Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aroma Therapy of a Spiritual Nature

One of the interesting discoveries I made a couple of years ago is the fact that our sense of smell is located in the same area of our brain as our long term memory. That is why when we smell certain odors we may be instantly transported back to something in our past. 
• For instance, when I smell Rubbing Alcohol, I am immediately reminded of being taken to a huge clinic where children were lined up and given shots. There is a certain smell associated with some plastics that reminds me of the baby dolls I played with as a child.
• The smell of salty sea air always takes me back to my childhood growing up in California. 
• An outdoor evening campfire reminds me of summer vacations to Yosemite National Park or the evenings we spent singing around a campfire when we lived in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba. 
• Rotting garbage often reminds me of driving through Porte au Prince, Haiti.
I have always been affected by scents…both good and bad, which made for an interesting revelation a few years ago. 
In the summer of 2005 I moved to Hanover, Pa to pastor the Brethren In Christ church there. I had only been living in Hanover a few days when it finally registered with me that someone seemed to be cooking all the time. I started asking myself some serious questions. 
• What is that wonderful smell?
• Who stays home and cooks ALL day long?
• ....Night and day, in fact. 
• I would wake up in the middle of the night to the most wonderful aroma!
Finally, I mentioned it to someone who said, “Don’t you know that Hanover is the ‘snack capital of the world?’” Hanover, of course, is the home of Utz, Snyder’s of Hanover and Musselman’s. So, what I was smelling was always either potato chips or pretzels!
Well, this went on week after week until one beautiful Sunday morning when I got up, went to the front door, swung it wide open and took a deep breath…and almost gagged! For the first time since I had moved there, my world stank to high heaven! I slammed the door shut and tried to figure out what had happened!
So, I mentioned it to a neighbor. I asked her if she had smelled that wicked odor (like the most rotten sauerkraut you could possibly imagine). To which she indignantly replied, “That is the smell of money and we don’t complain about it!”  What I smelled and complained about, was Gladfletter’s paper plant in Spring Grove…about 10 miles away and always distinct and over powering on humid days!)
Well, I am a “ponderer” and I spent quite a bit of time pondering the fact that, some days my world smelled like potato chips and some days my world smelled like sauerkraut, until one day the LORD started speaking to me about the subject…
Think about it! 
Are there days when your life smells like potato chips and then days when your life smells like sauerkraut? 
A number of years ago I spent a significant amount of time studying everything that Neil T Anderson wrote. You may know him as the author of Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker. One of his main themes was the importance of knowing and embracing our identity in Jesus Christ. Understanding that helped me with issues like fear, anxiety and insecurity. 
Examples: Who I am in Christ
Because you are in Christ, every one of these statements is true of you. 
I am loved 1John 3:3 
I am accepted Ephesians 1:6 
I am a child of God John 1:12 
• I am Jesus' friend John 15:14 
• I am a joint heir with Jesus, sharing His inheritance with Him Romans 8:17 

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Paul says, 
14 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. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?                                                                                                             
We are to be…
• A triumphal procession in Christ
• We are to be spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him
• We are to be the aroma of Christ…the fragrance of life
To some, the aroma of Christ will smell like death because they are dying in their  ignorance and unbelief, but to others we are to be a sweet fragrance. 
Here’s a good exercise to try…
Put a “scent” to some “fruits of the spirit”
What aroma might…
• Love
• Joy
• Peace
• Patients 
• Kindness 
• Goodness
• Faithfulness
• And Self-control remind us of?
Especially compared with the stench of “the fruitless deeds of darkness”
• Immorality
• Wickedness
• And the Apostle Paul’s list in Ephesians 4:31 to, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” 
Why? Why is it necessary to "GET RID OF...?" Because, obviously, one can’t live a life that reflects the love of Christ when one's life is characterized by bitterness, rage, anger and malice…IN ANY FORM. 
And, have you ever noticed how aroma’s or stenches can spread to others…well they do! I have encountered a family on the streets of Mechanicsburg numerous times and every time I see them the mother is screaming at the two teenagers with language that is not repeatable. Every time I see this threesome I am appalled and I have been grieved for the teens living with this kind of verbal abuse day in and day out. 
Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, we happened to be in Subway at the same time. The mother screamed at one of her children to get up there and place her order, but when she tried, the young Indian woman behind the counter could not get it quite right and so the teen quickly grew frustrated and began screaming at her in the same tone and with the same foul language as her mother.
And, since I am not one to stand by while someone else is being treated like that, I walked over and very quietly and calmly said, “You don’t need to talk to her the way your mother talks to you. She is just having a difficult time understanding you.” Oh my! At that point all three of them got in my face and began yelling at me. The two girls behind the counter were quietly rooting me on (and I think they had 911 on speed dial). I didn’t help the situation at all (except to take their primary focus off of the young woman) but mostly it was a good reminder of how our behaviors can spread either a sweet aroma or a horrific stench to those around us.
So a few questions that we can ask ourselves every day are these…
• What does my life smell like to others?
• How has the aroma of Christ permeated “my world” because of me today?
• Or did my attitudes stink today?
• Did my behavior spread an aroma or a stench?
• Did people want to evacuate my presence at any given moment?
Have you ever got just a faint smell of something unpleasant and you search long and hard to find its source so that you can eliminate it? That’s what we, as believers, should be doing daily in our own lives! Then we don’t just try to cover up the stench with some fruity odor from a can. 
• We dig deep and eliminate the source! 
• We get to the root of our bitterness, anger, ugliness of life and we allow the light of Christ to shine into the darkness of our heart. 
• We let His love and grace to us eradicate that which is from our sinful nature so that He might live His life through us.
Walk down the aisles of any grocery store and you will see dozens of products to make EVERYTHING smell better, fresher, sweeter. When really the first place we should begin eliminating odors is in our own inner lives.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ”… Let’s smell like it today! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Came Back

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the fourth birthday of my granddaughter Anna. It was fun to watch her open one present after another. Several times, though, she was so excited about the gift she received that she wanted to immediately run off and play with it right away! 
This created two problems…
1. In her excitement she forgot to say, “Thank-you,” to the gift-giver…
2. And, there were still more presents to be opened, but she was thoroughly distracted in her excitement.

It reminded me of an incident that is told in Luke 17:11-19 “Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy”
Remember, leprosy was a horrific, disfiguring and extremely dreaded disease. I would imagine that, in Jesus’ day, everyone feared contracting leprosy. There was NO cure what-so-ever…at least back then. Left untreated leprosy is known to permanently damage skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. It is hard for most of us to imagine, because few of us have ever been exposed to the life-altering diagnosis and we probably don’t know anyone else who has!
But, because of the fact that leprosy was believed to be highly contagious, lepers were considered outcasts. 
  • They were the “untouchables”
  • They would not have been allowed to live within the city or village. 
  • They were certainly never allowed to approach others…even family members. 
  • And it was the law. The written law. 
  • They stood a good distance away…
  • The lived apart…
  • They watched the rest of the world go by in their own isolation 
  • Or maybe they might have even tried to forget the life they lived before the scourge of leprosy…
  • They most assuredly suffered without the comfort of home and family…
In colonies, in caves, in make shift dwellings…
Because they were, in every way, outsiders.
They only had each other.
Maybe even sadder, and more distressing, is the idea that they also lived without hope…
  • With no hospitals
  • No doctors… I’m sure even Dr. Luke was at a loss
  • There was no hopeful research and magical cures on the horizon…
  • They simply lived hopelessly 
Well, maybe they had a little bit of hope…
Somewhere along the way they must have heard about JESUS and, because of ONE amazing, miraculous encounter, everything changed for them.
Well, here’s what happened according to Luke…
11 Now on His way to Jerusalem, 
Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. 
They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” 
Leviticus 13 explains how leprosy was handled under Moses' law. The priests were the ones who decided whether leprosy was contagious or not. The priests had the power to declare these men healed and clean or to send them back to their solitary lives. Jesus was sending them to the priests for a purpose!
“Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And that is exactly what they did!
Amazingly enough...
  • The scripture doesn’t indicate that they grumbled or complained about the instructions Jesus gave
  • It is difficult to believe that they didn’t argue or give a few suggestions of their own
  • Did they not even question Jesus? 
  • No sarcasm? 
  • No smart aleck remarks?
  • It certainly doesn’t appear as though they did any such thing 
Instead, low and behold, these ten men were, if nothing else, obedient. 
And what happened?
And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. 
(Those Samaritans…gotta love ‘em!)
Amazing, isn’t it? Immediately…not sometime later!
  • As soon as he realized he was well he went back!
  • He didn’t send a thank-you card
  • He didn’t send a messenger
  • He didn’t put it off until he’d had a chance to adjust
“…when he saw he was healed, he came back…”
And he didn’t come whispering either!
  • Maybe it was because he had been shouting at a distance for so long already…
  • Maybe he didn’t have a quiet voice to use anymore
How did he come back? “…praising God in a loud voice…” 
  • This wasn’t his indoor voice!
  • I would imagine that would be the loud voice that we would reserve for football games or the World Series.
When was the last time any of us praised God with a LOUD VOICE?
  • He was excited
  • He was beside himself
  • I don’t think he had a whisper in him!
This guy was so excited, so grateful, so thankful, so amazed that he didn’t just come back praising God with a loud voice…
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. 
That is a picture of thanksgiving…
  • Uncontainable 
  • Exuberant
  • Heartfelt 
  • Sincere
Here was a man who was probably so overwhelmed with the thought of being declared clean and being able to return to his family, his home, his friends and his life…but first he recognized there was a source of his healing…
There was Jesus and he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do until he did what he needed to do…tell Jesus “Thank you!”
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan.
A Samaritan…the way Luke words it makes it sound as though he was the only one who was a Samaritan. Maybe, but that’s a story for another day…
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
19 Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus used a word there that is all-encompassing, it doesn’t just mean physical healing, but spiritual as well. And, if I read that right... “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” His faith was in Christ and he was made well spiritually, as well as physically. 
Let’s not forget the other nine guys in Luke’s account. 
  • They were certainly respectful by keeping their distance
  • They were obviously obedient...they followed Jesus’ instructions to the letter
  • They may have even had a degree of trust in Him
  • They just weren’t thankful!
Only one was wise enough to recognize the need to be grateful for the gift of healing that he had received.
  • Only One!
There are so many stories in the Old Testament where God is frustrated by the worship of His people. 
  • They may have made all the appropriate sacrifices
  • And kept all of the feasts
  • Obeyed the Rituals spelled out in the Law
  • Prayed the prayers and washed their hands
  • And they thought they did everything right...
It’s so easy to think we’re doing the right thing, but are we doing them for the right reason. 
  • They forgot the heart part
  • Sometimes we forget the heart part
  • God is far more interested in the state of His people's heart than in anything we do
Is it possible that we can be so caught up in doing the right thing that we forget God Himself. 
  • It’s especially easy to do if you don’t have a grateful heart!
So, nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus. 
  • Only one man acknowledge the source of his healing
Maybe you have heard this story of Alex Haley, the man who wrote the best-selling book and movie “Roots?” He had a rather unusual picture hanging on the wall in his office. It must have been a good conversation starter, because he was often asked about it. 
And then Alex Haley would reply, “Every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post and I remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”
Don’t we all? Don’t we all have help?
Nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus.
On the other hand here is a story that represents far too many people...
The story is told of an older man who went into the Post Office with a blank postcard in hand. 
  • He approached the postal clerk behind the counter and asked if he would address the postcard for him, which he did.
  • Then the man asked the clerk to write a short message on the card for him
  • Then he even asked the clerk to sign it for him. 
  • After he was finished, the postal clerk asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
And with a scowl on his face, the man said, “Yes, at the bottom of the postcard could you write: “P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.”
I think Darryl DelHousaye summed it up well…
“Thanksgiving in everything is the key to joy. The experience of joy is all about well-being, a sense of security, a deep rest, the absence of fear. It’s enjoyment! 
The absence of thanksgiving is what makes joy fade. It’s God’s design for us to give thanks lest any of our joy slip away.”
Nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus.                                                                              Only ONE man out of ten came back to say, “Thank you” to Jesus. 
There are two questions I would leave you with today…
1. Do you want…
  • The miracle
  • The healing
  • The answer to prayer
  • Or do you want the Source? Do you want Jesus?
2. Are you of the One or are you of the nine?
  • Do you have a thankful heart?
I have adapted this prayer from Psalm 111
 I Praise You, LORD.
   I will extol You LORD with all my heart 
    Great are Your works, O LORD; 
   they are pondered by all who delight in them. 
Glorious and majestic are Your deeds, 
   and Your righteousness endures forever. 
You cause Your wonders to be remembered; 
   You, LORD, are gracious and compassionate. 
You provide food for those who fear You; 
   You remember Your covenant forever.
You have shown Your people the power of Your works... 
 The works of Your hands are faithful and just; 
   all Your precepts are trustworthy. 
They are established for ever and ever, 
   enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. 
 You have provided redemption for Your people; 
   You ordained Your covenant forever— 
   holy and awesome is Your name.
 To fear You, LORD, is the beginning of wisdom; 
   all who follow Your precepts have good understanding. 
   To You belongs eternal praise.
LORD, with hearts of thanksgiving I give You praise, this day and every day, in Jesus’ Name.

Daddies, Please Tell Your Daughters...

My dad called a couple of days ago...
My Son-in-law Mark with his youngest daughter Mary
In the course of our conversation he mentioned that he had been looking at photos on Facebook. Then he said, "You know you are a beautiful woman." And I replied, "THANK YOU, I don't think you've ever told me that before." Later, as I reflected on this conversation, I wondered if I had been waiting my whole life to hear him say that. I don't know if I have or not...not consciously anyway, but that's how I felt.

Then I was reminded of a scene I witnessed many years ago. A man standing with his wife and several daughters, all were dressed in their best and looking beautiful for a wedding. The man never told any of them that...that they were beautiful, but, when a couple other young women walked up to the group, he couldn't stop gushing over their beauty. I felt so sorry for the girls standing there listening to their dad. It still makes me sad when I think about it and I hope those young women aren't still waiting to hear him tell them how beautiful they are.

Thanks, to my dad for blessing me with those words and, with that in mind, can I encourage you...
Daddy, tell your daughter how beautiful she is!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Rest of the Amazing, Incredible Story!

Psalm 65:5 says,
"You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior..."

I love this verse and I can certainly give praise for the many ways God has come through for me with awesome and righteous deeds throughout my life! What a great provider He has been. I stand amazed at His goodness and faithfulness.

The scripture also tells us that, "nothing is impossible with God," and, although with all my heart, I believe this to be true, I also know that He does not, as a rule, impose His will upon matter how many people might be praying that He will. It's that "free will" thing.

Over the years I have prayed for divine miracles, for changed lives and reconciled situations...especially in marriages (and probably beginning first with my own). And, so often, it has been to no avail. Stubbornness, hearted-heartedness, rebellion, unforgiveness, woundedness and a multitude of other issues...well you know what happens...divorce.

I think I can count on the fingers of ONE hand the marriages I have seen reconciled following a divorce. It just rarely, very rarely, ever happens. And my heart has been broken so many times as I have watched couples with irreconcilable differences part ways leaving a trail of brokenness that effects so many.

So earlier this year, at a time of deep heartbreak and sorrow, I wrote a blog entitled, There are Three Things I Hate! 
It was brief.
There were no sordid details.
I didn't preach or lecture or offer scriptural solutions...
Basically, it was my lament over my intense hatred for divorce... and specifically one particular divorce that took place this summer. I cannot even explain or describe the range of emotions that I dealt with...or didn't deal with!

Well, there is more to this story and I feel compelled to share what happened over the course of this fall. Again, without names or details, but with utter amazement, I can tell you that this couple (Well, can I say "they came to their senses?" Sure I can that is what I was praying) is working through their differences, they are doing all the right things to bring healing to their relationship and their family. I am so proud of them and blessed to see how they are allowing the LORD His rightful place in their lives.

My heart is full...and thankful. And I am reminded that my God can do what He says He can do!
Here is the "lament" I wrote earlier.

So, how about you?
What are you praising Him for this Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That’s My King by SA Lockridge

The Bible says...
He’s the King of the Jews 
He’s the King of Israel
He’s the King of Righteousness 
He’s the King of the Ages
He’s the King of Heaven 
He’s the King of Glory
He’s the King of Kings and 
He is the Lord of Lords
Now that’s my King!

David says The Heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament showeth His handiwork 
No means of measure can define His limitless love
No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply 
No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing

He’s enduringly strong
He’s entirely sincere 
He’s eternally steadfast
He’s immortally graceful 
He’s imperially powerful
He’s impartially merciful
That’s my King!

He’s God’s Son 
He’s the sinners’ Savior
He’s the centerpiece of civilization 
He stands alone in Himself
He’s unique
He’s unparalleled 
He’s unprecedented
He’s supreme 
He’s pre-eminent
He’s the loftiest idea in literature 
He’s the highest personality in philosophy
He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism 
He’s the fundamental doctrine in true theology
He’s the cardinal necessity of spiritual religion
That’s my King!

He’s the miracle of the age 
He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him
He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously 
He supplies strength for the weak
He’s available for the tempted and the tried 
He sympathizes and He saves
He guards and He guides 
He heals the sick
He cleansed the lepers 
He forgives sinners
He discharges debtors 
He delivers the captives
He defends the feeble 
He blesses the young
He serves the unfortunate 
He regards the aged
He rewards the diligent 
And He beautifies the meek

Do you know Him?
My King is the key of knowledge 
He’s the wellspring of wisdom
He’s the doorway of deliverance 
He’s the pathway of peace
He’s the roadway of righteousness 
He’s the highway of holiness
He’s the gateway of glory 
He’s the master of the mighty
He’s the captain of the conquerors 
He’s the head of the heroes
He’s the leader of the legislators 
He’s the overseer of the overcomers
He’s the governor of governors 
He’s the prince of princes
He’s the King of Kings 
And He’s the Lord of Lords
That’s my King!

My King...
His office is manifold 
His promise is sure
His life is matchless 
His goodness is limitless
His mercy is everlasting 
His love never changes
His word is enough 
His grace is sufficient
His reign is righteous 
His yoke is easy
and His burden is light I wish I could describe Him to you
He’s indescribable 
He’s incomprehensible 
He’s invincible
He’s irresistible I’m trying to tell you
The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him Let alone a man explain Him
You can’t get Him out of your mind 
You can’t get Him off of your hands
You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him
The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him but they found out they couldn’t stop Him
Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him 
The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree
And Herod couldn’t kill Him Death couldn’t handle Him
And the grave couldn’t hold Him
That’s my King!

He always has been and He always will be
I’m talking about He had no predecessor
and He’ll have no successor 
There was nobody before Him
and there’ll be nobody after Him 
You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign
That’s my King!

Praise the Lord
That’s my King Thine is the Kingdom
And the power And the glory
The glory is all His Thine is the Kingdom
And the power And the glory
For ever And ever And ever 
And when you get through with all of the forevers
Then Amen