Monday, June 29, 2009

A Pleasing Aroma

Fragrance, you know; perfumes and colognes, candles, air sprays, diffusers, scented oils, the list goes on and on. Rows within certain stores are loaded with scents of many varieties, As a matter of fact, there are specific stores that sell nothing more than fragrances; the stores where you exit not being able to smell anything for a while to the sensory overload!

There are many speculations about our collective desire to have and to present pleasant scents.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

A funny thing about fragrances is that once you are exposed to a new fragrance for a few minutes you no longer can smell the fragrance. In the same condition is our perception of the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him. Understand what scripture has to say about this aroma

It is His manifestation through us. We cannot sense our own sweet aroma.

Paul continues his discussion:

For we are the fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma of death to death, to the other an aroma of life to life. ( 2 Corinthians 2:14 & 15)

Wherever you go, people respond to your presence; they don’t even know why. Most of us are totally unaware of this concept ourselves.

Much like the artificial sources of fragrance our “sweet aroma” fades in the “open air”. Everyday encounters within the natural world diffuse our fragrance. To remain pleasantly fragrant to some and grossly smelly to others we must choose to abide with the source of our aroma.

Seek Him earnestly and passionately! The rest is up to Him!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Intimacy With God

My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me… John 10:27

The picture that Jesus paints with His words is one of intimacy. There exists a personal conversation that connects close friends. When He says that He knows us, He really, really knows us and chooses us as friends anyway.

Elijah had lived a wildly adventurous life. Boldly challenging the religious elite of his time to “put up or shut up” on Mount Carmel was only a piece of the adventure. He had seen much and done much over his years. There was yet one thing left that was critical in his understanding about his God.

So (God) said to him, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake! And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. And it came about when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the care. And behold, a voice came to him and said….

In six days God created everything that we see in addition to the many things that we will never see. His power has been displayed in earthquakes, stopping rivers, bringing water out of rocks, confounding enemies, providing manna, controlling the sun and in so many other dramatic displays. The attention getting displays of God’s power does not bring intimacy. Elijah had seen the power but hadn’t accepted the personal friendship with his God.

Jesus again stated the desire of our God to have intimate friendship with us. This invitation comes on the terms that we are able to accept. Our Creator knows our inner being and what it takes to reach that inner part. It is not the eye-popping miracles that speak to our spirits; it is the whisper of the great lover of our souls that strums the chords of life deep within us.

He is speaking to you, inviting you to come aside. Friendship, intimacy, completeness awaits.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Form of Godliness

Realize this, that in the last days…men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 2 Timothy 3:1-4

Quite a list, isn’t it? As you read many of the descriptions what came to your mind?
Sounds a lot like the society that we live in doesn’t it? Everywhere we turn we see one or more of the traits described above displayed openly.

However, before we go too far down this road, we must read the rest of the scripture:

holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power… 3:5a

So, evidently, the descriptions above aren’t addressing the society’s issues. Those issues have always belonged to society. What is new is that these traits have seeped into the Church. It is only the Church that has the position to “hold to a form of godliness”; the world has never been interested.

Too easy it is to think of examples of the above traits within the Church. The music is too loud, it is too hot, the message was too long, church isn’t fun/friendly/applicable anymore and on and on.

Lost within the ugliness is the “power”. Long ago the manifest power of the gospel message has been buried under the self-interest and self-promotion. Each weekend we see displayed only the “form of godliness” while privately God’s people carry on the sickness.

Hear the Word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer; incense is an abomination to Me. I am weary of hearing them.”

“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply your prayers, I will not listen.”

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease evil, learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
Isaiah 1:10-17

As the Nation of Israel was equated to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah perhaps today’s church is not far from the equation as well.

We are well aware of who makes up today’s Church. Individuals like you and me are responsible for the loss of power. Jesus is inviting us to “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean”.

Let’s agree together to quit “trampling His courts” with our worthless prayers and come into agreement with how He sees us. It is only then that we can once again discover the power!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Poverty of the Wealthy

One thing you still lack, Jesus said to the person who inquired about the way to eternal life, sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me. Luke 18:22

This entirely unique encounter has been in my mind in the last week. Let me explain: recently my wife and I spent a week in the Dominican Republic. So many things are different about the Dominican society that ours. One of the things that stand out in my mind is the visible evidence of contentment.

I understand that many of the homes in the Dominican Republic have little more that four walls. Few have electricity, few have running water (except when it rains), yet the lightness of the attitudes of so many of the people stands our in my mind.

I remember a time in our society when people would look in the face of the people they passed and smile and, often even, give a friendly greeting. Today, we seem far more protective and suspicious that at any time before. It is so interesting to contrast the two societies in terms of the possessions held and the attitudes displayed. It would seem that there is a relationship between the numbers of possessions and the amount of joy we experience.

He who trusts in his riches will fall but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. Proverbs 11:28

Ask yourself, where is your trust placed; an employer, a 401-k, a reliable car, a good neighborhood, a solid investment portfolio; maybe “all of the above”?

Jesus was not being arbitrary or cruel in demanding that the inquirer sell all of his possessions. Jesus knew the “stickiness” of possessions.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:21

But woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Luke 6:25

How many possessions is enough? When will we reach satisfaction?

Think back over your life as an adult. What were the circumstances wherein you were the happiest? Is it, in any remotest way, related to the possessions that you held?

And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But to those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. I Timothy 6:8&9

One difficulty that is inherent in the word “rich” is that it is a moving target. Certainly we recognize others whom we would qualify as “rich” and just as certainly we will never consider ourselves as rich. Hence the “snare”. All traps are invisible to the prospective prey!

Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:23&24

So, where does this leave us? How is one to know whether riches are “plunging us into ruin and destruction”?

Who among your is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above but it is earthy, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17

The contrast is clear. The kingdom of heaven is available now for those who enter and remain through the wisdom from above. We simply cannot continue to live in the terms of the wisdom of this world and expect that we will find the kingdom of God.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Idol of Jealosy

Jerusalem was built behind walls for a reason. Enemies from Damascus, Assyria, Babylon, Media and Persia all, at different times took an opportunity to attack the long envied position and the much hated people.

Within the walls were gates for the obvious purpose of entry and exit for the city. Due to the geography of the region the north gate had become the primary gate over the years. Perhaps its importance was established because it was so well fortified. The enemies listed above all live to the east of Israel. The position of Israel made the north the only approach for these peoples whether they came in war or seeking commerce. To the east of Israel is the Arabian desert and to the west is the Mediterranean sea making the north the easiest approach.

As the culture developed in Jerusalem the gates began to be primary gathering places. It was at the gates that kings held audience, prophets proclaimed God’s word, merchants traded and legal matters were adjudicated. Because of the traffic moving through and around the north gate, it became a primary gathering place.

This is the state we find as we read the words of the prophet Ezekiel.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, raise your eyes, now, toward the north”. So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance. And He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, that I should be far from My sanctuary? But yet, you will see greater abominations.” Ezekiel 8:5&6

There has never been a better time to look for the “idol of jealousy” and the life that it steals for the people of Jesus. We easily ignore this subtle god to our peril.

We walk into the department store and the “idol of jealousy” hovers above the door. We visit a friend and see the new wonderful flat screen TV or the new furniture; the “idol of jealousy” hovers. A neighbor or a friend drives up in his shiny new car; the “idol of jealously” rides “shotgun”.

Romans counsels us to Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Romans 12: 15

How far we, at times, stray from the concept of enjoying someone else’s joy. Worse, yet, it often seems more likely that we feel like weeping for ourselves when someone we know rejoices and feeling relieved that we are not the one’s weeping when a friend is weeping.

Yes, the “idol of jealousy” hovers invisibly in our society but its effects are not so invisible and never have been subtle.