Sunday, March 21, 2010


What Does Worship Smell Like? John 12:1-11

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on March 21, 2010. The lesson is on John 12:1-11 and Mary anointing Jesus' feet. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

What Does Worship Smell Like?
John 12:1-11

Most of us can relate some memory (whether good or bad) to a particular smell
We smell that item and immediately relate it to our memory

Some Smells and Memories
a. The great skunk killing—another day in Lynchburg!
b. Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter
c. Fudge or other sweet smells
d. The smell of freshly brewed coffee
e. The smell of a good cigar: Memories of dad!
f. Farm smells: animals, ploughed ground, crops, etc.
g. Spring smells: new blossoms, new growth, new flowers
h. Perfume/cologne

We all have similar memories and related smells
Those smells permeate our lives and cause us to return to those memories when we encounter them

But did you know that worship has a smell?

Our passage today (John 12:1-11) reveals that worship may smell in one of three ways

What does your worship smell like?

The Scene: Look Who Came to Supper
John 12:1-11

The dinner at Bethany
Occurs six days before Passover

The guest list
a. Simon the Leper (?): Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-13 (May not be the same dinner, but the similarities are intriguing. Simon could not host a dinner if he was still a leper, so the implication is that Jesus may well have healed him!)
b. Lazarus the formally dead man (see John 11)
c. Jesus
d. The Disciples
e. Martha, Mary, and assorted gawkers

The foot washing
This act interrupts the dinner. The guests are reclining (probably on their left sides as they eat right handed from a table on the floor), and Mary interrupts the dinner and conversation to wash Jesus' feet. This is not the appropriate time. If she wanted to clean his feet she should have done it BEFORE the meal. Most likely she was performing a burial rite! At any rate, her act disrupts the order of things and changes the smell of the room from dinner to sweet perfume.

The three “scents” of worship
1. Extravagant
2. Egocentric
3. Observer

Let’s take them in reverse order

1. The Observers
John 12:9: The large crowd

The Observers who are primarily in it for the adventure
a. Came not to learn, but to gawk
b. Came for the rubbernecking, not the relationship
c. Is more concerned about the next “big event” than in truly meeting God or serving others
d. Doesn’t want to miss something that may be worth gossiping about later

Observer worship smells like burnt eggs: Watching but no involvement

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you in it for the adventure?
b. For the miracles?
c. For the spectacle?

2. Egocentric Worship: Judas and the Chief Priests
John 12:4-6; 10-11

Egocentric worship
a. Sounds very pious on the surface
Notice that Judas spoke up with a “concern”
b. Seems concerned about legitimate issues
Why not give money to the poor?
c. Focuses on selfish desires
Wants money for himself (Judas)
Doesn’t want to lose authority (the chief priests)

Egocentric worship wants to know: What’s in it for me?

Egocentric worship smells like old used sweat socks

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you in it only for selfish gain?
b. For what you can get out of it?
c. For recognition and prestige?

3. Extravagant Worship: Mary
John 12:1-3; 7-8

O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi: The story of a married couple who give up what is precious in order to show extravagant love to each other. It is the story of a young couple named Della and Jim. They were a poor couple but they loved each other deeply. Each one had their own unique possession. Della's hair was her pride and joy. When she let her hair down it was like a robe on her back. Jim had a gold watch, which his father had given him.

On the day before Christmas, Della had exactly $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She wanted to get him something he would really like, but she knew that she could not get much with a $1.87. So, she went and sold her hair for $20.00. With the money she bought a platinum chain for Jim's precious watch.

Jim came home from work that night. When he saw Della's shorn head, he was left speechless. Slowly he handed her his gift. His gift was a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jeweled edges for her lovely hair. He had sold his gold watch to buy them for her. Each had given all he or she had to give.

Extravagant Worship
a. It is precious
Cost Mary almost a year’s worth of money
300 denarii
A year’s salary

May have been saving it for her own (or Lazarus’) burial
This nard was not normally used to wash dirty feet
It was used to bury loved ones

b. It is motivated by love and is intimate
Mary uses her hair
Women did not let down their hair in public or in front of men other than their own husbands
This was a very intimate act and showed Mary’s love for Jesus
She anoints his feet (an act of kindness or a burial ritual?)

c. It is humble (i.e., she kneels at his feet, washes his feet, serves Jesus)

d. It is obvious/pleasant to others
The smell remained on Mary (i.e., her hair)
The smell filled the room (i.e., all the guests smelled it)
The smell stayed on Jesus as he entered the week of his Passion

“The delicious fragrance ran down over his shining hair. It enfolded His body with its delightful aroma. Even his tunic and flowing undergarment were drenched with its enduring pungency. Wherever he moved during the ensuing days, the perfume would go with Him. Into the Passover; into the Garden of Gethsemane; into Herod’s hall; into Pilate’s patio; even into the cruel hands of those who cast lots for his clothing.” Philip Keller

The smell remained with Jesus through:
His last supper
His prayer
His trial
His beating and crucifixion

e. It permeates everything

f. It pleases Jesus

Extravagant worship smells like an expensive perfume

What does your worship smell like?
a. Are you extravagant?
b. Are you serving?
c. Are you intimately involved?
d. Does your worship overwhelm the place with a sweet fragrance that lingers?

Story of the little boy and the bus minister (Michael Hensley)
The little boy had never seen a church or an offering before, and when the plate was passed he realized that he had no money to give to Jesus. He took the plate and set it in the aisle. Stepping in he says: "Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!"

Mark 14:8—”She has done what she could”: Jesus' words about Mary's act

What does your worship smell like?

What can we do that will show extravagant worship this week?

First, stop counting the cost. Give your very best.
Mary didn’t dip her finger into the perfume and sprinkle a bit on Jesus. She “wasted” it on him.
“Waste” some time serving God this week. Pick one hour of your schedule and spend it only in service to God or to others for God. Don’t scrimp!
“Waste” some money that you’ve been “saving”! Give to that ministry or that event.
Help someone and do it with no boundaries.

Second, learn to let your worship permeate your life and circumstances
Don’t stop with a private worship
Be extravagant in public too
Be bold in sharing your love for Christ—find someone that needs encouragement, or someone who needs salvation, or someone who just needs a friend, and spend time dumping love on them in an extravagant manner

Live so that your worship smells like an extravagant perfume that overwhelms all in its range (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

So, what does your worship smell like?

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Is it Monday? It sure "feels" like one!

Have you ever felt an ache in your heart that you didn't want to express because it might hurt others? That's where I have been lately. Don't really want to blog about it, don't really want to say it because it seems "selfish" in part. But it still hurts. Someday I hope I outgrow this kind of immaturity, but there it is.

I guess my problem is that I feel underappreciated or something, but then at the same time I feel like an idiot for wanting "appreciation" instead of just doing the right thing because it is the right thing.

I don't know, maybe it is just a bad Wednesday.

I can't seem to shake this feeling, and it has been around about 2 weeks.

Little things happen regularly that seem to feed it. Just when I think I've "divorced" myself from it, something happens to bring it back. The enemy of our souls takes advantage of "little" things to stir up the stupid thoughts in my head and heart. When others are blessed, he tries to make me think I have somehow "missed out" or been treated worse.

Now you know why I hate satan so! I look forward to the day when he and his ugly demons are cast forever in the abyss.

At any rate, I thought it might be a bit therapeutic to "say" this on-line. This is not an attempt to get a response, I'm simply "thinking out loud" in a way.

So, my friends, pray for me. Pray that I outgrow this immaturity, pray that I learn simply to do the right thing because it honors my Lord. Pray that I cherish his "Well done!" far above the kind words of others.

I know that I am NOT underappreciated, and I know that my friends care. Maybe I just need a vacation or something. I think I'll go listen to some Dylan.

Thanks for listening!

Monday, March 08, 2010


Going Sane in a Crazy World: Standing Still When Things Fall Apart, Psalm 46

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on February 28, 2010. The lesson is on Psalm 46. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Going Sane in a Crazy World
Standing Still When Things Fall Apart

Psalm 46

The Tick and Arthur
“You aren’t going crazy chum, you’re going sane in a crazy world”

We live in a crazy world
Branch Davidians and Fallen Towers (9/11)

Facing Personal Loss
My father's death
Steve Huisman's death
Your situation?

Going Sane in a Crazy World

Psalm 46: The Frame is God’s Presence (v. 1) and our Position (v. 10)
1. When God seems silent, be still and know his presence
2. When the world turns against us, be still and know his power
3. When things get hectic, be still and know him
Going Sane means to Stand Still

1. When God Seems Silent
Psalm 46:1-3

When life goes crazy, where is sanity? Where is God?
In what way is God a refuge when life is in tatters?

C. S. Lewis—A Grief Observed
“Where is God? When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be -- or so it feels -- welcomed with open arms. But to go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. . . . What can this mean? Why is God so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in times of trouble?”

God’s presence has not changed, yet we seem to be unable to access it
God seems distant, or at least a bit unconcerned
Our world is shattered, where is the glue to hold us together?
The Absence of God? Is he there?

Be still and know his presence

Col. 1:15-17: Jesus is the glue that holds reality together

The Psalmist calls us to put our trust in God who holds all things together
The words “refuge” and “strength” speak of God’s security and power

Our security is not in the ground beneath our feet (remember Haiti or Chile?)
God is our ultimate unshakeable reality and the greatest power of all
Just because I don’t see the sun that doesn’t mean it ceases to exist

When life gets hard, we need to stand still, to desist, to stop striving and to dwell on his presence

God is omnipresent, he has gone nowhere
Be quiet, and listen
Psalm 91:7

Be still and know his presence

2. When the World Turns Against Us
Psalm 46:4-7: God is with his beloved Jerusalem

2 Corinthians 4:7-10—Jars of Clay
We are not exempt from hardships, difficulties, and bad emotions
But we are more than survivors (Romans 8:31-39; especially v. 37)
We may be shaken, but we cannot be destroyed

The power by which we live and Jerusalem is sustained is the power of God
When things go south, we must learn NOT to rely on our abilities
Our power MUST come from a higher source
God is There, and He is Able

Be still and know his power

3. When Things Get Hectic
Psalm 46:8-11

God's Word to us when we're on the ragged edge of reality: Be Still, Desist, Cease striving, Stop Struggling, Relax.

Psalm 46:10 says to "Be still," which may mean “relax.” It means something like "let your arms down to your side"—to be vulnerable to God.

God also says to "know that I am God." He calls for a cognitive and a personal response.

We cease striving not because we know how it's going to work out, but because we know the God who will work it out.

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (continued)
"I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it; you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear."

All kinds of things may be going wrong, but God remains unmoved and unchanged
He is constant, he is there, he is not silent, he has not moved
To know him is to know security even in the most hectic time

To know him requires time and stillness
We must sit with him, spend time with him
We need lap time with our Father
We need to unravel, to experience Selah

His presence is ours, our position is to be still with him

Be still and know him

Now What?
So, life is going crazy
How do we go sane in a crazy world?
How can we find firmness when things seem unsound?

1. We must begin with a proper focus
Whatever consumes our attention soon overwhelms our senses and colors our perspective
Instead of being consumed by the problem, we should turn our face to the Lord
This week we must schedule time with God

2. We must stand still on God’s firmness and stability
We must learn to quit striving, to cease kicking, to be still and to be vulnerable to what God may be doing
We must embrace God as our sole refuge, as our primary source of satisfaction
This week find ways to create a space of peace in your hectic schedule. Take time to sit still.

3. This week, when the bottom falls out, when God seems silent, when the world turns against you, when things get hectic
Be still, and know God’s power, presence, and person
And you’ll find that he is a genuine refuge in time of trouble

Thanks for reading!

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