Smelling Good

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.”
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

Reflection:
Many years ago, as a young teenager, I was out with the rest of the boys in my form on a class picnic. In those days the only odour that meant anything to me was the delicious smell of a Sunday roast drifting out from the kitchen.  However coming down the side of the mountain I encountered a fragrance that stopped me in my tracks. Try as I might I could not find it again but its exquisite beauty was something that I have never forgotten.

Years later when I was reflecting on my journey of faith the Lord brought that incident to mind. He revealed to me that the fragrance was of Him as He passed by me – His intention being that He could later show me that even then He knew me and was calling me to Him.

Whenever I read the verse above I am reminded of that incredibly special moment. It seems to me that as Christians following in the triumphal footsteps of our great Lord we should bring to those around us a sense of that same beauty. There should be something so special attached to us in our being and our journey of life that it causes them to pause and try to identify what it is.

As disciples of our Lord, children of the heavenly Father and temples of the Holy Spirit there is every opportunity for the beauty of the Lord to colour our lives and to shine through them. It is not that we are special – but that the One who is with us and within us is.

Allow yourself to feed on the beauty of the love and grace of our Lord. Be conscious of Him as you live through your days – and seek to do everything as an offering to Him. Wherever possible leave behind you that gracious sense of peace and blessing which comes from our God who is with you.

Response:
Cover your life and your day with prayer – pray a blessing on each person and situation that you encounter, and on everything that you do.

Prayer:

Father how greatly You have blessed me – help me to be a blessing to others as well. Amen.

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Open up

“Remember this:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6)

 

Reflection:
We are sowing all the time. At every moment and in every situation we are distributing something into our contexts and into the lives of others. It flows from our expressions, our words, our attitudes, our actions and our reactions. There is not one of us, whether introvert or extrovert, of whom this is not true.

As we realise this we come to see also that we have a choice with regard to what is sown. It can be positive or negative, helpful or unhelpful, encouraging or discouraging, up building or degrading. We also have a choice as to how much we sow – minute quantities, sparingly or lavishly – and whether we so do willingly or unwillingly.

Years ago as I walked past the public Library gardens on my way to work I often met a man walking across my path. He was a fairly large man with a round and generally smiling face and, as he walked, he sang out loud in a resonating bass voice. I did not understand the words which were not in English but the song, and the beaming joy with which it was sung, was a wonderful blessing bringing smiles to the faces of almost everyone who met him. What a gift it was!

We all have within us the ability and the wherewithal to sow some blessing and encouragement into the lives of those around us. In a world in which the focus is turning increasingly inwards all it takes is the decision to be aware of others and – even for a day – to decide to seek ways of giving a blessing rather than looking for one ourselves. The wonderful thing is that so often sowing kindness brings it back again in some way – even in an immediate smile on the face of the recipient.

Cultivate the habit of sowing love, light and life in your situation. It can change lives – including your own.

Response:
Look – listen to the expressions of others – do something.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You blessed the lives of so many people. Help me to do the same and to be excited about it. Amen.

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One Truth

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”
(1 Corinthians 1:21-23)

 

Reflection:
The wisdom of the age is denying God and slowly side-lining Him to the dusty archives of yesterday. It has no one better with which to replace Him, only the intelligence that says He does not exist. For those who thought that they believed this is a huge challenge. For those who believe it is an enormous sadness. For all others there remains… nothing – just a huge blankness, injustice and unending emptiness.

But there is a God! He is not known through man’s wisdom. He is known through revelation and by the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Even Paul, of the great intellect, would say that, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.(1 Corinthians 2:2). For it is not about wisdom; it is all about a Person, Jesus Christ. It is not about logic or mathematical equation, it is about love, the love of God Himself. It is a love that defies logic and human understanding. He is a Truth revealed not by the mind but by the Spirit of God Himself.

And then, when we do believe, we begin to understand that such is the accumulation of sin and depravity in the world that there was no other way – no other person who could deal with it – than God Himself. Only He is pure and holy enough, and with the spiritual capacity, to take it all into Himself and to put it, once and for all, to death. It is, indeed, all about, and only about, Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Do not waiver because of the ‘wisdom of the wise’ of this age or any other. Remember the beautiful and glorious truth that,

“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1:27)

For it is Jesus Christ, and He alone, who is our Wisdom, Strength and Salvation – and our Eternal Life and Peace. (1:30)

Response:
Affirm Psalm 25:1-2 – “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God”

Prayer:

Father Almighty, deepen my faith and trust and knowledge of You every day. Help me to believe and to live in You, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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New Reality

“I always thank God for you
because of his grace
 given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

 

Reflection:
Our relationship with God is all about reality. It is based on His reality and the fact that He has intervened in our reality.

This is the reality of our everyday lives, as well as the reality of our past and our future. Whilst the world offers us concepts, philosophies and ultimate loneliness and death, God offers us truth, personal relationship with Him, and eternal life and healing. Where the world tells us what we must do, God shows us what He has done. Where the world will sell to us, God gives to us freely. Where the world gives no visible proof, God gives us His Son. Where the world offers no guarantees God sends His Spirit to live within us. Whereas the world ultimately discards us, God promises us resurrection and life.

The wonder of our relationship with God is that everything that He has done for us, and that He offers us, is done out of His great, unlimited and unconditional love.

This love of God is not revealed only in words, it is revealed in the gift and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. There could be no greater gift or example of that love. And, because it is only through the grace of God flowing from this love that we have a future and a hope, Jesus Christ stands also as the revelation of this grace. We become personal recipients of it as we believe and trust in Him. We receive not only God’s love but the salvation and ever-present relationship with Him that flows from it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8)

From beginning to end the reality of God, and the relationship that we can have with Him, is revealed and assured in the reality of Jesus Christ who entered into the reality of human life to bring to it a new and eternal reality with God. It is this reality that we enter into through faith, be it initially as small as a mustard seed – which itself is a gift from God

Response:
Consider the reality of the cross. God speaks through it to each one personally.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to look not to myself but to You, and to continually receive the wonder of God’s grace and love. Amen.

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Deciding to Change

“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth,
no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless he is born of water and the Spirit”
(John 3:5)

Reflection:
God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him and ate of the forbidden fruit they would die. Satan tempted them by casting doubt upon God’s integrity and told them “you will not surely die.”  Eve considered the matter and ate of the fruit, giving some also to Adam who was with her. Physically they did not immediately die – but spiritually they did. Their spiritual union with God was broken and the consequences vividly demonstrated in their expulsion from the Garden of His presence. Jesus was to illustrate this truth in another way when He taught about His being the Vine and believers the branches. If a branch became separated from the Vine, and so from its life force, it would die.

This action of Adam and Eve’s was not just one of naughtiness but a deliberate rebellion. They listened to the voice of the opposition and then acted on what they had heard – even although they clearly knew what God had told them. In effect they changed sides – and went into the camp of God’s enemy. A consequence of this act of rebellion was that every person born to them and their descendants was born like them – in the wrong camp and with a body and soul but no Godly spirit.

  • “For as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
  • “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1)

It is for this reason that Jesus taught Nicodemus that a new spiritual birth was essential for anyone to be able to enter the kingdom of God. It is also the reason for all four Gospels emphasising the point that an indispensable part of Jesus ministry was to ‘baptize with the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:33).

Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve two masters, we have to choose. And so to become a follower of Jesus, and a child of God, we must be prepared to change camps and then to live accordingly.

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”(John 6:29)

We only realise our spiritual poverty through the ministry of the Holy Spirit – which becomes a real blessing! (hence the first Beatitude). As we do so the Lord leads us away from the world’s camp (and from the ‘prince of this world’) – having overcome the power of death and the enemy – and into His own presence and Life. In doing so He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit of God who revitalises our spirits and re-establishes us in a living relationship with God Himself.

Response:
Have I got both feet in the right camp?

Prayer:

Lord God, once again I decide for You. Help me please to draw closer and closer to You and give me the discernment and strength to avoid the temptations of Your enemy. Amen.

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Soak it to Share it

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

 

Reflection:
As we are made in God’s image, even although it may be a fallen and distorted image, the primary quality that should be evident in our lives is that of love.

The commandments that Jesus underlined as the Great Commandments, as well as the new ones that He gave us, all have this in common:

  • “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “`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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

Because it is of the nature of God Himself we should not be surprised at two vital truths.

  • It is the first aspect of the fruit, or consequence, of the Holy Spirit in our lives
    • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • To enable us to live out the commandments in a fallen and selfish world we need first to receive love, for we cannot live in this way be ourselves, so
    • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

Finally

  • “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
  • “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35)

Love is so vital and foundational that Paul says, quite categorically, that anything we do that is not done in love has no value whatsoever in the eyes of God. Without it,

  • I am only a noise
  • I am nothing
  • I gain nothing.

To top it all, without love I am unhappy, unfulfilled and desperately lonely – whether I acknowledge it or not. With love, especially the love of God, I am a different person. For the Christian God’s love is already with and within us in the Holy Spirit. The questions are – is it running freely or is it ‘bottled up’?

Response:
Ask God to set His love free within you – and live it

Prayer:

Wonderful Father, thank You so very much for Your great love, revealed to us in the life and death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Please help me, more and more, to acknowledge that love, receive Your love, and to share Your love with others. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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