Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Extravagent Love

I am preaching on Sunday because Frank has to work again. I love it when I get the chance to preach. There is nothing I like better than to hear a song, or find a passage, or quote and make a sermon come together. This week I knew early on that I was going to have to speak so since I was still feeling a bit tired from yesterdays excursion I thought I would work on the sermon. I put on my IPod...and waited for some divine guidance...and it came to me in the form of a song. One of the songs of my list of favorites would have to be James Taylor’s "Shower The People". One of the reasons that I love that song apart from its pretty melody is its message. It talks about showering the people that we love with flowers. Later, in the song, toward the end it says make it rain. The song is about telling those that you love how you feel when they can hear it. It is sad to see friends and family gathered at a funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased person. There are times when some of those flowers should have been given while the person was still living. We sometimes take people for granted. I cannot help but to wonder how many of those flowers the deceased might have enjoyed while they were living. The flowers do not always have to be actual flowers. The flowers might be an “I love you.” It might be a card, a letter or even a compliment. The point that I am trying to get at is that we should tell our loved ones what they mean to us while they are with us. Years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I was really caught me off guard by an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dobson. One night when I returned home from work, I saw Mrs. Dobson struggling at her door. I left my stuff in my car and hurried down to help her. I knew she was a widow on a limited income and I certainly was not expecting her to pay me for helping her. The truth was it was my pleasure. I loved this sweet, kind, gentle lady. When I had gotten her settled on her couch, made her a spot of tea, and brought her packages in…she said, “I want to give you some flowers”. I was puzzled because I did not see any flowers. Of course, she was not talking about real flowers. She was talking about telling me how she felt about me. She wanted me to know how much I had meant to her because it was not long before our lives would drift apart and she would be placed in a local nursing home. At that moment though it was all I could do to choke back the tears. Why? Because her flowers---her expression of love was genuine and from the heart. I have never forgotten the flowers that Mrs. Dobson gave me. I still treasure the flowers of her compliment even to this day…even though she has been gone from this earth a long time. She was an inspiration to me and for me…she taught me many great lessons of love. When Mary used that pint of expensive perfume on Jesus, she was not worried about how much it cost. What Mary was doing was giving Jesus His flowers while He was still here. One of the things that Mary was doing was expressing her gratitude. Her brother Lazarus who was dead (John 11) was brought back to life by Jesus who was and is the resurrection and the life. There can be doubt that Mary was grateful for what Jesus had done for her and Martha in bringing back Lazarus from the dead. Mary’s gratitude was priceless. Mary was not concerned about how much the perfume cost. She wanted to express her gratitude and devotion to Jesus. Her gratitude was priceless because what Mary did had come from the heart. What Mary was doing was a blessing that was priceless. She knew that Jesus would not always be there. I read an email about a missionary surgeon who once stopped to see one of the ladies in the village that he had once operated on. The lady and her husband were dirt poor. Their source of income was their livestock. They had an angora rabbit and two chickens. The woman would often comb the rabbit, take its hair and spin it into yarn which she would sell to make a little money. The chickens provided the eggs that they would eat for food. Anyway, this woman insisted that the missionary stay for lunch. He accepted the invitation. He was not gone for more than an hour and a half, while he went to check on another one of his post operative patients. When he returned he peeped into the pot to see what was for lunch. In the pot he saw a rabbit and two chickens. This woman had given up both her income and her only source for food. She had given up everything for him. He was so touched that he wept. I wept at my computer. What an unselfish expression of love. This was a true Master Card moment. In contrast to Mary and her sentiments, there was Judas, the disciple that would later betray Jesus. Judas was focusing on the cost of the perfume and not the meaning of the act of humility. Where Mary was expressing her devotion to Jesus, Judas was revealing who he was. Judas was hung up on cost. Sometimes we are like that. Sometimes we get hung up on cost. Sometimes we misplace and displace the value of things. In Max Lucado’s book, No Wonder They Call Him Savior he tells a story about some clever pranksters. They entered a department after hours and escaped unnoticed. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “So what did the steal?” Well, the truth be known they did not steal anything. Puzzling isn’t it? Listen to what they did next. They re-arranged some prices. “These clever pranksters took the tag off a $395.00 camera and stuck it on a $5.00 box of stationary. The $5.95 sticker on a paperback book was removed and placed on an outboard motor. They re-priced everything in the store. … The craziest part of the story took place the next morning. … The store opened as usual. Employees went to work. Customers began to shop. The place functioned for four hours before anyone noticed what happened. Four hours! Some got some great bargains. Others got fleeced”. In all the time that Judas had been with Jesus as a disciple, he still did not know Jesus. Yes, he knew Jesus as a person, but he never really believed in Jesus. That is like the difference between knowing about a life preserver and wearing one. Knowing about it will not save you. Wearing it will. In a similar way, knowing about Jesus will not help you unless you have a relationship with Him. At least the people in the department store only went four hours before they discovered the mistake. Judas was with Jesus for three years, but he never really had a relationship with Jesus. He never discovered his mistake until it was too late. Judas never had a relationship with Jesus because of his displaced and misplaced values. It seems that Judas was greedy. Unlike Mary’s humility, Judas’ focus was on money. Perhaps, he was thinking about what share of the money he could make his own. John 12:6 calls Judas a thief. Again, John 12:6 tells us that Judas was more concerned about the amount of money that the perfume cost, instead of the gracious act. Judas was greedy. We call someone greedy when they focus on having more than they need or more than they are entitled to. John 12:6 seems to point out the potential for greed in Judas. Mary’s extravagance stands in contrast to Judas’s greed. Mary’s act was based on her devotion whereas Judas’ protest was based upon extortion---the abuse of his position. The grace of God is a gift. It is freely given for all who will receive it. You cannot do anything to make yourself right with God on your own terms. The Pharisees had their rules and regulations, but they were relying on salvation to come through the law. The apostle Paul put it this way: “… know that a man is not justified by the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16 NIV). … if righteousness could be gained through the law then Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:21 NIV). The grace of God comes through what Jesus did for us on the cross for our salvation. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Sin is what sets us apart from God. Grace is what sets us apart from sin and reconciles us to God. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible also tells us that the wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). God’s grace cancels the debt of sin. Colossians 2:14 tells us that Christ cleaned the record of our sins. I read a story in Max Lucado’s He Chose the Nails about a man who had a house built. After the house was completed, the builder told the owner to make a list of any flaws that he discovered. Yes, he kept a record as he began to ponder about all of the records that God keeps of the flaws of sinners. He even mentioned a few spiritual flaws. "The door hinges to the prayer room have grown rusty from under use. The stove called jealousy is overheating. The attic floor is weighed down with too many regrets. The cellar is cluttered with too many secrets". The story does not stop there. Jesus took our sins to the cross with Him. He had the list of all the sins that we ever committed in His hands as they nailed Him to the cross. He could have chosen to abandon ship, but He did not. Jesus went the distance to save us. He knew that we are sinful. But, "He couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without us, so He chose the nails". Mary’s perfume symbolizes God’s grace through Jesus because like the perfume that was poured out of the bottle, His blood was poured out for you and me for the forgiveness of our sins. Most of you know I I of course have to sing on Sunday song originally was going to be Shower the People, by J.T. But after writing for 3 hours I decided to use a Casting Crowns song, Your Love is Extravagent...which of course I am going to share with you. You may not all know Casting Crowns. My friend Justin Belyeu has actually been on tour with cool is that? Anyways, what I want to leave you with is extravagent with your love. Show people you love they are with you. I have learned this lesson the hard way this year...once they are gone...there is nothing you can do...and believe me...I don't ever want to have any regrets. I play hard, live life to the fullest...and love like there is no tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come. Happy Tuesday!

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