Extravagant – Shameless – Sacrificial Worship


We are told that a woman’s hair is her covering and her glory. Her covering was a sign of authority protecting her and her glory was a means of grace given to uphold her dignity.  When Mary poured the very expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet she also wiped his feet with her hair – her covering – her glory.

The perfume was a foreshadowing of the impending sacrifice Jesus was to make for all mankind; but Mary’s hair has great significance to her own worship of the Savior. Take notice in this story: the busy, the risen, the followers and even Satan were among the group. All were at Lazarus’s house: Martha serving, Lazarus whom Jesus just raised from the dead, the disciples, and Judas were at the home about to have dinner and Mary bends to pour perfume upon Jesus’s feet wiping his them with her hair.

In the midst of busy preparations, did this interrupt Mary’s worship? No. In the face of accusations, did Mary stop her undignified humility? No. In the midst of men watching her shamelessly use her glory to adore her Savior, did this stop her? No. I don’t think Mary cared one bit that anyone was in the room. All Mary wanted to do was be at the Lord’s feet (This was her often posture when it came to being with Jesus).  She had no concern for the company in keeping. She had one focus – Jesus! What seemed undignified to others was her great dignity. For the sharing of her glory was the upholding of Jesus’s deity. In the hands of the God of the universe, what could compare to any other covering?

Mary gave herself extravagantly.

Mary gave herself shamelessly.

Mary gave herself sacrificially.

In our worship gatherings at church, we often give into the busy, the risen, the followers and even Satan. Don’t think that he is not among us in our worship. We may see these four in our midst when we are too busy, or we are more focused on the outcome of our worship than the devotion of it; maybe we concern ourselves with the others in our midst thinking “What will they think if I become undignified?” Sadly, we may very well give into the accusations of Satan as he ridicules and makes sport of the form we have chosen to worship the Savior by. Free yourself from these four!

May we become more like Mary; ignore the distractions and focus solely on our Savior, so that from all of us together we will flood heaven with the waters of our undignified love for Jesus! ID-100657

Related passages: 1 Corinthians 11:15; John 12:1-11

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Advertisements

40 Days of Parenting Lessons – Day 6 – Links of Faith


When raising children we are to nurture their physical, emotional and spiritual needs; to be successful in this, it’s important to know their condition and give them specific attention needed to help them grow to their best abilities. Solomon reminds us “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, and give careful attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). But the wise Solomon does not end with verse 23 when speaking about this very important practice of knowing and giving careful attention. He continues with why this is so important.

ID-10073599

He continues in verse 24 “…riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations…” Relating this truth to raising children, it’s also important to note: our time to mold and nurture our children’s faith is on a time-table. It’s not forever. It’s been said that by age 7, children have fully formed their personality. Likewise, spiritually speaking their teachable spirits become less teachable by age 13 (or even younger). We have limited time to impact a child that will direct the rest of their life for the Lord.

 Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, Solomon prophecies a future for us, if we take the time to know our children and give them the careful attention needed, When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants” (Proverbs 27:25-27). If we develop the faith of our children daily through reading the Bible, talking about Jesus, pointing them to God’s power, relating to them spiritually, and consistent church attendance, they will produce new growth. They will be gatherers not consumers. They will be the ones reaching out to others and even to us. They will bless our society with the love of God and they will enrich our family. They will provide milk for the beginners and meat for the seasoned. They will impact not retract.

The question for us is this, “How do I know the condition of our children, so we can give them careful attention?”

Children, teens and adults go through different stages of faith. Yes, I did say children, too. It begins with them. Even infants are born spiritual learners. We are each born with 100% ability to have faith in God. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “…that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children” (Mark 10:14). And what avails us heaven? Faith in Jesus! Watch the links of faith a child moves through:

The Pre-faith stage is for babies to 2 year olds: In the first link, children know God by how their parents and caregivers care for them. Faith for this child is feeling. All the senses help them learn and grow. They encounter God through their parents and those who care for them at church. If you are a harsh neglectful parent (or caregiver), they will see God that way. If you are a loving, sensitive and involved parent (or caregiver), they will experience God just the same.

A child ages 3-7 years old is in the Fantasy Stage. In the second link, children believe that everything they hear and see is truth. This is why it is so important to tell them the truth and leave the fantasy and abstract to their older years. They have a very hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy. They also learn to act as Christ did by mimicking the adults in their life. We can learn much from this age group; they teach us to believe with 100% faith in the power of God. Focus on the scriptures stories that show God’s power, and make sure you are modeling the Lord’s behavior. They encounter God by the reflection of their parents and their teacher’s instruction and behavior.

A child ages 8-12 years old is in the Formation Stage. In the third link, a child’s faith gets more personal. At this stage, children are ripe for making a firm commitment to Christ. Children become peer-conscious and are very interested in the interrelationships found in the stories of the Bible. Focus on those relationships and then relate them to their personal relationships.  They want to know and can understand the spiritual disciplines, like regular Bible study, prayer, worship, communion, baptism and consistent church attendance. They encounter God as a family concept. This is why regular church attendance is so critical. It feeds their need for belonging and sets the stage for the kind of friendships they need in order to stand firm in their faith when they enter the teen years.

We have heard the sad report that young adults are walking away from church and their faith. We ask, “Why?”  I would challenge parents to go back a bit farther in these young adults upbringing. What link broke in their faith stage? Since consistency is vital to a child’s ability to learn and grow spiritually, we must heed this caution: it is often at the formation stage that children’s attendance to church becomes sporadic; this behavior teaches our children that church attendance is not a necessary discipline. Yet, doesn’t the writer of Hebrews tell us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…” (Hebrews 10:25). In addition to this problem we find that sports, extra-curricular activities, and academics replace the disciplines of the faith. The complaint most parents have is they just don’t have time. This is a true statement. But the better question is “What can be done, so time is available?”

It’s at the formation stage I believe that children begin to walk away from church and eventually away from God. Their young faith at age 2 or age 7 will not withstand the challenges these children will face in their teen years. Their faith is weak; when they go off to college they are easily enticed by all the other ideas and philosophies. A weak faith makes room for seducing temptations.

So, I challenge parents today – do not break the links of faith – be consistent at church attendance and the spiritual disciplines. You will regret it if you are not. Let me ask you, “What kind of academic education would your child perfect if they went to school sporadically and completed their homework sometimes?” I think we would agree their education would suffer. It is the same with their spiritual education. If you attend church sporadically, talk about God and read the Bible sometimes, their spiritual education will suffer greatly, and worse than this, your children will abandon their faith. They are wide open for the evil one’s attack. A life without faith in God is a life full of darkness and sin. There is no in between. If you are going to cut something from your busy life, do not cut church and the spiritual disciplines that feed your child’s eternity. Cut extra-curricular activities or slim it down. Have the courage to make the hard choices, so your children will develop a thick strong faith that keeps their light burning and can advance against a troop of temptations that they will face in the teen and adult years ahead.

The Duty of All Mankind


Many books have been written; many people have something to say, tweet or teach. The list of topics to learn is endless. This reminds me of a wise saying by Solomon, “…of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body…” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

ID-100203737Image courtesy of Supertrooper / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Much knowledge is presented to us every day;  it’s been said that over 3000 advertisements assault people daily – each tempting us to spend money, read this book, blog, post or article, watch this T.V. show or movie, go to this event and give to this charity. It goes on and on and on. At one point we were living in the information age, now we are living in a knowledge overload age. I would agree with Solomon, much study wearies the body.

Do you know what weary means? It means to be fatigued and drained.  Knowledge overload is exhausting and drains one’s mind and their body. When our fatigue hits our mind and body it often reveals itself in lethargy, anger, depression, and anxiety. The unknowing of what to do replaces the overload of information. “What do I choose? How do I live? What direction do I take? I feel confused” are some of the many self-talks an overloaded person says to themselves.

That is why Solomon narrows our focus down to one specific duty: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion to the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). When a person heeds this duty they will learn that revering God’s authority and obeying His word will bring him no harm only peace; they will become wise –   knowing the proper time and procedure for their life.

My friends, whittle away all the overload of information today; stay steadfast in God’s word – I promise you – you will rest in His peace, not as the world gives, but peace that can only come from God’s rich heavenly treasures.

Turning Hopes into Wings


“A heart at peace gives life to the body” (Proverbs 14:30).

Notice what the wise saying of Proverbs states, it’s a heart at peace, not a world at peace. Turmoil can be our ever constant surroundings, but peace can also be our ever constant core. As long as Jesus is the center of our heart, we can count on His promise to us, “And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 b). This promise that Jesus gives us means we have all power and authority on our side.

There is no problem, no issue in life, and no circumstance that He cannot solve, settle, or sever. Our struggles may look like Goliath, but we are a replica of David who fights the battle because every battle is the Lord’s. The battles in life are not ours to own, they are only opportunities for us to see God’s glory revealed.

There is only a future of peace for those who live a life in total awe and fear of the Lord. Our hope is not cut off; we can rest assured that God will direct our path in the right way. From the left, to the right, from behind and in front, we will hear His voice coaxing, prompting and leading us in every step. Our job is to trust Him, not envy others and not fret because of our circumstances.

Faith = peace when we believe the promise that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

A strong faith is life to the body. The word life in our Proverb means to revive, sustain, and quicken. Death is the opposite of these three and death comes upon us when we lack the faith in the One and Only Power offered to us.

Life can certainly heave its blows, but faith in our God can revive us from them. Circumstances can sap us of life-giving nourishment, but faith in our God sustains us through these hard times. Sluggishness can dampen our stride when stress lays heavy on our shoulders, but faith in our God quickens our ability to progress and move forward. Faith is the most important aspect of our life on earth, for it allows our heart to be in total peace. Without faith we die a zombie death – we live, yet only as the walking dead.

My friends see every darkened path as an opportunity to have more faith in our God. Watch His power turn your darkness into light and your hopes into wings.

ID-10010157Image courtesy of Jeff Ratcliff / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ceasing to Pray is a Sin


“Ceasing to pray is a sin against God” writes Andrew Murray. He is not the only one who said this. Samuel, a great prophet of Israel said to God’s people, “…far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).

ID-10075996 (1)David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Taking the time to pray ushers us into God’s presence. And praying for others is a beautiful gift we can give to them, as we have opportunity to bring them with us in God’s presence. Our souls have need to be with God. We should hunger for Him. Why would we not want to be with Him? If we could only understand what experiences lay ahead of us in prayer, we would never ignore this opportunity!

In God’s presence we…

  • do not fear
  • are fully loved
  • embrace passion
  • take hold of vision
  • are counseled with direction
  • overflow with peace in our hearts
  • are blessed with His grace that is unmeasured
  • find forgiveness
  • are granted a new start when we fail
  • discover revelation and insight into His great truth
  • silence the evil one’s attacks
  • gain strength to not sin

The blessings that come from being in His presence are endless. It’s hard to describe, but I will try…

Samuel gives his farewell speech to the Israelites in 1 Samuel 12. In the midst of his speech, he tells them to stand still and see this great thing that the Lord is about to do before their eyes! It was harvest time and Samuel called to the Lord and asked Him to send thunder and rain. When days of drought and dryness fill a life, the rain drenches the spirit with comfort and the thunder drums a new song to the soul. Likewise, in God’s presence we become wrapped in His great power. From this great power our prayers are not only heard but they become oil and light that explodes the prayers with answers! And we are in total AWE…

The lack of prayer in our life not only causes us to miss God’s presence, it’s a sin against Him. A person who runs from prayer is like Adam and Eve running from God in the garden after they sinned. (I have often wondered if Adam and Eve had approached God prayerfully with the serpents temptation before giving in, if they would have still sinned?)  But they did not, and after their sin God pursued them, but they hid. He wanted relationship, but they wanted obscurity. Fear was their presence, when all along, Grace was calling them, “Where are you?” Is God asking you this question today? Is he asking you to spend time with Him in His presence? “Where are you? He says. “I’m waiting to be with you.  Come away with me.”

Murray says that to have a prayerless life means to “have little taste for fellowship with God. Our faith rests more on our own work than on the power of God.” Sadly, our flesh is useless without prayer, for the flesh counts for nothing and is limited by the impairments of sin and aging matter. However, prayer sets aside our limitations and our aging matter; once set aside, prayer weds us with the One True God. In our posture of prayer we become One with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we actually have opportunity to reunite all three with us in their midst. How is that not powerful? How is that not intriguing?

Prayer is expressed in many forms. We can talk to God, we can worship God in song, we can dance with thanksgiving in His presence, we can pray His word back to Him, admire His creation, and we can sit still before him and listen to His thoughts speak to us.  Being still and silent is one my favorites, as it forces me to stop my life and listen. But all forms are a wonderful way to pray to our Great God.

Take the time to pray today. Remove all distractions, be still and literally KNOW God deep in the core of your being!

40 Days of Parenting Lessons – Day Five


When our children were young, they asked us to read over and over the children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. This book is for ages 4 to 8 years old, but our children wanted it read to them far beyond this age. We have kept our copy (which is falling apart from so much use) so we can read it to our grandchildren one day.

One of the things I liked to do with children’s books and novels was tie the message of the book to a principle and/or promise found in the Bible. This made the book even more memorable and a wonderful way to have devotions with our children.

Reading Books With Children (Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is about a family going on a bear hunt. (Imagine that!) It is a hard journey for them; they meet all sorts of obstacles along the way. At each encounter they realize that they can’t go over it and they can’t go under it, instead they have to go through it.

Likewise, we often hit many obstacles in our life as a Christian. What was a cold river in the book is often a cold spell in our relationships with others; or what was a mud pit is like a sticky situation we face. Oh and then the forest, the big, dark forest. How many times have we faced dark evil times in our lives where the darkness seems to conquer the light? We stumble and trip and we often get caught in the throes of life feeling hopeless; but regardless of how gloomy and narrow the situation seems we can count on God being with us. He usually never allows us to go over or around our difficulties, but he promises to walk with us as we travel through them.

There is no place God cannot be. And there is no difficulty He cannot conquer. For “Where can we go from His Spirit? Where can we flee from His presence? If we go up to the heavens, God is there; if we make our bed in the depths, He is there also. If we rise on the wings of the dawn, if we settle on the far side of the sea, even there God’s hand will guide us, His right hand will hold us fast (in other words He will help us through it.) If we say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide us and the light becomes night around us,’ even the darkness will not be dark to God; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to God” (Psalm 139:7-12 pronouns adjusted). The Lord is our home base, the safe place we run to; where we find security, hope and peace.

Use wonderful stories like these to teach spiritual truths to your children. They enlighten the mind, the heart and their little souls.

40 Days of Parenting Lessons – Day Four


“God tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).

We live in a harsh hurried culture that often does not gently lead those that are young. It takes understanding the limits and abilities of our little ones in the family to slow down and be patient with their pace.

Jacob traveled a long journey with his family to meet his brother Esau whom he had been estranged from for years. The reconciliation between the two brothers caused a great desire to reunite and journey back to Esau’s home. But the journey had already been far too long for Jacob’s children and the young animals with him. Setting aside his enthusiasm to reunite with his brother he said to Esau, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir” (Genesis 33:13-14). Jacob understood the tender age of his children and the condition of his flock. He decided to go at the pace of the young instead of pushing them forward at the pace of the elders.

How often do your children hear you say the word “Hurry”? Do we consider their pace before our own? If we drive our children beyond their capabilities and push them too hard we will meet rebellion, distrust and death in our relationship with them.  I can remember a time when my daughter was quite ill and I so wanted her well. I wanted her healing to come quickly, but God wanted me to be patient. I had a choice: to walk at her pace or push her at mine. I chose to walk with her; the time it took to walk with her actually was to my blessing as it created time to know and grow with her. God developed a close indestructible bond between us – we went from just being mother and daughter to becoming sisters in Christ.

Wait with your child. Walk with them. Not only will your child grow according to the design the Father has set for them, you will grow a relationship with your child that God had already purposed for you both. We serve a patient God who walks with us, so why not model our parenting after His ways. Parent your children with the same character of our God. Parenting is a process of cultivating relationships not a project of producing adults.