Monthly Archives: August 2019

God’s Sweet Scent

Consider this:

You have a friend or friends that you hear something about and it causes you concern. More than that, it causes you to pray for them and to seek God in your response. You were planning a visit but after prayer, you decide to write a letter first – to address the problem in advance.

Why would God ask you to do that? Maybe for your good and for the good of your friend(s). Sometimes, situations take time to resolve. Errors in behavior are not easily corrected because most of the time there is a ripple effect which must be stopped in order to get back on track.

Your letter addresses the news you heard and gives honest, loving advice as to how to correct the situation. If you had delivered it in person, you would have heard the reaction – no one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to confront others with the truth when they know it will not be received well.

Sometimes a letter, from the heart after prayer, is the way to address a situation – to prepare both the writer and the receiver for the next encounter. Maybe, a letter prepares the way for the victory that is God’s and God’s alone.

Now consider these Words breathed forth from God:

That’s why I decided not to make another visit that could only be painful to both of us. If by merely showing up I would put you in an embarrassingly painful position, how would you then be free to cheer and refresh me?

3-4 That was my reason for writing a letter instead of coming—so I wouldn’t have to spend a miserable time disappointing the very friends I had looked forward to cheering me up. I was convinced at the time I wrote it that what was best for me was also best for you. As it turned out, there was pain enough just in writing that letter, more tears than ink on the parchment. But I didn’t write it to cause pain; I wrote it so you would know how much I care—oh, more than care—love you!

5-8 Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love.

9-11 The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don’t think I’m carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I’m joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways!

12-14 When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open: God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it. But when I didn’t find Titus waiting for me with news of your condition, I couldn’t relax. Worried about you, I left and came on to Macedonia province looking for Titus and a reassuring word on you. And I got it, thank God!

14-16 In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

16-17 This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can. 2 Corinthians 2 The Message

Remember . . . we are called to seek God and speak His truth in love and in the way we are led by the Holy Spirit – it could be by a letter, a visit, a phone call, email, etc. but whatever way it is, when we are called, we need to ask God for direction and follow it. When we do, “we give off a sweet scent rising to God which is recognized by those on the way of salvation – an aroma redolent (pleasingly fragrant) with life.” 

If we knew . . . then what?

A breakthrough is coming.

Wait for it. Just wait for it.

No – we don’t need to know how or when or why. We only need to know what He has already given us – for the day we are in.

The plan is already in place. It has already been set in motion – He already knows what we need before we need it.   And His Plan is good.

Be Still. Don’t worry – for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Focus on this day. Remember . . . God – your God – has given us just the right amount of strength for this day – not for tomorrow because it is not here yet – just for today.

His promises are eternal . . . they do not change. He loves us. He will not forsake us. He sent His one and only son to purify this world of sin through His death and resurrection. His Holy Spirit dwells inside those who believe giving them wisdom, strength, healing, comfort, faith, determination, and words of truth for all situations. In this day, we have all we need. And it is far more than we could ever hope for or imagine.

But that’s not enough for some of us. We want to know. We think we need to know. We want to be in control of it. So we worry about it – sapping our strength from today and diverting our attention from God and His Plan. The result is that we have successfully allowed the joy and light to be sucked out of the task and out of the day we are in – the day we were given.

So . . . what if we knew the details? What if we knew His Plan would take two or five or twenty years? What if we knew what it would entail – the people we would lose – the “things” that would have to go – the heartache we would endure – the hardships we would crawl through – the cost of the journey? What if He gave us the “how” of the plan in advance? What would we do?

Would we embrace it? Would we give thanks for it? Would we believe it?

OR

Would we turn from it? Would we crumble in discouragement? Would we run the other way and say “no, No, LORD, NO!”? Would we try to change it – to make it not happen? Would we blame ourselves – getting stuck instead of keeping our eyes focused on Him?

OR

Would we try to help God make it happen by packing in advance or hording what we think we would need or discarding certain friends/family that are not in our picture of His Plan. Maybe we would get to know someone new who we think could help. Would we announce it to others prematurely thinking they are part of the Plan?

Most of us, if we are honest, would screw it up.

Instead of seeking God in the moment we are in, some of us would be making plans for His Plan. We would be attempting to control the Plan that is not ours to control. Some of us would crawl into a shell hoping the Plan would change. Some of us would get angry, our faith not strong enough to withstand the journey we think we would be embarking upon.

We would forget the basics – Love God and treat our neighbors as ourselves.

We would be distracted – failing to put on the full armor of God – The helmet of Salvation upon our heads, the breastplate of Righteousness upon our chests, buckling the belt of Truth around our waists, and shodding our feet with the Gospel of Peace, handing to us the Sword which is God’s Word and lifting up the Shield of Faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy and being in constant prayer and supplication for all the saints now and forevermore.

So remember . . . be content with the wisdom God instills in us today for this moment and follow it . . . it may be that God will give us insight for tomorrow in order to get us through today or prepare us for tomorrow . . . but only if He believes we are equipped to handle it. We do not know all the details of the plan, but we know Him and He is good!

Are you listening . . . Really listening?

The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. Matthew 13:10-14

Do we get it? If we don’t have the gift of insight, is there any trace of receptivity within us? If not, read on and be nudged . . . it is a matter of life and death.

He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.

“The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’

“He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’

“The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’

 “He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 The Message

Jesus dismissed the congregation and went into the house. His disciples came in and said, “Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field.”

 So he explained. “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the thistles are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history. The harvest hands are angels.

“The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening? Matthew 13:36-43 The Message

So which are we going to be – the wheat or the thistle? And how do you know which one you are?

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He choses the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. James 2:1-13 The Message

So remember . . . the wheat are those who love God. We show our love for God by loving others as we love ourselves. And remember . . . Jesus did not say, “love only the people we think are stalks of wheat”.  No . . . the Royal Rule of Scripture says, “love others as you love yourself”.  So don’t be concerned about judging which people are the “wheat” and which people are the “thistles” – that is God’s job.

Our job is to love God, love others and show kindness and mercy to all. 

Sharpeners

I also received a report of scandalous sex within your church family, a kind that wouldn’t be tolerated even outside the church: One of your men is sleeping with his stepmother. And you’re so above it all that it doesn’t even faze you! Shouldn’t this break your hearts? Shouldn’t it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn’t this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with? 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 The Message

Do you have friends or loved ones who sharpen you? You know, the ones that make you uncomfortable at times because they confront your human spirit with the Holy Spirit – the ones who challenge a behavior or gently point out an alternative way to handle a delicate situation – the ones who ask questions that make you stop and think about what you are about to do.

I’ll tell you what I would do. Even though I’m not there in person, consider me right there with you, because I can fully see what’s going on. I’m telling you that this is wrong. You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it in the authority of Jesus our Master. Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man’s conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can’t, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment. 1 Corinthians 5:3-5

What happens if you push away or ignore or dismiss or discard those people that God has placed in your life to sharpen you? What happens to any of us when we do not have Godly counsel? What happens when we are ignoring God and we are left alone to our own devices with no one to hold us accountable? What happens when we are blinded and there is no reliable sharpener in our toolbox? We lose our way . . . and run the risk of devastation and embarrassment . . . or worse.

Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a “small thing,” but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this “yeast.” Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

When we ignore the counsel sent to us by God – when we have lost our way and our path is “good” intentioned but ill advised – when we cannot “hear” God, we need a sharpener in our circle of family or friends. One that we can go to and ask directly for a truthful and honest answer. If we don’t have sharpeners, we become dull and eventually unable to see our own writing – we are surrounded by “yes” people who we can count on to agree with us. It is never a good sign if we can’t name a sharpener or two who we count as good friends.

 I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Remember . . . just because a behavior is wrong, does not mean we should dismiss a person from our lives or judge them as unacceptable in God’s Kingdom. That is God’s job. Our job is to seek God’s direction in all our relationships. In any given situation, we need to ask if we are being called to sharpen or we are to leave that task to someone else. We are not always to be sharpeners. When we are called to sharpen, we must seek God’s wisdom through prayer and then filled with grace, share with the person trusting the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions.

And remember . . . without sharpening, we are not able to function in the way God intended – we are less than what we could be. Our purpose is dulled and not as effective. Sharpening gives us a point.

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