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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See Me there

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me”
(Matthew 25:40)

 

Reflection:
Marcus Borg wrote that

“The principal suffering of the poor
is shame and disgrace”

For so many of them everything about their lives speaks of failure and inadequacy. And whilst handouts may alleviate an immediate need it may make them feel even worse about themselves if done dismissively – to get rid of them! It doesn’t do us any good either!

“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 13:3)

On the other hand help, whether short-term or long-term, offered in the right spirit can carry with it the message that they are valuable. Then both the body and the spirit are blessed.

Jesus reminded us that even those who occupy the very lowest rungs on the social ladder are precious in His sight – so precious that He identified Himself with them completely.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”
(Matthew 25:35-36)

Not all of the poor are beggars. There are many who are desperately trying to make ends meet, and have little or no room in their lives for anything except worry and fear. If we become aware of them then we could make a difference in their lives – directly or anonymously.

Jesus showed us that He was not just a ‘man for others.’ As Greg Boyle makes clear He was primarily a ‘man with others.’ He did not merely act as their champion, He became one of them – He became the outcast, the homeless, the prisoner and the crucified one. In fact in real terms He became one with me – for without Him I too was an outcast from God, homeless from heaven, a prisoner to sin and with no hope in my life.

Response:
“Love one another as I have loved you”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, lead me into the love that sees, that cares and that acts –as You have done for me. Amen.

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Gentle Grace

“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
(Colossians 4:6)

Reflection:
We have something so valuable to contribute when we are with others. As people of grace, loved, called and saved by the Lord, we can share aspects of His love and beauty with them.

There is no call for us to enter into conversations of destructive gossip or negativity. With the salvation and hope that we have in Jesus Christ we are the ones to share hope, affirmation and understanding instead.  We have been accepted by God, we do not therefore have to look for acceptance from others by joining them in what they are doing.

As the light of the world and the salt of the earth our contribution in any situation should be positive and uplifting, particularly in what we say and the way in which we say it. Accordingly we must be very careful to avoid deliberate, or careless, criticism or slander of anyone else. Bad language, swearing and blasphemy should not be a part of our speech on any occasion, no matter how great the provocation. If any of this is happening around us, and we do not feel able to challenge it, then we need to consider walking away from it. Failing even that, we can keep silent and pray!

Throughout the day most of us will meet with a variety of people. Some we will know well, others casually and some will be strangers to us. In every case there is the opportunity, in the way that we speak and in what we say, to leave a positive impression. It is often so easy to bring a smile to someone’s face by a deliberate appreciation of something that they have done, even by an acknowledgement of their name and presence. And remember that if someone is angry or critical towards us, either with or without cause, there is no reason for us to become angry and abusive in return. We can choose our response remembering that,

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)

If we set out in the morning with the intention of speaking love and encouragement into people’s lives, we will end the day having made a marked difference in many of them. For some it may have completely transformed their day and attitude. Not a bad result!

Response:
Just do it!

Prayer:

Father, I know what a difference it makes in my life to receive affirmation, encouragement and compliments. Help me to be a Love-giver into the lives of those around me – for Jesus sake, Amen.

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Soul’s Anchor

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”
(Hebrews 6:19-20)

 

Reflection:
In the ancient world the anchor was the symbol of hope. Wisdom, great-heartedness and courage were seen as anchors that few storms could shake. However the writer to the Hebrews insists that the Christian possesses the strongest anchor as the greatest hope in the world.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. In Him it is now anchored in the very presence of God Himself.

In the Temple the Holy of Holies was the most sacred place of all. It was here that God was believed to dwell. Separated from the remainder of the Temple by a heavy curtain, only the High Priest was allowed to enter. This was once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, the writer tells us, Jesus has entered into that Holy Presence on our behalf. In doing so He has opened the way to God for every person at any time. No barrier now separates us from the Almighty Father. It was torn apart as Jesus died on the Cross.

Jesus is our immovable anchor in the presence of God Himself. We are bound to Him by the unbreakable chain of faith. Jesus is also the anchor in our spirits. Here the love and acceptance of God is eternally secured within us through the Holy Spirit.

Although we are called to a new way of life and living we no longer have to strive for acceptance. As Christians we belong. We may enter into the presence of God, into His heart of love, into His arms of acceptance, whenever we wish. Which is why He can say to us,

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
Put your faith and trust in our great Lord. Imagine the unbreakable bond that secures you to Him, and Him to you.

Prayer:

O Yes Lord Jesus! I believe – help my unbelief. Thank You so much that nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) Amen.

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Fully Known

“O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me”
(Psalm 139:1)

Reflection:
There are three verses in Psalm 139 that stood out for me recently.

“You have searched me and You know me.” It is the most wonderful blessing to be fully known by someone and still to be fully accepted by them – especially when that person is God. I do not have to tell Him anything about me, explain anything or try to excuse anything. He knows all there is to know about me – who I am and why I am, what I have done and will do and why. I am an open book to Him at all times – and still He loves me.

“You are there.”  Whether in the heavens or in the depths or on the far side of the sea God is with us to guide us and to hold us fast in His right hand. Jesus would later say that no one is able to pluck us out from the hand of God. We cannot escape from or be lost to His presence, for He is closer to us that our next thought or prayer.

“When I awake, I am still with You.” Whenever I wake after a sleep or a nap I find that God is still present, and has not left me for a moment. The same will be true when I close my eyes for the last time on this earth. When I open them again He will still be there and I will still be with Him – but even closer.

Response:
Hold on to and dwell on these truths

Prayer:

Father help me to grasp more of Your great love and Your absolute commitment to me – and to rejoice in awe. 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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I want to see

 

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.
Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored,
and he saw everything clearly”
(Mark 8:25)

Reflection:
There is this fascinating and unusual incident in which a man’s sight is restored in two steps by the Lord. In its context it takes on a new significance.

Jesus had fed the 4000, warned the disciples against the worldly leaven of Herod and the legalistic leaven of the Pharisees and then healed this man. It is after this that Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was. He then put the vital and challenging question to them,

“Who do you say I am?”

Peter, responding to a divine impulse, blurted out, “You are the Christ.” He then almost immediately showed that he had no understanding of it by rebuking Jesus for talking about His persecution and death. In effect He was telling the person whom he has acknowledged as the Messiah that He was talking rubbish – for Messiah’s don’t do that sort of thing! Jesus own rebuke was swift and direct,

“Get behind Me, Satan!
You do not have in mind the things of God,
but the things of men.”

The disciples who had seen the miracle of the feeding of the 4000 and the miracle of the healing of the blind man failed to appreciate their message.  Instead they allowed themselves to remain influenced by the world that they knew – the leaven against which Jesus had warned them. They had seen a truth dimly, but had not seen the Truth clearly. That was still to come.

We have to remind ourselves that we too have not comprehended the completeness of the truth about Jesus Christ. What we have seen and received is precious, but there is so much more. We must not try to force the Lord into some sort of preconceived mould and expect Him to act accordingly. We will then be restricted in our faith and in our relationship with Him.

God was quite clear about this when He spoke to Moses and said,

“I AM WHO I AM”  (or)
 “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”
(Exodus 3:14)

We are on a journey of discovery with and about our Lord. On it He will reveal to us more and more of Himself – pray that we will see it. Pray too that like the man who was blind we will begin to see more and more clearly, and not assume that our clouded vision is as good as it gets.

He is God – without boundaries or limitations, and beyond human conception and understanding. He is the One of whom the angel said to Mary,

“Nothing is impossible with God”
(Luke 1:37)

Response:
Open my eyes Lord – I want to see Jesus

Prayer:

Lord help me to perceive more and more of the truth of Jesus Christ – and what I do see may it enter into my heart and spirit, and into my life and living. Amen.

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