Live your life

I typically do not like to overwhelm your inbox with posts each week. Your time is valuable and I certainly would not want you to waste it on anything that was not worthwhile. But what I am going to share with you today I feel is important enough to make an allowance for one more post this week.

Recently, Allie Beth Stuckey shared an episode on her podcast concerning how we are called to spend our time as Christians, especially in a post-Covid world where a lot of us put our lives on pause. Maybe you still are, so I truly hope her episode will encourage you.

We are still called to live Biblically whether circumstances are “normal” or not. It is not a question of living recklessly, but rather, are we living in fear? Is fear and anxiety crippling us from being a light in a world which so desperately needs to see ambassadors for Christ? I hope you are encouraged today. This episode ministered to me which is why I wanted to share it with you.

Grace upon grace,

April

Here is Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast: Relatable- Episode 530

Christ and Chaos

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

I’d like to offer encouragement to those who are angry, scared, depressed, hopeless or all the above. This has been a weary year and a half. On top of normal life events, one crisis after another on a global scale has added even more stress. Now the totalitarian power grab hits home with President Biden’s vaccine mandate. Christians do not need to lie down now and wait until this blows over. I don’t think it will anytime soon. Furthermore, haven’t we learned not to put our hope in any one person or political party?

Owen Strachan has a helpful podcast episode on the Christian reaction for these dark days. In short, he looks to Jeremiah’s message to the exiles in Babylon. What does Jeremiah tell the displaced Israelites to do? Build houses and settle down; plant gardens; marry; have sons and daughters; seek peace and prosperity in the city where God has exiled them (Jeremiah 29:1-14). They were going to be in a foreign land under foreign rule for seventy years. Most would spend their whole life in Babylon, never to see their homeland again. I admit that I sometimes live my daily routine in a state of crisis mode. That is not a long term solution. The physical body will break down under constant stress, emotions run high all the time, mentally and spiritually we eventually wear out, run dry or just quit. This was not the life God wanted for His people in exile and it is not the life He desires for His people now.

The other thing I would say is, do not seek revenge (Romans 12:17-19). This is not the same as standing up for what is right, even if that includes filing a law suit, peacefully protesting, leaving a place of employment, switching churches, moving, or taking your child out of the public school system to homeschool. I would submit to you that the Leftist oligarchy is picking a fight, encouraging the other side to create another attack on the Capital blunder. That is not how we are to behave in the first place, but anger and fear make us do regrettable things. In the words of Douglas Wilson, “Don’t take the bait”. A lot of what comes out of the White House seems to divide the people in this country on purpose. Why? Could they be hoping for some mini revolt among conservatives to justify even more repressive measures? It would definitely help them in the mid-term elections as to why we should keep this disaster of a party in power. Just food for thought.

Hopefully Joe Biden’s stunt has pulled the scales off our eyes to see this administration for what it is. They have lied so much to the public is it any wonder that some citizens are hesitant to take a rushed vaccine? Most vaccines take years to develop and test before it is safely released to the general public. We aren’t allowed to question or choose for ourselves what is best. We must follow the script or be blackballed from society. Now is the time for resisting in civil disobedience. Even though (mercifully) Biden’s term cannot last forever, there are more like him waiting in the shadows, already in positions of power. We must first of all be a people of prayer, then act. Are there like minded people you can link arm and arm with at work or in your community? Do you feel led to run for government office on a local, state or national level? Perhaps volunteering at a voting poll could be a possibility. If more conservative or just plain patriotic, democratic honoring citizens helped in voting centers we might actually have fair elections.

My hope is you find fellowship in your church home also. It has been an answer to prayer to see and hear how the numbers in churches are growing. More than godly leaders in government, we need discerning and courageous pastors in pulpits. There is a great need for culture equipping churches. Christians should not have to turn on Fox News or look to their favorite political analyst to figure out what to do in these times. Believers are hungry for practical wisdom in responding to the godless zeitgeist. Especially as the Church has been under attack for trying to keep their doors open for worship since Covid. Pastors are arrested and sent to jail for standing firm in their responsibility to faithfully preach. Someone or something is shaping our thinking, evangelizing the masses, discipling our children- is it the Church body or pagan ideas? Most lies are subtle, mixed with just enough truth, to appear harmless.

How we view faith and politics as either intertwined or as two separate entities matters. I will submit to you that because politics forms policies which affect people then our faith is indeed part of the equation. Not just on moral issues regarding abortion or same sex marriage but even how our taxes are spent is a moral issue. Where does that money go? What is it funding? Planned Parenthood? LBGTQ organizations? Public education which promotes CRT? Our faith is not compartmentalized to Sundays only in church. Part of the disconnect from the Church and secularism is the lack of forming a Biblical worldview. We have not done a good job of training up the next generation so that they are prepared in the college classroom, or in a work environment, or how to live in Babylon, to use that metaphor once more. Do we have more ill equipped, cultural Christian chameleons than set apart humble warriors? Sometimes a resurgence in the Church will result from a shared crisis. My prayer is that a spiritual awakening will occur from what Satan has meant to destroy. Remember Christ is King, even in the chaos.

The most basic way to resist lies is to not live by them. If you haven’t read Rod Dreher’s ‘Live Not By Lies’ I encourage you to run, don’t walk, to the nearest store and get a copy. Some of the ways we live by the truth are surprisingly ordinary. This should be a great comfort to us. Jeremiah listed a number of ways believers honor God with their lives even in times of distress (Jeremiah 29:1-14). I would add: attend a theologically sound, God fearing church where you can be refreshed, your spiritual vision sharpened. Learn a new skill, read good books to your children, go on a date with your spouse, send a note of encouragement to someone the Spirit brings to mind, help with a bridal or baby shower, celebrate special occasions, pray with and for others, talk about your faith and the Lord openly with family, friends and strangers. Right now we have the freedom to do these things. Some saints of the past had to go underground in order to be in fellowship with believers. We aren’t there yet but must certainly see it as a possibility with the direction things are going. First we demonize those who choose to not be vaccinated, and other specific groups thanks to Critical race theory, segregating people in categories based on race, religion, political views or matters of conscience. Next is an effort to dehumanize those who do not comply with the narrative. Last will be persecution. This isn’t conspiracy theory, but has been played out through every Communist, Marxist, Nazi regime. Our response as believers is to continue doing good in the face of evil. God wins, we know this. This world is merely our sanctifier. Refining happens through fire, but God promises it will only burn away the dross (Isaiah 43:1-7). The Lord will one day shake everything in Heaven and on Earth. What is left will only be what could not be shaken, meaning, His Kingdom- His Church (Hebrews 12:18-29). The apostle Paul ends his letter to the Romans this way:

“Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:19-20)

Grace upon grace,

April

Hope in pain

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.” -Psalm 119:71

One subject I have shied away from because of how it affects me personally is depression. This is a topic some feel ashamed to speak on, let alone admit to the world wide web. But I once wrote a post related to my son’s autism, describing how I was comforted by another in a similar special needs world, and how we as Christians should comfort others with the comfort we have received. This comes directly from Scripture, reminding us how God has shown us comfort in our time of need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Depression has been my companion now for over 20 years. Some seasons are more intense than others. I can look back on the darkest times now as bittersweet. One period in particular I poured over the Psalms as they were especially helpful. I appreciated and could identify with the raw emotions in the pages of Scripture which spoke to my pain. Did you know that all but one psalm ends with praise or hope in God? Psalm 88 is the only psalm which concludes with darkness. This shows us that God can handle our emotions. He created them. Rightly channeled, emotions are good. But sin taints everything we do so we must interpret our emotions through the lens of Scripture.

If you or a loved one struggles with depression I have a few resources to suggest which greatly encouraged me over the years. Depression is spiritual warfare felt acutely. We need not fight alone. In fact, we don’t as believers. Each child of God is supremely blessed with His Spirit. But sometimes when you are drowning in darkness and can’t focus on the promises of God, His voice can seem distant…silent. This is when a Christian friend, Biblical counselor, or pastor needs to come alongside you. We are not meant to walk the Christian pilgrimage alone.

Devotional Psalter by Dane Ortlund

I have owned this devotional for a few years and referenced it in past blog posts. Dane Ortlund is a pastor serving in Illinois. Going through the Psalms Ortlund comments on each one, always pointing toward the cross. If we ever question God’s love for us in our trials and life experiences we don’t understand, all we need to do is look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He gave us our answer by going to the cross in our place.

Depression: A Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch

A Biblical counselor gave this to me years ago and I recently re-read it. Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). It is a helpful resource for friends and family to understand their loved one with depression. This is also an excellent tool for anyone suffering with depression as Welch identifies various reasons for this kind of pain and how to work through it Biblically.

Quotes from the book:

“Contrary to what we might think, God says that strong faith can coexist with emotional highs, lows, and everything in between. It is a myth that faith is always smiling. The truth is that faith often feels like the very ordinary process of dragging one foot in front of the other because we are conscious of God.”

“Through our struggles and pain, we are being offered perseverance, the character of God. Hardships are intended to give us a spiritual makeover, “that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Therefore, when God encourages us to persevere He is not stumbling for encouraging words. He is teaching us how to look like Him.”

“Suffering is God’s surgery that leads to health when responded to by faith.”

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund

I loved this book. Actually, each one of the books listed I have given as gifts or recommended to someone. This one in particular helped me understand the depth of God’s love for me. Maybe like you, I have no problem comprehending the wrath of God, but His love? Well, sometimes I do struggle with how much I am loved as a redeemed sinner. Ortlund uses commentary from godly men of the past such as Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Owen. This topic on the love of Christ is not new, but Ortlund fleshes it out and uses Scripture as well to back up his argument. He dives deeper in understanding the great love our Father lavishes on His children. It is an essential book every believer needs to have in their library for spiritual encouragement. The depressed especially need to rightly see how loved and forgiven they are in spite of how they feel.

Quotes from the book:

“the Bible takes us by the hand and leads us out from under the feeling that His heart for us wavers according to our loveliness.”

“The yearning heart of God delivers and redelivers sinners who find themselves drowning in the sewage of their life, […] in need of a rescue that they cannot even begin on their own, let alone complete.”

“If you are in Christ, you have a Friend who, in your sorrow, will never lob down a pep talk from Heaven. He cannot bear to hold Himself at a distance. Nothing can hold Him back. His heart is too bound up with yours.”

I hope you find something helpful here. If anything, sometimes it is good to know you are not alone in pain. The hope and peace we have as Christians is that our suffering is not in vain as we look to Jesus. It is sanctifying. Joseph told his brothers in Egypt that what they intended for harm, God used for good (Genesis 50:20). In the same way, what has the potential to destroy, God can use your depression for His glory in refining how you think about Him and yourself in light of who Christ is and what He has done for you.

Grace upon grace,

April

Let’s sow

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” -Psalm 97:11

One spiritual marker in my life has been remembering the wonder of God. That night I distinctly remember, as the Lord drew my eyes up to His star filled sky, instead of inwardly focusing on myself. It’s not that I didn’t understand Him to be the Creator Who spoke everything into existence. I knew He threw the stars into space, igniting the sun and moon, causing planets and galaxies to appear in splendor. Growing up I heard creation stories of God forming the elephant and the ant; the eagle and the caterpillar. I understood He made me according to Psalm 139. But somehow I wasn’t focusing on His Glory as much, still treating Him casually.

The commentator in my psalter devotional speaks of such thinking, calling believers to consider God in all His Majestic Glory. Confess wrong thinking of the Lord in which He seems small. By meditating on God’s Greatness, His truth, radiance and glory take root in us as we seek Him each day. I’m convinced that the downfall of Christianity has happened because believers stopped communicating to the world the wonder of our Lord. As we behold God, this serves as spiritual arrows which lead to questions about Jesus, the Gospel, commands in Scripture and finally, where we’ll spend eternity. We begin remembering Who God is in His rightful place by first telling the truth to ourselves. Some exchange the truth for a lie (even in the Church) which is why it is imperative to remain vigilant in pursuing truth, clinging to the Author of Truth. We begin with sowing- so let us sow, becoming our truest selves in Christ.

Let us be consistent in our reaction against evil. Whether this be condemning six months of burning cities, looting small businesses, wreaking terror against police or rioting at our nation’s capital. There is a stark contrast in peaceful protest versus chaotic rampaging. The latter does not promote any kind of justice, but is the exact opposite. The Bible says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19). We do not repay evil with evil, but sow a deep seated trust in the Lord’s Sovereignty and wisdom to lead us.

Let us speak plainly. Words matter in how we say them. The language indoctrination caused by “political correctness” has seeped into every aspect of our culture. Two people may use the same word but have very different meanings. In his book ‘Live Not By Lies’ Rod Dreher says, “we are repeating the Marxist habit of falsifying language, hollowing out familiar words and replacing them with a new, highly ideological meaning. Propaganda not only changes the way we think about politics and contemporary life but it also conditions what a culture judges worth remembering”. Avoid rhetoric and kernels of truth kneaded into a lie. Also develop discernment to spot it when you hear it. Language is powerful. We must speak kindly but plainly.

Let us remember our history. One way to sow truth is to have a correct understanding of where we’ve come from. This applies not only to one’s nation but our Biblical history as well. We cannot understand the present if we are not informed about the past. Christians need not repeat the wicked actions of previous generations if we know what signs to look for and how to respond accordingly. How we react to the present will dictate who we are as a people in the future.

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:25). In light of our cultural climate and political theater, believers need one another now more than ever. Some benefits of gathering together include strengthening the weary and downcast Christian, knowing they are not alone but in the presence of their spiritual family. We also lift one another up with Biblical encouragement, smiles, hugs, handshakes and accountability as we meet face to face. As we sing songs of worship, receive communion, hear words of exhortation in preaching, knit our hearts in prayer, we are being edified, our spirits refreshed. This is the ministry of meeting together which Hebrews 10:25 commands. It is for our own good.

Let us live in truth with our words and deeds. For generations America in particular have sown what God hates- the abortion of millions of people created in His image, same-sex mirages, sexual promiscuity which has led to pornography, pre-martial sex, adultery, lust and divorce to name a few. The material wealth of this country has turned Americans into a consumerist entertainment driven society, dulling our spirits as we live only for the temporal. We are now seeing the fruit of sin heaped in judgment today. It seems each day we wait to see which powder keg will explode, leaving many in a state of fear, anxiety and despair. This is not to be the mark of a Christian. This is not our legacy. Instead, let us cling to the Lord who is all Truth, Power, Wisdom, Judgment and Love. Know what God’s Word says, viewing each event from a spiritual perspective and act accordingly. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13).

Let us sow righteousness each day into our ordinary lives. This is how we bring about a quiet resistance to the evil of our day. Meet with others believers where you can speak freely, teach your children Biblical principles, protect the family unit, have a correct understanding of the past. Victory has been secured in Jesus Christ. He has already overcome sin and death for us. His is an everlasting kingdom which will never be destroyed, intimidated or censored (Daniel 7:9-27). Although the present time will require courage, boldness and sacrifice to live out what we profess, Christians must act like the victors we are. The next generation depends on how well we sow.

Grace upon grace,

April

Grow deeper: Revelation 19:11-16; Galatians 6:7-10; Psalm 63:8; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:1-3; Psalm 2; Psalm 33

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

“He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives.” -Isaiah 61:1

Jesus chose these words from Isaiah to read publicly in the synagogue. After the Lord read Isaiah 61:1-2 He said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). Jesus has come and is coming again. Living in the in-between is difficult as we are not likely to be swept up into Heaven like Enoch or Elijah. No, most of us will taste death first if the Lord tarries. Yet it will be light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory we see in the distance.

We must also patiently endure our individual means of sanctification for a time on earth. It is not without purpose. God has seen fit to give us physical birth at an appointed time in history, to live where you live, to be in the family you have (or don’t have), to be surrounded by people, circumstances and events which may seem wearisome at the time, yet can serve as our good, in how we respond. Dear Christian, you are being made, crafted after His likeness, because your position in Christ already affirms this.

The grace of God allows sandpaper to refine our own hearts, smooth the rough places, transforming a heart of sin into one of eternal beauty. God makes this so. One day soon and very soon, the tension of the “already and not yet” will be laid to rest in sweet glorification. Until then Jesus calls you and I to walk worthy, obey His commands, stay faithful.

While we wait in hopeful, confident expectation, we can sing ‘Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus’, a hymn written by Charles Wesley. I hope you and your family enjoy a restful and joyful Christmas celebration this year. Jesus is King. Satan may win a battle, but God has won the war.

Grace upon grace,

April

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, Born a Child, and yet a King.

Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone;

By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

-written by Charles Wesley

Safely His

“I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm- He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 121

I taught my son the first two verses of this psalm over the summer for Bible memorization. It came to mind this morning, refreshing my burdened spirit. This psalm also reminds me that although at some point my physical body will perish my salvation is eternally secure in the hands of our Lord. The Christian life isn’t an escape from hardship and the sorrows this world brings but gives us an eternal perspective so we need not fear them.

I’m reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, an excellent example of how Christians respond in the face of evil. As the war begins to invade their Holland village, Corrie and her sister Betsie stay up one night as British and German airplanes dogfight overhead. Explosions make their dishes rattle as the night sky lights up a fiery orange. After the noises die down, Corrie makes her way back to bed in the dark. She is almost met with harm as a piece of shrapnel lay on her pillow. Racing back downstairs she exclaims to her sister Betsie of the ‘what if’ scenario that could have happened just then if Corrie had not felt the blade first before laying down. Betsie responds:

“Don’t say it Corrie! There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety- O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!”

This is my prayer- to know I can trust my Father even when wickedness seems victorious. The center of His will is the safest place to be. I may not understand it but can rest assured He has not forsaken His children. It’s easy to get caught up in our current events and despair as Christians. But God is our strength and will carry you through each day in His mercy and grace. We are hidden in His Son, the One who died for believers so that we do not ever face eternal separation from God. He is our Help- the Maker of Heaven and earth. We are merely passing through this world as pilgrims. Our forever home will one day be a reality for all those who trust in Christ. Run the race today. The finish line is not that far ahead.

Grace upon grace,

April

Deeper Love

“Adversity is not intended to diminish our hope in God. Adversity is intended to heighten our hope in Him. We are brought to remember that God is all we have, and that He is enough.”                                                                                       -Devotional Psalter (Psalm 71)

This year has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Powerless to stop it, we just have to witness the carnage. I can’t imagine going through this without Christ as my anchor. For those who don’t know how the Story ends these must be terribly upsetting times. But in the drama of 2020, God is still here actively at work. This is the truth believers can lean hard into. Even as external circumstances spin out of control or feelings betray us here is what you and I can stand firm in:

Faith is not a feeling. It is holding fast to what is true even when feelings don’t align. Even when it’s not popular (and the Gospel isn’t) or you feel alone in your Biblical convictions. This doesn’t make Truth void.

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After God used Elijah in the showdown against 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 false prophets of Asherah, Elijah fled to the desert. He said he’d had enough and wanted to die. He was burned out physically and spiritually. He felt alone in worshipping the One True God. Then the Lord ministers to Elijah providing sleep, food and then His Presence. As if this weren’t enough, what our Father says next must have bolstered Elijah’s spirits even more as God tells him that 7,000 people have not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord had preserved a remnant. Elijah was not alone like he thought.

Satan would love nothing more than for you and I to believe his lies and become discouraged, thinking we are alone in our allegiance to God. He’s not very creative, but the same routine can still be effective. God’s Word says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” -1 Peter 5:8-9

One of my favorite quotes is from Corrie Ten Boom, who experienced life in a concentration camp during World War II. Her family attempted to hide Jews in their home from the Nazis. They were eventually caught and arrested. She still found a reason to hope in God while enduring cruel treatment remembering, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie had an understanding of God’s Sovereignty even as wickedness seemed victorious. Like her, we are not alone in our belief that God Almighty is on His Throne. His will, His timing, His justice are perfect. And He loves His sons and daughters.

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Anything we endure in this life is for our sanctification. It is for God’s glory and our eternal good. The Scriptures confirm His love is steadfast, sacrificial, unconditional and perfect toward His children. Our Father demonstrated His great love for us by giving up His own innocent Son. Jesus willingly paid my guilt, taking the consequences I deserved on Himself.

The most beautiful action in human history climaxed on the cross that day. Remember the depth of His love for you when you feel forsaken. God’s Word will be your comfort when you feel unloved, unseen, or friendless. His love abounds. Stay faithful. Stand firm in God’s Word. Jesus is the pearl of great price, a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Grace upon grace,

April

Grow deeper: 1 Kings 18-19; 2 Timothy 

Go to God

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

 

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When you are hungry, go to God.

When you are depressed, go to God.

When you are overjoyed, go to God.

When you feel isolated, go to God.

When you feel insignificant, go to God.

 

He will satisfy the hungry,

He will encourage the depressed,

He will celebrate with the joyful,

He will comfort the lonely,

He will show you your worth through His Son.

 

Go to God.

He is with you in the valleys and 

on the mountaintops and the in between.

He has never left you. 

God is always with you.

Go to God.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

The Fragrance of Worship

“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

 

I love the smell of coffee and oven-roasted bacon lingering in the morning, hours after breakfast. It’s an inviting aroma that says ‘Come and stay awhile’. When I was little my grandmother’s home always seemed to have a comforting aroma wafting through the house (usually fresh baked bread from scratch). Fragrances have a way of bringing to mind a memory or a person. They have the power to make us react with delight or a visceral response of disgust.

When I think about our sense of smell and the impact it has, it’s interesting to read in Scripture how Paul uses the metaphor of fragrance (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Back up even further to the Old Testament and we see the first priests using sacred perfume in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:22-38).  It was not to be replicated for common use. Only priests were given the task of administering the perfumed oil to anoint the Tent of Meeting. Priests were also consecrated with this holy perfume, carrying around a specific fragrance.

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Today believer priests are the aroma of Christ. As a Christian my witness is a fragrant offering of who I am in Him. Reflecting the heart of Jesus is my “scent”. It will smell like death to the unbeliever as my Biblical worldview always points to an eternal perspective, emphasizing life after death. It brings them face to face with their own mortality and eternity.

To the fellow Christian my life will be a familiar and welcoming fragrance, heavily perfumed with the glory of God. This is because the true Church is knitted together with the same heart. Jesus makes this our reality. Even though our personalities, preferences, backgrounds, nationalities, and cultural differences tend to separate us, in Christ we are One. God is at work in each of us not only reconcile us to Himself in perfect fellowship, but also to one another in the Body of Christ. This is for our sanctification and how men will know we are followers of Jesus (John 13:34-35).

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The world seeks to divide people, but especially God’s people. May this not be so. We have a responsibility to love each other first, our faith family. Our love for others is a direct reflection of our love for the Lord (1 John 4:20-21). Gossiping, assuming the worst in another, quarreling and even hatred do not represent Christ. In fact, this dishonors His Name and grieves the Holy Spirit.

God desires for us to worship Him by offering a sweet-smelling sacrifice. Namely, how we relate to the people around us. What we say and do, even what we think of others, matters. Our words of kindness and truth, sincere love, humble service, self-control, a listening ear, and the ability to forgive quickly will diffuse the pleasing aroma of Jesus. When we choose to react like the world of godless rebels believers miss the opportunity to display their signature scent.

You are the pleasing aroma of Jesus Christ. What a privilege it is to put on the sacred perfume He bled and bought for you and me.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Grow deeper: Exodus 30:22-38; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; Colossians 3:12-17

Peaceably Disagree

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” -James 1:19-20

I’ve repeated these verses in James often over the years because I need the reminder. I don’t want to be known as a grouch who is always loudly shouting my opinions and never listening. That isn’t the way of Jesus and it shouldn’t be true of me either. So how does one have a discussion or debate without losing your cool? How can a Christian promote harmony and not discord?

Romans 12:1-15:6 is an excellent passage on practical living in unity. It does not mean you are unable to share your thoughts, convictions or opinions. After all, God made us with the ability to reason. What it does mean is we keep the other person (or people) in mind during a disagreement. Am I honoring them by listening? Do I show love and humility with my words and body language? 

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The way we deal with confrontation as believers matters because of Who we represent to a watching world. It’s easy to blast someone on social media without thinking much of it. This is especially true if we don’t know the other person very well or at all. Don’t let the lack of physical interaction become a blinder to the fact that words can be destructive and destroy any testimony we have. The virtual world is not a barrier, as we are still accountable for our words and actions. It would serve us well to remember this.

I cringe just thinking about confrontation. It’s not something I go looking for. Yet as a lover of truth, defender to justice, guardian of mercy, sometimes we need to speak. How we go about it is what will honor the name of Christ or misrepresent His matchless grace. All too often Christians default to silence, not wanting to offend Aunt Martha from Idaho or the neighbor down the street. This isn’t always the best solution either.

Disagreeing with someone can be done with grace and peace as we strive for unity- especially among the faith family. To be clear, we do defend the core doctrines of Christianity at all times. This is not to be disputed. The virgin birth, Deity of Christ, the Trinity, resurrection, and salvation by grace through faith, are foundational for a Christian. Explicit commands in Scripture are also non-negotiable. But if there are lesser disagreements then as Paul writes in Romans, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (12:18). Why would we do this?

  1. All men and women are created in the image of God and therefore should be given proper respect.
  2. Those in the Body of Christ are called to walk worthy, living in spiritual unity with each other (Ephesians 4:1-5; Philippians 1:27-2:4).
  3. You represent Jesus. As a minister of reconciliation, we reflect our Savior.

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There is freedom in accepting we will not always see eye to eye on every issue among believers. Not everyone has to be like me (because THAT would be boring!). This is the beauty of having a personal relationship with Jesus. He addresses us as individuals in our sin because we’ve each been given a distinct personality with certain preferences, habits and weaknesses. It is through our unique personhood we learn to operate as one Body. Only Christ can dream up something so wonderful and improbable yet still make it possible.

It is not a crime to ask questions or form convictions. But we must also be humble to admit when we might be wrong, or change our position if necessary. At the very least we can peaceably disagree. This is how we can dignify another person we have conflict with. Don’t take offense when a brother or sister in Christ disagrees with you. We aren’t robots and may have different views on politics, how we raise our kids, or worship-style preference. This does not make you less (or superior) in your faith if someone does it differently than you.

When we learn to not take an opposing view personally, we are able to practice bearing with one another in love, responding with gentleness and respect. In this way the Church adorns the Gospel, making it attractive before a world in need of some really good news right now.

Grace upon grace,

April