Mary: Faith + Action

Yesterday, I asked how we can show our love for Jesus. As I got to the very end of the post, I the answer popped in my head. I understood Mary’s motivation. I started to change the whole post, then realized that I should just leave it alone, and write another one.

So how did Mary of Bethany show her love for Jesus in Mark 14:3?

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

I’ve read this a hundred times or more in my life. You might have, too. But I think we have a tendency to read the overall story, and miss the important details.

What Mary did was not just talk about her love for Christ, but to show it. And how do we show our love for Christ? Through FAITH!

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Jesus told His disciples He was going to be killed. They didn’t seem to want to think about it. Maybe they didn’t understand it. Maybe they didn’t want to believe it. Peter even tried to talk Jesus out of it.

But Mary took Him at His word. She had been paying close attention to everything Jesus said. She didn’t question Him as the others did. She had complete faith in Him, and she acted on that faith. How refreshing that must have been for Jesus! Mary’s act not only said, “I love You, I believe You, and I believe in You.” Her act of love and devotion also said, “If You must do this, then I’m here for You.” And He knew it. He knew her heart. He knew her faith.

Mark 14:8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.”

It seems most people who encountered Jesus in the Bible wanted something from Him. But Mary gave to Him what she could. And this must have been rare, for Jesus not only affirmed her actions, He gave her a very great honor.  Continue reading

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Mary: A True Love Story

Mary’s Love for Jesus Poured Out
Mark 14:3-9 (see also Matt. 26:6–13; John 12:1–8 ) NKJV

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Picture yourself as one of Jesus’ disciples. You’re sitting around a friend’s house for a meal, and a woman you know, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, comes in. Without saying a word, she stands before Jesus, takes out a very expensive bottle of perfumed oil, breaks it open, and pours the entire bottle over Jesus’ head. What goes through your mind?

Most of Jesus’ disciples were men, that may be why they looked at the situation from a common sense point of view. They just heard Jesus tell the rich man to sell everything and give the money to the poor, and here Mary has just wasted a year’s worth of wages by pouring it over Jesus’ head. It’s no wonder that they berated her for such an action. Think how much that could have done for the poor! Isn’t this what Jesus was going to tell her?

But they were wrong. Jesus always looks at our heart. And He could see she was focused solely on Him and what she could do for Him. He could see her need to show Him her love. Jesus knew she was doing this because she believed every word He said about His upcoming death, that He was dying for them, and she had a deep need to thank Him.

Continue reading

No Regrets

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
Revelation 3:2

When I read through the Bible, I always find verses that echo what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, what I need at the moment. This verse, Revelation 3:2, kinda freaks me out, because it reflects a deep feeling I’ve had in recent months that I haven’t been able to put into words, and at the same time helps me answer a question we had last week in our small group Bible study.

We’re doing a study based on Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. The study guide asked, “If today was the day you died, what would you regret, and why?” Revelation 3:2 answers that question for me in three ways.

Wake up!”

Regret #1 – To find I wasn’t paying attention, and that life could have been so much better if I had been.

Have you ever started to tell someone something, and they assume they know what you’re going to say so they jump in with their opinion, and it’s not at all what you were talking about? I think God’s plan for our individual lives might be like that. He starts talking and we’re all, “Okay God. I see where you’re going. I’ll take it from here.” Maybe He’s trying to tell us to stop and listen, because that’s not what He was going to say, and He has a better way.

Life is so busy. When we’re not doing, we’re thinking about what we have to do, or entertaining ourselves to escape thinking about it. But in all that running and avoiding, are we even paying attention to life, or the fact that it’s short? I don’t think so. I feel like I’m missing what God has for me, because I’m concentrating on all the things I think I should be doing. But what if that’s not what He wants me for me? He says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Do you feel like your yoke is easy or your burden light? I think I’m doing it wrong and it’s time to “Wake up!” and find out what His plan for my life is and what I can do to follow that plan better. Stop running and avoiding, and pay attention. Continue reading

Consuming Fires and Their Place in Our Lives

(Breaking Good? Part 2)

Anyway, what I really wanted to say when I got lost in telling you about bonding with our kids over Breaking Bad was how things stick with us and sometimes consume us.

It has become our habit to watch Breaking Bad on Sunday afternoons. We usually watch three to five episodes, two and a half to four hours at a time.

The first time we did this was a couple of Sundays ago. After watching five episodes of Breaking Bad we couldn’t stop talking about it. For two or three days, and in my dreams, that’s all I could think about. “I’ll bet they’ll…” “Oh, I get why they…” “That pink bear was all over the place. I wonder if it means anything.” “What would I do…” And on and on and on.

Then a thought occurred to me. How can we make church do that? How can we make people think about God constantly, and be that preoccupied with questions and a need for Him? What could the church do differently that would make believers and nonbelievers alike run home after service and Google parts of what they just heard to learn more, to have after-church lunches that last hours because the participants are so lost in discussion, every Sunday?

Or not even church. Our small group time, or just our study time, our alone time with God. Anything!

I want to spend three to five hours, one day a week, with God, learning about Him. I want to give Him my full, focused, undistracted, uninterrupted attention. I want that time to be so deep and involving that it’s all I can think about for days. I want it to make me questions and search my mind and my heart and His word and the internet for answers. I want to talk to others about it and have them be on the same page as I am, and as blown away by His awesomeness as I am!

But it seems a lot harder than doing the same thing with Breaking Bad.

Why? Why is it so easy to get so involved with a TV show that is about a guy in a situation I will never, ever be in, doing things I will never, ever do? Shouldn’t it be easier to get deeply involved with a God who knows me personally? With His book that is a love letter written to me and has the answer to every situation I will ever be in?

Maybe it’s because I grew up knowing and loving God. Being a Christian is not new to me. It’s not some shiny Christmas package I’ve just discovered in the back of Mom’s closet that drives me wild with curiosity, which is kinda how I feel about this show. I’m used to Christianity. It’s always been a part of who I am.

I guess it’s like eating chocolate cake for the very first time. You would perceive the taste, smell, texture, the lusciousness of each bite of that cake a lot differently than you would if you were someone who had cake after dinner every night. If you are a Christian, you remember what it was like when you first gave your life to Jesus. I was so excited, so turned on, it was all I wanted to talk about for the first few months. Now it still excites me just as much, but I’ve calmed down, learned to live with it.

And there it is. Light bulb!

When I first started writing this, I had no idea where I was going with it. It just bothered me that it’s so easy to get so deeply involved with a TV show or movie or book. We’ll look up things about it on the internet, follow the stars on Twitter, join Facebook groups, try to get others to watch it, anything to get more involved with it. And it’s only meant to be entertainment, not a lifestyle.

Christianity is meant to be a lifestyle.

Our interest and involvement in entertainment can burn bright and hot, but when it does, it burns out quickly. We could not sustain such involvement at such a heat for long. We get excited about things, and they are all we talk about, but sooner or later the excitement of the newness fades. Some are long lasting interests. These we learn to incorporate into our lives. They take their place on the shelf with the rest of our interests. Life goes on, enriched but not dominated by this interest.

In our walk with God, we do have times of deep immersion. I’ve gone on retreats or done Bible studies that totally enveloped me. He was all I wanted to occupy myself with, and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, we can’t live like this on a daily basis. While we may have the desire, we just don’t have the time. There’s an old saying, “If we’re too heavenly minded, we’ll be no earthly good.” If we were too completely absorbed with any one thing, be it God, a TV show, a hobby, or whatever, after a while our friends would start to fade away, and no one except those as obsessed as we are would want to listen to us or even be around us. We’d lose our jobs. Our homes would be an unsanitary mess. It’s just not how our lives were meant to be. Even Jesus took time to just hang out with His friends.

So yes, I think we need to have times where we are completely occupied by our pursuit of God, but He put us here to live a daily life full of a variety of things. It’s okay to look up from the Bible and take in everything around us, and enjoy a little bit of whatever He puts in our path, be it good friends, family, food, music, or even television shows…with relish…as long as we remember to put Him first. We just need to keep ourselves in check and not go overboard with our little obsessions.

No problem there. This is the last season of Breaking Bad. 😉