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3

Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; (Song of Songs 1:3 NKJV)

Let me worship like the woman who
Wept upon the Savior’s feet
Washed them with her tears of sorrow,
Tears of love washed Jesus' feet.

Then she took her hair and wiped them
Cleaned the dirt from the long dry path
Feet that just a few days later
Would feel nails of God’s own wrath
 
Help me love you with abandon
Like the woman, fragrant, sweet
Help me break the box of my life
Pour its contents at your feet

Now the box of ointment broken
Poured upon the Savior’s head
Sacred head that soon would carry
The crown of thorns, blood flowing red

Her sins though many, now forgiven
Her love displayed for all to see
Her love was given with abandon
Written for all eternity

Help me love you with abandon
Like the woman, fragrant, sweet
Help me break the box of my life
Pour its contents at your feet 

Now she shares with Him the fragrance
The scent of spikenard they both wore
Prepared for burial was the Savior
Mary, born to die no more

Help me love you with abandon
Like the woman, fragrant, sweet
Help me break the box of my life
Pour its contents at your feet

Jesus grant me true repentance
Fill me with your Spirit sweet
Let the fire of your Spirit
Burn the chaff and purge the wheat

Help me worship with abandon
Help me give my life to You
Help me live to serve you always
Let my life smell just like You.

Copyright Ben Nelson 2006 - All rights reserved

photo credit: Fergal of Claddagh via photo pin cc

 

2

Joseph, I need to talk to you.

[Joseph is working at a lathe]

Yes, dear one?

I really need your full attention. This is important, and it’s not easy for me to say.

I’m sorry—just let me finish this last turn.

There, this chair leg is done. I’m listening. What’s going on?

Can we go somewhere and sit down? It would be better if we were sitting.

Sure, love. What is it? You’re making me nervous.

[they sit]

I’m not sure how to tell you this. I’ve been fretting about it for days. I don’t know how to explain what has happened.

What has happened, what do you mean, what has happened?

What has happened?

Well, do you remember about a week ago, when you came to Abba’s house for dinner and I was very quiet? You kept asking me if something was wrong, and I really never answered you. I think you may have gone home in a bit of a huff, feeling ignored.

Yes, I remember. Your whole appearance was a bit—I don’t know—different that day. Really, it has been ever since. You’ve been very quiet. Is everything alright?

Have you ever had an experience with God, you know, like in the scriptures, visitations, angels, anything like that?

No, not really, though there have been times, during my meditations, that I’ve felt the presence of something, God’s Spirit, I suppose you would say. But, I’ve never seen anything, if that’s what you mean.

Yes, that’s what I mean. Well, I saw something the other night.

Really? What was it? Tell me about it.

It was just after my evening prayers about a week ago. I rose to turn down the lamp, when, without warning, what looked like a man appeared in my chamber. He stood, blocking the door, so I backed up as best I could and put my chair between us.

Who was this man? Who would dare enter your chamber?

Wait Joseph, let me finish.

I knew he couldn’t be a man because he—how can I describe him—he was radiant. He could see that his appearance frightened me so he took a step back and then he began to speak.

"Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

This began to draw me away from fear and toward confusion. What did mean by “The Lord is with you?” Why would anyone call me “favored?” It was an odd greeting.

“Do not be afraid, Mary;” he continued, “for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

Conceive? Bear a son?

Hear me out, Joseph. This visitor continued,

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Wait—what are you saying?

Joseph, let me finish. I didn’t understand either. I asked him “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Then the angel said,

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

[standingDid this man touch you—violate you?

It wasn’t a man Joseph, it was an angel. Please sit down, Joseph. The same angel that appeared to my uncle Zachariah before Elizabeth conceived.

[still standingDid this angel violate you?

No, but it did happen just as he said it would. I am with child, Joseph. Somehow God Himself has given me this child?

That’s not how it works, Mary. If you are with child, you know how it happened.
Was it the man who came into your chamber?
Did you know him?
Do I know him?
I could have you stoned! You know that, right?
How could you do this to me—to us?
Why would you throw away our future like this?

Joseph, stop it. [beginning to cry] It’s not like that. I have never known a man in that way. How could you think such a thing?

But, you are with child—pregnant. That’s what you’re telling me? And you’re saying that God made you pregnant without the aid of a man. This is too much to take in.

I love you, Mary, and I will not make a public spectacle of you. But you have disgraced yourself. You have disgraced me—my family—your own family. What am I to do?

Oh Joseph, please believe me.

I cannot believe this. It’s too much, Mary. I’m not sure I could believe it, even if God Himself told me. These things just don’t happen. Not here. Not now.

I won’t shame you. I’ll just get the lawyers to draw up papers of divorce and we’ll be done.

Joseph, no, please.

No Mary, it’s too much.

[Joseph storms out, Mary is left crying, alone.]


To read the original story, see Luke 1:26-55

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2016

Encouter cover samples covers onlyFor more stories brought to life out of the gospels, grab a copy of my book Encounters With Jesus. It has forty stories that will bring the Bible to life in your mind. You'll see the Lord heal lepers, open blind eyes and rise from the tomb.

This book would make a great Christmas present for someone who wants to get to know Jesus in a fresh way.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

6

Birth of Jesus by Bradly Parish - www.parishfineart.com
Birth of Jesus by Bradley J. Parish - www.parishfineart.com

 

 

As a followup to the story of David I posted yesterday, 'Small Beginnings,' I thought I would re-post some comments from last Christmas. We look at Joseph, Mary's husband, and his relationship to David.

Here's the post from last year:

Have you ever wondered why Joseph lineage traced back to David? I mean, after all, he had no “blood in the game” so to speak. Jesus was "seed of the woman." Joseph was Jesus’ step-father.

I’ve heard it taught that Joseph’s lineage was what give Jesus right to the throne, but wouldn’t there have to be blood for that to be true?

His kingly blood came from momma Mary.

Joseph’s part was not one of blood.

Joseph had one very important part of the puzzle. His lineage took them back to that little town of Bethlehem.

Micah foretold an eternal ruler’s beginning.

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,Too little to be among the clans of Judah,From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.His goings forth are from long ago,From the days of eternity." - Micah 5:2 NASB

The census decreed by Caesar in the fullness of Mary’s pregnancy required them to go to her husband’s ancestral home town for the counting.

It amazes me. Decade upon decade I’ve read these accounts of our Lord’s birth, and yet every reading exposes another layer. How complex and complete is our Lord’s mastery of time and events! I do so love You Lord.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by.

Merry Christmas.

Ben

1

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. - Luke 2:19 NASB

Here, nestled in the Christmas narrative, we learn how to turn mystery into treasure.

All to often when we come across mystery in the scripture or things we don’t understand in our lives, we turn them into strife, or conflict, or even doubt.

We can’t understand why “God allowed” this, or how if “God is in control” He could have let me get into this mess I’m in.

Mary was in a mess.

No, really, it was a mess.

A dark cave they tell me. Animals all around. I’m pretty sure the inn-keep had not given them all baths that morning in preparation for the Christ Child’s arrival. The straw had likely been bedding for the animals before Mary laid her new-born down to sleep. The “swaddling clothes” she wrapped Him in were not a gift from aunt Abby from her baby shower back in Nazareth. It may have been her own cloak, filthy from the journey.

Oh - and there’s the blood and whatnot from having given birth in this stable. Giving birth is not the tidiest endeavor.

Let’s not forget nine months of shame, where everyone but her betrothed and a distant cousin believed her to be unfaithful.

Yeah - she was in a mess.

But God’s hand showed up. From the story we have no indication that it was any more than an angel visitation nine months earlier, the confirmation of Joseph, also nine months in the past. Now a few shepherds who had seen something in the fields show up. Oh and there was the visit with her Cousin Elizabeth. I guess that makes three touch points.

If you read the story, you will find that the angelic host was not there in the stable with them. At least I don’t see it in the text. Just a few shepherds.

That’s the sign God sends to Mary to remind her of the promise.

Are you like me?

I want to be told, and reminded, and confirmed. I need to keep hearing yes, or I being to think I imagined the first word. I need God to show up every week and tell me He loves me and I’m walking the right way, or I get discouraged, and my faith begins to fade.

But Mary got one supernatural visit, and a couple confirmations over the course of the entire pregnancy.

Still, how do we turn these once in a while visits into treasure? How does she do it?

Ponder.

Ponder what you have heard, what you have read, what you’ve been told. Take God’s word to you, and roll it around in your head until it leaks down into your heart. Write it down. Talk about it often. Let your heart dream about it. Let it permeate you. Let His Word become part of you.

It is a treasure beyond measure. The more you ponder and dwell on it—in it, the more this treasure reveals itself to you.

Have a blessed Christmas celebration - treasure these things - ponder them, and let them become part of you.

BenHeadshotMerry Christmas

Ben

2

Birth of Jesus by Bradly Parish - www.parishfineart.com
Birth of Jesus by Bradley J. Parish - www.parishfineart.com

Have you ever wondered why Joseph lineage traced back to David? I mean, after all, he had no “blood in the game” so to speak. Jesus was "seed of the woman." Joseph was Jesus’ step-father.

I’ve heard it taught that Joseph’s lineage was what give Jesus right to the throne, but wouldn’t there have to be blood for that to be true?

His kingly blood came from momma Mary.

Joseph’s part was not one of blood.

Joseph had one very important part of the puzzle. His lineage took them back to that little town of Bethlehem.

Micah foretold an eternal ruler’s beginning.

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,Too little to be among the clans of Judah,From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.His goings forth are from long ago,From the days of eternity." - Micah 5:2 NASB

The census decreed by Caesar in the fullness of Mary’s pregnancy required them to go to her husband’s ancestral home town for the counting.

It amazes me. Decade upon decade I’ve read these accounts of our Lord’s birth, and yet every reading exposes another layer. How complex and complete is our Lord’s mastery of time and events! I do so love You Lord.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by.

Merry Christmas.

Ben

1

In Luke 10 Jesus visits Mary and Martha. You may know the story. Martha is busy with the work of entertaining. You know the drill, cleaning the corners, setting the table, preparing meal after meal, doing the dishes, making sure everyone is comfortable, offering drinks and snacks, pointing the way to the power room. (Archeology has not yet proven the existence of powder rooms in the first century BC, but you get my drift.)

Jesus is sitting in the sitting room bringing more and more light to the kingdom of God. Jesus' words enthralled Martha's sister Mary, and just sat at His feet listening.

As you may know Martha come us to Jesus, somewhat indignantly, and ask that He tell Mary to help her with the important work involved in having people in the house.

The Passion Translation gives His response this way:

Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing the most beautiful place of sitting at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her. - Luke 10:41-42 TPT

I love Jesus’ description of Mary’s place. In it we can glean how she learned to abide in Him.

1) Discovered - Mary discovered this place. She was looking for the best place, and discovered this place - the feet of Jesus.

2) Most Important - This place Mary discovered was no minor find. She found the key—the most important place. This place is the one place—the one thing David speaks on in Psalm 27:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, - Psalm 27:4 NASB

3) Chosen - Once she knew of this place, she chose to be there. This was not easy with her sister scurrying about and pressuring her to help. Often life flits about us pressuring us to join the busy work, while Jesus sits in the sitting room or our hearts, teaching us of the kingdom of the Father. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is a choice—every time.

4) Beautiful - Her discovered and chosen place was a beautiful place. Not only is abiding in Him important, it is a place of beauty. To continue the verse above:

To behold the beauty of the LORD - Psalm 27:4

5) Undistracted - When she arrived in this place, she could sit, undistracted by life’s tight hold on here. She was able to give Him her full attention. Here’s the end of the verse:

And to meditate in His temple. - Psalm 27:4

6) Privilege - This is the life of privilege that the Lord will not take away. Do you know that a privilege it is to sit at the feet of Jesus? This is one of life’s great secrets. Many pay big bucks for the privilege of a back stage pass, or an autograph of one of the world’s greats. But the privilege of sitting at the feet of Jesus, is free, and can’t be taken from us. Yet it’s value is above all the world can offer. It is the one thing - the only thing that matters.

Find your way to your heart's sitting room today, and sit undistracted at the feet of Jesus.

benheadshot1Thanks for stopping by.

See you again soon.

Ben

5

He Shall Reign Forever And Ever

Yesterday evening I was reading about how "The Church" is losing relevance and how it is impossible for it to have both relevance and moral authority simultaneously.  The inevitable result is supposedly a decline into total insignificance.  (Alas)
Well this morning I was sitting in bed, praising the Lord, and praying in tongues.  A vision came to me of a stone on the top of a hill that got loose and rolled down the hill.  As it rolled it grew larger and larger.  When it got to the bottom of the hill it crushed an image (a statue) that represented all of the kingdoms (governments and cultures) of this world. [read more...]

Encouragements: He Shall Reign Forever And Ever.

===

My dear friend Larry posted this, and it fits in wonderfully with my Messiah musing, so I thought I would share it with you.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by

Merry Christmas

Ben

 

Welcome to Friday Q&A, a brand new feature here at Another Red Letter Day!

I met Felicia on her blog very recently. I believe I found her through a twitter link. Not sure exactly. She has a wonderful blog, and I would love it if you would check it out.

A  Life  Sanctified  

Living my outrageous, audacious faith in Jesus!

She and I were talking the other day about this verse in John’s account of the raising of Lazarus in the context of what moves Jesus.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!” John 11:36

The question at hand is why is Jesus weeping?

Here it is from Felicia:

I’ve been giving this some thought …why did Jesus cry? Certainly it wasn’t for Lazarus because He knew He would raise him for His Father’s glory. So was it because of the disbelief of the others? The depth of pain the others were feeling? Or perhaps the disbelief of all humanity?

I have moved around on this question a fair bit.

I agree with Felicia, that it just does not make sense to me, that Jesus was saddened by the death of Lazarus.  (On the other hand I am not sure  the logic produced by my itsy bitsy brain is a sure test of scriptural soundness) After all we know from the context that Jesus basically let Him die because He knew what He would do.

I have heard many times He was basically sympathizing with the sorrow of the others around. The prior verse does say that there was weeping on every side. Mary, clearly one of His closest earthly friends, was weeping, as were the rest of the folks gathered. Was He just caught up in the emotion of the moment?

For many years I would have probably picked the next answer. He was saddened by the unbelief of some of His closest followers. Is this perhaps one of those “when I return will I find faith on the earth” or “did you learn nothing from the loaves and the fishes” moments?

Here is another thought. I know there are times when I consider the torture Jesus went through, all the shame, the beatings, the blood, nails, thorns, mocking, spitting, slapping, finally a spear in the side, and I am moved to tears, though I am fully aware of the next chapter. Perhaps Jesus was actually sorry that His delay causes Lazarus more pain.

One interesting detail here is that the word translated “wept” is not the same word as in the verse above. That word is more appropriate for mourning and grief. The word used in “Jesus wept” might better be rendered “shed tears”. This word in this form only shows up once in the Bible. Its root is the word “tear” which is more common, is used in two of the accounts of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with her “tears.”

It is also interesting as we ponder this that a couple verses down we see this:

Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. ~ John 11:38

One of the struggles I have with Jesus doing things in reaction to emotions is that we also know of Jesus that He only does what He sees the Father do. (see John 5:19) So I will ask another question:

What is the relationship of Jesus being “deeply moved within” and the fact that He knew He was coming to raise the dead. I am convinced from the top of the story that Jesus knew Lazarus was coming out of that tomb, He had seen it with the Father. So what does the emotion have to do with it.

I know I am leaving this open ended. This is my whole plan for Friday Q&A. I am hoping for interchange. I would love it if you would interact here. What are your thoughts on the matter? I think we all learn from sharing our ideas, considering and then growing. So share away. It would even be great if you have a lot to say, just blog about it and put a link below.

Oh - and don't forget to go visit Felicia - you will be glad you did! - A  Life  Sanctified

Remember the rules:

Be polite.

Be honest.

Be gentle.

Be friendly.

Ready, GO….

If you have questions of your own you would like to toss around click the Q&A button on the side bar and we'll chat.

While the king was at his table,
My perfume (spikenard) gave forth its fragrance.
(Song of Songs 1:12 NASB)

I don’t know about you, but when I read this line I cannot help but think of the woman – Mary – who crashed the Pharisee’s party and washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair, and then broke open her alabaster box of ointment and lavished it on the Saviors feet.

Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NASB)

I know that there are markers in each account that might make them seem like more than one story, but I choose to blend them into one telling.

The story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet is the essence of the transformed life.

Mary has a history, probably a woman of the night, demon possessed, and given over to sin. She may well have been the woman caught in adultery.

But there is more to her history than her past. (I like the sound of that) [Tweet This]

She was forgiven! Her past sins were unwritten, blotted out.

Those in the room with her could not see it. They still saw the loose woman.

But that woman no longer existed.

Now, in the shell that used to hold a whore, there was a worshiper.

The heart that used to shut down for a one night stand, was now a heart that poured out a life savings, wasted, squandered, lavished upon the feet of one man, her heart forever His.

Have you known this transformation?

Do you know this love?

Throw yourself at the feet of Jesus and hear those words whispered to your heart – Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.

BenThanks for reading today.

See you next week.

Ben

Related articles:

The scent of Jesus

One Act of Worship

photo credit: Fergal of Claddagh via photo pin cc

 

A few years ago I had been meditating on the accounts in each gospel of the woman who wept over Jesus and anointed Him with the Spikenard. I was asked at that time to share with a group of about 20 college folks and I decided to put together a dramatic presentation – sort of a One Act play bringing together aspects of the various tellings.

I will warn you  - I make many assumptions which I cannot defend at all. You might be better off considering this fiction based on true events.

I am assuming (or maybe pretending) that:

  • All 4 gospels that tell this story at different times in Christ’s ministry with differing details are actually telling the same story from their own perspective when it bests fits in their narrative

Simon who hosts this dinner which she invades is:

  • Simon the Pharisee
  • Simon the leper
  • Simon the father of Judas Iscariot
  • Simon who I saw on classmates.com in Mary’s high School year book. (just kidding)

The story is told for the most part from Simon’s perspective and I hope it speaks to you.

The background, and true stories can be found in the following passages:

  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Matthew 26:7-14
  • John 12:2-8
  • Mark 14:3-9
  • Luke 17:12-18 (10 lepers)

One act of Worship

Simon – To himself – Thinking out loud

Today is the big day – dinner party – make sure the guest all are seated in the correct place. Make sure the right people get the places of honor. Mayor here, Annas and Caiaphas  - well not right next to each other, but at this end of the table. And we will put Jesus right in the center.

I have to make sure everyone knows that I know him, and make sure everyone sees what kind of relationship we have. After all look at my hands – clean as a new born baby – not white as snow – the way they were with that leprosy.

That was horrible – imagine – me – a Pharisee, with a great future. I had it all going for me. Circumcised on the 8th day – Barr mitzvah in Jerusalem with the high priest present to officiate.  I went to all the rights schools, and was accepted by the religious leaders. I became a Pharisee – and was looked up to by the whole town. I had such power until that fateful day. At first I thought it was just a rash – nothing to worry about. But soon it was obvious – I had leprosy – it could not be – not me – I was a Pharisee – how could I have leprosy? Now I was no Pharisee – now I was a leper! No longer a big wig in town, but an outcast. I could not stay in my own house. I had to go and live with the others. What a vile group – the smell was enough to make you gag. And the dogs that came and licked our wounds – it was horrible. I have never known such humiliation – such shame – such degradation.

Then one day it happened – I was with a group of lepers outside of Samaria and one of them started calling to Jesus. I had heard of him before, but I had never heard or seen him myself, but there he was walking right toward us. We were desperate, and asked him if there was anything he could do for us. He told us to go show ourselves to the priest! What was he thinking – we were lepers, how could we go to the priest? So we all turned and headed back down the road, and as we went – the leprosy disappeared. I could hardly believe it. I was clean again. I made a bee-line to the temple where I showed myself to the priest, and made the offerings required by the law.

It was not long after my cleansing that my boy Judas started traveling with Jesus’ men. Last I heard he was actually the treasurer for the group. He may come to something after all my son.

Getting back into the good graces of the temple has not been easy. I am just starting to get back on my feet, just starting to make the right connections. Today, this party I am throwing should really get me back in. The mayor is supposed to come, and maybe even the high priest. And the best part is Jesus will be here. Maybe he will do something amazing. He is always surprising people with his stunts.

So I have to make sure everything is just so – I hired Martha to come and wait tables – she can bring off a feast like no one else.

Guests are arriving. Yes Caiaphas – you sit here, and Mayor – you sit over here, and we will put Jesus here, right next to Gamailiel. Nichodemus, you sit down here, and yes – that is just perfect. I have not forgotten anything. Here comes Jesus and His men. I think I will sit Judas right beside Jesus. Maybe I can help his career at the same time as I help mine.

Wait – what is this – what is she doing here? Mary – that slut – what is she doing in my house? How did she get in here, and what is she doing near Jesus? Always strutting her stuff, that one. I remember when we were teenagers together and she was always wearing clothes that were too flashy and low cut. I have heard stories about her and half the men in town. What is she doing with Jesus? What is that racket – how can we carry on a normal conversation? I am trying to get the nod for that position in the temple, and all everybody is looking at is this spectacle. All that weeping. Can’t she keep it down? She is fawning over Jesus. Sitting behind him and weeping, and now she is wiping his feet in her hair!

Wait – what is that smell – it smells like the costly perfume I bought to bury my uncle last month? That is it – it’s spikenard – look – she is pouring it all over Jesus. There must be a pound of it – that would cost a full year’s wages even for me. And she is just wasting it! This is a disaster – what will all my guests think. I have to get her out of her.

I really don’t get it – it does not take a prophet to know who this is. Could Jesus be so blind not to know that she is the town whore? I wouldn’t even let her touch me – after all – what would people think? And imagine this colossal waste – it would have been better to just give it to help the poor. Then at least there is a tax deduction. But this is sheer waste.

Jesus speaks to Simon:

Simon, don’t stop her. This that looks like a waste to you is actually preparation for my burial. You can do good things for the poor any time, but I will not be here much longer. When I arrived, you did not even assign a servant to wash my feet, and yet this woman has not stopped wiping them with her hair, and washing them with her tears. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with her costly perfume.

Tell me what you think. If a land owner has two men who owe him money, one $100 and one $1,000,000, and he forgives both of them, which do you think will love him more? Of course the one who was forgiven the larger debt.

Jesus speaks to Mary:

Mary, because you have loved me with abandon, I forgive you all your sins, which are many. And because of this great act of love you have displayed on me, you will be remembered everywhere anyone tells my story.

Copyright - 2012 -  Benjamin Nelson

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