Alabaster Offering

The woman came to Jesus repentant, broken as her alabaster jar. Luke, chapter 7, reveals that she had lead a “sinful life”…haven’t we all? She came to Jesus weeping, bringing what was likely her most expensive possession, her alabaster jar of perfume, seeking compassion and forgiveness. She came to the right One.

She poured the fragrant contents of her broken jar upon Jesus head and fell to His feet weeping. The scent must have overwhelmed the room. It certainly got the attention of many at the table. Mark, chapter 14, tells of the crowds indignant chatter as they questioned her wastefulness…”why this waste of perfume?”. False assumptions and shame followed…“It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” She must not care about the poor…you can almost hear the pride swelling behind these statements, as if they would NEVER have done such an irresponsible thing. The final punch…”they rebuked her harshly.” Talk about some serious bullies. These bullies didn’t even care that the Teacher was in the room. They did all of this in front of Jesus! Can you imagine? Unfortunately, I can.

There have been times I’ve poured myself out for God, sharing vulnerably, encouraging people, giving of myself until I had nothing left, only to be falsely accused, misunderstood and taken for granted. Such is the life of a Jesus follower. There’s nothing quite like having a brother or sister in the faith emotionally wound you, especially when they group together. Yes, bullies are in the church too, BUT so is Jesus.

Jesus, with His lazer beam focus, looks straight at the heart of the alabaster lady and looks at the crowd gathered. He cuts through all of their pretense, manipulation, greed and what I perceive as jealousy of this humble woman. Maybe they were jealous that they didn’t think of doing something so thoughtful and heart felt for Jesus? Maybe they were annoyed at the ease with which Jesus accepted her….shouldn’t she be ashamed of herself? Who does she think she is….I mean, she’s not part of their “inner circle”, yet she was exactly where Jesus wanted her.

Jesus quiets the room. “Leave her alone.” She is with Him and nobody is going to talk smack about His daughter. He calls out their hidden agendas. “”Why are you bothering her?” And by the way, you do know you can help the poor anytime you want, right? While helping the poor is a good thing, what this woman does is more urgent. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” I love that He says, “she did what she could.” She had a jar of perfume and in that moment what she could do was sacrifice it for the One that would sacrifice everything for her, for you, for me and for all. Her action demonstrated the condition of her heart. Yes, she was broken, but that brokenness lead her to Jesus.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.~Psalm 147:3

She did what she could do in her brokenness, despite the judgmental murmurs of those present. It was a risk and I’m sure it hurt her feelings, but it was worth it. Approaching Jesus will always lead to grace, forgiveness and restoration. He’s in the healing business and He’s masterful at mending broken hearts…they are the easiest to reshape. A prideful heart becomes like stone, un-moldable. Remember, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, not our pride. What’s the condition of your heart?

2 Cor.12:9~But he said to me, “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.

She brought her perfume. What can you do, or what can you bring to Jesus today? Maybe your offering is just a broken heart, wounded by people and trials of life. He alone can restore what people have broken in you. Maybe, like her, you feel judged, accused and exposed…He sees you as blemish free, beautiful and whole in Him. Keep going to Him to find rest and renewal. He will quiet the bullies and strengthen you to rise above.

Do what you can to love God and love people, regardless if people love you back. You and I have been given gifts to be used for Him. Use them for His glory. You can expect people will challenge your motives, make assumptions, and even accuse. That’s ok. Pour out what you have for Jesus and He will defend You. Remember His words to this crowd and know He is saying them for you too, “Leave her/him alone.” He’s got your back and one day there will be an account for all things. If God is for you, who can be against you?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for how graciously you receive us, even when we are at our worst. Your love restores us to wholeness as we put our trust in You. Help us seek You first in every situation so that we are empowered by You, not being lead by our feelings. Emotions ebb and flow, but You are consistent in love, grace and forgiveness. Help us speak and behave in ways that reflect Your goodness. You are so good to us. In Jesus name, Amen

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Reconciled

 

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—”Colossians‬ ‭1:21-22‬ ‭

Ever been estranged from someone? It’s defined as “no longer close or affectionate to someone; alienated.” Its a tearing, a breaking apart of a relationship. What once brought comfort and companionship now leaves an ache, disillusionment and scars. I’ve experienced my share of estrangement from people…good people, that I called friends. Rejection stinks. The pain can be intense, as though someone has died, only they didn’t. They chose to be removed, alienated, from me….ouch. That leaves a deep mark, but I know a healer that restores all wounds, making right what has been wronged and so hope remains.

Jesus came to restore, reconciling us to the Father. Before our surrender to Him, we are estranged, whether we know it or not. Somewhere deep down we know. There’s something missing; a deep hole, unfillable and unquenchable. We are driven to fill it, to ease the ache it causes.

What have you struggled with all of your life? Those struggles are inevitably related to the ache, the separation…the alienation. The longing becomes a bottomless crater of chaos…alcohol, drugs, sex, pride, unhealthy relationships, gossip, materialism, people pleasing, self centeredness, anger…the pit gets darker and deeper depending on the person.

The chasm that alienated us from our Heavenly Father was so overwhelming it required a sacrifice. God willingly paid it in the form of His son. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do to be reconciled to His children.

He didn’t want heaven without us. So Jesus, You brought heaven down.” (Hillsong United)

From the moment His blood was shed to His triumphant resurrection, reconciliation became possible for all people. As we receive and invite Him into the caverns of chaos we create, He delivers us from all of it. Imagine Him lighting a match and burning the infectious treasures, refining us so that we are blemish free. That is how He sees us. There are no longer empty craters and caverns in the heart because His love becomes a fountain of life, filling us again and again, continually replenishing and restoring.

We will never be perfect. He alone has that right, but we are whole, fully loved, reconciled, forgiven, and free.
No one, not even you, determine your worth friends. Jesus bought you at the ultimate price. He considers you priceless. If people have told you you’re worthless, He begs to differ. If you’ve believed you’re not good enough, He disagrees. If you’ve been estranged by others, and you’re left with wounds of rejection, He heals the broken hearted. Pray for those that left you and even those that persecuted you. They have their own deep caverns of chaos that only Jesus can heal…we are not responsible for other people’s sin, but while on this earth, we suffer its consequences. If you are entrenched in sinful patterns trying to alleviate the ache of emptiness, invite Jesus in. Only He can restore the deepest, darkest pain. Let Him clean out the wounds, so He can fill them with His love and grace. Nothing and no one else can complete You like He can. Invite Him in to the chaos. He won’t be shocked by what He already sees. Instead He will love You fully, until you are mended and free.

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. He is RISEN and we have been reconciled. There is hope!

Prayer: Father God, You are so incredibly good to us. Thank You for the gift of Jesus, which restores and reconciles us to You. Search our hearts. Enter into any places that we’ve tried to keep hidden, holding on to infectious ways, believing it helps us feel better, while it secretly destroys. You are the source of everything good and all that we need. May we grab hold of that truth today and begin the process of “cleaning house” and restoration. Help our hearts to be attuned to You so that we understand our value in You and walk in confidence as heirs to a King. Thank You for seeing us blemish free. Your grace astounds us…help us walk in it and offer it to all we encounter. In Jesus name, Amen

Wrong Rights

I LOVE peanut M&M’s. They bring delight to my tastebuds and they are colorful morsels of happiness. On a bad day, like tax preparation day, I have my yellow bag on standby.😉 Now, I know they are not good for me. In fact, there have been articles written about the health hazards of eating to many. Occasionally, I have justified my indulgence by thinking, well, they have peanuts in them, and that’s a protein. Since protein is good for me, I can eat what I want. You could say, it is my right to eat peanut M&M’s, all day, every day, should I choose to.

The interesting thing about “rights” is they can be so very wrong. My body would revolt after awhile, if I chose only to partake in my little round, happy, chocolates. While they do contain  protein, they also have lots of ingredients that I can’t even pronounce; some of which have been linked to cancer.😳 I’ve considered laying down my rights to M&M’s altogether because of the health risks, but I’m a work in progress. 😉

In recent news and social media I have heard a lot about “rights”; women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, African American rights, rights to guns, rights of free speech, rights to protest….the list goes on and on. Many of my Christian friends have participated in discussions about “rights”, which has caused me to pray and seek Jesus and His perspective.

In reality, there is a peanut of truth to the discussions about rights.  These discussions are labeled as rights, but I think the desire behind the dialogue is more about value.  Do we all have equal value?  The answer is a resounding YES.  Jesus is about equality of all people as evidenced in scripture, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal.3:28) Incidentally, this scripture isn’t absolving gender identity or the fact that we are born of different cultures.  Rather, it is demonstrating that every life has equal worth, through Christ Jesus.  He is the great equalizer.  We don’t need anyone else to tell us we are valued in order for it to be true…it’s true because Jesus says so. No person or circumstance can lessen our value.  Period.

Jesus also points out our equal need for a Savior.  He openly admitted we all fall short of God’s glory and are in desperate need of His grace and forgiveness. Every person, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, need Him.  Though they have differing views on political policies, they both equally need grace and forgiveness.

Honest dialogue about perceived inequality can be good and healing.  However, there seems to be more behind some of the social media discussions of “rights”; ingredients that are unhealthy for the soul.  There is an angry tone, a loathing, a disgust, an entitlement simmering that is damaging.  There is one who comes to kill and steal away our joy…we have a real enemy, and it isn’t each other.

As a Jesus follower, it is my right and privilege, to lay my life down, pick up my cross and follow Jesus; loving God and loving people.  His ways are often different than popular opinion…especially those displayed in the media.  The news and much of social media has been offering up a lot of spiritual junk food.  It’s of little value and we should be careful about absorbing to much of it.  Allowing ourselves to get caught up in angry finger pointing, is like eating to many M&M’s….it tastes good in the moment but makes you feel awful after. There is no value to it, since it solves nothing, just fans the flames of anger and hostility.

Brothers and sisters of the faith, remember we no longer fight for our rights, but for God’s. We no longer live for us, but for Him and His plans. What ‘right’ do we have to anything?  Is it possible for us to feel entitled to anything more  when God has given us everything in Him? If anyone could have felt entitled, it should have been Jesus.  Being the only perfect person to ever walk the earth, He had that right, but He waved His rights, out of His great love for us. Such humility and grace, I can hardly take it in.

I don’t even have the right to my next breath, unless He gives it to me.  There is no guarantee of tomorrow, or even 10 minutes from now.  Every moment we have on this lovely earth is a gift given from our Father above.  Rather than investing our limited time on endless discussions about ‘rights’, what if we savored each moment, appreciating the people placed in our lives and enjoying our blessings?

Jesus is our model for living and He didn’t debate much, and rarely got angry; leading me to believe we get into the wrong kinds of discussions.  As Jesus followers we need  to be careful that our pride doesn’t swell, leading us to have an unhealthy perspective of “rights” and entitlement.  We ought to get on our knees in prayer, seek Him and maintain a posture of surrender to His will.  We are living  in times that  will challenge our faith like never before.  Be leery of your own feelings which can lead to emotional outbursts; laying down your cross, and hurling stones at one another. Pick up your cross, and follow in His footsteps. He reached out to people in love, humility, grace and truth. If people throw stones at you for expressing love, in truth, He will be your shield and protector. Don’t be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you. Keep looking in the mirror and asking God how you can be the best YOU for Jesus, then be the change you hope to see in the world.    We are shining His light, and the enemy would love to snuff us out, giving the impression we are outdated and irrelevant. Don’t fall prey to the lies of the enemy.

Lets choose a healthier diet of “rights” by  loving tirelessly, giving generously, and letting  grace abound. Filter through the spiritually sick ingredients that are being force fed to us through news and social media, and check those ingredients with His word. If the ingredients don’t match scripture, don’t eat them! Throw them out and stand firm in His truth. Don’t look for a loophole, absorbing what is bad for your soul. Accepting what is popular and ‘feels good’ can be the path of least resistance, but there is NO growth in that. It’s just a diet of peanut M&M’s; slowly malnourishing our spiritual health.  Pretty soon, all the absorbed loopholes we’ve ingested cause our lights to dim, and we are no longer distinguishable to the world around us.  Jesus stood out in a crowd.

We will all be accountable for what we did with Jesus. He laid down His very life for each of us….there is no greater love than His. No politician, no civil rights groups, no protestors, no sports figures, no celebrities, no peanut M&M’s will satisfy the hunger we have for true love, value, and justice. Jesus gives it freely and fully.  He hands out healthy love by the bucketfuls, if we are open to receiving it. Recieve the free gift of His love daily and then give it out to those around you.  Don’t get sidetracked by discussions meant to keep you on a merry-go-round to nowhere.  Grab His hand And walk with Him, even though you will stand out and may get insulted or even assaulted. You no longer live for yourself, you live for Him. You can do ALL things through Him! 🙏

John 15:13~Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Gal 2:20~I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Luke 9:23~Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Isaiah 41:40~So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

People Pleasing Bites

Some people will love you.
Some people with think, eh, you’re ok.
Some people aren’t going to like you at all.
Just keep your eyes on Jesus. ~Margaret Adams

The people pleaser bug bit me long ago, maybe from birth. As far back as I can remember, I’ve aspired to have people, ALL people, like me. It’s an impossibility. I’ve learned the hard way, and yet, I still get bitten by it from time to time.

People pleasing leads down a yellow brick road with no end, just pitfalls, and greedy, flying monkeys that will pick away at your identity and joy. 🙊😉 It’s the pursuit of making others happy by ‘giving in’ or laying down what we know to be true of ourselves. Approval seeking is expensive, costing us our own identities. It never feels quite right, but can temporarily relieve tension. When we pursue people’s wants over God’s desire for our lives, things get out of whack. The crazy thing is, we do it to ourselves, by excepting the spoken and unspoken demands of others.

This last year I felt the effects of being bitten by my desire to please some unsatisfied ‘friends’. I tried in a variety of ways to earn their approval, and each time, came up short, leaving me frustrated as it became clear there was no stopping their indifferent, lackluster responses. Instead of appreciation, they were quick to remind me of what I wasn’t doing right, what I ought to do more often, and in general, how I could be better….well, better for them. At some point I became aware, I was not meant to please them. Love them? Yes. Earn approval? No. After much prayer and seeking my own responsibility in the matter, I heard God telling me to get off this merry-go-round of approval seeking. Easier said than done for this devout pleaser, but oh so necessary for my own health. Once I hopped off the spinning wheel, I could move forward on the mission God had for me, a mission full of purpose, hope and joy.

Jesus calls us to love Him and love others, but never calls us to win the approval of others. The truth is, many hated Jesus, and He never felt the need to try and please them. He was clear about His mission and knew how He was to go about His journey. He did not cater to people’s demands, only to His Father’s will.

As we seek Jesus, we find Him, and He brings clarity to our own personal mission. He calls us to love honestly, extend lavish grace, forgive freely, and do nothing out of selfish ambition. It’s a tall order, but one we can improve upon as we draw near to Him daily. When we walk closely with Him, we learn when to say yes, and NO. No is not a bad word. It’s a healthy, life giving word, for those of us that struggle with bug bites of approval. While our “no’s” will offend people that want what they want, it is for their benefit as well as ours. Someone else is meant to meet their need….more than likely that person is Jesus.

God can only use us to our full potential as we embrace our identity in Him…not by being transformed by popular opinion. Just keep your eyes on Jesus. His opinion is all that matters. If you’re unclear about how He sees you, search the pages of His word, the Bible. He adores and delights in you. It’s all there throughout the pages of His life giving words. Discover what God is calling you to do and do it with all your heart, then ask God to spray you with people pleasing repellent. 😉 Just say no, in Jesus name. You can do ALL things through Him!

1Thess2:4~On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Gal.1:10~Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Genesis1:31~God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Jer.29:11~ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.