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Offense Offering Perspective Uncategorized

Why Trouble Her?

 

Mark 14:6 “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

I read this morning the above verse in the account of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. If you read the entire account, Mark 14:1-9, it seems that the atmosphere at the time of her offering was charged with negativity and judgment. You know the kind that takes place obviously, but supposed to be secret? Whispering, murmuring around the room under their breath, the disciples whispering, supposing no one else is taking notice but their discontent at the situation taking place before them provoked them to overt offense, it seems almost immediately.

“Why not sell it?” The disciples queried.

“Why not give the proceeds to the poor?” A noble gesture, they reasoned must be more acceptable to God instead of this waste of expensive perfume.

No matter that the perfume was the giver’s possession to use as she felt – why did the disciples feel justified to tell her how to offer her gift? Was it not hers to give how she felt led to give it? Obviously she got something right as to this day, even today as I write about her, her offering stands tall in scripture.

She must have had something right in her heart when she offered to anoint His feet with this perfume.

I heard a preacher once say that, “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.” I’ve found that to be true in my own life on many occasions. In the case of offering, why does it bother me, who has given me the right to dictate how or what someone should give their gifts to the Lord? I might not give in the same manner as others do, however, they don’t give as I do. Ought not we celebrate the diversity we have in the family of God rather than tearing it down at every chance we get?

While the outward reasonings of the disciples might have appeared to be noble, if you go on to read the account that takes place directly after this anointing, you’ll find Judas speaking with religious leaders – getting his money in exchange for the life of the Son of God.

It seems to me Jesus had already caught Judas on other occasions taking money inappropriately from their money (Judas was their treasurer see John 12:16). It might have been this last act was too much for Judas to bear. Perhaps he felt “ripped off” when he realized Jesus wasn’t going to bestow great riches and honor on the disciples; it might be that he felt he needed an “out” in order to get what he could while “the getting was good.”

Whatever Judas’ reasoning was, it was false, and it led to his demise (Judas hung himself see Matt. 27:1-10).

Judas’ fear of missing out on what he thought was his “due,” cost him his life. Imagine what his life could have been had his desire for money not overtaken him? He could have been part of a church that “turned the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). Instead, his drive for his “due,” to get what was owed him for his service, drove him away from an amazing possibility.

Money can always be replaced, but it’s impossible to replace our lives that are intended to be lived for the Kingdom.

So, why trouble her? The offering is hers to give.

Categories
Choices Church planting Dreams Missions Obedience Offering Thankful Vision

Living the Dream

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Maybe this comes with age and experience, of which I am now a possessor of a bit of both. How much age and experience? I won’t divulge exactly how much but certainly enough to get me into trouble, of which I have had a fair share.

As I write this, a new season has dawned on us and I find myself for the first time in longer than I can remember feeling anticipation for the days that lie ahead. Anyone who has worked for any length of time in a specific field deals more with the discipline of reaching for a dream than the joy of attaining it. I believe that the discipline of reaching towards something is simply faith made real. Faith is not only something that dwells in our hearts, faith is something that we do, it is what we live by – it’s what gives us our very breath (see Rom. 1:17).

Moving from that discipline of faith to actually enjoying what we are working for by faith before we see it’s fulfillment is where we will find longevity in whatever it is God has called us to do. Those moments when we see with our physical eyes the fulfillment of what God has promised us have, at least in my own life, taken time to come to pass. If we wait to rejoice until we have seen with our eyes what has been promised to us, seasons of drought could very well push us to give up on the dream.

Have you ever come to the place where you’re thinking of giving up on your dream? I have and it isn’t at all pleasant. I have found myself in those places most often when I’ve been disappointed that things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

Had I known it would turn out this way…

I wasn’t expecting this much resistance…

 No one understands or cares about what I had to give up …

 Slowly but surely, the temptation to give up, fueled by my own self-pity, takes a seat in the forefront of my thoughts until a crossroad is reached and I must decide if the dream is worth it or not. Will I fan the flames of despair in my dry desert or will I fan the flames of God’s gift, His dream, to me? The former is, at the onset, much easier to do but in the end leads only to more regret.

What would have happened if I hadn’t given up?

What would have happened if I had chosen to stay?

What would have happened if I had given the dream one more chance?

After a bit of time and experience, again I won’t admit to how much of either, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to simply tolerate reaching for the dream. The dream has to be cherished, guarded, and enjoyed! Hidden in the discipline of obedience one finds the deepest joy that life has to offer: a satisfaction that goes beyond the simple emotion of happiness when a goal is reached.

The dreams we carry have been entrusted to us by God and we have not only the responsibility but the honor of reaching for their fulfillment. Their success or failure doesn’t depend on our abilities but on His ability in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJ  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The dream isn’t given for our own glory or acclaim; it’s for His glory and acclaim and He is well able to make it come true. Whether or not any of us are recognized on this earth for what we have done for the Kingdom is irrelevant – we’re reaching for the prize that has heaven as our home and what more could we ask for?

The dream is also a treasure that God has chosen to entrust us with; whatever your treasure is, cherish it! Fan the flames of your dream (2 Tim. 1:6) and see your passion for the treasure that it represents grow; don’t allow the work of the dream and the disappointments you face along the way to blur its figure into a mere shadow of what it once was.

I’ve been guilty of giving up, feeling sorry for myself, and wanting to give up on the dream – more times than I care to remember! Each time I’ve thrown in my towel and called it a day, the dream calls me back for I know there’s nothing else for me to do but live the dream.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

 

 

Categories
Choices Courage Destiny Dreams God's call Missions Obedience Offering Sacrifice The Call of God Vision

The Cards Are On The Table

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I’ve recently started a podcast (click here to follow) and what’s been stirring in my heart has been God’s call on our lives; how to follow when the masses are trying to steer us elsewhere. All of us who love Jesus have an assignment on our lives and how we get from point A to point B is where we often stumble.

I have experienced hearing God’s call to missions, to Africa, and answering that call. Following God’s voice  can be likened to following a deep inner desire. While I did, as a child, actually have a vision of the continent of Africa, that vision alone wasn’t enough to keep me going daily in my trek to follow God’s call. It was more of a diving board that God used to launch me in to trusting Him with my life. Jamie (my husband) didn’t have the kind of experience I had as a child; he only felt a strong and irretrievable desire to go to Africa. When we met and married, following God’s path together came naturally and we walked in tandem on His path together. It has been that way for us ever since – neither of us wants to veer off this blessed path that we are on. It has been a journey that has led us to the greatest of heights where God’s power has been on full display for all to see as well as leading us to places of deep darkness where His Word led us sometimes moment by moment when no one was looking.

God’s Word to us, His assignment on our lives, is not only one that requires a daily trust in His wisdom, but also one that will be tested. It is as if you’ll hear, “Did God really say?” whispered into your ears time and again.

Psalm 105:17-20 NKJV  He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.”

The above is referring to Joseph; he had been falsely accused and was sent to languish in the prison. Joseph had a dream from childhood that he would become a leader, yet he found himself (and the Word God had given him) being tested in prison. It’s often at this juncture of being tested in prison, when the Word God has given to us is being tried, that we are sorely tempted to give in.

I’m sure Joseph went through a great deal of emotional stress sitting in prison, I’m sure he wasn’t doing a dance when his feet were being bound in shackles. While I am sure he had emotional stress during this time, what I don’t see written in this story is Joseph verbalizing to a great extent his frustration and questioning God’s Word, God’s call. In time, after the testing was complete, Joseph did indeed rise to the calling God had placed on his life. God was true to His Word – He was faithful.

Whether or not Joseph was going to fulfill the call was up to him – the call was there, God’s offer, so to speak, was on the table. Joseph had to accept it no matter what he had to lay down. Think of it, the call cost Joseph everything – he lost everything he owned, he even lost his freedom when he was imprisoned. Still, the call remained and he trusted the word of the Lord.

It may be that you feel you’re “in prison” today; that the call is so far from where you are that it’s an impossible thing to reach. If that’s the case, then keep hanging on. You’re closer than you think. It may just be that the Word God spoke to your heart is being tested and you’re having to live out your own “Joseph experience,” in a prison of sorts.

God is faithful, His Word is true and He is looking for those who will lay everything on the table – for this is the cost of the call. The cards are on the table, it’s all or nothing! The beauty of the call is this: God always gives back much more than we offered to Him. It will come with a price, sometimes that price involves persecution, misunderstanding, traversing dark places, loneliness, and more – but the price we are called to pay, the cards that we lay down, are never greater than the grace He gives us in the process.

God isn’t bluffing – He laid His cards down, now it’s our turn.

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Categories
Fasting Offering Sacrifice

Day 11 – Vultures

vultures-1081751_1920A common sight in Africa, vultures can regularly be seen circling the skies in search of their next meal. They are opportunistic carnivores meaning they don’t like to work for their food. When they are circling above and they see that lions have brought down their prey, you can be sure they will signal to their vulture friends that lunch is served.

While fully capable of fending for themselves like other birds of prey, vultures prefer to take what isn’t theirs. They are large birds, intimidating in appearance, and will protest loudly when challenged. But in the end, when stood up to, will fly away only to return and try again.

Vultures are thieves; they steal what doesn’t belong to them. You might think upon initial observation that vultures are fearful – but the more you watch them it’s obvious that they are not fearful – they’re just plain lazy, resourceful, and clever. They know that the mighty lion can easily bring them down with one swipe of their paw. They know that they put their very lives at risk to steal from the lion, but they are gambling on the lion’s becoming weary of chasing them away as they won’t easily give up on a free meal.

Lions will eat until they are gorged with meat as they often go long periods of time without bringing down an animal for a meal. For every time they are successful at bringing down a meal, there are 4 or 5 other attempts when they have failed. The effort they put out and the danger they put themselves in when hunting (for animals with sharp hooves and horns won’t go down easily) takes much of their energy. Once they have hunted and eaten, they often don’t want to bother with chasing away the vultures. The problem is if they don’t chase away the vultures, there will be no leftovers to eat when they get hungry again.

Vultures don’t announce their arrival. While they are often seen in groups, they search alone for carcasses. Once a carcass has been sighted, one lone vulture will begin to circle and others will soon join him. Then, the familiar circling pattern of vultures overhead can be seen. At first just a few birds will land, tentatively approaching their targeted meal. Once the first bites have been taken, those circling overhead land swiftly for their meal. Their work must be swift, as other scavengers, hyenas and jackals, or the ones who originally took down the kill, like lions, are sure to be nearby. There’s not much time so their work is in earnest.

Genesis 15:11 NLT “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.”

God had called Abram out from among his relatives to go to an unknown land. Abram in obedience left everything he knew and traveled without knowing where his final destination would be. He only knew that God was faithful, promised him a great family and nation that would be born from his family, and He was making a covenant with Abram to prove His faithfulness.

Abram, with great effort, had come to this point in his life and offered sacrifices to God. In no time at all, the vultures began to circle and swoop down to eat what he had worked hard to give to God. Abram was tired, but spent an entire night chasing away the vultures. At the end of the process, Abram’s journey to seeing God’s promise to him began as God made a covenant with him.

I’ve learned that what I’ve laid at the altar as a sacrifice to God needs protection from the vultures. Like the mighty lion, it only takes one swipe to shoo them away but the very appearance of a vulture can be intimidating and they will surely return to try again.

The vultures are circling; they’re searching for a way to quickly steal what doesn’t belong to them. The question is am I ready to protect what I’ve offered? Or, am I willing to let circumstances, the vultures of hailstorms (see Day 10 blog), weariness, doubt, and fear rob me of my future?

No, I won’t let a vulture take my sacrifice.


 

Categories
Choices Obedience Offering

Day 3 – Not a Word

I’ve been guilty of grumbling over the “long” wait I have had for answers to my prayers. I’ve also complained that the journey has been “so hard” and “no one else” can understand how hard it has been. No, certainly there isn’t anyone who could possibly understand this road. Having to go from place to place, learn languages, use tents for our churches, wondering how things will get done. Then I remember Abraham and his life and am immediately reminded that this journey in obedience has been taken many times before I was even born.

Abraham is one of the greatest human examples we can draw from on the subject because of his deep “humanness” in the middle of great obedience to God and sacrifice. As well as being a great man of faith, he was a man with great flaws just like the rest of us – and this gives the rest of us hope! Despite being flawed, human, God can and will use us if we dare to believe.

Let’s pick up Abraham’s story in the latter part of Genesis 11 when he was known as Abram (God later renamed him Abraham). Initially, Abraham was an idol maker, his family made their wealth off of making idols. They were quite well off, I imagine if Abraham lived at this stage of his life today we would find him somewhere on Palm Beach or in Los Angeles or some other expensive area with a large mansion, owning some posh business and involved in the “jet set” of society.

In the opening of chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abraham and tells him to “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you…” (vs. 1) in subsequent verses, God promises Abraham that he would be blessed and through him all nations of the world would be blessed.

In verse 4 of chapter 12 it reads, “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him…” He went with his whole family. It’s mind-boggling that there was no record of Abraham asking God questions like: how? why? where? He simply obeyed immediately. Where was he going? He didn’t know but he went. He knew the plan of God in part, that he would be a blessing – but all he knew to do was to go so he did. He left the “how” it would get done to God.

Throughout Genesis, if you take the time to read through it, you’ll see how Abraham basically kept his course and somehow kept going toward the goal that God had set for him. Throughout the process, we see moments where his humanness shows, like when he tried to pass off his wife as his sister (though somehow there was some truth to that statement, maybe that was his justification for his error in judgment??), when he tried to bring about the promise of having a son through Hagar instead of Sarah, and so on. Finally, though, we see God come through and Abraham’s son of promise, Isaac, is born. What a great day of celebration that must have been for Abraham!

But the journey of sacrifice that had already taken many years for Abraham, was not yet complete. God had another hurdle set before Abraham, not to test him so that God Himself would know what was in Abraham’s heart, for God knows what’s in the hearts of all people (2 Chron. 6:30). God tested Abraham so Abraham could see what was in his own heart. Sound familiar? How many times have we all gone through things and later on thought, “Wow, how did I get through that?” God knew it was in you to get through – so you did, you just needed to see it.

I want us to pick up the story in Genesis chapter 22 where we see one of the greatest (if not the greatest) parallels to the offering of Christ in the Bible, where Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac to God as a burnt offering.

Gen. 22:2-19

Isaac, the son of promise, was the demand that God placed on Abraham. He told Abraham in Genesis 22:2, “offer him to Me.”  I believe Abraham reasoned that God had given him Isaac, God had the right to ask for him. He also knew God had promised to raise up a nation from Isaac so if he offered his son, he knew God would have to raise him from the dead in order to keep His promise – for God is a God of His Word (Titus 1:2).

What I find astounding about Abraham and his life is seen at this juncture when, in the next verse 3, we read, “so Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Mount Moriah).” His decision to obey wasn’t one that he laboured over; this father who loved his son and had waited for his birth immediately obeyed a command he certainly couldn’t understand. How many times have I agonised over God’s call? His demand on my life? Why has my obedience been delayed? To be reasonable? To get prepared? The scriptures don’t give us much insight into Abraham’s thought processes but I’m sure he struggled as we do now. The difference we see between our agonising obedience and his was that his obedience was immediate.

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We don’t see Sarah being consulted here; this doesn’t mean she didn’t know. This simply means that Abraham was commanded to do something and he obeyed. I tend to think that Abraham must have told Sarah, after all they had been through and she supported him, but who knows? Nevertheless, whether or not she knew wasn’t what was being driven home here. What is important for us to note is that whether or not she approved or disapproved of what Abraham was doing had nothing to do with Abraham’s obedience. This was a command given to him by God; this was his journey to take whether or not others, even those closest to him, understood or approved. When we obey God, we have to be ready for resistance and even rejection for God’s ways, as we know, are far beyond human understanding.

Imagine what this man went through for this act of obedience, he not only had to endure his own thoughts, but he prepared everything he needed for the sacrifice. Just like God when He prepared everything on that first Christmas night for His sacrifice (he prepared a family for Him, a home to grow in until the time came for Him to move on to His offering of His own sacrifice).   Abraham prepared for sacrificing his son: he split the wood for the sacrifice, loaded it all together with his son and his servants, and off he went.

Abraham understood that this was a job he had to tend to personally. Just like God understood that the redemption of mankind was a personal journey He had to take. No one else could do it for him, none of his paid servants could offer Isaac for him – this was his sacrifice, his journey. He stopped life to make it happen.

It took 4 days for Abraham to get to the mountain of Moriah (Genesis 22:4) with his entourage. Imagine those 4 days and what they were like. 4 days to think about what he was going to do. Just like God Who had 33 years to think about what Jesus was going to do when He faced the cross – but He (like Abraham) never backed down. No words in either case of re-thinking the issue or finding a bartering tool – a way of escape. Simple silence, no words were given to express feeling.

As a parent, I can tell you at least from my perspective what Abraham must have been feeling.   You could do the same, those of you who are parents. That baby that he had prayed decades for, giving up as an offering? No bitterness spewing from his father’s mouth, just courage and endurance. It must have been a long 4 days to Moriah.

At the bottom of  the mountain of Moriah, the story goes on to say (Genesis 22:5) that Abraham left the donkey and the young men. He had to leave anything that might have slowed him down or influenced him in any way so he could go and “worship.” Notice he says at the end of the verse that “we will come back to you.” He must have clung to the promise, just like Jesus did as He looked at the “joy” (you and me) set before Him so He could endure, knowing that Isaac was the door to God’s promise. But all he could think as he climbed that mountain must have been, “My son. Isaac! My only son!” Obedience, I’ve learned, comes from the heart, not the mind. Abraham knew that his mind couldn’t understand what his heart knew: he had to obey God.

Historians have noted that Moriah is one and the same as the mountain in Jerusalem or Calvary. When Jesus climbed that same mountain as Abraham and Isaac, His reaction to His offering required by God was the same –

Isaiah 53:7 “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.”

Isaac, once arriving at the top of the mountain, asks his father, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) In wisdom, Abraham clings to God’s promise saying “God will provide a lamb…”

The difference between Abraham’s offering and God’s is this: Abraham’s obedience was full and God provided a sacrifice for Abraham in the form of a ram at the top of the mountain – Isaac was spared. God had no substitute when He gave us Jesus. And Jesus’ offering was complete all the way to death.

This is what obedience means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. It is proving to myself the level of my commitment to God.

The parallel of Abraham’s & God’s offerings doesn’t end with the sacrifice. Perhaps the greatest parallel exists in why they offered their offerings:

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Galatians 3:13, 14 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

This is what our lifetime sacrifice means to me: it is the ascent to Moriah, to Calvary. It is the giving up so that others may live. God calls all of us to Moriah so that He can use us for the sake of others.

All of us are called to this place of sacrifice; everyone has their own sacrifice. For me, Moriah brought me to a place of sacrificing my family. I have known the sacrifice of leaving my parents, my siblings, my nation, which was difficult enough. I have known the sacrifice of being misunderstood and having to learn languages and new cultures. Yes, those were hard. But now I have come to the greatest mountain of sacrifice when I had to leave my children. All I thought about as I climbed that mountain was “how can I do this?” But God somehow gave me grace so others could hear, so others could know. I had to trust Him with my sacrifice, my children.

That sacrifice brought great pain to me, to us, but in our offering, came much joy. God provided for all their needs and He is using us to plant more churches, feed more children – and in the offering we still have child #4 filling our home with joy. Yes, God thinks of everything.

The new climb He has asked of us is to trust our offering to Him. If I’ve offered my children, living near them, helping them when they need help and enjoying my grandchildren, I must truly leave it with Him without complaint. After all, it’s a very small offering in comparison to what the Father offered for me.

Are these people, these people that surround us every day worth what God is asking us to climb and offer at Moriah for Him? Yes it is. You might not feel it, I might not feel it, you might not feel like it, but it is worth it because there was a day that our Saviour climbed that same mountain for us – and He didn’t say a word.


We’re now in Day 3! How are you doing? I’m appreciating the personal messages that are coming through to me via email and messenger. I’d love for others to read your faith-filled comments. It’s a great encouragement during times like a fast to read what God is saying to fellow believers. Click in the comment section of the blog and leave your comments there and we can get encouragement to the whole group.

I was also asked about Bible reading and what plan to follow by several readers. I want to encourage you to go to YouVersion (if you have access to a computer) and there you will find many Bible reading plans. I prefer the One Year Bible myself but there are some other interesting options there. I’ll include the link here for you to take a look.

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Of course you can purchase the One Year Bible at your local bookstore or online if you prefer pages to computer screens!