect, He loves imperfect people, even to the point of dropping His crown and coming to our muck and dwelling amongst us in order to give us a dose of heavenly love, so that one day we might chose to love Him back.  The scandal is this: how can anyone have the sense, the dignity, the logic to give someone a second chance when everything about the person calls for persecution not redemption.  The scandal starts with a King who gave humanity a chance based on true love not performance.  I love how He’s using this simple, once scandalous, girl to do things for Him here on this imperfect earth.

What’s He doing in your life that is extraordinary?

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Grace Defined

grace-cloulds-and-rainI am sure you hear it every where too, the 5 letter word thrown around in Christian circles, the one that makes your shoulders less tense, drop, relax, makes you take a deep sigh of relief, the famous little word, most delightful, feel-goodish, excusing little word, written in pallet board that adorns our homes, the one used to calm the chocoholic inside all of us, when we’ve indulged way too much and need just a little grace on the calories (wink, wink).  It’s the little word that excuses you when you’ve just bought your 61st pair of shoes that you DIDN’T NEED.

The word grace is a word that contains power and honor and authority.  I’ve been bothered by the humdrum way we use it and throw it around.  So I decided to probe and dig deep and see what grace really means.

In scripture we see 2 types of grace.  In Esther 2:17 King Xerxes finds grace {favor} in Queen Esther.  This type of grace is man-given and man-earned.  It has two criteria, one is subjective and the other objective.  The king found favor in the queen because of her beauty (subjective) and she met the kings criteria (objective).  She earned his grace.

In the New Testament we see a new type of grace. A grace that is God-given, impossible to be man-earned.

In John 1:17 we see the definition of grace and the difference between earning grace and it being given to us despite our condition.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received the Ten Commandments through Moses that revealed we can not earn grace because we aren’t “good” enough.  Hence, addictions like shoe shopping and chocolate eating. And fill in the blank with your own issues (we all got ’em). The grace that Jesus brought was this:His favor (taken from the greek work used in John 1:17:charis pronounced har-es) for humanity because of simple, unadulterated, love.  Not earned- given simply because He made you.  You are His even if you don’t accept that yet.  It is His spirit impressed on our spirit that influences us toward Christ and the Christian faith- the enabler of strength that pushes us to live out love even when people don’t deserve it, nor ask for it, nor think they need it.  It is the spiritual stuff that has hands that support us  from behind as we trudge through this life in the darkness, as we walk through quiet deserted valleys, and high mountains without jumping off a cliff.  And yes the stuff that that changes a shoe addict into a recovered shoe addict.

There is one small but big caveat to this grace.  And it is accepting it.  Grace is a noun.  It’s a {spiritual} thing.  It is something you can accept or you can reject.  But you gotta do something with it.  It’s the gift that keeps on showing up, like the image of the fruit cake except good tasting.  It’s the gift that will keep on popping up on your door step that you gotta figure out what to do with, cause it ain’t going away. You either make fruit cake turn into filet-mignon (and if you’re a Christian walking in grace already you know exactly what I mean) or you throw it in the trash.

Grace is played out in John 8:1-11. The adulterous woman got more from her experience with Jesus than she thought she’d ever get. She not only got forgiveness (she thought she get condemnation), she got grace.  His last word to her was ‘go and sin no more’.  He didn’t just want to forgive her he wanted to change her.  Here, we see the impact of God’s grace…change.  We become different.

Grace is a gift of forgiveness and change.  He didn’t tell her “Go on girl I forgive you, keep on doing your thing” or “It’s all good do what makes you feel good”. No, because its impossible for grace to reside in our hearts without change. A good Father never encourage us to live a life that is harmful or destructive or dishonoring to Himself.  Change is the evidence that grace lives in us, that we have put this beautiful little noun on our backs and it now clothes us from head to toe, inside and out.

The take home (in a shoe box), God-given grace is forgiveness and change.

So, how are you doing in the grace department?  Are you living in the true grace of God?  What does grace look like in your life?  What have you misunderstood about grace?