Archive | June 2015

The Alabaster Box

Mark 14:3 – “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.”

Luke 7:37,38 – “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

John 12:2,3 – “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”

Ok, now let me explain why I have printed one account in three different places. 1. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1b) 2. I wanted you to see who the woman was. 3. I wanted you to see how much her Savior meant to her. 

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were some of Jesus’ closest friends while here on earth. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried. He cared so much for these three. And the feelings were reciprocated. They thought a lot of Jesus as well. So it wasn’t unusual for them to have the desire to do something special for Jesus after Lazarus’s ressurection. They prepared a meal. It was at someone else’s home, but nonetheless, they hosted it. 

And then Mary comes in with her alabaster box. Now, I want to share something with you about that box. The ointment inside that box cost about a year’s worth of wages. Think about that for a minute – would you take one year of your salary and buy something? This was probably part of her dowry or something like a life’s savings item. This was costly and this was precious to Mary. Yet, here we see her opening the box and pouring its contents on her Savior and then washing His feet with her tears and her hair – a very tender and precious moment to say the least. 

The point I want to make here is that Mary gave up something very precious to her. She surrendered something very close to her for the sake of her Savior. Jesus did not ask her to do this. Jesus did not require her to do this. Mary did this because she loved Jesus. She wanted to show her gratitude and appreciation for all that He had done for her and all He would do for her. 

We all have things in our life that are precious to us – our family, our home, our dreams, our jobs, our church –  I could go on forever. But what is Jesus laying upon your heart to turn over to Him? What is in your life that you consider more precious than Him? Now, don’t be fooled, we all have things that we set up before Christ.  We shouldn’t, but we do. Jesus isn’t going to require you to give up this thing. He isn’t going to scold or guilt you into surrendering it. But He does ask that you put Him first in all you do, in all you think and in all you care for.

Sometimes  surrendering this alabaster box is the hardest thing you will ever do. It is saying that you will give the box to Him to do with it what He chooses. You give up control of the box. This box that you have worked so hard for. This box that you have sacrificed so much for. This is the box He wants you to entrust to Him. This is the action that shows that you truly trust Him to take care of it all. 

So, friend, what’s in your box? 

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Crossroads

Jeremiah 6:16a – “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

A crossroad. We come to them all the time and rarely acknowledge their existence. And also just as rare are the times when we ask for direction. “I got this. I know where I’m going.” And then, wham! Brick wall!

Yesterday, I was doing some cleaning and straightening of my house. I had my arms loaded and hit the light switch with my elbow and it sparked! Freak out mode! I needed to take my son to soccer and daughter was still upstairs asleep. I didn’t want to leave her at home and the house burn down. I’m checking the wall for heat and doing all this stuff to determine the safety level. I have a friend who is an electrician, so I text him and ask him some questions. He reassures me all is fine and tells me what to do. I safely leave the house, praying the whole time I’m gone and return to find my house still intact and my daughter up making breakfast. 

I had just visited a crossroad. I had a choice to make – go at it the way I thought best or reach out and find someone who knew more about the situation than me. I was looking for an old way, a more experienced way, a more reliable way. 

Too often, we don’t seek out an old way. We think newer is better, right? Not always. Sometimes the old worn paths are the most beautiful and most reliable. When we were in Kauai, we went hiking. It was a two mile hike around a mountain. There was an old worn path that was safe and secure. But there were, occasionally, a “new path” that seemed a bit more precarious. This “new path” was a short cut, a sometimes dangerous and steep short cut, that seemed to lead more down the mountain than I was comfortable with. We stayed on the old path. And you know what? We got to our destination safe and sound. Sure we could have shaved off a few steps by trekking the new path, but we determined that it was not worth the risk. 

Life is an adventure that has many opportunities. We are able to choose new paths or stick to the old ones. Sometimes the new path is the way to go because the old path has fallen apart. But sometimes the old path is the right way to go because the new one is just too dangerous. How do you know the difference? You have to look at the map – that means read your Bible, FYI. God has given us the perfect road map but it does you no good if you don’t look at and/or listen to it. Just like your GPS is useless until you turn it on, your Bible is useless unless you pick it up and engage in it. 

You are going to face crossroads every day. You need to know which path to take. Let me encourage you today to get into the RoadMap. Seek out the answers and be willing to hear them. If you are a follower of Christ, you are on your way Home. The scenery you take in along the way is totally up to you – will you follow Him or try your hand blazing your own path?

A lesson from the porch

Exodus 6:6-9 – “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD. And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.”

This morning, as I was sitting studying for my ladies’ meeting lesson, I heard the birds chirping outside. God was calling me outside for a little time of peace. 

As I sat out on my porch listening to the birds waking up, the bugs singing their last night song, the rooster crowing and watching the first light of dawn color the horizon, I remembered – if God can set all of this in motion, if He can color the sky and cause the animals to praise Him, why do I have such a hard time trusting Him? I have all of His promises right at my fingertips. I have His complete Word ready for my consumption. I can look out my window and observe His handiwork in creation. I can see His hand holding it all together. Why do I not let Him hold me together? All I can see is my problems, my frustrations.  Why do I feel that I need to have it all under control? Why can’t I just let Him lead me?

I’m not the first person to experience this. The children of Israel were experts in this. They too had the promises of God. But all they could see was their bondage. Moses tried to remind them. He tried to remind them that God would take care of all these things that were weighing them down. They just had to trust Him. They just had to follow Him. But they could see no way out. They were even scared to take the first step. I can’t imagine how they felt when they finally got to leave bondage only to come to that seemingly impassable sea. They were trapped. And they forgot God’s promises in that moment. I am so like them sometimes it scares me. 

God showed them that if He brings them to it, He will bring them through it. He used Moses to part the Red Sea and those forgetful people walked through on dry land. 

He also promised to bring them to their own land – a beautiful land flowing with milk and honey. He brought them through so much just to get them there. And then, just like me, they forgot, again – again and again and again, they forgot. 

So let me encourage you today to remember. Remember that if God is going to bring you to something difficult and seemingly impassable, He will bring you through it. Sometimes you just need to sit on your porch and be reminded that He is God. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

Testing versus Tempting

James 1:12-17 – “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Does God tempt us? In Genesis 22:1 it says, “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.” However, the word “tempt” here does not mean what you think it does – it actually means “to test or try” in the original language. Don’t believe me? Look it up. I use the Strong’s Dictionary and concordance app all the time. It is a reliable source, trusted by thousands. 

Anyway, in these verses in James, we learn that God cannot tempt us because tempting can lead to evil. God test us. He tries us. Just like when a metal worker wants to purify the metal he is working with, he puts it into fire. The fire drives out all the impurities. What is left is stronger and ready to be molded into whatever the metalsmith desires. Sometimes God has to put us in the fire to purify us and make us stronger. He has to remove all the problems and sins that keep us from serving Him purely and righteously. And being purified hurts soemtimes. It is no fun. But the alternative is even worse – separation from Him. You see, God wants to mold us and make us into His beautiful creation, but we allow other things to get in the way. Oh, God can use those other things in one way or another, but sometimes He chooses to get rid of them to make us into His ultimate design, not our own. 

And when He is finished, we are transformed into something amazing. We are made into a new gift for the world. A gift that has the potential to transform others and bring Him even more honor and glory.

So this week when you are going through the fire, when it’s all hitting the fan, when things can’t possibly get any worse, just remember – fire is for purifying. He is making you into something new. You need to determine if what you are going through is because of sin (temptation) or because of purifying (testing). And the only way you can determine that is to talk to Jesus. He has all the answers. He will let you know if you are facing the choice of sin or if you are being encouraged to become more pure for Him to work in your life. Growth is hard. Growth is sometimes painful. Growth is challenging. But growth is worth it. 

Spontaneous Praise

John 12:12,13 – “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

When was the last time you did something spontaneous? I mean, totally and completely out of the blue?

I remember one day, my kids and I were sitting in the allergist’s office waiting for something when this little boy broke out into dance. I mean, no music was playing. No one was humming. No sound except hushed speaking. And here was this little three to four year old tearing up his own dance floor. It was hysterical! And when he saw that others were watching, he stopped. He was afraid someone was laughing at him. And we were, but not for the reason he thought. I was enjoying his spontaneity and spunk. 

In the passage today, people had gathered at Jerusalem for the beginning of Passover. And here comes Jesus. All they could do was spontaneously praise Him. Jesus had even said that if they stopped that the rocks would cry out. Now, wouldn’t that be something? Yet, these people were filled with spontaneous praise to the Savior. How awesome is that!

But how often do we squash that moment of spontaneous praise in our own life? How many times are we just like the little boy and look around and become embarrassed that someone might be watching, might be judging? Shouldn’t we praise Him anyway? What would happen if the praise due God was neglected by us and all of the sudden the rocks started praising God? Would that get our attention? Would that make us stand up and praise Him?

I want to challenge you today to look for any and all opportunities to praise Him, even the smallest of the small things. Maybe you are hungry for eggs and you thought you were out but you look anyway and find just enough to have a yummy bowl of scrambled eggs. Praise Him! He knew you would want them and needed them. Praise Him for providing. Maybe you are rushing out the door and find yourself five minutes late only to discover that if you had been five minutes earlier you could have been in an accident. Praise Him! He kept you from an accident just by creating a little havoc at home. And tell others. That is the key. Let everyone you come in contact with know what He has done for you today. Yes, it will seem awkward at first but you will get over it. Doesn’t He deserve your praise no matter what?

Spontaneous praise is an action we need to be more familiar with. It should be something that we incorporate into every breath. You see, He is worthy, and we neglect to recognize that beautiful fact more often than not. So, let today be a new day. Let today be the day it all changes and you beat the rocks! Don’t let them praise Him before you do!

Perspective and Regret

John 12:16 – “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.”

Perspective. It’s something that we all could stand more of. We are a “shoot from the hip” kind of society. Too often, we react rather than taking a few moments to reflect. 

But this isn’t just a problem plaguing our generation. The disciples of Jesus had the same problem.  They had been traveling with, listening to and experiencing Jesus for about three years. They had seen His miracles. They had heard His teachings. They had seen His humbleness and gentleness. Yet, they didn’t fully get it until He had left. That was when they had time to stop and think. 

I am just as bad. Monday morning was a crazy morning. Things were not going at all like I had planned. And to top it all off, I sent my daughter to cheer camp for the first time. Away camp. And I wouldn’t see her for three days. Now, reflecting back on the day, I wish I had hugged her more and talked with her more and listened to more of her excitement. I got so caught up in all the things that I had to do that I didn’t appreciate the little things. 

I fear that too often this is exactly what we feel on a daily basis – regret. I’m sure the disciples experienced a certain level of regret as they looked back on Jesus’s ministry. They probably wished they had listened better and asked more questions. They probably wished they had not fallen asleep in the Garden when Jesus asked them to pray. Peter probably wished he could go back and do the whole trial thing again just so that he wouldn’t deny Christ like he had. But the past is in the past and all we can do is learn from it. 

So let me encourage you today to think. Think more about what is going on. Appreciate the little things a little more. Do less reacting and more reflecting. You see, we only get one shot at this life. Don’t waste a single moment. 

Footsteps

 
1 Peter 2:21-24 – “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

We sang this song yesterday at church. I have sang it a million times but this time, the words sort of popped off the page. It was the chorus that got me – “Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow. We will follow the steps of Jesus where ere they go.”

I remember as a kid walking in my parents footsteps, whether it be through the snow, sand or mud. Following their path made mine a whole lot easier. They had already forged the way. 

The same thing is supposed to happen with our Heavenly Father. We are supposed to walk His path. See, He has already forged the way. He has already walked the path. He knows all the pitfalls. He has made His steps clear and plain. All we have to do is follow after Him. Sounds easy, right? But we all know that is not always the case. Sometimes His footsteps lead up steep mountains that have sharp, jagged rocks. Sometimes His footsteps lead through dark valleys where the only way to get through is by seeing His footsteps glowing with the Light of His love. And sometimes His footsteps lead beside a quiet brook where you just want to lay down and stay there forever but something inside of you says that you have to keep moving. 

His footsteps never lead you anywhere that you aren’t supposed to go. There may be something you need to learn, something you need to see or someone you need to comfort. And if you keep following those footsteps, one day they will lead you to the Gates of Heaven where He will be there waiting for you. 

This picture that I took is from an old hymnal at my church. You see, we are a church in the middle of a swamp with a bunch of good people just serving the Lord and holding fast to His promises. We sing the old songs. We read the King James Version of the Bible. We baptize completely under the water. And we love each other fiercely. I guess you could call us an “old fashion” church. But that’s okay. You see, we are following the “Footsteps of Jesus.”