Broken for a Purpose


humility-2perfume-bottle-1And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Luke 7:37-38

broken-alabaster-jarbroken-heartBefore this woman could anoint Jesus’ feet with her perfume, the vial or jar that contained the perfume had to be broken. However, the alabaster jar was not the only thing that was broken in this scriptural story. This woman experienced a broken heart when she realized her sinfulness. Then in gratitude for the forgiveness offered to her by Jesus, she chose to break the vile of perfume and anoint the feet of Jesus. The cost most likely was her life’s savings, yet it saved her life for eternity. In a sense, she may have been prophetically and symbolically preparing Jesus’ body for burial. She may have been one of only a few people who truly understood that the total cost of forgiveness was Jesus’ life. Not only did she anoint Jesus feet with perfume, but she also washed His feet with her tears. I believe her tears came from her broken heart. These tears exuded a fragrance as pleasing to Jesus as the aroma of the perfume from the broken bottle. Listen to a couple of scriptures. First, Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Then Paul begins II Corinthians 2:15 saying, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ… We, and the sinful woman, become as fragrant perfume when we are broken of our sinful past.

perfume-bottle-2tears-3The woman’s tears reveal brokenness in two unique ways. First, she was broken because of the remorse she felt for her former life of sin; so she shed tears of sorrow. Next, she cried tears of joy. Although still experiencing brokenness, the woman wept these tears because she realized that she had obtained something she did not deserve. Her tears were mingled with sorrow and gratitude. Psalm 30:5 says, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I have heard it said that we can only be as happy as we have been sad. The height of our joy is determined by the depth of our sorrow. Psalm 56:8 NLT says, “You have collected all my tears in your bottle.” This is amazing to me! The Lord keeps all my tears in a bottle similar to the perfume vial. Personal tears are just as precious to the Lord as costly perfume. May we be aware of the progression of tears beginning as tears of sorrow followed by tears of joy. While one is not possible before the other, both are kept in a bottle by the Lord.

towel-6IMGP4739The woman’s brokenness is further revealed by her wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. First, she washed His feet with her tears and then she dried them with her hair, not a towel. She gave of herself; she did not just use something handed to her by someone else. She served Jesus by giving of herself. In a sense, her actions were a prophetic portrayal of how Jesus would later wash the feet of His disciples. John 13:4-5 states, “so He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had wrapped around Him.” After washing their feet, Jesus explained why He had done this by saying in John 13:15-17, I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Whether it be through actions by the woman or by Jesus, the message is clear that we are to be servants. Again there a progression that is significant for this woman. Restating, first she had to express tears of remorse before she could experience tears of joy. Then her tears of joy led to her desire to serve others. After she had experienced the love of Christ, she wanted to share that love with others around her.

My Reader, we are still called to apply God’s Word to our lives.
Broken hearts and broken vials of perfume
Tears of sorrow and tears of joy retained in God’s blessed bottle
Towels as tokens of ourselves expressing our willingness to be servants
All of these are significant scriptural symbols of our willingness to be broken for a purpose – for God’s purpose. Each of us must have a broken heart before we can serve with our whole heart.

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Similarities between the Amalekites and our Flesh


Sometimes reading scripture can create more questions than answers for me. Recently while reading Exodus 17 about the defeat of the Amalekites, I thought I found a contradiction. Listen to the following verses of scripture.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and
recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from
under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;
and he said, “The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against
Amalek from generation to generation.”
Exodus 17:14-16

Wait a minute! In verse 14, the Lord said that He would blot out Amalek from His memory and then in verse 16, the Lord says there will be war against Amalek in future generations. How can a person or a group of people be removed and yet there still be a need for war against them? I decided to look at some history regarding the Amalekites.

According to my online research, the Amalekites were described in the Hebrew Bible as being a nomadic tribe of people who inhabited ancient Israel. These descendants of Amalek trace their genealogy back to Esau. They are first mentioned during the time of Abraham in Genesis 14. Throughout the Old Testament there is a long-lasting feud between the Amalekites and the Israelites. In the Exodus 17 passage I quoted earlier, the Amalekites were unrelentingly brutal towards the Israelites in an attack at Rephidim. And, I am told that they were defeated. However, there are also other references to their defeat. In I Samuel 15:7-8,20, it says that Saul completely destroyed the Amalekites. I Samuel 27:8-9 declares that David completely destroyed the Amalekites. I Samuel 30:1-2,17 records that David destroyed a raiding party of Amalekites with only 400 men escaping. Finally, I Chronicles 4:42-43 declares that the Simeonites killed all the Amalekites. How many times can a tribe of people be completely destroyed? Further research shows me that each of these defeats relates only to the Amalekites in a specific area rather than complete elimination from the earth. This starts to make sense to me!

But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the
LORD, when it will not succeed? “Do not go up, or you will be struck down
before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. “For the Amalekites
and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword,
inasmuch as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD
will not be with you.”
Numbers 14:41-43

Although I have found numerous references to the Israelites defeating the Amalekites, these verses in Numbers 14 attract my attention because here is a time when the Amalekites overcame the Israelites. The reason for the turn of events was because the Israelites did not wait upon the Lord, but took the situation into their own hands. Now I start to see the Amalekites and their history from a different perspective. Interesting! I think there is more than history lessons for me to learn from these scriptures. Although the Amalekites were a real group of people, I also believe that they are a symbol of our flesh and human nature.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil
rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this
dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NLT

I have chosen to highlight the New Living Translation because it uses the word “fight” that correlates well with the battles I have referred to between the Amalekites and the Israelites. However, I also like the New International Version that describes us a “struggling” against flesh and blood. That may be a word that better describes my daily encounters between good and evil or right and wrong. I see similarities between the Amalekites attacking the Israelites and the desires of my flesh attacking my spiritual intents. I want to learn from these people of the Old Testament.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is
contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you
are not to do whatever you want.
Galatians 5:17

Overall, the Amalekites were a strong tribe of people who could be defeated but they continued to attack in hopes of victory. The desires of my flesh can be overcome when I choose to rely upon the help of the Holy Spirit, but my flesh will never stop attacking me with the expectation of influencing me to give in to fleshly desires. So, what do my battles look like? The enemy attacks my flesh in the areas of my weakness. It may be my health; it may be fear; it may be anger. The enemy, Satan, looks for the weakest area of my life to attack because it is there where I am most likely to be defeated or to give in to the desires of my flesh. My flesh and God’s Spirit are at war within me. So, what should I do?

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is
contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are
not to do whatever you want.
Ephesians 5:16-17

Although I have quoted the New International Version for this scripture from Ephesians, I again compare this with the New Living Translation that encourages me by saying “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” “Craves” is an appropriate word because the flesh always wants what it wants right now. Another similarity I see between the Amalekites and the flesh is that although I may defeat a craving or desire in one area of my life at one time, I know that I will encounter a comparable battle or struggle at another time in a similar area of my life. Complete freedom from fleshly weakness is hard to achieve! I must be ready for another battle any time sin attacks. It is not uncommon for me to experience this because I think about to my original scripture from Exodus 17:16 that says the Lord knows there will be battles with the Amalekites, or the flesh, from generation to generation. However, I also have the promise of help from the Holy Spirit. I want to be cautious to always wait upon the Lord and not rush ahead relying only upon my own power as the Israelites did in Numbers 14:41-43. According to Exodus 17:14, the day will come when God will utterly block out the Amalekites, or the desires of the flesh, but until them I am ready to fight – not flesh-and-blood enemies, but principalities and rulers of darkness according to Ephesians 6:12. I do not want to forget the promise of Exodus 17:15 when the Lord promises to be my Banner, or Jehovah-Nisi, who will lead me to victory just as He did the Israelites. Because of this fact, I close with one more scripture. Again I like both the New International Version and the New Living Translations.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him
who loved us.
Romans 8:37 NIV
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through
Christ, who loved us.
Romans 8:37 NLT

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Falling in Love with Fall


Since it is the season of FALL, the leaves are beginning to FALL and I FALL more deeply in love with the Lord. Looking out over the countryside, I see a coverlet of love leaves blanketing the hills. God’s handiwork creates nature’s quilt with each leaf of every tree adding a splash of brilliance. Each colorful leaf that falls reminds me of a beautiful aspect of the Lord’s love for me.

Our grandchildren like to play in the leaves and they will bury each other in a pile of crunchy brown fallen leaves. I love to be buried in a pile of love leaves from the Lord. Let me share the messages of some of these scriptural leaves with you today. The following phrases are adapted from portions of the attributed scriptural references.

leaves-9The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

leaves-5You are precious and honored in the Lord’s sight,
and He loves you.
Isaiah 43:4

leaves-1He has showered His kindness on you.
Ephesians 1:8

leaf-1See what great love the Father has lavished on you.
I John 3:1

leaves-7The Lord loves you with an everlasting love;
he draws you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3

leaf-1Thee Lord crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
Psalm 103:4

leaves-6The Lord betroths Himself to you forever;
He betroths Himself to you in righteousness and justice,
in steadfast love and tender compassion.
Hosea 2:19

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A Burning Bush for Moses and Me



burning-bush-with-moese-2 Last week on a sunny autumn afternoon I went for a walk in our neighborhood. A burning bush with brilliant red leaves captured my attention. When I got home I decided to read about Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. Then I made some comparisons.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire
from within a bush.
Moses saw that though the bush was
on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought,
“I will go over and see this strange sight—
why the bush does not burn up.”
Exodus 3:2-3

The bright red appearance of the euonymus alatus planting attracted my attention and the bush that appeared to be burning but not burning up caught the attention of Moses. The Lord often speaks to me through the nearness of nature. Today, I believe God wanted me to see His presence in the beauty of a specific shrub. However, I am suspicious that He has more to impart to me.

God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:4

Although I did not hear the audible voice of God from my burning bush, I believe Moses did hear God calling to him. I wonder if I am attuned enough to the Lord to be able to hear Him calling me by name. Moses gave a positive response to the Lord. Am I ready and willing to answer with the words “Here I am” if I were to hear His voice? Was the Lord trying to say something special to me when I stopped to look at the vibrant bush this afternoon?

Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals,
for the place
where you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5

The holiness of God was evident when God asked Moses to take off his sandals. I, too, must remove anything from my life that might hinder my relationship with the Lord if I want to experience His presence. God is sovereign and I must approach Him with respect and sincerity. I need to alter my attitude to be able to approach the altar of God and worship Him.

Not only was God speaking to Moses through the bush that appeared to be on fire, but God pointed out to Moses that the surrounding ground was holy. God and Moses were in the Lord’s sanctuary of nature that day long ago, and so was I in God’s natural sanctuary this afternoon. I want to see and treat all of creation as holy ground.  I want to see the supernatural in the natural.

And God said, “I will be with you.”
Exodus 3:12

Throughout the remainder of Exodus 3 and 4, the Lord unveils to Moses a task He has for him to do. However, the first thing God did was to reassure Moses that he was not alone. God affirmed this fact by showing Himself in a bush that appeared to be on fire. I believe that God enjoys taking ordinary things and using them for His extraordinary purposes. I wonder what ordinary thing in my life God wants to use for His greater purposes. Is He trying to divulge more to me than simply the beauty of a burning bush? Moses’ encounter with God was the beginning of a new season in his life. For me, I see the changing colors of the euonymus alatus shrub at the beginning of the autumn season. Does God want to begin a new season in my life as well?

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM….
“This is my name forever.
Exodus 3:14-15

I think these two phrases are the most important words God spoke to Moses. He revealed himself as the great I AM. When God says “I am that I am,” He is saying “I am everything and anything that you will ever need.”  I like the name I AM for God because this name allows me to fully know Him. I can take the name I AM and complete a sentence by defining God in a specific way. For example, I can hear God saying to me, “I AM your provider” or “I AM your healer” or “I AM your redeemer” or whatever my need may be at that time.

God also assured Moses that His name never changes. His name didn’t change for Moses and it doesn’t change for me. The colors of my burning bush may change, but God never changes. During some seasons of my life, the Lord’s presence may be more vibrant and vital to me than at other times, but He is always with me.

The Lord used a burning bush to get the attention of Moses many years ago and this afternoon He used a burning bush to attract my attention. Thank you, Lord, for seeking me out and speaking to me while I was an ordinary walk. Lord, you turned my ordinary into Your extraordinary through Your presence. So, now, may the fire of a bush set me on fire for You, O Lord!

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