Passion: Begins With Anointing Pt. 1

                             (  Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. The Anointing in John (John 12:1–8).  picture courtesy of


    As Easter approaches I find my thoughts turning again towards the passages I love so much in John Chapters 12-20. I want to take some time to share some ideas with you from these chapters.

Six days before the Passover ceremonies began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table with him.” John 12:1,2

     In this passage, I am struck by the obedience of Christ to his Father’s plans. You may remember that prior to these verses Jesus had been forced to leave Bethany because he had caused such a stir by the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

     Christ knew the time of his death was upon him. So he marched willingly into the lion’s den. Now I know he was “Very God of Very God” but he was also “very man of very man”. I can only imagine the waves of fear which must have been washing onto the shore of his life as he sat down to supper with Lazarus in the home of Simon, the ex-leper.

     I can’t imagine it was any picnic for Lazarus, either. He was also marked for death because he was the poster boy for Jesus’ miracle ministry. Maybe that’s why Martha had opted to serve dinner at Simon’s home. I can just picture Lazarus’ protective older sister pouring out drinks around the room gazing suspiciously into each eye. Did she see danger in every drinker that night?

    As I read this passage I am filled with a tension… a sense of the danger they were all putting themselves in. How did Simon feel? He invited two marked men into his home for supper. Surely he had to know it wouldn’t stay a secret. Nothing Jesus did stayed a secret for long in those days. The whole city was on the look out for “the King of the Jews”. What trouble was Simon bringing on his own head just by having the two enemies of the Pharisees over for coffee?

      I can almost feel the stress of the disciples as they recline at the table. Thomas had followed Jesus loyally but with not a little concern for his own well-being. Peter may have acted “devil-may-care” but something deep inside of him was ready to bolt.

     Into the midst of all this intrigue and tension little sister Mary walked

     “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar [fn] of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.”  John 12:3 NLT

     Anointing… what a strange ritual. Why do people do it? To signify importance. To signify the presence of God, the approval of God. To cover the stench of death.

     Here’s another question who else in the Bible was anointed? Aaron the High priest, every high priest since him, King Saul, King David, every king since them, oh yeah and every dead person who could afford embalming spices. It’s interesting to me that Mary had not broken the jar of nard over Lazarus body when he had died earlier.

     All those thoughts aside, there she was the impetuous little sister breaking the family retirement over the feet of Jesus. What an interesting picture. What a way to begin the passion week.

What would you have felt if you were there that night?


Pruning For Fruit Pt.2

           So as I was building my personal crown of thorns while weeding the other day I got to thinking about John 15

    Jesus said “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1,2 NLT

    As I entered my fourth hour of cutting and seeing very little change I heard the Spirit say “This is like many of my children.”

   Even after we repent of our sin I am convinced most of us don’t really understand what a tangled mess we have made of our lives. Sin has tendrils that wrap unseen around our inner fruit trees. It is these vines of darkness which remain even after Jesus comes into our lives as Lord and Savior. He has to pull them out in the process called sanctification.

    While we are instantly saved and bought into the Kingdom of Heaven, the process of making us into “fully devoted followers of Christ” takes time. It’s waiting for this which causes many to become frustrated with God and knock-off serving Him.

    I once had an unbelieving addict tell me “I tried Jesus, He didn’t work.”

    To which I said “It took you twenty years to get this messed up. Why did you think Jesus was going to fix you in five minutes at the altar?”

     As my day Saturday came to an end and my viny wilderness looked fairly untouched I comforted myself with these same words. My rose vines haven’t been touched in twenty-five years why did I think I would be able to prune them fully away in an afternoon?

    Have you ever been impatient waiting for God to fix your life?

Pruning For Fruit Pt.1

    To all those of you who read my post “Scratch” the other day. Here is what my blackberry hedge looked like on Saturday.

     Now here is what it looks like today.

       Do you notice the difference? Me neither!

       Lest you think I did nothing on Saturday, here is a picture of the brush I pulled out of that hedge.

Most of it consists of wild roses with thorns this size. After poking myself in the face and head for several hours with these “little honeys” I was only to ready to let the purple finches, who had been cursing me all afternoon, keep their blackberry stand. I did manage to get four wild rose bushes pruned back  to ankle height, which was quite a feat. Some of the vines were thirty feet long and had wrapped themselves into the top of our crabapple tree. When I finally got them peeled back I found what looks to me like a lilac. So all in all it was not a bad day’s work. I found a lilac which I will be able to make herbal jelly from and I pruned the  crab-apple for fruit as well.

       Anybody got a good recipe for crabapple jam?

Pastor Wrinkles Corner: On Being The Church

Let’s Review:

1. What does the death of Jesus on the cross do for us? On what day did Jesus die?

2. What does the resurrection of Jesus for us? On what day did Jesus rise?

3.  What did Jesus do after he was resurrected?

4. Where is Jesus now?

In your groups:

1. Read Eph. 2:8-10 What is God doing in these verses? What are we doing?

2. According to Ephesians 2:10 why are we able to do good works? What does that mean about people who are not allowing God to work in them?

3. What does the word  “saved” mean in Ephesians 2: 8?

Now together:

What did your groups come up with for the meaning of the word saved?

Let’s turn to the Book of Galatians which is just before ______________.

The Galatian church had a problem. They had _____________ the true gospel and had begun trying to _____________ themselves by good works. Read Galatians 3:1-5

We can never ______________ ourselves. SAlvation comes only by trusting in _____________ power to save us through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. We trust him by _____________ to  him in prayer with all our sins.

It is believing that changes your ______________. But so many people try to change first then come to God. That is backwards.

Come to Jesus first and then through ______________ let him take away your sins.


      Every year as I finish laying out my garden beds I tell myself that this will be the last year of major botanical construction.

     I told myself that last year. I harvested in the fall thinking what a great system I had built. I looked forward to “tweaking” my beds this year and spending a goodly amount of time sitting in my lounger watching the perennials grow.

     Now I am at a totally new house considering  starting my gardens from scratch.

     Mom has a great piece of property that someone at sometime worked diligently. It was not Mom. She has lived in her “grand old mansion” for thirty-three years. During that time the extent of our family gardening (except for my indoor planting) has been mowing the lawn and  my dad scattering a huge package of wildflower seed onto the side lot to see what would happen.

    All past promises to myself aside, tomorrow starts another season of garden design and construction! This plot is too beautiful not to cultivate. It is definitely my biggest project to date.

     And in the morning I am really starting from scratch. I will begin with a massive blackberry hedge on the side of the house.

    The stand has run rampant and is nearly 50 feet wide and easily 25 feet deep! It trails all through the woodsy side grounds, wrapping around the crab apple tree and mixing in with the wild rose. My hope is to cut the suckers down to size and shape so that we will actually be able to pick some of the berries without needing a blood transfusion because of the thorns. I would also like to salvage the wild roses from the death grip of the pernicious canes.

      On the other side of this plot we have a huge stand of black raspberries. They are also a little out of control. This use to be our picnic table.

     Some people may think I am jumping the gun a little since there is still snow on the ground but I am going to start building the raised beds in two weeks time. Before that I am going to need to have a good bonfire to burn up the refuse. With only a day a week to garden I had better get a move on!

Where are you in your garden plans?

A Generation That Knows How To Speed

    ” Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” I Tim 4:12

     I have the awesome privilege of serving one more time as youth pastor at my home church. When I retired from youth ministry 3 years ago I really thought my time among the teens had come to an end. But once more change has brought me full circle right back to my roots. So until June I will continue on as Pastor Wrinkles, venerated elder of the young.

     This is a generation of passion and strength if ever I saw one! I hear talk of “raising the dumbest generation” and ” our entitled, witless youth”. I have to say I don’t see it. I do see a lack of knowledge, a  huge dose of cynicism and a fear of buy-in but that has more to do with our generation’s sin than theirs.

     Another youth pastor once told me “money follows vision”. If that is true it is because people who control money follow vision. If you want to make a goal with a team you have to tell them what it is no matter how old the members of the team are.

     The youth I serve are growing passionate about God and about the mission He has given them. This is so because they are hearing from the Scripture that God has a goal for them to shoot for.

     In our church, the Beyonders (everyone over 18) pay the salaries of our missionaries. The wrinkly people keep the servants of God in milk and sneakers. The Youth provide the missionaries with what they need to do their job. The Youth buy the missionaries their cars, planes, boats, computers, sound systems, and movie projectors. We call this outreach Speed-The Light.

     These kids know how to speed! This year our group of thirty kids pledged $7,797.00 to Speed-The-Light. So far they have raised $2501.00 for the ministry! Hallelujah!

     Last Wednesday night our kids hosted a Speed-The-Light service for our church.  Our special project that night was to buy 5 Kindles for pastoral candidates in Cuba. The Kindles will be loaded with the entire four-year curriculum for Bible college.

     God did it! We are given the privilege of sending five new pastors into the harvest field! How cool is that?

    This generation is hungry for a vision they can buy into. Once they have the vision I have seen they can really Speed-the-Light!

What do you see are the greatest hindrances to this generation’s motivation?

Cries In the Deep

     My Earth keeps shaking. I am pretty sure this isn’t going to stop any time soon. I have come to it that the only thing I can control is the way I look at the trembling:  Either it’s a total curse or a curse that God is going to bring good from.

     I bet you thought that I was going to say “It’s either a curse or a blessing.”  Am I right? Well some things just aren’t blessings from God. In fact I am pretty sure God isn’t in them. That doesn’t mean He won’t use them or turn them for my good.

      I am working hard to view life just now as a curse that God is going to use for my good. I realize, for instance, that my prayer life is deepening exponentially with each aftershock. In particular I am learning the value of waiting on God.

     As I began this journey I found  that much of my prayer life was bound up in noise and complaint. So much of me was just  a voice that laid out cries in the deep.

    But Scripture says: “I  wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5,6

     Understand it is not that we are not free to bring complaints before God. In fact sometimes it’s the only place we can start. God being who He is gives us liberty to stay in the place of complaining as long as we desire or need to be there. However cries in the deep can never open the doorway to the peace of God.

      The peace comes when we still our voice in our deep places. Then His deeper presence can minister to us in the quiet place.  It’s in this place of waiting that the promises of  Philippians 4 are released.

     ” Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6,7

     To all those of you who are living in the shadow with me I say wait on the Lord!

When your shadow becomes really deep what do you do?

In Like A Flood

     Spring in New England is a lot like winter…with mud. As the snow goes back to the storehouses God has created for it the ground here in Massachusetts become a boot-sucking quagmire.

     After snow-seasons like this last one, short periods of flooding are not unheard of (though nothing like in the South). A few weeks ago my sister and I went to the mall only to find that much of it was blocked off due to the snow-melt flooding.

So instead of shopping we parked by “Mall Lake” and took the dogs for a walk.

As we walked out onto the parking-barrier jetties  Isaiah 59:19 came to mind

From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.”

     The King James version reads “when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord will raise up a standard against him.” This translation makes it sound like the enemy is coming in like a flood. But the translation in context actually reads that it is the Lord who comes in like a flood to defeat his enemies.

     As I stood looking out over the waters that day I noticed a couple of things about the flood:

1. It was expected but unstoppable. The best the shopping center could do was to put up cones to keep people out of the water and off the flooded roads. When God moves nothing the enemy does will effectively hold back His power.

2. The flood came suddenly. It was evident that once the water started coming  storm drains could not syphon it off fast enough to keep the roads clear. When God moves, His work is sudden. It may be a while in coming but once He begins He will make your head spin.

3. The water followed the path of least resistance. The lowest things were totally covered by the lake while the higher spots remained untouched. When God comes in like a flood, He calls us to stand on higher ground as He destroys those things which are base and low. If we insist on remaining in a position of sin, compromise or bitter unforgiveness, we might just get swept away with the very enemies we have been praying God to deliver us from.

     The dogs and I had a nice walk that day and I learned some powerful lessons about how God is going to move in my days ahead.

Who Were They?

I journeyed to Vermont this weekend for a time of refreshing with several friends from my church. We sanctuaried at the home of James Hartness, former governor of Vermont and a well-known inventor during the Industrial Revolution.

     I am grateful for the time away and for the words which Jesus spoke to my heart. It was not the weekend I planned. Yet somewhere around Saturday lunchtime I realized, that was as it should be.

     While my room was very comfortable I had a  hard time sleeping. Nightmares have become a normal part of my evening activities these last weeks. I expect they will probably end this week. But my refreshing weekend was not exempt from them.

     I was also hoping to find some quiet spaces in which to meditate.

I looked upstairs.

Then I looked downstairs. I found lots of bedrooms and nooks and crannies but no great prayer chairs. 

I did find an awesome built-in by the fireplace in the main room. So did everyone else. We practically had to sign up for its use. So we shared. I managed to sneak out of breakfast early on Sunday to get  a few minutes of meditation in it…. It was so peaceful!

     But the weekend wasn’t about quiet reflection. It was about active self-discovery within a group of people. I realized this as I was laying on a lumpy sofa in a chilly hallway complaining to the Lord about how hard it was to get away and be by myself.

    I heard the Lord say, “That’s not why I sent you here. Get up and take a walk.”

    So I did. As I wandered the neighborhood God focused me in on the buildings I was passing by. Built into the steep hills of the Green Mountains these turn-of-the-century homes were immense feats architecture.

It was obvious to me that the men and women who conceived these places were both artists and engineers. To take the side of a mountain and make it into a home fit for a king, now that takes a gifted mind!

“Who were they?” The Lord asked me as I walked.

“I don’t know Lord. They certainly had some talent.” I replied.

“They also had help.” God came back.

“Do not think for one minute the men and women who lived in these homes accomplished all they did without help. They had ideas that were beyond them. They faced challenges that were beyond them. But they gathered about themselves communities they could trust and they overcame.” The Lord finished.

    I thought about that as I came in out of the snowy spring air. I thought about it as I sat with my brothers and sisters. This was a weekend of sharing challenges and dreams. It was a time of immersing our selves in the Lord in a place which had known greatness before our time.

    Who were the people who had inhabited this place before us? They were folks not so different from us, people of dreams and challenges. They chose to face them together. In that they accomplished something great.

     Someday people will ask of my circle “Who were they?” the answer to the question will largely depend on how we work together to accomplish the dreams God has put within our hearts. I wonder what legacy we shall leave.

Pastor Wrinkles: A New Creation

Let’s Review:

1. Name Some of the original God Bargains God made with mankind.

2. What has Jesus done for us?

3. Jesus is called the Savior, Healer, Baptizer, and Soon and coming King. What do each of these titles mean?

We are looking in the book of 2nd ________________ tonight.

Corinth was a very _____________ city. It’s people were famed for their loose ____________. To Call a woman a “Corinthian girl” was a terrible insult that meant she slept around.

Some of these loose morals had gotten into the ____________.

I Corinthians deals with a lot of those issues. Second Corinthians is a letter that finishes up Paul’s thoughts about _____________.

Read 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5.

Some details:

We should daily ____________ Heaven.

We live by ____________ not by how things look.

We don’t live for pleasure now but to receive a _____________ in Heaven.

We are new _______________ Which means we can live differently than the rest of the world.

Read 2nd Corinthians Chapter 6.

Now In Your groups:

1. Does the christian life in Chapter 6: 1-12 sound easy? Why do you think Paul did not give up?

2. When Paul talks about “not being yoked together with unbelievers” what kind of relationships do you think he is talking about? How do these relationships affect our holiness?

3. From our study tonight what are you going to do personally that will help you to a live a more holy life? Why?