Jesus always sees the bigger picture. A Jew named Nathaniel came toward Him one day. Jesus didn’t see just an ordinary townsman, but a man whose heart was free of any guile and bitterness. This was one who would be of great service to the Lord. Jesus walked by a tax collecting booth and looked at the hated man who was occupying it. He saw a man who the Jewish leaders considered a sinner, and the towns people reviled. But He also saw a man whose heart would change, and who would be mighty in proclaiming the Gospel to the Jewish people. Even with the storms on the Seas of Galilee, and the trials that the disciples would face, Jesus knew there was more than just the pain of the moment. Jesus is helping us to look beyond the surface, to look to Him to open our eyes, to pray and to trust that He is working to change our hearts for our good and for His good purpose.
Our daughter has a two and a half year old little boy, a joy in our family. There are times, in his two and a half year old silliness, that he does his own thing and won’t pay attention. Our daughter has an expression she uses with him, “Listen to my words”, spoken with the proper emphasis. “Listen to my words.” It may take a minute or two but it usually gets a response. It has struck me that our Lord is saying the same to us. “Listen to My words.” It is when we go off in our silliness, which we have done all too often, that we need to hear this same admonition. “Listen to My words.” He has given us the grace of our redemption in His holy Word. He has given us a way of life that is for our best good. He gives us guidance for our daily life in this world. Our problem, like that of our dear little two and a half year old, is putting aside our self will long enough to yield to a greater and wiser will, and one who loves us beyond measure. He says to each of us, “Listen to My words”.
We say that change is inevitable, and it is. Changes seem to be happening at a faster pace than ever before. This year tech companies come out with a newer and more expensive model to replace last year’s model that is still working well, but is now considered outdated. It happens in many areas of life, but is it all really for the good? Does this change really enhance our lives? And more importantly, does this change help us to grow more into the purpose for which God created us? The problem with change is that we tend to forget the foundations of wisdom and experience that were laid down in the past. Truth, God’s truth, is swept aside in order to build something present imagination assumes is better. Let’s not ignore the foundations for the sake of change. Jesus once remarked, “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.'”(Luke 5:39)
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…"
On Oct 12, 2017 3:23 PM, "Irvin Stapf" <istapf> wrote:
In the neighborhood where my grandparents lived was the A&P coffee roasting plant. When they were in operation the good smell of coffee went throughout the area. Some miles from where I grew up was the Calvert Distillery. When the wind was right we could smell the strong odor of the whiskey process. Not as nice as the coffee! There was a stretch of Route 40 in western North Carolina, passing the town of Canton, where a paper mill was in full operation with a very unpleasant smell that blanketed the area. No doubt, you are familial with these and many other odors wafting over an area. Did you know that St. Paul calls Christians an odor in our world? And he doesn’t mean body odor. He tells the Corinthians that God "uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…"(2C2:14-15) When there is a pleasing aroma in the air, as the coffee roasting was to me as a kid in Baltimore, one’s spirits are lifted and thoughts changed. Your love for the Lord Jesus, and the way it reflects in your life, is a pleasing aroma that touches the lives of others.
In the neighborhood where my grandparents lived was the A&P coffee roasting plant. When they were in operation the good smell of coffee went throughout the area. Some miles from where I grew up was the Calvert Distillery. When the wind was right we could smell the strong odor of the whiskey process. Not as nice as the coffee! There was a stretch of Route 40 in western North Carolina, passing the town of Canton, where a paper mill was in full operation with a very unpleasant smell that blanketed the area. No doubt, you are familial with these and many other odors wafting over an area. Did you know that St. Paul calls Christians an odor in our world? And he doesn’t mean body odor. He tells the Corinthians that God “uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…”(2C2:14-15) When there is a pleasing aroma in the air, as the coffee roasting was to me as a kid in Baltimore, one’s spirits are lifted and thoughts changed. Your love for the Lord Jesus, and the way it reflects in your life, is a pleasing aroma that touches the lives of others.
Many today deny the existence of absolute values, things that are always right for all time. Rather, each individual decides for themselves what values they follow, and aren’t to impose those values on others. OK, I understand that. Each person does make a choice of the values they follow, and we don’t make laws for each other saying that one must do this or that. However, that does not change the truth that Christians proclaim. We declare that Almighty God created us. That because we are His idea, His creation, He has established a way of life that is for our best good. This way of life is not a law that say you automatically go to hell if you don’t follow it precisely. It is an invitation to find the best life within the plan for which we were created. Even further, God came among us Himself in Jesus Christ to provide the way for our life in Him. Finding God’s good life is not being required to follow some set of laws, but yielding to the One who loves us and gave Himself that we might know the true life for which we were created.
We are a people who cherish freedom. The Bill of Rights in our Constitution grants us freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and more. We have fought wars to preserve freedom. And yet there are more ways to be in slavery than under political domination. One can be bound by addictions of various sorts. One can be bound by politically correct thinking or cultural norms of the day. One can be bound by events that happened many years in the past. One can be bound by peer pressure, or ever legalistic religious practices. St. Paul had to deal with Jewish Christians who demanded that all follow the whole of the Jewish law. So freedom is much more than not being subject to certain governmental dictates. Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1) Our true freedom of heart and mind is in Jesus Christ regardless of our outward condition. It is this freedom that allows Christians to obey the two great commandments, to love God above all else, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, regardless of the personal cost or sacrifice.
In Luke 13 Jesus asks the question “What shall I compare the Kingdom of God to?” and He said “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. “(vs.21)This struck me when I read it again recently. Thinking about the yeast mixed into the dough it all looks like one lump. There is no way to visually see where the yeast is, and where the dough is. And then thinking about the definition of what the yeast does. It is a substance that causes fermentation and expansion of the dough. Another definition said that it is “an element that produces an altering or transforming influence”. Consider that dear Christian. I think you probably look pretty much like everyone else in your community. Your clothes, your car, the cell phone you carry, are all pretty much like the rest. But your presence in your community has an expanding effect. It has an altering and transforming influence. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”(John 7:38) You are that yeast where you live, and that is the beginning of the Kingdom.
In our God there is always a holy “but…” The Psalmist often expresses the deep feelings and frustrations we have. David cries out in Psalm 13 “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” That could be the expression of many of us as we look at conditions both in society, and in personal life. It is just then that the holy “but…” appears. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” I said yesterday that in this fallen world we are not free of trial and heartache. God always has the holy “but…” We fix our eyes on Him even through tears. He will have the last word for us, and that word is good.
Jesus has given His life to redeem us. We look to Him as our source of life, strength, and peace, but sometimes His word are difficult to apply. In Matthew 6:25-34 He tells us not to worry about life. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” …….. But Lord, life is so frightening. 59 people died by some crazy shooter. We don’t know where it will happen next. Our nation is in such debt the economy could collapse. Numerous illnesses threaten to kill us, and yet You tell us not to worry. How do we do that Lord? ……. Jesus’ instruction is not easy. We live in a very broken world. There are no guarantees that we won’t suffer various trials. Paul talks about this with the Roman church, but then assures us that “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”(8:31-32) That is the point of the little pink flower I wrote about yesterday. We have seen the truth of God’s hand at work in our own lives. We face trials in His strength, in the assurance of His presence, and that eases the worries for our future.