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Extravagant Love

brown cross on brown rock during daytime
 
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.”
(John 12:1-8)
 
From reading the Gospels, it seems Jesus was a regular guest in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus.  On this occasion Jesus is invited for dinner.  The custom was to wash the feet of visitors.  Mary goes beyond the normal expectation as she takes a pound of pure nard and puts it on Jesus’ feet.  Extravagant!  An entire pound?  Wouldn’t a little dab do the trick?  An entire pound? 

I remember visiting my grandparents as a child.  Our family would pack the car and travel nearly 4 hours to spend a week with them.  When we arrived my grandparents would be waiting.  Grandma would embrace each of her grandchildren and shower us with kisses.  Perhaps one hug and a simple kiss would do, but not for grandma.  Over the years, I watched my mother smother my children with physical affection.  Now I watch as my wife does the same with our three grandchildren.  Extravagant?  Perhaps.  However, I don’t think any grandparent would considered it extravagant.  It is merely an expression of their heart, which they gladly share with their loved ones.

Jesus was extravagant in His love for us.  He sacrificed Himself on the cross, pouring out His last breath that we would have forgiveness, life and salvation.

It is the extravagant love of Jesus that led Mary to extravagance in her relationship with Jesus.  It is the extravagant manner in which Jesus shared His love with us, that we in turn share our love with Him.  We give Him our heart—our all, in response to His love for us.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the love You shower on me each day.  You forgive all my sin.  You restore my soul.  You walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death.  You promise to use all things in my life for good.  You prepare a place for me in heaven.  Give me Your Holy Spirit that I may respond to Your love with mine.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus.  Amen.

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Why Should We Rest?

photo of hammock outdoor

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. [Genesis 2:1-3]

“Get some rest. You’ve earned it.” There’s nothing quite like being able to sing along with the Beatles, “It’s been a hard day’s night, I’ve been working like a dog. It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log.” Forget about what we get home to, there’s something to a well-deserved rest. 

But what about when you don’t deserve it? What if you haven’t worked hard enough? What if there is more to do? What if you’re dissatisfied with your performance? What if you aren’t tired? Is that now justification to avoid resting? 

Retirement can play into this mindset, too, doesn’t it? “I’ve put in my time, now I’m done.” But the truth is we cannot earn rest. How could we ever know for sure we have done enough? There is always more to be doing, or thinking. There are always other opportunities or people. There is always more service to offer. So… why should we rest?

Resting is the act of ceasing. It is the act of stopping, putting an end to our productivity. And we do it because God did it first. God made stopping, ceasing, and resting a holy act, because even God himself stopped and said, “Enough.” On the seventh day, God did nothing but step back and enjoy what he had made.

Ultimately resting is an act of trusting God. We put all of our effort- all of our blood, sweat, and tears- into God’s hands when we follow God’s example of resting. “I feel like I need to keep working,” we might say, “But I’m trusting you, Lord, to provide.”

On the seventh day, Jesus also rested from his work. In a brand-new tomb, not far from the hill where he died. Isn’t this also why a cemetery is a holy place? “By your three day rest in the tomb, You hallowed every grave,” pastors say at burials. Jesus submitted to three days in a tomb, even though he had already conquered death, to show us the holiness of trusting God even in the rest which is death. We trust God with all we have accomplished, and we ask Jesus to do with our lives whatever is his will. 

Rest today. Set aside some time to do nothing. Let go of “productivity” and “earning a break.” Spend some time enjoying the God who made you and uses your life for his glory. Find your rest in Jesus, find your peace in Jesus, and follow the example of God, who made rest a holy thing. And let God do what he wills: he promises to sort the “rest of it” out. 

Dear God, thank you for creating us and showing us how to live. We want to honor you; help us today to find our rest in you, letting go of all that holds us captive and enslaved to “more.” We trust with our whole lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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His Love

person's hands
 
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.   John 3:16-18

“Love” is an interesting word.  It is interesting because it is used in so many different ways.  It is interesting because it can be applied in many different situations.  It is interesting because it is used in relationship to many different things.  We love our spouse.  We love our favorite sports team.  We love pizza.  We love spring flowers, summer sunsets, autumn leaves and winter landscapes.   And, of course, we love Jesus.

You have to admit that we use, and often, abuse this little word—love.  

The Greek language has four words for love.  Phile? is a brotherly love of care and kindness.  Storg? is a love of the heart that binds husband and wife, parent and child.  Eros is the love of passion based on human emotions.

In John 3:16, Jesus uses the word, Agap?, a love that is of the highest kind.  It is a love that looks to give without receiving.  It is a love that desires the best for others.

This is the love God has for us.  He loves us because He is love.  His love is not contingent on our ability to live up to certain expectations.  We cannot merit this love or earn it.  It comes to us freely from the heart of the God who, out of love, created us.  It is out of love that our God saved us through the cross and empty tomb.

There are times that I don’t feel so loveable.  The truth is, I’m not all that loveable.  But God is able to love…even me!

Blessed Jesus, Your love is new every morning.  Each day as I rise I am reminded of Your love that forgives my sins and promises to be with me.   Give to me Your Holy Spirit that I may live in Your love and understand that the true esteem in my life is Your love.  In Your loving name I pray.  Amen.  

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Why Should We Work?

Close-Up Photo of Bible

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” [Genesis 1:26,28]

W.O.R.K. There’s no way around it, we all have to work. Now, it looks different for each of us, but it is unavoidable. Cleaning our houses, taking care of our yards, working in an office, running heavy machinery, teaching others: when you hear the word “work”, something comes to mind. 

Why must we work? Can’t we just find food for the day like animals, and just exist? Why must we have a drive within us to get ahead, to store up for the future, to provide for others, to care for the earth? 

You could look to the Curse in Genesis 3, and read “By the sweat of your brow you will work the ground until you return to it. For you are dust, and to dust you will return.” You could get a very negative picture of work, and say it’s just something we have to endure while we are living. We are all subject to the burdens of living, to work, to laboring until our lives end. Work is a curse. 

But our Bibles don’t begin in Genesis 3. There are two wonderful chapters before God curses Adam to work the ground and deal with the thistles and weeds. God actually curses the very blessings which he gave to Adam and Eve: work and childbirth. Recall God’s first commands. Often we think God’s only command is not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but that is not the case. God’s first commands are: 1) Be fruitful and multiply (bear children) and 2) fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion (work in the world). 

These commands of work/labor are some of the ways we are connected to the image of God- the One who created all things and sustains them. So why should we work? Because we bear the image of God when we work. Use your gifts creatively. Work hard, because it honors the God who provides all things for us. It honors Jesus, who came to this earth, worked as a carpenter for most likely over a decade, before giving his life to full-time ministry. After all that, He subdued death itself by dying on a cross, working to put an end to the dreadful curse. 

Work, and carry God’s likeness everywhere you go!

Lord God, you have given us work so that we may be like you. Thank you for entrusting us with so much responsibility. Now give us the strength and the Spirit to carry your image to this world through the various ways we serve and work and labor among your creation. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.


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Your Way + Your Will

man staring at white sky taken at daytime
 
For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me.  Isaiah 8:11

I remember as a young child, when our family moved to a new neighborhood and I was to attend a new school.  I was a bit more shy in my younger years.  As my parents walked me into this new school, they put a hand on my shoulder.  This was not out of fear that I would bolt and run.  They promised me—gave me their word—that I was going to be just fine in this new environment.  The hand on my shoulder was one of comfort and security.  This hand of the one who loved me and gave me life was a sign that all was good and right. 

The heavenly Father does the same with His children.  We live in an imperfect world, which often causes us fear and worry.  We walk into each new day not knowing what we will face.  The Lord does two important things.  He gives us His Word that all will be fine.  He puts His hand on our shoulder to give us the assurance that His strength is on our side, protecting and directing us.  We never know what the future holds, but we know for sure who it is that holds the future.
 
This is why it is important for us to begin each day in His Word.  It is important that we hear the reassuring voice of the Savior and feel His strong hand on our shoulder.
 
I face challenges each day.  So do you.  We need to remember that it is not about the size of our problems, but it is about the size of our God.  His love never fails!

Father in heaven, thank You for the guidance You give to me each day.  There are those times that I would like to go in a different direction, but I trust in Your way and in Your will.  Strengthen my trust in You and my joy in living under the touch of Your hand.  Amen.  


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