Archive | June, 2012

Precious Pouring

30 Jun

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. John 12:3

My Grandpa worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad, but also kept a farm in rural Michigan.

I “helped” with chores when we visited. Spilling cat food into the feed bowls, throwing hay (almost) into the feed troughs for the milk cows, and tossing vegetable scraps from Grandma’s slop bucket to the tiny goat kids probably made more work for him and my aunt.  But I loved it.

Once the cows were turned back out to graze in the pasture, I disappeared while the two of them scooped the cow pies out of the manure trenches into wheel barrows to be dumped behind the barn.

Chores done, we headed for the house and Grandma’s cooking.  The two of them left their barn clothes and boots in the back room.  I didn’t have any barn clothes, so I whizzed through the kitchen, past the lunch table on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands.  “Whew!  Who brought the barn into the house?”  Grandma chided, looking right at me.

I couldn’t smell a thing, so I just shrugged innocently.  More than once there was “barn” caked to my feet that banished me to the pump under the windmill until my shoes were manure-free.  The barn smell infused in my clothes and hair stuck with me, however, like Pig-pen’s dust cloud.

———————

The last time Mary of Bethany saw Jesus, he had raised her brother from the dead.  She knew Jesus was from God, but when her trembling fingers ripped the grave clothes that bound her brother; when they embraced in joy– and fear, Mary knew her beloved Rabbi was God.

Now she was waiting for him while Martha (as usual) cooked a feast.  He arrived, and people (stinking men!) closed around him, asking the Rabbi questions and hoping to be the one seated next to him during the meal.  Trying to get near him, and yet also waiting patiently, she held her jar of nard, grateful she had it to give.

She had anguished over anointing Lazarus with it before he died.  How could she withhold her most precious possession from the brother she loved so deeply?  And yet, she had.  (What a waste that would have been!  He was only dead for a few days!)  When she heard that Jesus was on His way to Bethany, she knew instantly how she would greet him.  She would not be empty-handed this time.  And so she waited for the opportunity.

After the women brought out the food, the men settled down to their meal.  Now was the time.  No one paid attention to her– until she broke the vessel open.  The perfume spilled out, splashing everywhere.  To keep as much as she could on his feet, she used her hair and rubbed the rich perfumed oil into their cracks and calluses.

Judas, especially was incensed.  “What a waste!” he spat in her direction.  The look Jesus gave Mary made every drop worth it.  The beauty of His presence mingled with the fragrance and chased everything foul out of the room.

She poured out the best she had, holding back nothing, on her Lord who would soon pour out the most precious of all earthly substances for His creation.

The nard quickly soaked into everything it touched – Jesus’ skin and the hem of his robe, the floor, Mary’s hair, hands, and clothes. The scent of the nard would be unmistakable for several days causing all those at the dinner to remember Mary’s act of devotion.  Jesus would smell the nard as he walked toward the most difficult week anyone has ever experienced.  Perhaps he could still smell the nard when he fell as we carried his cross through Jerusalem.  Maybe even those who hammered the spike into Jesus’ hands and feet smelled the perfume.

Since nard was used for burial anointing, when people came into contact with Mary they would assume she had buried a loved one and ask her who had died.  I wonder how she answered them?  And I wonder if she could still smell the nard when she found out Jesus had been crucified… and when she heard the news of His resurrection!

———————

Ready for Sunday

We know how the account plays out, but Mary was simply in the moment, responding with love for her Lord.  She had no idea she was a participant in the spiritual drama of the ages.

Tomorrow, will my worship embody how much I love my Lord?  Will I sacrificially worship Him, so that the fragrance of devotion lingers around me for others to smell all week?

With her sacrifice Mary participated in Jesus’ mission to redeem the world by preparing his body for burial as she anointed him with perfume.  This is the potential within worship – participating with Christ in the redemption of the world.  Break my vessel open, Lord.

——————

More info on the sense of smell:

  • Among the five senses, we are the least conscious of smell, but we trust it the most.  Creating Understanding, by Donald K Smith, p. 146
  • People recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months.  Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions. Therefore, we often find that we can immediately recognize and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of clean sheets, cookies baking in the oven, the smell of new books or a musty room in Grandma’s house.
  • With every breath, your sense of smell is at work, even when you’re sleeping.
  • Our sense of smell is more connected to emotion than any other sense.
  • Recall can be enhanced if learning is done in the presence of an odor and that same odor is present at the time of the recollection. (For this reason some teachers burn scented candles in their classroom and then again at Mandatory National Tests like the SAT.)

at His feet au naturel

22 Jun

“…sat at the Lord’s feet…”

“…fell at His feet…”

“…wiped His feet…”

—————–

I was just a few rows from the stage as the worship band played a song declaring God’s greatness.  While I swayed with hands raised, I noticed a slight blur in my peripheral vision.  The young daughter of a friend swooped down the auditorium stairs and landed at the base of the stage like a sparrow, except this little one collapsed on the stairs in sobs instead of perkily looking for birdseed.  God knows when every sparrow falls, and what happened in those moments was between a sweet soul and her Lord at His feet.  But the aroma of one so devoted to Jesus fell on all of us.

—————–

http://pegponderingagain.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/jesus-feet.jpg

Every time Mary of Bethany is mentioned in the Bible, she was at His feet.

~When Martha prepared lunch for everyone, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.  She forgot her social responsibilities and manners when Jesus arrived.  She listened with rapt attention to every word from the Word of Life.  Luke 10:39

~After her brother Lazarus died, Mary collapsed at Jesus’ feet in agonizing grief.  Even in her emotional state, or maybe especially in her state, she fell at the feet of her only Source of comfort.  John 11:32

~Jesus had been in hiding since raising her brother from the dead, but He came back to Bethany before His last Passover.  Mary was waiting with her nard and lavishly used every drop on His feet– possibly the most extravagant display of worship recorded in the Bible.  John 12:3

Mary is the worship leader’s worship leader.

In all three instances, without a thought, Mary heads for Jesus’ feet as if that is the most natural place for her to be.  In my last post, we saw that Moses listened and responded to God’s direction during worship.  Mary doesn’t wait for instructions, she already knows what to do.  A few days later the disciples needed Jesus’ example to wash each others’ feet, but not Mary.  She was ready to care for Him, nard in hand.

Bowing to the floor or prostrating oneself at the feet of another was ultimate respect in the first Century.  In the 21st Century we don’t have anything that compares.  I am mentally making a list of public figures I greatly admire.  None of them would know what to do if I fell down in front of them, touching my forehead to the tips of their shoes.  (Maybe call 911?)  I’m not planning on doing that, but even thinking about it makes me fidgety.

I’m not sure Mary’s example is about physical posture – though if Jesus walked into my office right now, I would fall at His feet (if I didn’t faint first).  Mary’s example teaches me to worship Him with all of my heart always; so that given the opportunity, I do what comes naturally – I worship Him.

Ready for Sunday

Is who I am all week consistent with who I am on stage?  Is what I do during the week consistent with what I do as I lead others in worshiping God?

What can I do or change so that worshiping God is the most natural behavior of my life?

Today in a conversation with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus yet, I found myself talking freely of Him in the most natural way.  May this be the beginning of a new way of living!  Until I am a supernatural being, may my natural behavior be to worship Him.

—————–

Au naturel

Internet Snafu

16 Jun

Our 7-year-old DSL modem breathed its last byte a few days ago during an incredibly busy week. A new devo will be uploaded next weekend when I can use my computer to post instead of my phone. In the meantime glorify our Lord Jesus Christ!

Yes, Lord!

9 Jun

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

Most of the time when I think about worshiping God, I think of what I offer Him.  My heart attitude, my lifted hands, my service.  There are plenty of examples in the Bible about people offering God their worship.

Sometimes, though, God tells a worshiper what to do.

In the desert God commanded Moses to take off his sandals as he entered His presence.  This command is:

  • physically easy
  • filled with cultural symbolism

While God often gives His children difficult tasks in life, that usually isn’t the case when set aside time to corporately be in His presence worshiping Him.  Lifting hands, singing, kneeling, and declaring His Word are all physically easy.(1)  The point is to involve our entire being in worship – our posture, gestures, voices, minds.  The focus is on God, not heroics or tasks that could be distracting.  These actions reinforce what is going on in our hearts and minds, enabling us to be fully present and give God our complete attention.

Within easy directives, however, cultural meanings and practices sometimes lie.  This was the case with Moses’ sandals.  In the Middle East shoes are offensive.  Showing the bottom of your shoe to someone in that part of the world is an obscene gesture.  In Bible times shoes were also “signs of sensuousness, comfort, luxury and pleasure.”(2)

In asking Moses to take off His sandals, God was asking him to lay aside his comfort and pleasure (surely the desert sand was hot!) and to rid himself of his nasty footwear out of respect.  Moses obeyed– and God communed with him.

—————–

Ready for Sunday

When I am leading corporate worship, I often hear God asking me to do something simple like raise my hands or bow before Him.  Sometimes I obey.  Other times I proceed in the direction I was already headed before I heard Him.  I wonder what I missed.

Tomorrow I will answer, “Yes, Lord!”

—————–

1. I realize that some people who have a disability are not able to do some of the actions listed above, and that these actions are very difficult for some.  Most people, however, can do at least one.  For those who cannot do any, God knows their heart.  Their worship is no less precious to Him because of their limitations.  In fact, since there is greater sacrifice, their worship is sweeter.

2. Lorne Rozovsky

Exclusivity

1 Jun

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”  Matthew 4:10

The entire Bible is a call to worship God exclusively and turn away from idolatry.

(I can’t remember where I read or heard that, so fill me in if you know the source.)

An over-simplification?   The more I think about this idea and read the Word with it in mind, the more I think it’s true.

Consider:

  • God commands us to worship Him.  He is the only One worthy of worship; and He knows that it is also best for us, because other gods cannot satisfy the desires He put into us.
  • If we worship God alone, we don’t serve other, lesser masters.
  • Lesser masters are not perfect (only God is perfect), therefore lesser masters contain an element of corruption.  They are not worthy of worship, and when we do worship them, we take on their corrupted nature.
  • I have been corrupted by sin, so focusing on myself (self-worship) is also a bad idea.  It can lead to all sorts of selfishness, manipulation, and hedonism.
  • Satan is the one who wants to draw my attention away from God.  (See Matt 4:10, above.)
  • God is love, peace, faithfulness, etc., and we (individually and collectively) find these intangibles when we worship Him, not lesser gods.
  • Worship isn’t necessarily bowing before a statue; worship is giving my attention and devotion to someone or something, expecting to receive from him or it what only God can give.

I could go on.  These are only a few ideas off the top of my head.

I know they are all undeveloped arguments laden with presuppositions.  The point is, no matter what angle I take, I keep coming back to my original statement: The entire Bible is a call to worship God exclusively and turn away from idolatry.

———————–

Ready for Sunday

What does this mean for us as we lead others in worshiping God?

I think of the incredible responsibility we have to make sure everything we do, say, sing, play, etc., glorifies God, and only God– not my musicianship, not the soloist, not the drama team, not our beautiful building.  All of these can be used to bring Him glory, but none should receive glory in themselves.  Everything must glorify Him alone.

I know that we worship all week long, not just when we are singing on a Sunday morning.  But our corporate worship time can help set the direction for the rest of my week, propelling my heart toward God.   While we are together, brothers and sisters united in Christ worshiping the Father, my heart is encouraged and re-directed to worship God alone.

I am humbled by the responsibility this places on me as a worship leader.  I am sickened by my sin of idolatry as other things distract me from His call.  I am resolute, with His matchless power at work within me, to worship God only and to lead others to do the same.

Soli Deo gloria!

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