Why was Mary’s Gift so precious to Jesus?

by Shadia Hrichi

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Have you ever lingered over a Scripture, trying to imagine what it would have been like to be there? One of the darkest hours in all of human history was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Picture the scene with me:

On a moonlit night at the garden of Gethsemane many years ago, blood, sweat, and tears poured forth from Jesus’ body as He prayed – but something else penetrated the veil of darkness that night: the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume. . .

In Old Testament times, only two objects were placed behind the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple: the ark of the covenant and the golden altar of incense (Exodus 40:5, Hebrews 9:4). The incense was burned only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is when the nation would present a fragrant offering with their sacrifice, seeking God’s forgiveness for their sins.

In Mark 14, we read about Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary entered the room where Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. Breaking her alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and all cultural norms, Mary lovingly emptied the contents. She anointed Jesus’s head with the fragrant oil.

Mary’s act was far more than a kind gesture of respect and adoration. The gift was equivalent to a whole year’s salary and possibly tied to her hope for marriage—her hope for a future. It was often saved for a young woman’s wedding day when she would pour it on her husband as an act of devotion.

Mary gave Jesus the most precious thing she owned—with no hope of any return in this life. Yet only One noticed the value of her extravagant gift: Jesus. Where the disciples saw a fool, Jesus saw a worshiper. What the disciples called waste, Jesus received as a gift. Jesus saw Mary’s heart. He saw Behind the Seen. Jesus was so taken by her selfless act that He declared her actions would be proclaimed for all eternity (Mark 14:1-9).

The story doesn’t end there. Days later, Jesus fell to his knees as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. We cannot even imagine the torment of His soul knowing what awaited Him. Perhaps the fragrance of Mary’s sweet perfume lingered in the air around Him as He awaited His accusers. Hours later, Jesus is crucified … His blood, sweat, and tears intermingled with the faint aroma of Mary’s perfume.

The King, the Christ of God, who is the Sacrificial Lamb, had been anointed and then crowned with thorns as He presented His own life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. At the moment of His death, the Temple curtain that veiled the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom; the barrier separating us from a holy God was removed forever. The One Who loves us so deeply was willing to pay for us with His Own Blood.

“ . . .Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV).

One sacrifice paid it all. Have you received God’s extravagant gift? He is Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Are there scents that bring something from your past to mind?

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A Cinderella Story

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

When I was a little girl, my favorite fairy tale, hands down, was Cinderella. You remember: Cinderella spends her youth scrubbing floors and catering to the demands of her nasty stepmother and stepsisters. When an invitation comes to the prince’s ball, the privileged of the household go off to attend, leaving Cinderella alone and dejected. But the fairy godmother arrives in the nick of time, and with a wave of her wand, changes Cinderella’s clothing from itchy, woolen homespun rags into a dress of finest silk. Cinderella effortlessly wins the prince’s heart, but then must hurry out before midnight, leaving a glass slipper behind in her retreat.

You know the ending, of course: the prince uses the glass slipper to find his one true love again, and whisks Cinderella away to live as his princess happily ever after.

I used to pretend I was Cinderella. I wasn’t so hot on the housework part, but I did love catching the eye of the handsome prince. Wearing the ball gown ranked right up there as well. The transformation process of going from drab and needy to dramatically beautiful has great appeal for many of us. All of the makeover shows now playing, from fashion to homes, is evidence of this. We all love a good Cinderella story.

Assuredly, the best Cinderella story on record is the very real transformation that God has accomplished in us. We were destitute and without hope when He reached down and grasped us from the jaws of death. Like the father welcoming the prodigal son, He replaced our rags with the finest of robes, befitting of our new status as sons and daughters of the King.

Isaiah puts it this way: “My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10 NASB). We who were once alienated and hostile toward God now are presented as holy and blameless (Colossians 1:21-2 NASB).  He transformed us from being slaves of sin to the bride of Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB).

What an amazing transformation! In light of this, it is hard to understand how we so easily turn our backs on what God has given us, only to invest our time and energy on opposing interests!

Paul instructed the Christians in Colossae: “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed . . . Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth” (Colossians 3:5, 8 NASB) Instead, he urges: “Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . beyond all these things put on love” (Colossians 3:12, 14 NASB).

Too often, we exchange our new, costly garments for the old, scratchy sackcloth we discarded at our salvation. But we are new creatures! The old garment just doesn’t fit right anymore. It is certainly not befitting to our new title of prince or princess of the King.

Can you imagine if Cinderella, after marrying her prince, decided to shed her princess-befitting gowns of finest silk to don the old rags she wore as a scullery maid? The servants in the palace would think she had lost her mind. Why would anyone choose rags over the finest garments? Did she not understand that she was a princess now?

The angels think the same of us each time we choose our own agenda over the opportunity to participate in the Kingdom of Light. It is no less than absurd that we would ever willfully choose the old over the new, especially in light of what we have been given.

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering an a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. . . For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of the Light.”  Ephesians 5:1, 2, 8  NASB

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Remembering our own Cinderella story – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite piece of the new wardrobe that God has given you?

Free to Bloom

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

I bought them on faith. In mid-spring two years ago, beautiful tulips called to me as I approached the self-checkout at Kroger. Whenever I see flowers at grocery stores, I have to smell them and pet them. (Yes, pet them. I used to have a cat.) If I can smell a sweet scent, I have to restrain myself not to buy them. I had to see if these tulips smelled good. They did.

I noticed that some had already bloomed, and they were a gorgeous hot pink with white edges. Other bunches had partly opened blooms, so I went for one of those sets. Although the “sell by” date on the sticker told me that maybe I shouldn’t spend three dollars to take them home, I hoped that they would bloom eventually and live longer than the other flowers. I believed in what these flowers could become.

When I got home, my faith waned. Will they really open? I thought. Maybe the sell-by sticker was right, and I should have bought the other set. I trimmed the stems and put them in water. I set the vase next to a window and let twilight beckon them to open. A few minutes later, all five flowers had opened, some smiling more brightly than others. They smelled the sweetest of any flowers I had found for years.

I smiled and thanked God. He doesn’t give up on us, His “flowers.” Too many times I’ve gone through a struggle and wondered if this was it. Was I going to become unusable to God? Would He still give me opportunities to serve Him even though I had messed up again? Would I ever bloom into a lovely display of grace, strength, or wholeness like I needed to be and be able to sustain that victory?

There are some days when we may look like we’re not going to bloom and we’re past our prime—past the best chance of growth or usefulness. Maybe we’ve struggled too long with a particular burden, or worry has chased away our joy and along with it, our sweet “scent.” Our “sticker” may tell others to pass us by and not hope that something good will come from us.

But God knows how to make us flourish. A little sunlight, some fresh water, and some warmth. His love and power can flow into our souls and revive us. Then we start to bloom—and smell good. Love is key to having a sweet scent.

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2 NKJV).

God tends the gardens of our hearts, helping us to bloom. He patiently and faithfully teaches us to walk in His love. As we love others, we reflect His beauty for the world to see and draw them closer to His heart. In God’s garden, we’re free to bloom, we’re able to flourish, and we have Someone who cares for us and knows what we can become.

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                                                        Philippians 1:6 NKJV

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Free to bloom in God’s perfect timing – insight from @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage and Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character

Join the conversation: What is the Great Gardner cultivating in your life right now?

When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

For everything you can name, I’m pretty sure there’s an official phobia listed for it. If you’re afraid of phobias, would you be considered a phob-a-phobe? I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s noted in several places that there are surveys showing the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) and the fear of dying (necrophobia) at the top of people’s lists of most dreaded fears. In that order even.

As a public speaker—and one who is often billed as a humorist—I think tops on my list would be “necro-glosso-phobia.” Fear of death while speaking. Okay yes, I made that one up. But I’ve experienced it on a figurative level once or twice. Frightening.

One of those events particularly sticks in my mind. I was delivering what I considered some of my most rip-roaring material when…it happened:  nothing. A whole big lot of nothing. Hardly a snicker. I think I heard crickets chirping. Kind of a slow death, speaker-wise. The Bible says that laughter is like medicine. I’m telling you, this had to be the control group. Placebos for everyone!

After I spoke, a lady came up to me with a completely lifeless face. Truly lifeless. Without an ounce of expression, she monotoned, “I have never laughed so hard in all my life.” She didn’t crack a smile even then. It was so hilariously strange.

Here’s hoping we always look “alive” to the world. Know what “alive” looks like? It looks like love. 1 John 3:14 (NIV) says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

We have passed from death into life—heavy on the life! We need to pass it on. Others can’t see our redemption unless we live it out. And love it out.

It’s not a new message, but it’s one we need to hear often. We read in the same passage, “This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another,” (1 John 3:11 NIV). So how do we know exactly what that kind of love looks like? The same chapter gives us that, too:  “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (verse 16).

Real love sacrifices. The Jesus kind of love is a love that surrenders in humility. It’s a love that endures beyond the very worst offenses. When Jesus was asked which commandment in the law was greatest, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). A right-to-the-heart-and-soul kind of love. Being a follower of Christ means we love Him with everything we’ve got, and we love others in His name with the same enthusiasm. It’s our focus. Because it’s God’s focus.

Here’s hoping that if I’m asked to lay aside my rights, my fears, my possessions, my pride, even my very life for another, I’ll give the right response. No silence. No crickets chirping. Just love. Giving sacrificial love to a heartsick world that doesn’t know the love and joy of Jesus is the best medicine we can offer. And that, my friends, is no placebo.

… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:2 NASB

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When Crickets Chirp & God Still Shows Up – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: In what ways have you been able to love like Jesus loves?