The Fragrance of Christ

“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3

“Therefore, be imitators of God 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.” Eph. 5:1-2

The sense of smell is more closely linked with emotion and memory than any other. Can you remember sitting around the Christmas tree inhaling the scent of the pine as a child? Or perhaps the perfume or cologne of your first love? How about your grandmother’s cookies? Even as we grow much older, these aromas instantly take us back in time. The fragrance burns itself into our minds and hearts.

In the New Age (which I am not endorsing), they use a term called “aura” to describe an atmosphere that accompanies someone. In the Word of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the discernment of spirits. I like to think of this as our spiritual sense of smell, which allows us to judge the character or spirit belonging to that person… in the same way you would smell the milk before drinking it. Have you ever been around someone who just creeped you out? Or someone who made you feel relaxed, joyful or loved, but you didn’t know why? You were discerning their spiritual fragrance.

People who are demon possessed, out of their mind or satanic usually smell horrific. This is not an accident. Remember, the devil is called Lord of the Flies. What do flies hang out on? …waste products, decaying and dying things. Dead things reek! I remember a story by Mahesh Chavda in his book, The Hidden Power of Fasting and Prayer where the Lord used him to cast a demon out of a boy who was self mutilating in an insane asylum. Mahesh said that when the demon came out, the most putrid odor of rotten eggs and filth came into the room. But the boy was healed! And that foul spirit had to leave!

Before I had surrendered my life to Christ, I remember this lady who would come and clean the apartment. One day she came in while I was playing worldly music with all kinds of profanity. I immediately became aware (convicted) that my music was inappropriate. She hadn’t said a word! How did this happen? She carried a fragrance that my spirit could recognize. It was the fragrance of Christ. She and I had discussions about the Lord over many weeks, and although she may never know I eventually gave my life to Jesus, I will always remember her. (She’ll find out in Heaven.)

Beloved, God wants us to diffuse the costly fragrance of His precious Son.

Let’s look at a woman whose sacrifice changed the atmosphere and earned her a place in history wherever the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached.

36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)

The Characters

This story is remarkable in many ways. It is a picture of life, the world, and the gospel all wrapped into one. The anointing of Jesus appears in all four gospels. This story is so profound it is worthy of its own book as there are too many revelations to be covered here.

The first character sitting at the table is The Self Righteous. Simon the Leper is a Pharisee dressed in fine apparel, respectable in his community. He is watching this spectacle as a sinner touches Jesus, makes a mess on his floor, and disrupts the social norms. He is secretly judging her in his heart because in his mind… she is not worthy to be touching Jesus.

Jesus corrects him with a parable. Simon was the man who owed fifty denarii and she was the one who owed five hundred. The self righteous mindset is so busy judging others that it fails to see its own need for forgiveness. Simon was pious on the outside, obeyed the law, or so it was thought. Yet he was a leper. Isn’t this a picture of all of our true condition? No matter how hard we try to be righteous, we cannot cure our own leprosy. None of us can claim to be without sin. And only Jesus can forgive us. To the self righteous, the greatest lesson to learn is to look first at oneself and to have mercy on others. Some have committed more sins than others. The problem however becomes judgment based on personal comparison rather than God’s righteous judgment. The self righteous may find it harder to truly love God or worship with abandonment. The people at the altars truly worshiping God are often the ex gang bangers, the adulterers, prostitutes, former drug addicts, the depressed, fearful, sick, poor or indebted. They know they have been freed by the master!

The next character we see is The Critic.

In many of the gospels it says the disciples murmured against the woman. In John’s gospel we see that Judas specifically criticized the woman. The woman was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. I believe it’s accurate to say she was criticized by many people around that table. John mentions that Judas criticized Mary saying that what she had done was “a waste” and the money should have been given to the poor. On the outside, this might seem like good logic but not to Jesus. And Judas didn’t care about the poor anyway; he was a liar and a thief.

Whenever anyone gives an extravagant offering to Jesus, they will be criticized. People may not understand why you are giving your life savings to help plant a church or support an evangelist. People may look at you strangely as you hold your hands high with tears streaming down your face, bow down low or dance to the Lord during worship. People may tell you that you are foolish and unwise for quitting your job and dedicating a year to serving the Lord. Whenever a fragrant sacrifice to Christ is made, one thing is certain, the critic will certainly be there to rebuke and mock. The critics will never do anything for the Lord. Their sole purpose is to murmur against those who are.

The final character present is the one on the floor. She is The Broken Vessel.

Do you think Mary knew she was a sinner? Do you think she knew who Jesus was and what he had done for her? In John’s gospel we see that Mary takes her most precious perfume worth nearly a year’s wages and makes it an offering! What you may not have realized is this was done after Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead! When she considered all the Lord had done for her, she rightly reasoned that the least she could do was offer all. EVERYTHING to Jesus! She was so broken as she wept upon his feet. She kissed and anointed them; she cleaned them with her hair; she completely sacrificed not only the costly perfume but any sense of dignity she may have had. Wow! Is it any wonder that this caught Jesus’ attention?

She earned herself a place in history forever. She pleased the King of kings. She gave it all and released a fragrance through her extravagant worship that changed the whole atmosphere. “The whole house was filled with the fragrance.” John 12:3

The Cost

In order to release the fragrance of Christ, it will cost everything. Jesus went to the cross not because he felt like it or it was convenient. He did it in obedience to the Father. Looking again at the woman who broke the alabaster jar of precious oil and anointed Jesus, the Word says that this was worth a year’s wages. Think about that in present day terms. Would you give a $50,000 offering to the Lord? A $100,000 offering? What is Jesus truly worthy of?

Every true sacrifice will release an aroma. In order for precious oils to be made, olives or other herbs must be crushed. It is the crushing that releases the fragrance.

Allow the Holy Spirit to search you right now. Be completely honest before God. What are you holding back from Him? Is it your job? Is it your kids? Is it your reputation? Is it your sports car? Your vacations? Your comfort? Is it a drug addiction? An ungodly relationship? Is it your Monday night football?

Anything you love more than Jesus is an idol and needs to be sacrificed. Anything you think about more than Jesus needs to be sacrificed. Anything that interferes with your worship, devotion and commitment to Christ must go!

Now will you do it? Will you give your best, your all… irrespective of the opinions of others? Will you become the broken vessel and present your life as a living sacrifice to the King?

Then the world will smell it… the fragrance of Christ.

Loaves & Fishes

In the early days of my ministry in Berkeley, CA I was working a job and preaching the gospel at the same time. There came a point where I hadn’t gotten a paycheck in a couple of months (because I worked in real estate), and I was starting to feel serious pressure financially. I prayed and asked God for a miracle since I was a month behind already in rent and had no money for even present bills.

There were a couple of guys I would get together with to pray each week. These guys didn’t belong to my ministry and I didn’t go to their church, but we were brothers in Jesus Christ. One day they asked me if I needed some money. I said, “As a matter of fact, I do!” One brother asked how much I thought I needed and after a minute I said, “I need at least a thousand dollars.” They each wrote me a check that day. As I opened them up, the first was about $700 and the second was a check for $2,000! He told me later that God had spoken to him to give me double whatever I said I needed. God doesn’t miss a thing!

As we look at the Word of God and the story of the multiplication of food, we see that God has been in the miracle business from the beginning. I want you to take some powerful principles away from this so that you may begin to walk into a life of miracles.

John chapter 6:1-14

1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Insufficient Resources

Philip’s response teaches us something about human nature. As we just read, the crowd is massive and the needs far outweigh the food available. You and I will find ourselves in situations and places where our capacity and resources are not enough. As a matter of fact, this was Jesus’ whole purpose. I can just see Jesus with a twinkle in his eye asking Philip how they were going to feed all these people. Philip does what most humans do; he looks to his natural resources. He didn’t realize this was a test… and he just failed it.

This story of the miraculous feeding appears in all four gospels and also happens to be miracle number four out of seven as recorded in John’s gospel. Why is this important? I believe God highlighted this miracle for a very important reason. It is a prototype for us as believers to begin to walk into the miraculous.

So there they are and Philip and the rest of the disciples are in a panic because all they have are five loaves and two small fish. By the way, who brought the small amount of food? It was a lad. It takes the faith of a child to kick start a miracle.

Although the disciples didn’t get it as we often don’t, the good news is that their impossibility became an opportunity for God to work a miracle. Your impossibility qualifies you for a miracle!

The Anatomy of a Miracle

Just as the human body has parts, so does a miracle. There are three parts to the anatomy of a miracle that we see in this story and this applies to every miracle in all of Scripture!

Part 1 – Impossibility

Every miracle begins with a situation far outside the control of humanity. Think about it. Abraham was way too old to have a child. The walls of Jericho were way too high and thick. Lazarus was dead. And 5,000 people were way too many mouths to feed with a couple of tuna sandwiches! As a matter of fact, God will NOT work a miracle as long as there is a human way to take credit for it. This is why he whittled Gideon’s army down to three hundred members against an army of tens of thousands. Miracles give glory to God and only an impossibility qualifies for a miracle.

Part 2 – Faith

The second part to a miracle is to have faith. What is faith? “It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 11:1 It is important to note that one can have faith in a number of things. I have faith in my car every time I get in and turn on the engine. I believe that it is going to work and get me where I need to go safely. If you look at a dollar bill, it will tell you in writing that it is backed by the full “faith and credit” of the US government. Faith is confidence in the source. That the source will do what it is supposed to do. The faith that we are talking about here is faith in The Word of God. In the case of the miraculous feeding, Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit down, and then he tells them to distribute the food after he had given thanks and broke it. Jesus has to speak to you for you to have faith required for a miracle. He speaks generally in his Word to all of us, but if you want a miracle, the Word of God must become God speaking directly to you!

Part 3 – Action

The final part to receiving a miracle is to take action based on the Word of the Lord you received in faith. Action is the proof of real faith. James tells us that, “Faith without works is dead.” For example, if I say I have faith that my parachute is going to work, but I refuse to jump out of the plane out of fear. What this means is I really don’t have faith. You must jump out of the plane! In the story of the paralytic, Jesus tells the man to, “Rise, take up your mat and walk!” and he does it. It wouldn’t be enough for him to simply listen to Jesus’ words and say he believes him. He must take action based on the Word of the Lord. We see this in the miraculous feeding. The disciples did what Jesus’ told them to and as they distributed the food, the miracle manifested!

I want to encourage you to go through Scripture in the gospels and in the Old Testament, and you will see that these three parts belong to every single miracle in Scripture (where man had a part to play in the working of the miracle.)

Heaven’s Storehouse

In all of Scripture, I cannot find anywhere where Jesus was hurried or worried. Why was this? Because he understood that there is a realm in glory that I like to call “Heaven’s Storehouse.” This is a place where there are no limitations. Where every financial need, every healing need, every idea, all wisdom dwells. There is nothing that cannot be supplied by Heaven’s Storehouse. This storehouse is actually Jesus himself. He is the infinite supply all of humanity longs for. Psalm 135:7 tells us that God, “brings the winds out of his treasuries.” Eph. 3:20 reminds us that, “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever ask or imagine!” Col. 1:17 reveals that, “He is before all things and in Him all things consist.”

Everything you and I need is provided for in glory. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ and according to the glorious riches of our Father in Heaven and the power of His Spirit. This is why Jesus was never worried… and we shouldn’t be either.

Now make this personal to you. What is your impossibility? What is the Word of the Lord concerning your situation? What is Jesus speaking to you? And now go take action in faith based on what he has said!

We would love to hear the testimonies of God’s miracles in your life!

The Devil’s #1 Tool

We are three months away from an evangelistic outreach on the UC Berkeley campus. We have been planning this for six months and as I’m on the phone with a contact there, he informs me that the organization he represents has not made the necessary preparations for the crusade. They are changing the script from last time, adding red tape and extra requirements, and doing this at the last minute. As much as I was angry in the flesh, I recognized this for what it was… an attempt of the enemy to stop this crusade from happening. I spent the rest of that Saturday burdened by discouragement. Then come Sunday morning, I worshiped my way to victory and joy in the Lord. As I reflected on this, I realized a powerful truth:

The devil’s greatest weapon against the church is not overt, sensational sins like pride, lust or greed. His number one tool is discouragement.

Courage is a Heart Issue

The word courage comes from the Latin root word Cor which means “heart.” So to be courageous literally means to have a strong heart. To be willing to face adversity and march forward despite the possibility of defeat is the essence of courage. In battle, morale is a big deal and generals understand this.

In the Scripture God charges Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” many times before commissioning him to take Israel into the Promised Land. Why was this? Because God knew that courage was one of the primary things needed for the church to advance into victory. Is it any wonder then why the devil works relentlessly to bring dis-couragement? There are many examples of times and situations that were designed to discourage the saints. Think about Gideon who was so afraid of the Midianites that he was hiding in a wine press to make a little food for himself (Judges 6). Think about Hannah who was barren and then taunted by her husband’s other wife who had many children (1 Sam. 1). Think about Nehemiah who was mocked, resisted, threatened and falsely accused of sedition by foreign ambassadors because he was rebuilding Jerusalem along with his fellow Israelites (Neh. 4 & 6). Can you see a pattern here? All these situations were designed to bring discouragement.

In America the leading cause of death killing one in four people is… can you guess? Heart disease! This disease affects men twice as frequently as women. Do you think this is just a coincidence? Could it be that the spiritual realm is simply being reflected in the natural and what we need more than ever in this nation is to deal with a root issue of heart sickness and discouragement? Have we forgotten who we are and whose we are?

“Above all else, guard your heart. For it is the wellspring of life.” Prov. 4:23

God is after your heart… and so is the devil!

Resistance is Inevitable

One of the better decisions I’ve made this year was returning to the gym to regularly work out. No matter how many weeks I’ve done this, there is always that voice in the back of my mind telling me that I don’t feel like working out right now. There is always some excuse to postpone or skip altogether. I have to press through this. But the more I do so, the easier it gets each time. In order to grow stronger, the mind and body need resistance.

In one of Arnold Schwarzenneger’s famous speeches, he gives the secret to his success in life. “I have no Plan B.” and “People used to ask me how I can lift weights with a smile on my face. It’s because I have a goal. Every repetition gets me closer to my goal.” Arnold also says most people are afraid of failure but concludes that, “We all fail. It’s okay to fail.”

Consider the Wright brothers. They failed many times before inventing the airplane. Thomas Edison tried to invent the light bulb and failed 1,000 times! A reporter asked him how it felt knowing he failed 1,000 times. He replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps!” Abraham Lincoln ran for office and failed eight times before becoming president. Think of the resistance Martin Luther King Jr. faced during his fight for civil justice in America. His house was bombed and his family threatened with death.

How many times are you willing to fail in order to reach your goal?

God is looking for overcomers. There are beautiful promises from Jesus to his church in the book of Revelation (chapters 2-3). I encourage you meditate on these for yourself. Each one begins with, “To him who overcomes…” The coward and the quitter will have no part in the kingdom of God.

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation… but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”

In this life you will face resistance of all kinds. You will face financial challenges. You will be tempted to stray into sin. You will be criticized by friends, family and people who claim to be Christians but don’t get it. You will face rejection, betrayal and emotional battles. You will experience set backs, unforeseen obstacles, fires, disasters and every attack from the enemy imaginable. You will face persecution, and for some even violence and imprisonment. But guess what? This is normal! There is no magic pill, silver bullet, or ruby red slippers to get you back to Kansas. Resistance is inevitable. However, remember this truth.

The devil uses resistance to drain you. God uses resistance to train you!

Beating Discouragement

Here are some secrets and truths from the Word of God to cause you to win the battle against discouragement in your life.

  1. Your strength comes from God
  2. Hold onto the prophecies and testimonies
  3. Worship

David had one of the worst days at the office in history. He comes home with his merry men to a not-so-merry sight. His whole village and town of Ziklag had been raided and burned to the ground. Amidst the smoldering rubble, no people could be found. All his family and the families of his men had been kidnapped and carried off. After weeping themselves into hysteria, his men turn towards him with a crazy look in their eyes, and David realizes that meat is what’s for dinner. (1 Sam. 30-1-6) In my opinion, this is one of the most discouraging situations in Scripture. In the midst of this chaos and despair, David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. David knew there was only one person and one source of strength and he needed a fresh God encounter. Secret #1 – You need a God encounter.

Another secret to winning is found in Paul’s word to Timothy, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.” (1 Tim. 1:18)

The prophet Habakkuk also is told by the Lord to: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it. Because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Hab. 2:2-3)

Secret #2 – Write down your prophecies, visions and testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Speak, pray and meditate upon them often.

This is the last secret. There is no problem that will continue to plague you in the manifest presence of God. His glory, light, holiness and power will eliminate every worry, fear, trouble and anxiety. It won’t just be dwarfed or eclipsed… it will become non-existent.

The psalmist talks about the oppression of the wicked and the proud who seem to have no trouble. He was so tormented by this injustice that it oppressed him, robbing him of peace. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely you set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when you awake, you shall despise their image.” (Ps. 73:17-20)

Secret #3 – Worship your way into a paradigm shift.


The devil’s biggest game is discouraging you and me from the purposes of God. Resistance is inevitable, but God is molding us into his image through every trial. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us so… hold fast to these truths and NEVER GIVE UP!

Season of Restoration

Do you ever feel like your life is similar to this car?

Stuck in the mud. Dirty. Worn out. Not going anywhere. Potential unrealized. Broken down engine. In need of love, care and attention but powerless to get there.

Then this post is for you.

 

I believe we are entering a prophetic season of restoration

I had a friend reach out to me just this past week. He and I have known each other for about ten years. We have ministered together, prayed together, wept together. Yet about a year and a half ago we had a dispute that caused us to part ways. This broken trust and offense robbed us both of the beauty of fellowship and the mutual encouragement God meant for us to have as brothers in Christ. As I have prayed and done my part to reach out to this brother over the past year, I trusted God would be faithful to restore. And he did. This was a sign to me.

Wherever you find yourself having suffered loss, wherever you feel stuck, God is moving things in your life right now. His power is able to do what we cannot. Lean in expectantly in prayer and faith and watch God begin to restore broken relationships, lost opportunities, financial setbacks. Closed doors are opening.

 

Everything has a time and a purpose

As I have been reading through Ecclesiastes, it speaks in the third chapter of the timing of life. Moses says also in the 90th Psalm, “Teach us to number our days rightly, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Jesus also says, “My time has not yet come.” John 2.

There is a purpose for every season in your life. There is a time to tear down, to scatter, to refrain… and there is a time to build, to gather and to embrace. Every person who was used by God went through a season of barrenness and destruction before they entered their season of fulfillment.

Between the promise and the palace is the process, the prison, and the persecution.

Despair comes when we fail to see God’s purpose in our life in the moment we are living in. When we are in a cave fearing for our lives as David was, this is when we sing worship songs to the Lord and learn that He is our refuge, our strength, our shield. When we find ourselves in the pit like Joseph did, this is when we learn to pray believing God will lift us out and fulfill his Word. When we face the death of a promise as Abraham did when told to sacrifice Isaac, this is when we learn to believe that God raises the dead.

Nothing is wasted. The suffering and pain you have gone through is propelling you into God’s great purpose. Ask for the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation to help you see the lesson in what you’ve been through. You are being molded and shaped into the man or woman of greatness Christ calls you to be.

 

Take despair by the throat

I was watching an amazing video by Arnold Schwarzenneger about success and failure. He said that the secret to his success in life is that he has no Plan B. “People have a Plan B because they are afraid of failure.” He went on to say that there is no success without failure. We all fail. The greatest champions were knocked down, lost races, didn’t win the competition… yet what made them champions is they got up again. They resolved that they would continue to fight until victory was theirs.

The prophet Isaiah talks about those who were once rejected, broken, in prison, in despair.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted, to set at liberty the captives, and the release from darkness for the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. To comfort all who mourn. To provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow upon them a crown beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”  Is. 61:1-4

The devil calls you victim; the Lord calls you victor.

David found himself on the brink of despair after returning one day from battle to find his entire city burned to the ground and all his family and those of his men taken as slaves.

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.”  1 Sam. 30:6

David took despair by the throat by getting into the presence of God and realizing that restoration would surely come. He and his men fought according to the Word of the Lord to pursue and overtake… and they recovered all.

Take hold of this word for your life today. You are not defeated and God has not abandoned you. Rise up in faith and look to the hills where your help comes from!

This is your season of restoration.

Empty Vessels

A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.’ So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.’ Then he said, ‘Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors – empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.’ So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another vessel.’ So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.’” – 2 Kings 4:1-7

 

The Brink of Despair

One of my favorite movies growing up was The Princess Bride. It has everything: beautiful women, sword fights, giants, torture chambers, miraculous escapes, witty discourse, weird characters, true love… even a battle with a giant rat! At one point in the movie, Wesley is captured by Prince Humperdink and thrown into the pit of despair only to awaken to a white albino reminding him not to even think about trying to escape. “The chains are far too think. Have no hope of being rescued either. The only way in is secret. Only the prince, count and I know how to get in and out,” he smirks.

 

If you have ever felt like this, you are not alone. Whether your struggle is financial, emotional, relational, or physical, the story is not over yet.

 

In our text we see that this poor widow comes to the prophet in a desperate situation. Interestingly, her husband was also a prophet. We do not know exactly what happened to cause this debt. Perhaps there was some disaster like a fire that devoured their livelihood. Perhaps people were not giving into his ministry as they should. Or his sons could not find work. This is part of the story that we do not know. But what we do know is that this man feared the Lord. He was holy. He dedicated his life to the service of God, and yet at the end of his life, he died penniless and left behind a widow and two sons. Does this sound unjust to you?

 

This woman was on the brink of despair. Her two precious sons, the apple of her eye, were about to be sold into slavery. She was going to die bereaved of her husband and sons while slowly withering away from hunger like a severed branch.

 

Can you just hear the devil right now? “Is this what you get for serving God? He has failed you! Curse God and die!” Hmmm… reminds me of another story in Scripture.

 

How many people when they face these circumstances would respond like this? How many saints get offended at God when they go through trials!

 

There are always two responses to the trials: trust God or blame God.

 

Many people are at a critical crossroads. Faith is the ink that will pen the final chapter.

 

 

Bring Your Nothing

When you are invited to a wedding or a birthday party, it is customary to bring a gift. As a matter of fact, it is considered rude not to bring something. Even in the Old Testament, the Lord commands Israel not to come before him empty handed. David the king and prophet says, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.”

 

And yet, what do you have that you could possibly give the King of the Universe? He is the one who spoke and the worlds were created. All that we are and have are from him and belong to him. In him we live and move and have our being.

 

This is well illustrated by the band Shane and Shane in their song, “Bring Your Nothing.”

 

Here is the widow. She has no hope but God and she comes to the prophet. If she had rich friends, don’t you think she would have called upon them? If she had a Plan B, don’t you think she would have executed it? Despair is the point when every natural resource and idea have been exhausted. This is where she was… at the mercy of either God or the creditors.

 

When Elisha asks her what she has, she says, “Your maidservant has nothing… but a jar of oil.”

 

She surrenders and brings her nothing to God. When we come humbly before the Lord and acknowledge that we really have nothing, he reminds us that there is some small thing that he has entrusted to us however insignificant it may seem. The world would not see it as much. Perhaps we feel it isn’t even worth mentioning.

 

God wants to take your nothing and make it something.

 

A story that comes to mind is the journey of CityImpact ministries in San Francisco. It began with a man seeing a need in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This is one of the worst most drug infested and violent areas of the city. He had a heart to do something to bring the love of God. So he and his wife just started by making a few dozen lunch bags and then going around and handing them out to people. Then they prayed and talked with broken people as the Holy Spirit gave them audience. Fast forward over a decade later and they are now one of the most well known ministries in San Francisco with a huge staff, impacting not only the Tenderloin but churches around the world who send missions teams there to participate in what God is doing.

 

What is your jar of oil?

 

 

Empty Vessels

The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church to remind them that, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” – 2 Cor. 4:7

 

One of the biggest ingredients for God working a miracle is an empty vessel.

 

Jesus the Son of the living God came as an empty vessel to this world. In Philippians we learn that Christ “emptied himself” of all his divine privilege and nature in order to become a human and do the will of the Father. He became a servant.

 

The prophet says to the widow to go and gather empty vessels… from everywhere, from everyone, as many as you can find!

 

Isn’t it interesting that the sons who were supposed to be sold into slavery became gatherers of empty vessels? They got to participate in the miracle of God. The devil has a plan for your life. It is to sell you into slavery. It is to bring you into the house of bondage and despair. It is to rob you of your future. It is to keep you isolated, sick and fearful… to destroy your very soul.

 

But praise God saints… he has another plan!!

 

Imagine the scene. The sons frantically rushing to the neighbors, banging on doors, gathering and bringing them back to the house. Then going out again and gathering some more. Tall vessels, short vessels, red vessels, yellow vessels, vessels that used to hold sugar, flour, wine, parchments. Bring them all!!

 

Aren’t you glad that God is no respecter of persons? It doesn’t matter how beautiful, how big or small your vessel is. The only qualification is that it comes empty.

 

How many vessels got filled? Do you ever stop to think about this? Was it twenty? Fifty? A hundred? …

 

As many vessels as were brought were the ones that were filled! Question… are you skimping on the vessels? Could it be that God wants to do something far greater, far more marvelous in your family, church, city and life than you could have dreamed?!

 

The oil will stop as soon as there are no more empty vessels.

 

Saints, this story is one of the most profound pictures of the life of overflow for every believer. The devil wants you penniless, offended and fearful. Robbed of every good thing. God says, bring me your nothing. Come empty and watch me fill you to overflow.

 

The blessing not only paid off the debt but propelled this family into a life of abundance.

 

Are you in a place of despair? Do you feel like all you have is your nothing? Are you hungry to be filled with the fullness of God and see a movement in your church and city?

 

I have good news. God loves to take empty vessels and fill them up.

So bring them in… as many as you can find.