Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Sneaky Serpent

Soaked with sweat and covered in dirt from working in the garden, I headed back to the house for some water and another shower. Trudging along, looking down at the ground as I walked, a hole caught my eye. There are quite a few of those small round holes in my yard.  Leaning over for a closer look, I saw a snake stick his head out of the hole. Those beady eyes met mine and we both jumped back, me daring him to come back out, him huddled in his hole (or so I thought). Whether they all hide a snake is a mystery best left unsolved, but I've kept my eyes on those holes as I've walked through the yard since then. 

Snakes in my garden always make me think of the snake (serpent) in THE garden, and this one was no exception. He was so sly and sneaky as he peeked out of the hole, that I wondered if the enemy of our souls, clad as a serpent, approached the woman to offer the first temptation in just such a slow, sly way. "She should've been watching for snake holes," I thought, but of course, that is ridiculous. Eve's problem was not a failure to keep her eyes on the ground. Her problem was a failure to keep her eyes on God. Had she kept her focus on The Lord and what He required of her, the yen to stray might not have been as atteactive.  

Spiritual warfare is a frightful battle, and very real. Like the snake peeking out at me, temptation and opposition can appear when we least expect it. Not one bit of our battle gear, however, is focused on us. Every bit of "protective gear" in our battle for righteousness is utterly focused on our Lord, from truth, righteousness, peace, and faith to the helmet of our salvation and our sword which is the Word of God. It all comes from God and focuses on God. If we want to avoid temptation, focusing on God is the only way to do it. 

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17 NASB)

Speak to my heart (Luke 7:40)

And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." (Luke 7:40 NASB)

Simon had just been enjoying some critical, judgmental thoughts against the woman with the alabaster vial of perfume and against Jesus, who had a pretty clear idea of his thoughts. Jesus looked at Simon and called him by name. "I have something to say to you," He said. He did not call the party to order to harrangue all the attendees. He did not single Simon out and shame or denigrate him. He saw Simon's heart-sin, and simply dealt directly with Simon. 

"I need to talk to you" are words that seldom preface a pleasant conversation. Hearing them, my first thought is not one of great joy, but usually dread. Simon did not seem to be worried about what Jesus had on His mind, however. "Say it, Teacher," he said. 

Since Simon saw Jesus as a teacher, and not as Lord or Messiah, he likely was not expecting words that would cut through his facade of righteousness and go straight to his heart. Simon's response indicates a willingness to listen to what Jesus had to say, regardless of what he had just been thinking about Him. Perhaps there is more to Simon than is apparent at first glance. 

His response to Jesus is one we would do well to emulate. When confronted with wrong attitudes or wrong deeds, how much better it would be to say, like Simon, "Speak, Lord. I'm listening." Why not start your day with those very words? 

The hymn "Speak to My Heart, Lord Jesus," written by Gene Roth and BB McKinney, expresses this so well, and is a good prayer song for us and for our loved ones today. 

"Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, Speak that my soul may hear;
Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, Calm ev'ry doubt and fear. 
Speak to my heart, oh, speak to my heart,
Speak to my heart, I pray; 
Yielded and still, seeking Thy will, 
Oh, speak to my heart today."

Link to last might's post:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday night with friends: Tupelo Tornado: Giving and Taking

Friday nights are usually reserved for guest bloggers. Today, I learned of something that must be shared. It has left me utterly astounded, and I expect it will you, as well. 

In the tornado, an elderly woman's home was ravaged by the wind and falling trees. By comparison to some people, her loss is small, at least in terms of dollars. In the economy standard that Christ used on seeing the widow's mite, she has lost the most of all, for she has lost essentially everything she owned, and has no way to replace it. She tried to carry on in the three rooms of her house that were still standing, until one of those rooms collapsed. After that, she carried on in the two remaining rooms.  She has had no running water, and friends and church members have hauled water to her. 

Her house cannot be salvaged, and a local relief organization has promised to build her a new one. A friend from her church has an empty house into which she was to move today to wait until the new one is ready. Her new home will likely be the nicest she has ever had. People from her church and others who know her have worked tirelessly to provide for her needs. There has been great joy in the planning, and offers of essentials have been generously given. 

One very dear woman had inherited furniture from her parents, as well as other family members. She and her husband had stored it all in a rented storage room. When they heard of the need, they agreed it was one they could meet. What joy they had in giving her mother's lovely bedroom furniture to this elderly woman who has such great loss and such overwhelming need! 

The furniture was examined in the storage room, pronounced perfect, and moved close to the door for easy access in a day or so. Arrangements were made to have the furniture cleaned and "refreshed" a bit. When they returned at the appointed time to pick it up in order to have it ready for today, they found that someone had been there before them. Thieves had broken in and stolen the bedroom furniture set aside for this sweet woman, as well as many other pieces that were stored there.  As you might imagine, the lady and her husband are devastated. 

It boggles my mind. The furniture has been stolen. Who would do that? Why would they steal furniture? It certainly seems as if "quick profit" would be difficult from this kind of thievery, but nonetheless, this thievery has happened. When her pastor was notified, he wisely said, "We will find something else that will do."   I hope he did. 

The thieves caused a very real loss, but the couple who have been burglarized have not lost what matters most. They were storing up treasures in heaven with their willing gift, and those who broke in to their storage building could not steal that. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

As for that elderly woman, God will make a way for her to have what she needs. I'm not sure how, but I'm confident He will. 

Known by Name

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." (Luke 7:39, 40 NASB)

If the Pharisee knew "what sort of person" the woman was, it stands to reason that he knew who she was. If he knew "who" she was, he knew her name, yet he never calls her by her name. "This woman", "a sinner" are the labels he gives her, but he does her no honor by refusing to use her name. He prefers to know her by her mistakes. 

Names are important to us, aren't they? Well, our own names are important to us. They tell us that the person using our name knows us, knows who we are, knows something about us. When speaking to strangers, we do not use their names. When speaking to friends and loved ones, we do. 

Simon did not speak his spiteful thoughts aloud, but Jesus knew. He could likely read it on Simon's face. If she were looking at Simon instead of Jesus, the woman at His feet would have known, too. 

Interestingly, Jesus, knowing those thoughts of Simon's, turns to him. The first word out of His mouth is Simon's name. "Simon, I have something to say to you," Jesus said.  He didn't talk about Simon or against Simon. He spoke directly to him, and He called him by name. 

It is a great comfort to be known by name by Almighty God, isn't it?  If even the hairs of our head are numbered and known by God (Matt 10:30), you can be sure He knows who we are. Jehovah knows us by name and, according to Psalm 139, He keeps track of us. We are never so far from God that He does not know where we are and what we are doing. We are known. 

Take heart, friends, in the knowledge that, though the world may know us and our loved ones by our mistakes, Almighty God knows us by our name and our heart. You are greatly loved and well known. 

Pray today that our loved ones would recognize the watchcare and intimate knowledge of God for them, and be drawn to Him because of His greatly personal love for them. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Response to Devotion (Luke 7:39)

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." (Luke 7:39 NASB)

The dinner Jesus was attending was full of drama. First the uninvited woman had arrived and, standing behind Jesus, she had such a flood of tears that she soaked His feet, then she let her hair down and started drying His feet with her hair! As if that were not shocking enough, she starting kissing His feet and pouring perfume on Him! This behavior was better suited to the bedroom of a married couple, and was scandalous in the midst of the party. 

The Pharisee took it all in and was silently seething. "This man is no prophet," he was thinking. "If He were, He would know what kind of trashy woman was touching him and he would get rid of her. A prophet would never put up with this!" Poor Pharisee! He was wrong about so many things. 

Jesus knew exactly what kind of woman she was, as well as what kind of man the Pharisee was. He knew the motivation behind the behavior of both of them, and only one pleased Him. It wasn't the Pharisee. 

There was a great divide between the broken, humbled, woman and the proud, judgmental Pharisee. Both were sinners, but only one of them recognized it. Both approached Jesus, but only one approached with love and gratitude. Onlookers today might call the woman a fanatic, and they would be right. Her devotion to Christ was singleminded and life-changing, as ours should be. 

Are we more like the woman or the Pharisee? Are we filled with devotion to Christ or critical of those who are?

Pray today that we would be so filled with love for Christ that there is no room for criticizing others. Pray too that our loved ones will have the humble, loving heart of the woman rather than the critical judgmental spirit of the Pharisee. 
Please continue to pray for the release of the Nigerian schoolgirls. 
Last might's link:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls: Persisting in prayer

Our first blog post call to prayer about the missing Nigerian schoolgirls was written 5/7/14. Three weeks later, a second blog call to prayer for those same girls was posted. Tonight, we turn our hearts again to those two hundred plus schoolgirls (mostly Christian).   They are still being held hostage by Boko Haram (the name means "western education is forbidden"), a terrorist organization that is demanding release of their imprisoned members in exchange for release of the girls. 

According to reports from leading news agencies, the girls have been divided into several groups, each group being held in a different area just outside the Nigerian border. Also according to reports, a privately viewed video released this past weekend showed that the girls are not having an easy time. They are suffering. They want to go home. 

The problem with multiple locations for the girls is that a rescue attempt would have to be undertaken at every location simultaneously to avoid retribution against the remaining girls. There is a hash tag crusade to "do something" and there is some concern that social media will demand (and force) action that is doomed to fail, resulting in loss of life for the girls and the rescuers. 

It is a problem with no clear solution. A hashtag demanding their release is trendy, but prayers should be more effective. With that in mind, and the promise that the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much, here are a few prayer starters tonight:
- wisdom for those in authority to know which steps would be effective and the courage to take them
- unexpected release of the girls by their captors
- successful escape by the girls, with ready assistance to get back into Nigeria and home with their families
- that God would send angels to unlock every prison door and the girls would have the courage to walk out (at least four girls have recently escaped ) and the wits to find their way home
- that none of the girls would be "married" to the captors or sold as slaves, as Boko Haram leadership has threatened
- that the Boko Haram reign of terror would be brought to an end. Their evil has flourished long enough. 
- that the forces of evil would be quickly and utterly defeated 
- that the long-term effects of their kidnapping would be limited and would make the girls stronger rather than more afraid. 

Pray, friends. These girls are suffering unimaginable horrors. They need to be freed. At this point, it appears only God can accomplish their release, so pray that He will do just that. 

Continue to pray for freedom and healing in the name of Jesus. Amen.  

Translucent versus Transparent

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, (Luke 7:37 NASB)

Yesterday, I wrote about alabaster and the use of alabaster to make window panes.  I called those panes transparent, but that was not quite accurate. When I sent the information about alabaster windows to my son, he searched for a picture of the windows and replied back, "You can't really see through the windows. They just let the light through. Its's really pretty, though."  

Ryan is correct. The appropriate term for those alabaster windows is translucent. They are not clear, but thin enough to let the light shine through. The result is that of a gentle glowing light. He is correct about the effect. It's really lovely. 

The alabaster does not let the harsh light of noonday sun through in all it's intensity. It diffuses it and lets it through without glare. Those inside can look at the panes, and thus the light, without discomfort because of the translucency of the panes. 

That is exactly how we should be with the light of God inside us. The glory of God is so intense, so bright and shining, that we cannot see it directly. It is only in eternity that we will have eyes that can see Him as He is, in all His majesty. 

Our witness of Christ should, in some ways, be like the alabaster panes, translucent and diffusing the light just enough to allow a lovely glow rather than a blinding, harsh spotlight. We are rarely drawn to approach a spotlight, but soft lamplight in a window is a different matter entirely. So should we be with the light of God, allowing our inner light to be glowing in such a way that others are drawn to the light inside us. 

Are people drawn to the light of Christ in us or do we emit a blinding spotlight that is off-putting? Truth must be spoken, but tempered with love, offering reconciliation with Christ rather than condemnation. 

Pray today for translucence that allows the warm glow of the love of Christ to shine through us in such a way that our loved ones will be drawn to the glow and then to Christ Himself. 
Link to last might's post:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mamie meets something big

The dogs have been confined to the house because of the recent rain and have been eager for a romp. This morning, Mamie was barking non-stop for a chance to accompany me to the barn. As usual, she buzzed the cats and hopped on their heads, barked at the chickens through the stall door, and ran in circles, happily playing with any creature that could be enticed to join her.

Because she is so little, still weighing only 5 1/2 lbs, she is usually confined to the tack room when the barn doors are opened to let the horses inside. This morning, she was bouncing and hopping so much that she hopped away from me before I knew it. I was already opening the barn doors and the horses were heading inside for breakfast. 

Mamie has seen the horses before, but she has mostly seen their hooves. This morning, she plunked her bottom down in the dirt, looked up as the first horse headed inside, and dropped her mouth wide open in amazement.  She was so surprised that she sat perfectly still and watched. It was clear that she had, for the first time, realized how very large the horses are in comparison to her own tiny self. She didn't move a muscle until all the horses were in their stalls. 

Little Mamie, apprentice wonder puppy, has a new appreciation for how small she is beside those big horses, and a little better understanding of who she is not. That's a pretty important piece of information for puppies, but it's important for us, too, isn't it?  It's easy to get so caught up in our own little part of the world that we forget how big this planet is and how vast the population. 

An even bigger risk is that we see ourselves as "big", yet fail to recognize the vast omnipotence of God. We see the "hooves" without ever noticing the whole of Him. Perhaps we need to do what Mamie did this morning. Sit down, look up, and watch for the entire revelation. 

Be still, and know that I am God... I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10 KJV)

See-Through Alabaster (Luke 7:37)

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, (Luke 7:37 NASB)

Alabaster is a mineral known as calcite, and, as the name implies, is a carbonate of calcium. It can be either white or brown or a swirled mixture of the two colors. Because of the chemical structure, it is relatively easy to carve and has been used for everything from relief carvings to perfume bottles and decorative figurines. As we see in this verse, the woman was carrying a perfume bottle made of alabaster. 

Alabaster is used in another way that might be surprising to you. When the alabaster is cut into extremely thin sheets, it is transparent and can be used for window panes. In fact, there is a church in Spain with alabaster windows today. 

What a lovely picture of our relationship with Christ! When the excess is cut away, you can see right through it. When all the hurt and sin is removed, when our hearts are purified, we should become so transparent in spirit that onlookers can see right through us to Christ. 

Are our hearts as transparent as a pane of alabaster? When people spend time with us, do the see more of us or more of Jesus?

Pray today for the transparency of spirit that allows our loved ones and all those we encounter to see Christ in us and that seeing, they will believe. 
Link to last might's post:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gathering Rags

Many people lost homes or had considerable property damage in the April tornado that wreaked such havoc in our area. One elderly homeowner lost just about everything. The few existing walls are slated for bulldozing later this month and a new home will be built. Thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, the house will be furnished with new or gently used items. Plans are underway for interior design and landscaping. 

The family will be staying with friends while the house is built. In preparation for the bulldozer, they have worked nonstop to pack up anything that can be salvaged. Someone observing the packing commented, "They are saving rags and don't seem to realize that, when they return, everything will be new."  

It's not unusual for us to hang on to the rags, valuing the stuff of this world, is it? What is tragic is when our love for the rags exceeds our love for that which is whole and good. How heartbreaking it would be to look back on our lives and find that we had clung to the wood, hay, and stubble while ignoring that which has eternal consequence! 

This evening, spend a few minutes looking at that which has priority in your life. Are you clinging to rags?  If so, maybe it's time to reassess and look toward that which lasts. One day, one glorious day, everything will be made new. No rags allowed. 

The Intimacy of Her Hair

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. (Luke 7:37, 38 NASB)

Even today, strictly Orthodox Jewish  married women cover their hair when in public. Paul wrote that her hair was a woman's glory and, when praying or prophesying, it should be covered. With that in mind, it changes how we understand this passage. 

Approaching Jesus from behind, she knelt at his feet, tears streaming down her face in such a flood that it was wetting His feet. Having no cloth to dry Him, she reached up, let down her hair, and used those long tresses to dry the tears. It was, for that time, a scandalous display. Women did not let their hair down in this manner before men who were not their husbands.  In fact, the display of a woman's hair was considered "enticing" and was reserved only for her husband. 

Using her hair to dry His feet was an act of extreme intimacy and love. Only a prostitute would be so emboldened in public, they probably thought. There was no way those Pharisees could understand the depth of emotion and the baring of her soul before Jesus, the One who knew all and still loved her. What they thought about her likely never entered her mind. She was worshipping her Lord, and her eyes were fixed on Jesus. 

It is not her hair, but the depth of emotion and love that drove her to use her hair, that we should emulate. Her all-out, nothing-held-back love is something we we would do well to embrace. 

How fervent is our love for Christ? What do we hold back? How often do we dampen our response to Him in order to avoid the censure of those around us?

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would have hearts so filled with love for Christ that we hold nothing back from Him. 
Link to last night's post:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Sign of Enoch

Several weeks ago, our pastor resigned. Since then, we have had substitute preachers who have done a fine job. The only problem was that they were temporary. Being a woman of a certain age, I've come to appreciate the blessing of a pastor, and I've missed not having one. Not only have my previous pastors given me wonderful insights into difficult Scripture passages and proofed articles for me, but they have also walked with me through the most difficult valleys of my life. Somehow, at the very hardest moments, they have shown up in person without being called, and they have been "Jesus with skin on" for me. The subject of an interim pastor, as you might have expected, has recently been a consistent topic for prayer. I haven't known quite what to request, so I've asked for the one who is right, the interim we need. 

Slipping into the service just as it was starting this morning, I ended up in the very back. The music was just wonderful and the spirit was incredibly sweet. When the guest preacher got up to speak, he began to say things that sounded as if he planned to be with us for a while. Turning to the friend sitting next to me, I whispered, "Is he our new interim?" She shook her head, and whispered back, "I have no idea, but it sounds like it, doesn't it?" We settled in to see what he had to say. 

When he began to talk about walking, it wasn't clear what his topic would be. It was a great introduction for my very favorite Bible story (other than Jesus, of course ), but no one ever preaches about Enoch. Much to my surprise, he began to read from Genesis 5. He was preaching about Enoch. About the time he read verse 24, where Enoch was walking with God and was taken up to heaven, I whispered a little thank you prayer. That Still Small Voice spoke in my heart, "You're welcome. I thought you'd like it." I did. 

It turns out he is our new interim pastor, and the sign of Enoch has confirmed for me that he is exactly what we need. I can't wait to see what God does in our church through the ministry of this Enoch-loving man of God. 

The best part, of course, is not that he preached about Enoch. The best part is that he is clearly God's plan for us, and being in the midst of God's will is sure to bring the best of blessings. That is exactly what God's will always brings, and it's a wonder why we so often fight against it and beg for what we want instead.  

God's will. It's a wonderfully surprising, outrageously adventurous place to be, and tonight I'm giving thanks that my sweet church has landed right in the middle of His plan. May all our lives be as perfectly positioned! 

"I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." (Jeremiah 29: 11 MSG)

Approaching from Behind (Luke 7:37)

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. (Luke 7:37, 38 NASB)

At this time, Jesus was "reclining at the table". This was not the table and chairs to which we are accustomed. It was a low table around which pillows were piled (rather than chairs) on which the guests sat. If you understand the position of the guests, you can better understand the woman's action. Jesus was seated, leaning to one side, with His feet behind Him. 

This woman knew Jesus was in the house and came prepared to offer a gift of love to Him. She quietly approached and, by the time she arrived just behind Jesus, tears were streaming down her face. She was overcome with her love for her Savior and her gratitude for the forgiveness of her sins, as well as conviction/grief over her sin. We might have tapped Him on the shoulder to let Him know we were there, but she just knelt behind Jesus, with tears dripping onto those precious feet.  

She had come with a lovely gift, but she did not even try to catch His eye or look Jesus in the face. She was not trying to earn points with Him, she was simply there to honor Him. 

It's one thing to do public acts of love for Jesus in a way that brings recognition to ourselves. It's another thing entirely to honor Jesus "from behind, at his feet". How often do we offer silent, loving acts of service "from behind"? How often are our actions motivated only by extravagant love and immense gratitude?

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would be filled with "behind" love that seeks no recognition but only strives to honor Him. 
The link for last might's post is here: