Tag Archives: gratitude

How a Fragrance Can Impact Eternity

Mary had her faith tried hard but vindicated beyond expectation. Lazarus was not just healed from his illness but raised from the dead. Jesus possessed a greatness she never anticipated. What she saw left her eternally changed and grateful.

She could never repay Jesus, but she wanted to show her gratitude in a unique way. She chose a rare perfume which cost a year’s wages, poured it over His feet and wiped His feet with her hair. This act signified her subjection to Jesus at her deepest level. It was a public act of thanksgiving for a work of Jesus like no other.

Mary now understood in a deeper way who Jesus was: her long-promised Messiah. Her submission to Jesus was not one of subservience, but of release and freedom. By trusting Jesus beyond her comfort zone, she prepared herself (and us) for an even deeper revelation of Him in a few days.

A little later, the Gentile followers of God said, “We would see Jesus.” Long excluded from the temple, these true followers knew Jesus was their only hope of gaining access to the Father. Soon, they would rejoice in thanksgiving as the veil of the temple would be torn in two from top to bottom, giving them access to God along with the Covenant People.

Jesus’ next act would not just resurrect Lazarus. He would destroy the work of the devil. Since the days of Adam, the world lay in the bondage of corruption and death. Now, Jesus would free the whole world from Satan’s stranglehold. He would release the captives, proclaim sight to the blind, set free the oppressed. He would pour out His Holy Spirit. He would establish His ekklesia and bring the kingdom of God on earth, through ordinary men, women, children.

The world has never been the same since Mary’s thankful heart helped pave the way with her jar of rare fragrance. From that day, the rare fragrance of the gospel has spread from Mary’s house to the entire Roman world and beyond.

Mary’s act of gratitude and submission and the Gentiles’ seeking after Jesus contrast sharply with the reactions of just about everyone else who should have known better. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ own disciple, witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection, but he condemned Mary for wasting her money. The chief priests refused to recognize Jesus’ divine authority and saw Him as a threat.

The following Sunday, Jerusalem crowds waved palm branches to welcome Him as king, but they saw Jesus’ miracle only through their own limited political expectations and hatred of their Roman oppressors. In a few days, their “hosannas” became, “Crucify Him!”

Soon, their hard hearts and blindness to Jesus’ authority and Messiahship, and their lack of thanksgiving to Him would bring needless tragedy. Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus and commit suicide rather than repent. In 70 AD, the Romans would destroy the temple and its corrupt system. Starvation and bloodshed would destroy the people of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, many of them turning on each other.

This grim lesson from history is clear: only a spirit of thankful generosity towards God leads to further revelation, freedom and fellowship with Him, extending to more and more people who catch our spirit. Let us call upon Him to give us the thankful and generous spirit of Mary.

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What the World Cannot Ignore

autumn-trees-tumblr-wallpaper-3The first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims took place among people who sacrificed and suffered beyond words. During their first harsh winter in America, they lost almost half their number. Yet those who lived thanked God for His provision in the midst of widespread grief.

The apostle Paul suffered trials and persecutions almost without number. Yet he says he has learned to be content under all conditions, whether good or bad. “I can do all things,” he writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul’s experience and that of the Pilgrims indicates that contentment and thanksgiving are not natural human traits. They are learned experiences that come over time through daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the product of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we do this, Jesus says, “all these things [including contentment and thanksgiving] will be added unto you.”

We live in a general culture of discontent. We see signs of this all around us in high consumer debt and a high rate of mobility. Increasing numbers of people identify as victims. We become anxious over what we do not have. We exhibit jealousy and envy. We engage in self-criticism and self-hatred. We focus on everything else but God to meet our needs, but since God made us for Himself, these other things can never help us.

Discontented people are miserable people. Miserable people are not thankful people. Unfortunately, many such people are found in the church. Are we among them?

Contentment and thankful spirits are acquired traits. How do we acquire them? By learning to submit to God as sovereign, knowing that He puts us where we are and is fully able to give us all we need for the situation. By learning to serve the Savior who has served us to the fullest degree. By learning to trust the One who is all-sufficient in all circumstances.

Paul, who suffered many things, experienced the love of God poured out into his heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). How does this work out in real life? Read the testimony of a young man, 19 years old, dying of a fever, lying on a straw bed in a hovel with broken windows:

“I would not change my state with the richest person on earth . . . Blessed be God! I have a good hope through Christ, of being admitted to those blessed regions where Lazarus now dwells, having long forgotten his sorrows and miseries. Sir, this is nothing to bear, while the presence of God cheers my soul and where I have access to Him, by constant prayer through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Only the love of God is constant,” said Henry Venn, who experienced shifting circumstances in his life. He learned to practice constant prayer, meditate on scripture, engage in fasting and keep a spiritual diary. To him, these were not mere religious exercises, but means to develop intimacy with the living God.

Henry Venn had lost two wives and a 16-year-old daughter through death. Through his trials, he recognized his sin and his need for humility before God. He experienced the love of God poured out in his heart. It was more than enough, and he thanked God.

Do we have that kind of contentment that leads to thanksgiving? When we learn contentment, we will have a testimony the world cannot ignore.

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