Friday, September 26, 2014

Smells of the Spirit

Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” John 11:39-40(NLT)

Over two thousand years ago and before, people were required to offer animal sacrifices and sprinkle the animal blood all over the place (or so it seems to me) to cover their personal sins. They sprinkled it around the tabernacle, on the hems of garments, on their big toe and thumb and so on. You can read all about it in Leviticus chapter 9. I have understood the animal sacrifices for a long time. We needed an innocent blood sacrifice, because it is our hearts that became contaminated with sin and the heart pumps the blood – all through our system. So our blood needed cleansing, which Jesus was willing to and did provide at the appropriate time. However, we needed to understand just what He was about to do first, and thusly, the animal sacrifices that covered, but could not remove our sin. Jesus' blood is like a blood transfusion for us. When we accept Jesus' sacrifice on our personal behalf rather than simply for the world in general, He does more than simply flush out our system, He actually gives us a new uncontaminated heart.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV)
We can learn a lot from the heart and blood flow.
  • It carries oxygen and nutrients to your body's tissues
  • It takes carbon dioxide and waste products away from the tissues.
  • It is needed to sustain life and promote the health of all the body's tissues.
To the Christian this should speak volumes. This is speaking of our physical heart, but when God says He will give us a new heart, He is speaking of our spiritual heart, which is hard as stone before we accept His free gift of salvation. He gives us one “of flesh.” Words we can relate to: Flesh is pliable, durable and protective. God places in us a pliable spiritual heart that He can mold into the form of His loving Son Jesus. It is a durable heart that can withstand much more than our physical minds want to believe possible. It protects us from the old habit of sin if we will listen to it. So, yes, we can learn much from the heart and blood stream. But our spiritual blood WAS contaminated and needed help, thus the sacrifices.
There was another matter though, that I could never seemingly understand until today. Why incense?
On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps, and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the established incense offering before the Lord. On this altar you shall not offer up any profane incense... (Exodus 30:7-9)
Reading Martha's words to Jesus at Lazarus' tomb almost made me gasp. After all these years of wondering, my thick skull finally took it in.....Sin and the spiritual death it produces STINK!! Perhaps I have been taught this before or maybe it has been told in a sermon, but I never really HEARD it until today. It made Jesus' next words open up like never before. “Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?” Some will say I am making inferences here, and that's okay, but when I make a statement and someone replies to it, I assume they are speaking regarding the comment I just made. Therefore I can only assume that when Jesus spoke these words, He was letting Martha know that when God does a miracle, He NEVER does it part way. So I believe that when Lazarus came out of that grave, he did NOT stink. Why? Because I believe, as I have said over and over again, that our God is awesome at depicting what He wants us to understand and that here He wanted us to grasp that when we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord which brings life, He removes even the stench of sin from our person and we will begin emitting the fragrance of His Holy Spirit, Who comes to dwell in and with us permanently. (John 14:16) As long as we walk in His might, it is His fragrance the world will detect in our presence.
Father, sometimes we get a whiff of sin all around us and begin to wonder if it is us. We begin to feel defeated, unworthy, guilty and so much more. Sometimes it overcomes us so fiercely that we are thrown into a pit of despair, fear, anger, bitterness and even depression. Lord, help us to remember that we did indeed once smell that way. However, the moment we received Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, You sent Your Holy Spirit to dwell in us and with us for all eternity. Jesus Himself promised that the Holy Spirit would never leave us in John 14:16. Thank You so VERY much for this assurance. Lord, when the influences of sin in this world begin to creep in around us, help us remember that You have given us a new heart that will pump the transfusion of Jesus' blood throughout our spirit man if we will continually seek nourishment from Your word and from communion with You through prayer. If we begin to feel sorry for ourselves, to doubt, to worry, etc., help us remember that You paid a humungous price in Jesus so that we would not have to do those things or believe the lies thrown at us by the evil one any longer. Thank You for Your sweet fragrance and that, just as we no longer need animal sacrifices, we no longer need physical incense. Your Holy Spirit's fragrance fills every nook and cranny of our being!! I love You!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm Leg Clinging

Lazarus was sick....The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, him whom You love is sick....”
When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was....
Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” John 11:2b-3, 6, 14-15 (NASV)

“Glad for your sakes;” what powerful, awful, wonderful words.
One day, about three years ago now, my daddy went to his pastor and asked for prayer that his borders of testimony of Jesus' great love would be expanded. Everywhere daddy went he would ask someone, whether a waitress, store cashier, neighbor, etc., if they knew for certain that when they died they were going to heaven. If they ignored him, he prayed for them. If they said yes, he rejoiced with them. If they said “no,” he would ask if they would like to. He never pressured, but if they said they DID want to know for certain, he would open up the Bible and lead them down the “Roman Road” of salvation. This was not enough for daddy, quite evidently. I understand, because sometimes I feel so enclosed in my borders that I daydream about what it would be like to be called out to another country. I have, however, been called to reach children, those in my immediate vicinity, and to whomever God leads me. The funny thing (and I use the word “funny” in the most ironic sense) is, a couple of weeks later, daddy passed from this world into the loving arms of God. My momma says she had gone to the bedroom to tell him breakfast was ready. He sat up and put lotion on his hands, laid back down and was gone. I am certain beyond a doubt that Satan and his dominions were laughing and partying at this point, thinking they had won a great victory. One less man to spread the message of true hope to this world. Expand his borders indeed!
When I was informed of daddy's passing, I was sitting in a van with some of my grandchildren, while their mom had gone in to buy shoes for her brother's wedding later that day. One of my sisters called and told me. I thought my heart would burst with grief! I cried out to God, “WHY?!! Why today of all days, Lord? Why couldn't this wait until tomorrow even? Then I could go and be with Momma! As it is, I have a son who needs me here for his wedding!!”
This rant continued for some time until I was finally able to get calm before my heavenly Father. I have told this story before, but I don't know if people really get the gist of what was going on inside me. First of all, I had really always believed Momma would be the first to go. It wasn't that I wanted this to be so, I simply thought it would be. She has so many different things wrong health-wise in her body, I think all five of her children thought that way. Daddy was the strong one physically; well, at least more so than Momma. Secondly, I really, really, really needed to be held by Momma and my siblings!! Daddy was the real hugger of the family!! What would I do without those hugs!! I have tears streaming down my face thinking about it. I miss those hugs desperately at times! Then there was my son and his bride who wanted and needed me to be at their wedding. I am close to all my children – very close. My older son, though, had been a prayer partner with me and had chosen a song about friendship for us to dance to – our song, so to speak. I had to be there, and Momma agreed. There would be time come Monday to take care of the arrangements for Daddy she told me.
Here she had just lost the love of her life, her partner for sixty plus years and she said these words, “Poor Sherry. She will really want to be here for me, but she NEEDS to be there for her son.” So my sister told me Momma's words and asked me to do my best to find the joy in the wedding so I could remember it with joy.
Momma and Daddy were not going to be at the wedding. Momma's health would not permit it. Daddy bemoaned the fact. He wanted to be there badly. I know this for two reasons:he told me and because Father God doesn't lie. As I became calm before Him with one final cry of “why?” He spoke these gentle, awful, love-filled words:
“Your daddy really wanted to be at the wedding today, so I brought Him up here so he can watch it from heaven with Me.” And that is how I was able to make it through. Words of comfort like none other. To me it spoke these words, much like those He spoke to the disciples, “I am glad for your sake that I allowed him to come home. I know you wanted him to be at the wedding, but he couldn't. This way you know he can watch from the best seats available and rejoice with you.”
Sometimes we feel so alone and wonder why God allows what we deem tragedy into our lives. We have to, we NEED to remember that everything He does or allows is out of His great love for us. Yes, we hurt. Yes, we feel alone and lost at times, but we are never really alone in our hurts or otherwise. Jesus felt every hurt ever imagined as He hung on the cross to pay the price for our sins, because we could never afford to do so for ourselves. Our debt becomes bigger by the fraction of a second. Therefore, He offered Himself in payment and our totally innocent, one hundred percent pure, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and declared them paid in full.
What about Daddy's prayer for expanding his borders? If you could sit down with my siblings and self, we could tell you wonderful stories of how God has answered that prayer bigger and better than Daddy could ever have dreamed. Immediately we all had a deeper burden for the lost. We each have experienced similar times of counseling others and sharing the truth of the Gospel with them like never before. My personal experience has been a desire to grow more and more like Jesus every day. Before I was content with a little growth here and there. Now I have a hunger that drives me to study, to teach, to preach if necessary, to counsel, to LOVE!! I no longer just want to “get in and get out” when I go shopping. Instead I find myself looking for someone to smile at and/or encourage. I am no longer the same.
“Shackled by a heavy burden. Bent beneath the guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me and now I am no longer the same. He touched me. OH!! He touched me! And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know...He touched me and made me whole!!” (My momma used to sing this as a solo in church. She has such a beautiful voice!)
Father, You love us so much! We tend to forget this truth. We allow anger, fear, and loneliness to become our task masters rather than Your great love. Help us. Forgive our god-making efforts, where we either try to manipulate our lives and make ourselves out to be god, or we turn instead to chemicals and other devices. We are weak, but You are strong. Help us walk, not just close to You, but clinging to You all along the way. I think of when Daddy would let me sit on his foot and cling to His leg. He did the walking. I was just along for the ride. Help us to trust You in the same manner. Let us sit on Your feet that were wounded on our behalf, cling to those legs that bore the weight of the burden of our sins that were laid across Your dear shoulders and simply go along with the ride You have prepared for us, trusting You every step of the way to never stumble, trip or fall. It is here we can either close our eyes and enjoy the mystery of where You are taking us, or open them wide and be amazed at the scenery!! It is from here that we can look up into Your face, see those loving, smiling eyes and feel safe and secure. We can always know that Your step is sure and will take us safely wherever we need to go. Help us to know that we know that we know we are safe as long as we stay there, clinging to You.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Forever Faithful Fear

About 3 months ago it hit me what a marvelous and ominous word "forever" is.  One evening, as I laid next to my husband I thought, "I wish it could be like this forever."  In an instant I knew....IT WILL BE!!
I will always have  my husband as my best human friend, for all eternity!  There will be absolutely no end to our friendship!!  What a wonderful thought!  What a relief from fear of longing to hear his voice, feel his hand holding mine...he will always and forever literally be with me!!  Yes, there will be that brief period of time when we are physically apart, but our spirits are forever intertwined through the blood of Jesus. 
That night I actually turned and whispered a thank you to that lovely man and told him how awesome it is to know for certain that we will be together forever.  He smiled and nodded in consent and hugged me closer.  He must have remembered that moment as much as I, because about a week ago we pulled in to a gas station.  When we went in to pay, a young cashier asked, "Are you two together?"  That dear heart said, "Forever."  I almost started crying.  Tears did well up in my eyes from joy.  I grabbed his hand and we walked out the door with a little skip.
Thinking on this one little word has opened my eyes to the enormity of the need to love others into God's kingdom.  If we do not, they will spend eternity in torment!!  Think on that a moment and that selfish little uncaring world that tries to wrap itself around us whispering that the hatred going on in this world is no concern of ours as we are not involved in it will start to quake in fear.  Satan knows that if we begin to grasp just a bit what forever or eternity really means we will begin to also understand that people don't stop existing because their bodies quit functioning.  We were created in God's image.  He breathed HIS Spirit into us (Genesis 2:7) making us eternal beings as well.  We will either spend that eternity in a perpetual state of learning and growing in Christ, which is real life indeed, or in a perpetual state of turmoil, hatred, and terror; wishing it would all end, yet knowing it never will.  This is death indeed - being utterly and endlessly separated from real life in Christ Jesus.

God has been crying out to us to choose life from the beginning of time.  In telling man not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge He was telling him to choose Life - God.  Later, when Israel was getting ready to enter the Promised Land he spoke it through Joshua.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving The Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days...Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)
Now He continues to cry out through the blood of His Son Jesus -
And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy], a better and nobler and more gracious message than the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance].
So see to it that you do not reject Him or refuse to listen to and heed Him Who is speaking [to you now]. For if they [the Israelites] did not escape when they refused to listen and heed Him Who warned and divinely instructed them [here] on earth [revealing with heavenly warnings His will], how much less shall we escape if we reject and turn our backs on Him Who cautions and admonishes [us] from heaven?  Hebrews 12:24-25 (AMP)
Father, help us, Your children, begin to fully grasp eternity, forever in our hearts.  We know the definition and we believe it in our hearts, but our minds get easily removed from it as our senses cry out that all is finite.  Help us to look into the eyes of eternity when we look into the eyes of the lost.  Help us to not walk in selfishness at the contentment of our eternity with You, but rather to allow ourselves the discomfort of feeling their fear, loneliness and anxiety of not only being lost in this world, but lost from Your presence.  May our hearts cry out for their forgiveness as Jesus cried out for ours as He hung from the cross in agony (Luke 23:34).  Help us to hold no grudges, bear no ill will, but to seek their entrance into Your kingdom of grace.  May we walk forever in faithful fear of disappointing You. I ask this in Jesus' precious and most holy name.