A Worshipful Splurge (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 16, 2014)

I don’t splurge on very many things, but I have a bottle of perfume that cost about $40 on sale, which is expensive, in my book. I justify paying so much because I can make a single bottle stretch for a couple of years. The other morning while getting ready for work, I applied some hand lotion, and instead of waiting to let it soak in and dry, I immediately reached for that bottle of perfume, and it slipped right through my greasy fingers!

 

Thankfully, it landed in a basket in an open drawer and did not bust. I would have been disappointed to waste it, not to mention having to deal with cleaning up the mess. My whole house would probably smell girly, much to my sons’ chagrin! As I finished getting ready (more carefully!), I thought about a perfume story that I remembered from the Bible.

 

All four gospels give some account of a woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfume (see Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 7, & John 12). We’re not talking $40 type of expensive, either. The Bible says that this special perfume cost about a year’s income! Maybe some people nowadays would spend that kind of money on a fancy car or an original masterpiece of art, but I can’t imagine anything other than a house that most people would pay so much for.

 

Anointing usually involves pouring oil on one’s head, and Matthew and Mark bring attention to the extraordinary cost of the perfume as she anointed Jesus, but Luke and John share some additional details that I find remarkable. John mentions that the woman also anointed Jesus’ feet, then wiped off the perfume with her own hair. Luke adds that she was crying while she anointed his feet, and she wiped off her tears and the perfume with her hair.

 

You and I may not have the means to give extravagant financial offerings to the Lord, but each of us can give him things that are even more important: our love and our lives. The perfume anointing was an outward display of the woman’s heartfelt worship. In the same way, we can offer the Lord our sold-out hearts in worship every day.

Advertisements

Worth Remembering (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 24, 2014)

In the hopes of sending the kids out of the house each morning in the right mindset, I taped a Dr. Seuss quote to the door that reads: “Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Similar to the cliché about having only one opportunity to make a first impression, if you see someone infrequently, then your attitude and actions from that day will stick in their memory, whether good or bad. Unfortunately for parents, it seems like the times when you want the kids to make the best impression, they do completely the opposite and act like hyenas in a boxing ring.

As a church family, we have a similar opportunity every week to make a good impression. Every detail matters – from having enough greeters in the parking lot to enough toilet paper in the restrooms, from the printed bulletin to a handshake during welcome time, from the music to the sermon. What do we want visitors (and members, for that matter) to remember as they leave the building each week?

I’ve been guilty sometimes of showing up to church in a grumpy mood, stressed out or preoccupied. It pains me to think that I may not have smiled at someone who really needed to be uplifted that particular day (even more than I may have) or didn’t go a few steps out of my way to say “hi” to a new person because I wasn’t feeling sociable. Those aren’t the things I want them to remember. I want them to remember having a personal encounter with God because of their worship experience that morning.

Psalm 111 provides a great example of a lasting impression. The author begins by declaring, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation” (v. 1, ESV). Surrounded by people who are creating a first impression of us (and Christ in us, consequently), will we put aside the distractions and focus on giving thanks to God with all that we are?

The good news is that even though we are human and screw things up more often than we’d like to admit, God is still so gracious and faithful. Today marks another fall and another new school year for us as a church family to strive to live authentically (albeit, imperfectly) in community together. Looking back we can claim dozens upon dozens of people baptized and hundreds of lives changed. God deserves our praise and thanksgiving! The psalmist wrote, “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful” (v. 4). But, looking forward our hearts must still ache to say, “Oh, there are more stories God has for this fall and into the new year.” If we are faithful to live out our calling as a church family, just imagine the stories we will be telling in the fall of 2015. And what about the stories to come in the years that follow? It starts now! It starts today!

Originally posted June 2, 2013 (revised)

The Great Outdoors (Prayer devotional for the week of June 29, 2014)

What comes to mind when you think of summer? Even as blazing hot as it is, I still think of the great outdoors—especially anything having to do with water. I spent my summers on swim team and love the water! Playing in sprinklers and drinking straight from the hose, swimming in the lake and pool, collecting shells and rocks at the beach, going canoeing at church camp, having water balloon and squirt gun wars … there are so many fun things to do outside.

There is something about being in and around water that is so soothing, so inviting, so relaxing. Watching waves on the beach or listening to nature sounds at the lake seems to slow down time and re-center our perspectives.

And yet, water can also be unsettling … to the Gulf Coast resident bracing for another hurricane … to the adult at the pool party who never learned to swim … to the tent cities in Haiti during the rainy season.

I’ve often heard that even the poorest in America are far richer than the poor in many other places of the world. It is hard to fathom, but let’s try to think about it. I wouldn’t particularly want to bathe in Lake Waco or the Bosque or Brazos Rivers, but any of those options would be better than a sewage-laden, stagnant gutter. If worse came to worst, I could walk into just about any public building around town and take a non-toxic, free drink from the nearest water fountain. When I turn on the faucets in my house, I expect clear water to come pouring out. We may be under drought conditions, but we still have washing machines, dishwashers, sprinklers, bottled water and swimming pools accessible to us. None of us will die of thirst tomorrow.

Yet, some others will.

So, as you head to the lake/pool/river to celebrate during this holiday weekend, let’s turn our hearts to God in thanksgiving for the blessings of our freedom, to be certain, but also his creation. Take time to thank him for “little” things – like indoor plumbing and the fact that we can worship freely in church today – and lift up those who cannot.
Originally posted July 3, 2011