Soap Bubbles for the Soul
I walked onto the beach and stood in awe. It wasn’t the whitecapped waves that captured my attention or the small flock of pelicans that flew nearby. It was the soap bubbles.
The ocean was edged with soap bubbles, or what looked like them, as if God were cleansing the waters. White foam stood at attention along the beach, a reminder of what “clean” looks like. I played tag with the waves, and then stepped into a foamy mound. My toes didn’t feel it as much as my heart did. Clean. A sense of being made new, washed, set right. “Clean” is a refreshing word, a reality usually achieved through hard work and care. It takes hard work to keep a house clean. How much more our hearts.
Just as it seems impossible to keep an entire ocean clean, it can seem impossible to keep our hearts pure all the time. Yet Jesus adds “pure in heart” as a condition for happiness and blessing.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NKJV)
Blessed are those who are “free from wrong thinking, corrupt desires, and impure motives.”1 Happy are those who are free from the stain and misery of sin. The blessing they receive is seeing God Himself—understanding more of who He is because they learn how to think as He does, in purity and holiness. Drawing close to Him without any sin or guilt reminding them that they can’t. Knowing Him like never before and walking life’s road with Him.
Just as the waves continually lap onto shore and retreat into the ocean, bringing with it sand and shells, the word of God rushes into our hearts when we study it and pulls away the gunk and grime of everyday living. The Lord who spoke the sacred words of the Sermon on the Mount is the same Lord who today cleanses His church with the truth. With the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26 NKJV), Christ keeps His bride pure.
When we obey the truth, our souls are purified (1 Peter 1:22). Staying clean is no longer an improbability in a world filled with sin, guilt, and shame. It can be a reality as we stay close to the Cleanser of our souls and Renovator of our hearts. It can be a daily reality of continual cleansing. “Pure in heart” makes us clean lanterns through which God can shine His light of love and truth.
As God renovates our hearts to be more like His, He not only cleanses away the bad, but He replaces it with the good. He instills in us the right way of thinking, feeling, and acting—His way, in His likeness—so that what we give out is not self-centered but God-centered. “Pure in heart” is a heart centered on God, fueled by His own character, mindful of His purposes in the world. Pure hearts are needed today to direct people’s attention to the quality of God’s love, to the strength of His character and goodness.
Whatever deadlines and schedules call for our attention, whatever temptations pull at our hearts, let’s take time each day to be in God’s word and talk with Him. Let’s allow His truth to wash over our souls and cleanse them from the dirt we’ve accumulated by walking in the world. Just like the waves that continually wash over the beach, God’s “waves” of truth and lovingkindness cleanse us day by day. Then purity won’t be an ideal that’s out of reach, but a reality that we possess and treasure.
Faith Worth Remembering
by Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com
Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” – Matthew 26:10-13
The woman with the alabaster jar knew something that I don’t fully grasp.
She knew she didn’t belong with Jesus. She knew that he had every right to shun her, to see her life of sin, and turn away. Comparing Matthew’s account with other gospels, she was probably Mary Magdalene, the fallen woman. Even by our cultural standards, her lifestyle barred her from polite company; in her day, her gender prevented her from coming too close to the honored guest. She had no right to enter that dinner, and she knew it. So why does this woman win such a place in Jesus’ narrative?
I tried to unravel her story in one of my few stints as a short story author. Picture a woman entering a room full of men, all of whom notice her impertinence. Perhaps she second-guessed her intentions for a moment. But I bet that once her eyes settled on Jesus, she never looked away. Not this woman, Mary. I can’t think of any other compelling reason for her to walk forward, break a jar that cost a year’s salary, and pour it over the head and feet of Christ.
What did she know that today’s Christians, me included, miss?
I think that answer lies in where she looked. She kept her eyes trained on Jesus, refusing to look at her own moral standing and flaws. It’s not that she wasn’t aware of them – that’s the very reason she loved Jesus so much. But she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the laws she had broken and the time she hadn’t spent loving him. She was too caught up in his face to notice anything about herself.
When I approach God on Sunday mornings, I must admit that my heart drags its feet, coming with eyes downcast. What I consider most often are the ways I fail—how I didn’t read my Bible enough or I wasn’t patient or loving or whatever enough. And yet, my focus is still on… me.
The woman with the alabaster jar died to herself long before she entered that dining room. She had denied herself and decided to focus only on Jesus. Her self faded into the background as focused on delighting in her Lord. She was one of the first people to understand what it meant to take up the cross and follow Jesus. For that, Jesus promised that her story would be told “wherever this gospel is heard.” That’s faith worth remembering.
Eating with Tax Collectors and Sinners
Scripture Reading — Mark 2:13-17
Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. — Mark 2:15
Tax collectors in those days were often despised because they overcharged people and kept some of the tax money for themselves. As a result, many tax collectors grew rich at the expense of others. And if you associated with a tax collector, you would be at risk of being despised as well.
When Jesus was seen eating with the tax collector Levi and his associates, the local religious leaders asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The question is clearly meant as a criticism of Jesus, but it can be a good question for us to wonder about. After all, was it wrong to be concerned that Jesus might be influenced by such corrupt people as tax collectors and the sinners they hung around with?
Well, maybe we need to think about this a different way. Can we assume that Jesus knew what he was doing? Can we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, loved Levi and wanted to become a part of his life and to show him what full life was about? Jesus makes clear that he is not afraid of being defiled by sin, and he is on task with “infecting” sinners with a call to discipleship! He also states that his purpose is to call sinners, so this is exactly where we should expect to see him!
Can you picture Jesus being interested and comfortable in coming to eat with you?
Dear Lord, thank you for coming into my life and meeting me where I live. And may I be glad to welcome you! Thank you for calling me to follow you. Amen.
“Jacob saw Esau coming with his four hundred men … Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.” – Genesis 33:1, 4 NLT
Jacob had every reason to be apprehensive. Years earlier, he had stolen the birthright of his brother, Esau, and taken away his blessing. As a result, Esau sought to take Jacob’s life, forcing him to flee to a distant land.
Years later as Jacob returned home, he was filled with anxiety and fear and made elaborate preparations to be ready for Esau’s reaction. But when these two brothers met, all the animosity and anger seemed to have disappeared. The bitter memories seemed forgotten. Both were in tears as they embraced. No matter what had happened in the past, they were restored.
How easily we can allow wounds of words and actions to fester! Over the years, emotions can grip our lives and poison our hearts and minds. The Bible tells us that God wants us to be reconciled with others. He wants us to live in harmony and peace and realize that He can help set us free.
Jesus even taught that before bringing our gifts and approaching Him in prayer, we need to be reconciled to our brother (Matthew 5:23-24).
Ask God to show you if there are people with whom you need to be reconciled – perhaps an old friend, a relative, someone at your work or church. Remember, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). May this be a day of reconciliation and forgiveness!