Many Waters

Probably over a month ago I stopped at a small park with a little lake on my way home. It was pouring rain and I could just imagine how beautiful the rain look thrashing against the still water. Normally I would go the actual lake (lake Erie), but it was late and I didn’t have time for those shenanigans. My dad used to take my sister and I to the lake all the time to watch storms roll in and reside, that’s where I got this idea from.

I did a very quick drive by and tried to swipe a good picture of the nature scene, but because it was so dark and rainy it did not turn out. But as I sat there for a small moment and watched as the sky saturated this already soaking wet land with its rains, I couldn’t help but just desire the same.

I was reminded of the verse from Song of Solomon. You know, the one that Jesus Culture turned into an incredible worship song? Song of Solomon 8.6-7:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for long is strong as death, jealousy demanding as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If man offered for love all the wealth of his house he would be utterly despised.

Let me repeat the very specific portion that I am referring to:

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

My basic, human, non-Bible or non-theology major interpretation of that is this: you can never have too much love in your life and there is very little that can extinguish love (or satisfy it). In other words, only love will truly satisfy us.

We can thirst and drink as much water as we want, but the only thing that will really satisfy us and bring that “quenched” feeling, is the love of God.

I’m not talking about some mushy-gushy-cheesy-romantic-Jack-gets-Jill-in-the-end kind of love. No. I am talking about the deeply rooted, never-ending, all-consuming love that Christ offers us.

As I watched the rains spill its guts all over that lake, the already wet, filled to the top with water lake, I couldn’t help but imagine that the water was actually God’s love. The lake was a lake of Jesus’ love and the clouds were Jesus showering even more love!

I want that.

We use the term “saturated” to describe things as being soaked that absorb a lot of liquid. That’s want I want. I want to be over-saturated in the love that God has for me. I want to be so caught up and consumed in His love that I don’t even think twice about what is means to delight in Him.

Alabaster Flasks

Okay, I am going to be completely honest. The first time I heard this phrase, I had NO idea what it meant. What in the world is an ‘alabaster’? Well, never free dearest reader! Google definitions has come to the rescue! It is stated that alabaster is “a fine-grained, translucent form of gypsum, typically white, often carved into ornaments.”

Alright, now that we have that all cleared up, please grab your Bible and turn to Matthew 26 (or you can read below, but you can’t underline, highlight, and journal on this like you can in your OWN personal Bible!).

I want to look at one little section in this chapter: Matthew 26.6-13

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

To give this section some context, this little get together is taking place right before the Passover. Jesus decides He wants to visit with some old pals and his faithful servant Mary joins in on this little hoo-rah. She even brings Jesus a little gift. Consider the same passage in John 12.1-8:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

And Mark 14.3-9:

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

They all sound pretty similar don’t they?

So let’s talk about this little gift that Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, chooses to give Jesus. It’s an alabaster flask of oil (or nard, whichever is best for you to picture). She takes it and she shatters it at the feet of Jesus and blesses Him. Jesus says “this is a agriculture-blur-close-up-33783beautiful thing she has done for me”. So cool, this lady whose brother was raised from the dead by this Amazing, Miracle working Jesus makes this effort to anoint Jesus. We will talk more about the anointing part in a minute, but first, let’s hit pause on the scene of Mary and Jesus and discuss this alabaster flask…

So, a little bit of cultural history here… in these times, most people stored their expensive oils in these little flasks to protect them. However, if anyone wants to access the oils inside, the best way is to just break the flask. First, the flasks are super breakable as it is. Second, the flasks were sealed very tightly in order to keep the expensive oils from evaporating. This just proves how important and expensive these oils are!

It is also known and reported by many Biblical and theological scholars that these flasks of oils sometimes serve as a woman’s dowry or an inheritance from her father, or husband. They are typically saved for anointing deceased loved ones at funerals.

Okay, back to this scene of Mary and Jesus. Picture it in the moment. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus lavishing this expensive oil on Him. And of course, these disciples decide to pipe up and show how compassionate they really are in that Mary could have sold the oil and given the money to the poor, not “waste” the oil on Jesus.

WOAH WOAH WOAH there disciples, do you really think she is “wasting” this oil on Jesus?

Obviously, because they made such a big deal over this, this alabaster flask of oil had some meaning to it. Clearly, it was expensive. It must have been a possession of Mary’s that was of great value. In fact, it could have been Mary’s only chance at getting married. It could have been saved for her dear brother’s funeral, but when Jesus performed the healing miracle and raised him from the dead, she didn’t need it anymore. Heck, she could have just been saving it in case she needed the finances from it later in life. But instead, she breaks it open and anoints Jesus with it. She gives up this “inheritance” or this “dowry”. She sacrifices this greatly valued treasure, all to show Jesus how much she truly loved Him. And, let’s be honest here, it showed how much she trusts Him too.

The Greek word for “anoint” is Chrio. It means to consecrate by anointing; especially to present someone as divinely-authorized. This meant that Mary got it. She understood who Jesus was/is. She found Him to be worthy enough of the most valuable thing she owned. Wow. That is just incredible.

And Jesus, He defended her. He loved every minute of it. He saw her true, genuine heart of adoration towards Him. Unlike the disciples, who let’s be honest, didn’t really care for the poor. They just wanted Jesus to be impressed.

What is also very interesting about this scene throughout the Gospels is that normally these oils are used for anointing loved ones at funerals. Well, Jesus, Himself, even states, “she has prepared me for my burial”.

Another crazy thing, a little blessing that Jesus gave her because of her large sacrifice and recognition of the worthiness of Jesus, is that Jesus said that “wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world what she has done will also be told in memory of her”. Wow. Jesus wants the whole world to know of her actions in preparing Him for burial. Personally, I believe that Jesus wanted her to be an example of how we should respond in rendering our hearts to Him, completely.

I mean, this oil in this flask might have been everything to her. It may have been her future, her marriage, etc. But she didn’t care. She recognized that Jesus is so worthy He deserves her very best, even if it meant she would be without financial security or a spouse. Those things were nothing to her compared to what Christ meant to her.

Now here is where it gets personal. Here is where I am just praying that the Holy Spirit will pull a few cords in your own heart. What do you value the most? Is it your career? Your education? Family? Car? Relationship? Dreams, hopes, goals, and desires? What is it that you place so high on your list of importance that when it is messed with you feel like your life is spiraling downward?

Let me give you a personal example. Mine is education. I have always been told to get the college degree to make the big bucks and get a nice job with a rich husband to support my family and be happily ever after. So, I started my college career while I was still a junior in high school. I graduated with my associates degree before I got my high school diploma. Then, I completed a double major bachelors degree in just three years. Now, of course, I am taking the next step of higher education and pursuing a masters degree.

I love learning. I love writing papers. But in a sense, it is my security. It i my excuse to avoid being an “adult” and truly figuring out what I want to do with my life. But you know what? I never really handed this over to the Lord to allow Him to do with it as He pleases. I always planned it out. I always said “okay Lord, I will agree to be a missionary one day, but just after I finish my education”. Yet, the passion and desire to go to the nations burns within me like no other.

Now, is when Jesus is summoning me to sit at the bottom of His throne. He is inviting me to allow Him to have complete control over this area of my life. He is asking me to render my heart in a position of trust and assurance that He will bring my education to be when He desires and it will be good.

Friends, these things that you value the most, are you letting Jesus hold them completely? Are you allowing the Lord to direct your steps? Are you ready to trust Him with this area of your life? What are you willing to “waste” for the Lord?

Take a step forward and shatter the alabaster flask at His feet. Anoint Him in recognizing that He is worthy. He is worthy to have control over it all. He is worth breaking it for! He is worth the sacrifice. Just as Mary gave up this very valuable and expensive oil to worship Jesus, we can give up the things we place at high value and worship Him as well.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be called to drop out of college and go to the nations as a full-time missionary. You will never know until you break that flask for Jesus.

What is your alabaster flask that you are willing to break at Jesus’ feet?

Wide-Awake

It was about 11:30PM on a Thursday night when I realized my eyes were actually open and I was staring into the dark abyss of my bedroom. The whole time I thought my eyes were closed and I was trying to sleep. Instead, I was literally wide-awake with my mind racing a million miles a minute.

Apparently, my mind thought (no pun intended) it was a good time for me to go through every detail of my day, the next day, and the next 5 years of my life. Thus being so, worrisome thoughts crept into my mind. Will I ever finish school? Will I find my dream job? Will I ever find a spouse? Can I really accomplish these goals?

And of course, if you’re anything like me you can relate to being the “midnight goal setter”. Personally, I set high goals for myself late at night that I am supposed to attempt to achieve the next day. Things such as going to the gym in the morning, eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast, or even just doing something different with my hair. Of course, by then I have so much motivation (on top of worry) streaming through my veins that I most definitely will not be sleeping anytime soon.

Eventually, however, my intuition kicked in and I realized I wasn’t super exhausted because I was out of my allergy medicine that put me to sleep. However, even though I did not have to set my alarm to intrude on my beauty sleep the next day, I realized if I wanted to even be remotely productive, than I really needed my beauty sleep! So, I chose the natural approach of coaxing myself to sleep by slapping a dab of lavender under my nostrils. I can still hear my mom saying, “a little dab will do ya!”

While laying in bed and awaiting the lavender’s natural powers to kick in, I considered the following:

When we declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus, we are hyped during that moment. We are so ready for this new lifestyle; ready to be transformed and begin living this new, amazing Christian life. We are on high alert, applying scripture left and right, praying our little hearts out, and even sharing this new experience with some co-workers.

Eventually, Sunday after Sunday goes by. Years upon years of volunteering at VBS fade into distant memories. Reading the Bible seems pointless because you have no time to actually delve into what it means and how to apply it. We become tired and drowsy in our walks with the Lord.

When we sleep, we are technically unconscious. We can’t really hear anything. We aren’t really in control of what is running through our minds (dreams, that is). And in all honesty. We are more prone to being attacked (whether it be by your cat that thinks you’re playing when you move your feet, or something else).

The same is true when we are spiritually asleep, with minor exceptions. When we are spiritually asleep, we are more prone to being attacked by the enemy because we are not on high alert, pouring into our relationship with Christ. Though we technically have the power to control our thoughts, we don’t even realize that they are even toxic and need to be taken captive.

My point is this: we have fallen into a deep spiritual slumber. So deep that it’s like we have neon signs strapped to us inviting the Devil to come and take his place in our lives. We have put our weapons down and left ourselves open and visible for an attack.

But I don’t believe that is what Christ has called us to be. I believe that we are to be alert, praying in the Spirit constantly, fervently. We are to be taking captive our thoughts to the obedience of Christ. Worshiping Jesus in every moment. And spreading the Good News just as much as we complain to our neighbors of how tired we are!

So my question for you is… are you sleeping? Or are you wide-awake in your spiritual life?

It is time to stop hitting snooze and to arise from our slumbers!

Imperishable Goods

Do you remember in elementary school when you would go home and ask Mom for “imperishable goods” to donate in order to win a pizza party for your class? Mom would give you a few cans, maybe of creamed corn or some Campbell’s soup that you and your siblings never liked but it always seemed to multiply in the pantry. You’d take your plastic bag filled with cans to school, put them in a box and they would be shipped to a homeless shelter or food pantry to be donated to those who need it.

It was always stressed that it had to be “imperishable”. If you brought something that had some type of expiration date on it, it was not accepted and you were stuck carrying the item home to put back in Mom’s pantry, only to try again to get rid of it next time. You see, the imperishable part is important because they never knew when the item would be used by or given away. It needed to last forever.

Google definitions defines “imperishable” as an adjective meaning “enduring forever”. Synonyms include: enduring, everlasting, undying, deathless… you get the point? It doesn’t expire.

Paul tells us in the second book to the church in Corinth:

And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 4.3)

“Perishing” means the opposite of imperishable: death, expiration, not enduring forever. Now, we know that in Jesus Christ we can believe that we have everlasting life (John 3.16). But what about these people that are perishing in 2 Corinthians? These are the people that are veiled to the Gospel. Picture a wedding where the Bride and Groom are standing at the alter. The Bride has the veil over her face and it is blocking her from fully being able to see the Groom. That’s how it is for these “perishing” people… they cannot see the Gospel.

So, what?

Well, as followers of Jesus Christ (who we know we can have eternal life in), we are called to share the Gospel with these “perishables” to allow the Holy Spirit to tear the veil and reveal Jesus Christ to them.

Jesus tells us specifically, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28.19). Jesus also says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10.2-3).

In other words, we are imperishables being sent out among the perishables. We are the carriers of the Gospel whom are equipped with the Holy Spirit to plant seeds of life in those that are deemed perishable. Through Jesus, we are called to preach, teach, pray, and say to make disciples and bring His Kingdom.

We are the hundreds of cans of creamed corn that are donated each and every day to those who are “in need”. But instead of creamed corn, created, saved, and donated by Jesus, we hold the Gospel, delivering a message of salvation to those who are in need.

Living life as a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is not all about just going to Church and getting Spiritually filled so you can keep your life insurance. It is so you can grow, become equipped, and be fueled to “sell” the life insurance to those who need it. We are imperishable goods.

The Whole Heart

I stepped out of my air-conditioned room and into the kitchen area. Perfect. The counter was clean, free of any green peppers or grains of rice that may have escaped from the pan when someone was cooking on the hot plate. I set my devotional, Bible, notebook, and novel on the counter in front of the toaster and sat down on the plastic sandstone grey chair. Double checking that the counter was clean, I put my arms down on the counter and slowly closed my eyes and put my head in my arms.

Peace, at last.

It had been a long few days where I had chosen to try to go to bed early instead of spend time with the Lord. From a long day trip learning about Indian music and eating Indian cuisine on Sunday to a Monday filled with an important meeting, a two hour Hindi class, and dinner at my supervisors house. Instead of fighting the exhaustion and trying to keep my eyes open, I chose to lay my head down and try to sleep.

Despite my efforts to go to bed, I laid awake until 3 a.m., two nights in a row, tossing and turning, contemplating my future, what I would have for dinner the next day, and what kind of shoes I would wear to my future big-kid job. Of course, I have woken up the past two mornings feeling even more exhausted and still unsure of what to do with my future.

As soon as I put my head on my arms I hear these words: What does it look like to follow me with your whole heart? 

I began to list out things such as spending time in the Word daily, trusting God with my future, leaning on God for strength, praying, using the gifts He has given me to glorify Him, etc. Soon enough, I realized these were not the answers God wanted from me. Sure, these things are good and Godly, and obviously the Sunday School response, but God wanted something deeper that was personal for me.

God wanted me to answer according to my nitty-gritty, day-to-day life. He wanted to know what specific things I could do to follow Christ with my whole heart. This is what God wants from us. He wants all of us.

Growing up (and still to this day), I remember something my mom used to always say. Whenever we would jokingly fight I would say “you want a piece of me!?” and she would always respond with, “no! I want the whole thing!” That’s the key right there. God doesn’t just want a piece of our hearts, He wants the whole thing. He doesn’t want just half of our attention, He wants all of it.

I am going to do something a little differently in this blog. I am going to start a list of things I feel I can do to live my life with my heart completely rendered to God and I want you (yes you, the reader) to comment and add things you can do as well. Please do not feel compelled to share anything too personal. I have learned that when we voice things, it helps them become more realistic in our lives. It is also important for us to remain in unity, supporting each other, as the body of Christ! So. . .

Following Christ with my whole heart:

–  Think before I speak, as to respond with love, not an attitude 

– Thank God more often (even for the not-so-good things)

– Limit expectations on my days, conversations, and relationships

– Put my phone away and be “present” with the Lord and those around me 

These are just a few things God is speaking to me about to draw closer to Him. What is He speaking to you about?