Nov. 7th, 2011
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we
are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 2 Corinthians 2:15-16
In this passage Paul says that the life fragrance of those who follow Jesus Christ rises up to God and actually smells like Jesus. Since Jesus was already dead, Paul is obviously speaking metaphorically, and if so – then this verse applies to us as much as it did to Paul and the other believers. What he is saying is that for those who follow Christ – our lives must reflect, even “smell” like Jesus.
My mom wears the same perfume all the time, has for years. I probably have smelled it on others, but whenever I do, I am always reminded of my mom. There have been occasions when I’ve smelled her perfume even before I’ve seen her enter a room. That is a good thing. Do our lives smell like Jesus? When people (metaphorically) smell us, do they think – “Oh, there goes or here comes a follower of Jesus? I hope so?
Exactly what does a follower of Jesus smell like? I’m not sure, but Paul goes on some in this passage to remind us that our “smell” is actually determined by the spiritual condition of those doing the smelling; those with whom we come into contact. For people who do not know Jesus, the fragrance of our “being saved” lives – reminds them of their own eternal destiny without Jesus – and that smells a lot like death! For people who share our eternal destiny in heaven with Jesus – the smell of our lives reflects life! I’m not sure what life smells like – but I’ve been around dead things enough to know what that smells like – and I don’t like it.
I just hope (pray) today that my life might smell like Jesus. I hope that I might smell like life – not death! I want how I live to be a positive witness for Jesus, and I want people who know Jesus to welcome my familiar fragrance, as I do theirs. I want those who don’t yet know Jesus to see and smell from my life, that repugnant reminder of death and separation from God that awaits those who choose to reject God’s good life!
The more time I spend with my mom, the more and longer her perfume lingers in my nostrils and memory. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more (I hope and pray) I smell like Him. I want to stink like life today!
Nov. 3rd, 2011
Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! 2 Corinthians 1:6
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we sto
pped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9[/b ]
There is so much truth to be mined from these 3 verses. I tried to move on to chapter two, but couldn’t ignore how these verses were speaking to my heart today. We don’t often think about all our tr
oubles being our comfort and salvation. Most often we think of our troubles as pains in the butt! Most often we think of our troubles as having either some demonic source, or at least some negatively inspired purpose to weigh us down, make us miserable, or just in general upset the positive course
we have chosen for our lives. Here, Paul reminds us that our troubles do weigh us down…but they are for our comfort and salvation. While exploring how that could possibly be, I was drawn down the page to verses 8-9.
After a poignant recital of his current condition – he states the fact I so much need to hear today: but as a result (of being weighed down with our troubles, even to the point of death) we STOPPED relying on ourselves, and learned to rely ONLY on God. At the surface I am comforted to know that my struggles and troubles pale in comparison to what Paul and his entourage were going through. As most of us look around, our troubles are most often of our own making, and are certainly not always life threatening – many times – not even all that significant. At a deeper level, here is what smacked me today: Why in the ^%%$# do I think it is up to me to deal with all the troubles that weigh me down? Why do we think it is solely up to us to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps”. (Which anyone who’s ever been sucked into the mud of a pig pen knows is literally impossible!) Why do we think God has left us to our own designs to figure out all the complexities and troubles of life?
Might we be better off dealing with our troubles by taking a page from Paul – and STOP relying on ourselves and learn to rely ONLY on God. I think that most of us (or at least me – most of the time) think there has to be some 50/50 with God – God must expect us to “do something” not just sit there – right? Maybe not. Maybe God wants us to STOP thinking it is up to us to fix all our troubles. Maybe God wants us to STOP thinking we can create this perfect life by our own designs, with our own hard work, with our ingenious minds. Maybe God wants us to STOP the self-deluded nonsense that thinks we can do any stupid thing to make our lives better – and START relying ONLY on God! Imagine that.
Imagine if a new reliance on God might help us make better choices to get us out of debt, so we can give more? Imagine if a new reliance on God might help us give more faithfully – even in the midst of our debt? Again, WE think WE have to be totally debt free to give? That sounds like some thinking we need to STOP, and some new RELYING we need to start! Imagine if a new reliance on God might help us be honest with the spouse we’ve ignored or offended, and lead to a better, deeper, more holy marriage? Imagine if a new reliance on God might help us come to see that most of the troubles we have are of our own making – and even through those, God wants to comfort and save us? Can you imagine that? Imagine a new reliance on God – that somehow converts the troubles of our lives that so often weigh us down; and brings us comfort and salvation from them – by creating in us a willingness to stop relying on ourselves – and start relying ONLY on God. That’s what it says – read it again.
Nov. 2nd, 2011
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others . 2 Corinthians 1:3
I am in the middle of preaching a series titled: “W
hy – Understanding God’s Will.” This week I’m discussing the subject of Human Suffering. I know there are people in this world who are really suffering. I am also of the opinion that far too many folks in this part of the world (USA) have been sub-consciously infected with a “victim”
mentality; that leads some to interpret their circumstances as “suffering”. (Maybe I’m critical of this perception because of spending 6 weeks listening to people’s excuses for why they don’t want to give money to our current building campaign.) As I said, I know that there are people who actually suffer – but many just think they are.
I’m not the judge, and don’t get to determine what qualifies as suffering – but I want to get to this scripture. It affirms what I have said/believed most of my more adult life – God never wastes a hurt. If we have been hurt in some way in the living of life – and can figure out how to survive: (but as a result we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God. Verse 9) then I believe God will use that hurt to help us identify with others suffering similar circumstances or situations. I know that my path in life has been interspersed with people who need help figuring out some things that I have experienced. Pain is not the only good teacher in this life – but it can be a good one! If you have been hurt in some appreciable way – and have learned how to survive and live beyond that pain; then please be on the lookout for folks God will bring into your life TODAY – who may need to learn how you did that.
I would like to translate this verse this way: God does not comfort us to make us comfortable – but to make us comforters. We have a significant problem with this reality in many places in our world today – but probably none more glaring and damming than in the church. Many modern expressions of church have devolved into nothing more than “make me feel good clubs.” I know our world outside the church is infected with a consumerist mentality that favors personal preference as the ultimate value – but I am troubled by how much that same mentality has infected the church. If people aren’t “made comfortable” by singing the right songs, or from preaching in the right clerical garb, or by being spoon fed some palatable, innocuous, “milk-toast”; they bolt for the door and shout this excuse as they proudly leave: “Well, it’s just not meeting my needs”. Since when did this ever become about making us comfortable?
Ok, I’m venting a bit now, so let me get back to the point and conclude. If you are legitimately suffering right now – know that God suffers with you, God did not cause you to suffer, and by relying on God…you can learn to live above the suffering with which you are afflicted. And then, please don’t be surprised when God brings people to your door or life, who might need to know what you are learning. You don’t have to be an expert – just be honest! God bless us all as we receive God’s comfort – and give God’s comfort to others. Kermit
Sept. 26th, 2011
“When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, fou
r men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your
sins are forgiven.” Mark 2: 1-5
Another of my favorite bible stories – I’d surely put it in the top ten, but there are way more than ten!
I love a couple things about this story. 1) The persistence of these beloved friends. They are not dissuaded by the crowd; they are not put off by being unable to get to Jesus. They simply put their ingenious minds to work, and work out another way to get their friend before Jesus. 2) The love of these beloved friends. Obviously they have heard of Jesus – that’s why they are so insistent and persistent to get their hurting friend before him. They also love their friend so much they would carry him, lift him onto the roof, dig a hole in the roof, then carefully lower him on this rope stretcher into the presence of Jesus. What a wonderful testimony of their love. 3) The faith of these friends. I find it very interesting that Jesus says nothing to the crippled man about his faith. He doesn’t ask if he even believes in Jesus. No, Jesus just looks skyward at this newly created hole in the roof – sees the 4 smiling, hopeful heads of these faithful friends; and he heals their buddy.
What this shouts to my heart today is this: who do I love enough in my life right now that I would tirelessly work to make sure they get in front of Jesus? Who do I love enough that I would go to such inconvenient lengths to make sure that Jesus has a chance to heal them? Secondly, who do I have in my life right now that might be willing to carry me on a stretcher to Jesus? There are times in all our lives when our faith is depleted, we are completely empty, our body may not be broken, but we are wounded, and we need someone to carry us to the Master. Do I have 4 friends I can count on today to carry me?
I know that there are times in most all of our lives when our faith is so weak, maybe we have no faith at all – at times like these we need to rely on our friends to carry us into the presence of Jesus; so he might heal us, and restore our faith. I want to be that type of friend today – for I might need that type of friend tomorrow!
Aug. 30th, 2011
Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate. 2 Samuel 12:20
This morning I’m taken w
ith the question: how did David “get back up”? How do we get back up after we have been hurt, devastated, defeated? How did Abraham Lincoln continue to seek public office after so many initial defeats? How do the people so personally affected by 9/11 get up every day? How do people get back
up from the destruction of flood waters from Irene or the Mouse? How do people “get back up”? Is it merely a matter of “self-will”, “mind over matter”, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, “shake it off”, “get back on the horse”? These all seem so trite, and when I’m i
n the middle of some difficulty, they seem meaningless and powerless to propel me anywhere but back to bed! Anyone ever feel like that?
I think there are a few clues in David’s response. Just remember what has happened to him. At the height of his political and military prowess, he commits adultery with a neighborhood woman, then has her husband murdered because he won’t go along with David’s ill-fated attempt to cover up the fiasco. When later he is confronted by God’s prophet, he confesses his sin, repents of his actions, but begins to bear the consequences of his actions – the death of his beloved son. How does anyone recover from this parent’s worst nightmare? We know that he did, because David returned to be a revered, respected and successful king the rest of his life. Though his family continued to bear with him the consequences of his stupid actions, he returned to a successful life following this “knocked down” episode in his life. I see these actions as being helpful.
In the midst of his troubles, he fell on his face before God. While his son was sick and dying, David spent every day and night without food, and face down before God, begging God to change His mind. God didn’t, and in spite of that, David didn’t run from God, or fight with God, or accuse God or blame God, or reject God; no, he prayed and fasted, and tried to maintain his faith while in the midst of his mess. I see so many people in the middle of despair, who immediately want to blame someone, or something, or even God. I know God can take it, but it seems misguided to me. David’s action remind me that even in the middle of my own messes; I dare not lose sight of what sustains me, and who loves me the most.
When the child dies, David gets up, bathes, puts on lotions, changes his clothes, goes to the temple to worship, then returns to his palace and eats. These things sound strange to us, but reveal an important facet of getting up – when the crisis has been survived, then get on about your life – but do so initially by going to worship God, then resuming your duties. I think I needed to see this reminder today; that in the middle and at the end of whatever “knock down” event I’m in; I must maintain my relationship with God. In the middle I must seek for His strength, at the end, I must thank Him for His grace. God is the one that sustains me through it all! Lord, help me today to get back up from this mess I’m in right now. You know its origin, and more so, you know what it’s doing to me. Help me to stay on my face (spiritually at least), and when we get through this; to be grateful and thankful for your grace. I know it’s there, working, healing, and instructing me – but it’s hard right now! Remind me.
Aug. 25th, 2011
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”
2 Samuel 12:13-14
This is part of the famous story of King David. If not the most famous and in many ways, most revered of all Israel’s kings, David is quite a study in the human condition. He has rebuilt the nation of Israel into a great military force, he has conquered and returne
d much of the Promised Land to its rightful owners; Israel. He has even reestablished the religious order, and reinstated healthy religious practices that are producing many positive returns for the faithful followers in the Holy Land.
But, he gets into trouble with his eyes! There is probab
ly more to it than that, but he sees Bathsheba bathing on an adjacent rooftop, lusts after her, calls her to his bed, commits adultery with her, and then to top it off, has her husband killed when he fails to comply with the kings initial attempt to cover up this heinous sin. In the matter of just a few hours, and subsequent days, David goes from being the greatest king ever, to the lowest scumbag on the planet. And one might think that ended his life – and maybe it should have – but this great king rebounds to regain almost all his military and political might; and religious practices continue to advance in spite of his sin. At his lowest, the trusted prophet Nathan (at God’s directive) comes to David and confronts him with his sin. The verse listed above is the end of their exchange.
I am particularly intrigued with the thought; “Yes, the Lord may have forgiven you – but your child will still die.” I could spend extended time thinking about this judgment and this innocent child – why does he have to bear the death of his Father’s stupid sin? How could God kill this innocent child just to teach his dad some tragic lesson? Does God still punish sin this way? On and on. But instead, I want to focus on one other matter.
Many people believe that when we have been forgiven, when our sins have been forgiven, when we honestly repent and confess, and change our ways – the consequences of our sin ought to or have also been erased. This verse and this story seem to indicate otherwise. It can rightly be inferred from this story that though God and Jesus stand ready, willing and able to forgive all our sins – that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily cancel out the consequences our sins cause. I see the reality of this every night I get to spend time at the ND State Penitentiary. Men there understand that yes, God can and does forgive them – but they are still paying a debt as a consequence of their choice.
I’m not sure we “get it” that deeply on the outside. We tend more often to think that when God forgives us – we get off scot free. Maybe sometimes we do – but more likely this story is informative. Maybe God will not kill our offspring – but there will be some way that the penalty for our sins must be paid. Even though I know that Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins – I wonder if this truth still exists – do we suffer the consequences of our actions? Do we still have to pay the price for our sins? Do we still suffer because of the choices we make? I haven’t got this all figured out yet, but this I know – I want to be more careful to make better choices. I rejoice that Jesus has forgiven me – and if I must still bear the consequences of my choices – I beg for mercy, and pledge to be more faithful.
July 11, 2011
The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.” Hosea 14:4
I’ve have to finish Hosea. I have found the reading to be interesting, but a bit overwhelming as I consider all
the promises of judgment that await unfaithful Israel and Judah. I think I’ve heard the message I need to hear – there are consequences for choices; no matter whether the choices were made thousands of years ago in the Holy Land; or yesterday or today in the quiet recesses of my mind, the dark
places of my heart, or in the faithless actions of my life. I cling desperately to the verse for today that God will heal me and His love will not end, and someday his anger with me will be gone forever. I don’t want to minimize His judgment of me and my sins; but neither do I want to over emphasize them either. I know its reality – but I also know of the greater reality of grace. We can’t get lost in the OT, and not forget that Jesus comes with a different message of grace – thus I have to leave Hosea.
I marvel at this man’s message and means. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be asked by God to do something as strange as marry a prostitute. I can imagine though that he was able to do so, not because of his great merit or even his outstanding religious fever – but probably because of an acute awareness of his own brokenness. That same awareness seems better able to outfit me with the ability to identify with those broken folks who come into my path/life – even those who cause me harm, or offend me, or repulse me, or insult me. I am well aware of my humanness, and when I can remember it or be reminded of it; I then am more able to understand that all brokenness and depravity are produced by sin; in me and in others.
God, heal my faithlessness, and that of all others who seek You today. Extend boundless love to me and all others who so desperately need that reminder today. And may my day be void of anger – yours toward me, and mine toward others! Remind me of my broken humanness, and my wholeness through your Holiness! AMEN
July 6th, 2011
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ Hosea 10:12
This verse takes me b
ack to my farm days. Hard or “fallow” ground is ground that has been plowed or broken previously, but not planted for some reason. Maybe to rest and refresh the ground, or maybe because of neglect or inhospitable soils. Israel had been productive and fruitful in former times, but has become fallow because of their unfaithfulness – God through the prophet Hosea says it’s time to break up that fallow ground, plant some seeds of righteous, and begin again to reap a harvest of love.
I need that word today. I have allowed a secret sin to “harden” my heart in certain places/ways. I’m doing very well in most areas of my life – but I continue to struggle with one particular sin. I seem always to need someone or something to be angry with. I believe that to be unhealthy, unproductive, and a direct result of this unabated sin I have so easily tolerated, and now must eradicate. I don’t like the angry me. I know I’m wholly incapable of eliminating any sin, or even breaking up my own fallowness – but I bear a responsibility of receptivity to the “plowing” that God’s Spirit is willing and able to do deep within me. I am open to the process of having my heart broken again by the reality of the consequences of my sin – and I am vowed to make all necessary amends – and I pledge to do my part; first allowing God to do His; and second, doing mine with all diligence, conviction, and fortitude.
I want new seeds of righteousness to be planted in me. I want my life to sprout new fruits of love and loving service. I want to be showered with righteousness from my God. First I have some plowing that needs attention – then we’ll see…to be continued.
June 20, 2011
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
It’s been a long month of flood fighting, and VBS, and taking a break from this blog. I hope you are surviving (thriving) well, enjoying
some parts of this unusual summer, and growing closer to our blessed Savior. For those of you who don’t know, or live far away from Bismarck ND, we are dealing with a record flood event that is ravaging our community and most others up and down the entire Missouri and Mississippi river systems. We have about 800 homes that have been directly affected by flood waters, and many families who have moved out. Most of the southern parts of our city, and a large number of neighborhoods along the river to the north are dealing with record flooding. It will change the landscape and ‘history’ of Bismarck and Mandan forever. There has been no loss of life, and shouldn’t be with this event. And as a good friend of mine reminded me: “Beyond that – it’s all just stuff!” I know it’s not my stuff, but she is right. Most of us have too much stuff and love our stuff too much – and events like this can help us think about our relationship with immaterial ‘things’ at a deeper level. I covet your prayers for those thousands affected all along the river system, and pledge to join you/them in fighting on. Now back to Hosea for a bit.
In this book of ongoing predictions and prophecies of the judgment forecast against wayward Israel; there appear (occasionally) small snippets of hope. Verse 6 is one of those – or at least was for me today. I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me, more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6. This speaks to me today of how God wants us to live in relationship with Him. I equate offering sacrifices, burnt and otherwise, to the “religious duties, rituals, and habits”, to which many of us have reduced this relationship we claim to have with God through Jesus. Too many of us have settled for a casual keeping of religious practices (making sacrifices and burning offerings) instead of living in a vital and passionate relationship with God that is marked by these two things: Knowing God and Showing Love.
It’s so easy for me to point my finger at the “Pharisees” among us today; the crazy TV preachers caught in some latest scandal, the silly media prophets selling DVD’s of their latest predictions, the wacko predictors of days and times the world will end, or God will judge, or some other such nonsense, and the lazy self-righteous “believer” who is living on some past experience of God or Jesus, who can’t get past that past, and clings to a dying image of what once was, instead of embracing change and welcoming new expressions of a vital faith, a compassionate life, a committed existence that is marked by Knowing God and Showing Love!
It just seems so simple to me to point out how stupid others are, and how dead they have allowed their “faith relationship” to become – – then, as usual, I’m brought to the full awareness that I have my own issues of “Phariseeism”. I’m still struggling against my own human failings that have plagued me for most of my adult/Christian life. I can run around and throw sandbags (showing love), and preach and pray about how others should (Know God) – but my relationship is still crippled by my own sin. I know I can never end my humanness – but I sure wish I could gain some more control over it!
Anyway, today I want to Know God, and Show Love. God help me.