Have you ever been in a place where the aroma (good or bad) overwhelmed everything else? We’ll skip the conversation about your grandfather’s bathroom but like many things the smell of a given area can change the atmosphere. If you grew up in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area in the 70’s, a trip down I-30 just south of downtown Ft.Worth meant driving by the old Mrs. Baird’s bread factory. The aroma was unmistakable bliss. It filled the air for miles around. It was so wonderful that anyone within smelling distance had to be put in a very good mood.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul is speaking through his letter about his ministry and how he persevered through many trials with the goal to always expose others to the gospel of Jesus in a pleasing manner. We’ve all seen our share of Bible thumping Christians, you know the ones that are telling us to get right with God. Their approach is to tell you what you need to be doing without relational context. Lots of well meaning talk that is derailed by the delivery. I’ve found that God would rather use us as more of an example than a mouthpiece. That through our actions and the way we interact with those that don’t know Jesus, we offer them a glimpse of what he has done/doing in our lives. Then when the opportunity arises we can share our story. If the old adage “you can catch more flies with honey” applies anywhere, it’s in sharing our faith with others. My story is one of God constantly pursuing me by putting others in front of me to observe. My prayer is that we all can be this to someone someday, a gentle, pleasing aroma of God’s love! 2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Last Sunday I was standing in the foyer at church and I observed a woman I know enter with one child on her hip and another by the hand “in tow”. To me it seemed like a lot to manage but she was smiling as if it were nothing at all.
A big part of the Christian life is sharing it with others. By this I mean, as our faith grows, we can be of comfort to others who may be in a season of doubt.
After service I was going forward to pray with others and I spotted a young woman I had prayed with before. She was heading out the door but I noticed she was crying so I stopped her to say hello and asked if she needed prayer. She shook her head yes and we went to the front to talk. She began to tell me how she was just overwhelmed by life. She has two children, six months and three years old. Her husband works and goes to school, oh and by the way she works as well. As we were speaking, to my right just happened to be the woman whom I saw enter the church with her two children earlier that morning, as she is part of our prayer team. Being a 55 yr old man as much as could definitely pray for the young woman, there is no way I could relate as well as another woman who was walking in her shoes. I pulled the two of them together and to make a long story short you could see immediate relief in the situation. We prayed and they exchanged phone numbers for future conversations.
God works miracles everyday. He lined up so many things for these two women to connect, it wasn’t by happenstance. Now the woman who has already experienced this tribulation, can comfort the the other, like none other! All the glory to God!
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
A couple of years ago on a flight to Miami I got into a conversation with a man across the isle. Long story short he didn’t like to fly and began to have a panic attack. Our conversation began after the crew had managed to calm him down. He was apologetic for the scene he caused. I brushed it off as it really wasn’t a big deal. Come to find out a big part of his episode was his anxiety about going back home for a funeral. A few years earlier he had told his family that he was gay and they didn’t take it well. So much that he felt the need to leave.
In Acts 22 Paul has convinced the Roman authorities to address the crowd that wanted him dead. When he began to speak in Hebrew they calmed down and listened to his testimony. They considered all he had to say about Jesus and how he was the Messiah. This was until he spoke the word “Gentiles” and that the same salvation Paul was offering to the Jews was available to Gentiles. The crowd turned on him once again. The Jews felt entitled to a relationship that others could not enter into, unless they first became a Jew.
Human bias has existed for centuries, it is no more or less prevalent today. While it can be a condition of our upbringing, in adulthood it is a choice. During my conversation with the man on the plane he spoke of the rejection he had experienced and specifically from Christians. I’ll never forget the hurt I saw in his eyes when he said, “we’re human too, please treat us that way”. Our conversation ended well. He thanked me but in retrospect I know God put him there to work in my life. How can we embrace our uniqueness and reject another’s? Our humanity means we are flawed to our core but it is also the one thing that connects us all, in His image. Acts 22:22 – Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
Simply put I’m not much of a reader. I guess I’d rather being doing something, than read about someone else doing something. In reading the Bible though I have gained an appreciation for the knowledge and the comfort I have come to know in Jesus. There are times when a chapter is more a precursor to the next. However to gain full understanding we must digest the former to appreciate the latter. Such is the case with Acts 21&22. For the most part all Acts 21 does is set the stage for Paul’s sermon to the Jews in Acts 22. However, it’s what he is willing to endure in Acts 21 that makes this sermon so special.
It’s been said our lives are like a book. They have a beginning and an end, multiple chapters with differing themes and of course a few plot twists. How many times have you been in the midst of a chapter in your life and all you want to do is flip to the next one to see what happens? God provides such times in our lives not only so we may prepare for the next but also to provide perspective and appreciation for the journey. If you find yourself in such a state relax, absorb everything around you knowing that in God’s perfect timing he will reveal the next beautiful chapter. Acts 21:39 – Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Roosevelt (1932 inauguration)
Fear is one of the most debilitating emotions we have. On the lighter side of this topic, one of my favorite examples of fear comes from an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Barney and Gomer are assigned to fix the floor of a gazebo for a concert that evening. Barney taking charge tells Gomer to get underneath the gazebo, to which Gomer replies, “it looks kinda spidery under there”. The ensuing exchange is classic. However, it does depict a great example of our common reaction to the unknown or the probability of a circumstance. Gomer had no idea if there were spiders under the gazebo but the possibility was enough to stop him.
As Paul set out to Jerusalem, leaving his disciples to finish the work he began in Asia, he clearly knew the possibilities that awaited him, imprisonment at best and death a distinct outcome. Paul did not avoid the conversation of such possibilities, instead he framed it around the certainty that by continuing his ministry, regardless of the outcome, he was doing the right thing. He believed in what he was doing and instead of focusing on the negative possibilities he looked toward the completion of his “race” with great anticipation.
Whatever fears you face today, first know that these are not of God. As Roosevelt stated, fear only paralyzes our progress. Effort is a means to an end and while we might not always succeed, we do learn. In and of itself, overcoming fear could be the first step into a new life God has already laid out for you. Acts 20:22 – And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,
here come a few note worthy moments in our lives where we must ask ourselves a tough question. It could be financial, employment or relationship related, a crossroads of your life kinda question. Actually the question part is rather easy, it’s the answer, our decision, that we struggle with.
In Acts 19 Paul meets “disciples” from the church of Ephesus. It doesn’t take long before he realizes they’ve never been baptized in the name of Jesus and therefore they knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. They knew of Jesus but didn’t know his saving grace. Without going into detail, biblical scholars debate as to wether these men were Christians. Regardless, after hearing Paul speak they were baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t a tough decision for them as they already thirsted for salvation.
I would venture to guess life in 2016 is a little more complicated than what it was back then, yet this question still remains for all. Have you accepted Jesus as your savior? I’ll go one better, WILL you accept Jesus as your savior? You say you believe in God, you may or may not go to church, you classify yourself as a good person but here’s the deal, none of that matters. I struggled with this for years as I knew some of the things I was doing didn’t have a place in this life. I thought I would be missing out. That is a lie! To accept his son, God doesn’t ask us to lay our behaviors aside. Jesus meets us as far as we’ll go to meet him and he begins the process of our transformation from the inside out.
Back to our Ephesian friends, these men sensed the need to get right with God. They felt an urging to go deeper and turn their life over to Jesus. I too experienced that feeling but chose to ignore it for many years. If you are being reminded of Jesus in any way, know that you too are being called. Knowing what I know now, answering that call will be the best decision you’ll ever make. Acts 19:2 – And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”