Celebrations/Holidays

A Maligned Gift and Enduring Memorial

Photo thanks to–  http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/

I read two posts a while ago about kindness and it got me thinking how we may have differing personal views on kindness. This personal view involves our motives and intents—how and why we value kindness and perhaps what we consider as kindness.

A simple story found in three of the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, and John—reveals at least two different views on kindness. It also reveals the heart and character of two people—known for very different reasons.

I’ll give a synopsis of the story below but you can read it for yourself here—Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:2-8.

Photo thanks to– ifiwalkedwithjesus.com

Photo thanks to– ifiwalkedwithjesus.com

A story of two hearts

Following the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at the beginning of the week and before the Passover Feast, a woman named Mary comes to anoint Jesus with an expensive ointment as He reclines at a meal given in His honor.

Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead only a short while before this, reclined at the table with Jesus at the home of Simon the leper. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, is busy serving the guests as her sister Mary anoints Jesus with fragrant spikenard.

As the fragrance of the oil filled the room, it prompted a complaint and caused some dissension. Why the complaint? It was seen as a waste of money. Who complained? None other than Judas who would soon betray Jesus—the focus of this act of pure love.

Mary understood who Jesus was and expressed her love and devotion by sitting at the feet of Jesus as her sister Martha served. Once again, her devotion to Jesus caused some dissension. This time with her sister, Martha, who complained to Jesus about her workload because of Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

When Mary poured her oil on Jesus, it was an expression of love, a picture of true worship. It’s as if she poured her soul out to honor Jesus. It was true kindness.

The heart of Judas is also revealed—he was a greedy thief—he cared only for himself not for the poor (John 12:6). His concern had nothing to do with kindness. It was pure selfishness.

What a great contrast he is to Mary—Judas the betrayer and Mary the worshiper.

What a great contrast—Judas the betrayer and Mary the worshiper

Jesus made it clear what was most valuable—

She has done a beautiful thing to me…She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Mark 14:7, 8-9 NIV84)

Photo ©Lightstock.com

Photo ©Lightstock.com

Empty praise or a heart full of worship?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of the crowd shouting, Hosanna—oh save us—Son of David! It fulfilled an ancient prophecy (Zech 9:9) but was prophetic in its own right (Matt 21:1-11).

The crowd who honored Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem with shouts of triumph would cry out in just a few days, Crucify Him! How quickly things changed this final week of Jesus’ life on earth—from triumph to tragedy.

How could this happen? Why would it happen?

Yes, it was prophesied. And it also exposed the shallow expectations of one of Jesus’ followers and the depth of devotion of another.

Judas was rebuked for his selfish complaint—shamed by his greed and shallow commitment. He was part of the crowd who shouted, Hosanna! And his betrayal set in motion the cruel cries of hardened hearts to crucify the Lord.

Mary’s gift was accepted and honored by Jesus. It would become an enduring testimony of her love for Jesus—an act of worship and a prophetic preparation for the Lord’s burial.

What is of greatest value to you—wealth and good intentions or a heart of devotion?

As people celebrate Holy Week worldwide, many will express their worship and devotion for the Lord. So I ask, what do you have to offer Jesus?

What do you have to offer Jesus?

Empty palm branches and shouts? Or, will you pour your soul out to the Savior of the world?


Here’s another post related to Holy Week you might like to read— It’s Easter Time!

Rise—Flee into Egypt

Photo by  Inbal Malca  on  Unsplash

Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

God speaks in a dream

It was some time after Jesus had been born—just after the wisemen departed—that Joseph was given this dream warning him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. King Herod had received word of the newly born King of the Jews, the Messiah, and he was fully set on destroying Him.

It was at this crucial time that God spoke to Joseph in a dream for a second time.

Before Jesus was born, Joseph had heard from God in a dream, instructing him to take Mary as his wife. That dream had come at a time of sorrow and distress for Joseph. He had been suffering the confusion and disappointment of a broken relationship with his new bride.

It was in that moment that God spoke to Joseph, bringing words of comfort, reassurance, and direction. And Joseph had listened. 

The 2nd dream

This dream was different. Joseph and Mary were unaware of the wicked plans laid out for their new son. When Joseph was given this dream warning him to take his family and escape by night to a foreign country, it would have been alarming and unexpected.

But God knew that Joseph was obedient, and he had already tested Joseph through the first dream He had given him long before. 

Advent Devotional-22.jpeg

When God speaks to us, do we listen?

Even in the small things, the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to our hearts—convicting, correcting, directing, and encouraging us in our journey of faith.

When we hear His voice in our heart, it is crucial that we develop a pattern of obedience. Because when we listen to His voice in the small things, we create a life that is built on faith and obedience.

When we listen to God’s voice in the small things—we create a life that is built on faith and obedience

Faith and obedience

Faith and obedience are qualities that grow within us the more we practice and apply them.

Just as Joseph listened and obeyed God by taking Mary as his wife, he also listened when God told him to do something far more urgent, even if it didn’t make sense to him at the time.

Let’s trust the Holy Spirit when He speaks to our hearts and respond in faith and obedience in the simple things. And may God give us the faith that we need to follow Him wherever He leads us.

May God give us the faith we need to follow Him wherever He leads us


This is a guest post by Laura Williams whose husband (Daniel) pastors Redemption Church in Delray Beach, FL

This devotional is taken from Laura’s Advent devotional– God’s Plan for Christmas

Daniel also produced an online leadership resource– EELeaders

Joy!

Joy!

Watching the faces of young people singing praise and worshipping the Lord with hands extended, I felt unbridled joy.

Joy often overflows from my heart when I see genuine, heart-felt worship reflected in the faces of a new generation of worshippers—fresh followers of Jesus—led by young leaders and mentored by those who were once fresh faces in a crowd of worshippers themselves.

Why? Because their worship exalts Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Also, authentic worship fills those who exalt Jesus as they worship with a deep and humble joy.

True authentic worship exalts Jesus and fills worshippers with joy

Although it would have been without any liturgy or our modern instruments and settings, I imagine similar expressions on the faces of the shepherds in the field and the wise men who traveled far to witness the divine intervention of the Lord Jesus’ birth.

Jesus first

If you're a Christian believer, you've probably heard the expression, J-o-yJesus first, others second, and yourself last—that's what corporate worship is like for me.

Photo credit: LIghtstock.com

Photo credit: LIghtstock.com

Corporate Christian worship is focused first on Jesus, the One who is worthy of all worship. As we worship together in one accord, each of us forgets about ourself in the midst of worshipping the Lord.

This is the picture given of the shepherds outside Bethlehem when the Lord's birth was announced by angels (Luke 2:8-20).

When the shepherds saw the Savior of the world in the manger—just as the angels had told them—they went out with great joy and told others about this event and their experience.

New generations

During a worship service overseas, I looked around at the many young faces engaged in worship and was blessed to see the young worship leaders. Most of them I’d known when quite young. Now I saw them leading other followers of Jesus—a newer and younger generation.

This is what the church was designed to do—generation after generation—mentor and lead those who are younger to become leaders. It is the responsibility of older generations to train up younger ones, then step back so they may lead others, as I wrote recently.

My wife and I were surrounded by others younger than we, just as it was decades ago when we were the young faces in the crowd. We also saw this in the young women we cared for at Rainbow Village who now have their own families.

Worship Him!

After Jesus was born, some Magi (wise and learned men) came from a distant country seeking the One whose star announced His birth. They sought the King of the Jews and had "come to worship him." (Matt. 2:2)

Worship is more than singing songs of worship in a congregation, it is an expression of the heart and a way of life. True worship isn’t restricted by our setting or situation, it ought to overflow into everyday life.

Genuine worship that overflows with joy can take place whenever or wherever we are. It is the overflow of a heart and life in awe of Jesus who came as a newborn but who proved He is the Lord of Lords by His resurrection from the dead.

Worship is an expression of the heart and a way of life

When we give ourselves to Jesus and in service and leadership of others, we experience the great gift of God—his favor—His grace and kindness. Experiencing and receiving this favor is part of what overflows our heart in worship and is expressed in how we live our lives.

When we truly experience God’s grace in our life, it results in a humble joy that changes us internally and causes our heart to overflow as we worship the Lord. As the popular Christmas carol expresses— Joy to the World!

May you have a blessed Christmas as you worship the Savior of the world, Jesus—the King of the Jews, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords.