Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Sweet Aroma

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
~Ephesians 5:1-2

I love this passage of Scripture.

The great calling. The challenge. The imagery. It's all so beautiful.

Many of you who have read these verses probably think I am going to be writing on the first part of verse 1: "be imitators of God." Yes, I love that part of the verse (so much so that I wrote a blogpost about it here), but that's not what struck me several days ago.

The part that struck me was the end of verse 2: "an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." In this verse, it is describing Christ and His sacrifice, giving the word picture of a fragrant aroma or pleasing smell wafting up to the Father's throne.

I knew I had read something like that somewhere else in the Bible, but where?

After looking in the concordance, I found it: 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;"

In the verse from Ephesians, Paul was describing Christ as a fragrant aroma, but in 2 Corinthians, he uses the same analogy for us.

Like I stated earlier, I think that that description is beautiful. But what truly is that fragrance? If we are supposed to be the sweet aroma of Christ, where does it come from? Look at verse 14 again: "...and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place..."

The knowledge of Him in every place. That's it. That is the fragrance we are supposed to be. Wherever we go and whatever we're doing, we should be as a lit candle emanating the refreshing scent of our Lord. What an incredibly challenging thought. And there's more....

Continue reading in verse 15: "For we are a fragrance of Christ to God..."

To God? Why would we be a fragrance to God? I searched the Word again and found what I was looking for.

Think back, far back into His story (yes, history) and recall what the Israelites did that caused a fragrance to reach the throne room of heaven.

Sacrifices. The importance of sacrifices are seen all throughout the Old Testament.

Look at Genesis 8:21 for example, "The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done." This verse is referring to the promise God made to Noah after he came off the ark and offered a sacrifice to God.

Here's another verse from 2 Chronicles 2:4, "Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, dedicating it to Him, to burn fragrant incense before Him and to set out the showbread continually, and to offer burnt offerings morning and evening..."

Sacrifices were an important thing to the Lord. When Christ came, He died as the Ultimate Sacrificial Lamb, so that there would no longer be any need for sacrifices. Even though we are not held in bondage to making daily sacrifices in a physical sense, what does Paul exhort us to be in Romans 12:1?
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

There's the word again: sacrifice. And here is where we tie everything together. We are called to present ourselves unto God as a sacrifice, so that the fragrance of Christ may be evident to those around us, as well as to the Lord Himself.

Oh, that we might understand the importance of surrender, that we would lay everything upon the altar of Calvary. The "Church" of America seems to have all but forgotten this important truth. We are such a distracted people; it is absolutely pitiful. We find the little trinkets of this world so alluring and captivating, yet compared to the glory and beauty of our great King, it is rubble.

This brings me to yet another passage of Scripture. Read it all and read it slowly, allowing it to sink into your soul.

"'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the Lord of Hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.
But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the Lord is to be despised.' But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil?
Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly? says the Lord of hosts.
But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly? says the Lord of hosts.
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you.
For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
But you are profaning it, in that you say...'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it, says the Lord of hosts, and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand? says the Lord.
But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name is feared among the nations."
~Malachi 1:6-14

Have you been honoring the Lord as He deserves?
Do you find the Lord's work tiresome?
Have you been promising complete devotion, yet giving utter complacency?
Would you give the same devotedness to the president that you give to your King?

Oh, that we might see Him as He is and give Him the sacrifice He deserves! Let us give Him our everything!

"Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every power as You choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee."

~Take My Life, Frances R. Havergal

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ye Are Christ's - Charles Spurgeon

"Ye are Christ's." - 1 Corinthians 3:23

"Ye are Christ's. You are His by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; His by His bloody purchase, for He counted down the price for your redemption; His by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to Him; His by relation, for you are named by His name, and made one of His brethren and joint heirs.

Labor practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, 'I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ's.' Immortal principles forbid the friend of Christ to sin.

When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ's, and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ's.

Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands on your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, 'No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's. If I were not purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ's, and cannot loiter.'

When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, "Your music cannot charm me; I am Christ's.'

When the cause of God invites you, give yourself to it; when the poor ask of you, give your goods and yourself away, for you are Christ's.

Never belie your profession. Be ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven that all who see you may know that you are the Savior's, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness.

'I am a Roman!' was a reason for integrity in the past; far more, then, let your argument for holiness be, 'I am Christ's!'"

~Morning and Evening-January 12
Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Cry for Deliverance ~ The Valley of Vision

"Heavenly Father,
Save me entirely from sin.

I know I am righteous through the righteousness of another, but I pant and pine for likeness to Thyself;
I am Thy child and should bear Thy image,
enable me to recognize my death unto sin;
when it tempts me may I be deaf to its voice.

Deliver me from the invasion as well as the dominion of sin.

Grant me to walk as Christ walked, to live in the newness of His life,
the life of love,
the life of faith,
the life of holiness.

I abhor my body of death,
its indolence, envy, meanness, pride.

Forgive, and kill these vices,
have mercy on my unbelief, on my corrupt and wandering heart.

When thy blessings come I begin to idolize them, and set my affection on some beloved object-
children, friends, wealth, honour;

Cleanse this spiritual adultery and give me chastity;
close my heart to all but Thee.

Sin is my greatest curse;
Let Thy victory be apparent to my consciousness, and displayed in my life.

Help me to be always devoted, confident, obedient, resigned, childlike in my trust of Thee,
to love Thee with soul, body, mind, strength,
to love my fellow-man as I love myself,
to be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts, slanderous words, meanness, unkind manners,
to master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.

Fill me with grace daily,
that my life be a fountain of sweet water."

~The Valley of Vision

Monday, January 16, 2012

Foxes in the Vineyard - Money

Martin Luther once said, "There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse."

Does Martin Luther speak accurately or is he being too extreme? Does money have such an unflinching stronghold on our lives?

If you had asked me this 6 months ago, I would have said, "No, absolutely not. I rarely spend money on myself and I love to give."

But, did I?

To answer that, I have to go a bit farther back in my history. Ever since I can remember, I've looked forward to the day I could drive. It seems to be just a part of the American Dream to get your license at 16. Because of that mindset, I was always counting down the years until my 16th birthday would roll around.

Well, my 16th birthday finally came.....and went...with no license. In fact, I was shocked to discover that the idea of getting my license didn't even seem to be in my near future, according to my parents. Insurance was too expensive. "And besides," they added, "why do you need your license right now?"

Why?! Oh, the injustice of it all! :)

During my 16th year, I started to get desperate. Looking around, I realized that most of my firstborn friends already had their license and some were even younger than me. Suddenly, my entire focus became a mad hunt to discover a stay-at-home job. Getting my license took first priority in my life. But of course, I would never admit to that. I would mope through the house, brainstorming any and every idea I could think of to make money quickly. My mom would often ask if I had committed this desire to the Lord. Of course I had! I had asked (maybe demanded is a better word) for the Lord to show me a job so that I could get my license. Surely He would answer that prayer, right?!

Wrong. Time continued to ebb away, and then I was 17....still with no license. Now, all of my firstborn friends had their license and I was the loner still-have-my-permit girl. I had some savings built up, but not enough for insurance. Around the beginning of last December, I knew that the Lord was asking me to give some money to Gospel for Asia. My fists clenched in protest. "Lord, how could You ask something like that of me?! I'm saving up for my license, remember? If I give money away, I'll have to work all the harder to get it back again."

But the Lord continued to press this upon my heart. Finally, on December 10, the Lord opened my eyes to my complete selfishness and disobedience. My journal entry with that date shares my thoughts:

"O my Father, I am convicted! I have spent (no, wasted) so much time coveting, so much energy worrying, and so much emotion complaining that I don't have a driver's license. Forgive me, Lord Jesus. I have been so preoccupied with calculating how much I need to earn and looking at how all my friends have one...I have been so selfish, Lord. I don't want this to have a hold on my life anymore or to continue keeping me from You. So Lord....You will have to make it clear when you want me to get my license. And if I never get one for the rest of my life, help me to be content with that. In Your strength, this means no more complaining, coveting, self-pity parties, anxiety, or hard-fistedness towards money. All I have is Yours!"

It was then and there that I truly gave my money to Him, knowing that it did not come from my hand anyway, but from the Lord's. Why did I ever think it was mine to begin with?

This year, the Lord has burdened my heart to only spend a certain amount of money every month on necessities or an occasional treat. But, it must first be "okayed" by the Lord. I do not have the freedom to spend any money, even $1, on something that I do not first approach the Lord with. The Lord has been slowly and graciously burdening my heart with the fact that 2 billion people have never heard the name of my precious Jesus and are dying everyday without hope.

How could I spend even $6 on a new purse when that same money could provide two unreached people with the very Word of God? By His grace, my mindset is changing. But oh, that He might loosen my hold on money more and more everyday! I still have so much to learn!

Now, I am not saying that getting a job, possessing a driver's license, or buying a new purse is wrong. What I am saying is this: our money is not our own, so we should live in a way that declares our belief in this. Are we relying on the Lord for everything? Are we asking Him for guidance before spending the money He has given us, whether a little amount or large? Have we given all of our money to the Lord, allowing Him to use it as He chooses? He has blessed us with the money we have. What are we doing with it to impact eternity?

This is still a daily struggle. There are many times that I still want my license, many days I wish I had a larger savings account. And yet, there is such peace trusting in Him; trusting that He will provide for my every need, at the perfect time.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Isn't this beautiful?! What is our reason for not loving money or worrying about our needs? Because and only because our God is in control and He has promised to never leave us! What an extraordinary assurance we have!

"Givers can be divided into three types: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. Some givers are like a piece of flint - to get anything out of it you must hammer it, and even then you only get chips and sparks. Other are like a sponge - to get anything out of a sponge you must squeeze it and squeeze it hard, because the more you squeeze a sponge, the more you get. But others are like a honeycomb - which just overflows with its own sweetness. That is how God gives to us, and it is how we should give in turn."

Oh, may the Lord give us such a love for Him, such a desire to seek Him and His kingdom first, that we would be as the sweetest honeycomb, overflowing with the pure nectar given to us by our gracious King!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Foxes in the Vineyard - Time

Right now, I am listening to the loud ticking of my desk clock. Every second can be heard clearly and distinctly.

Time. It's such a tricky thing, isn't it?! One minute we can be waltzing through life, enjoying every day the Lord gives us and then the next minute we are racing here and there, enslaved to time, and firmly held in its stressful grasp. Where's the balance?

"We master our minutes or we become slaves to them; we use time, or time uses us."
~William A. Ward

When the Lord first convicted me of this "fox in my garden", I didn't really know what it meant to live each day as unto the Lord. If you would have asked me, I would have said that I was doing just that, but in my heart I was confused. How was someone supposed to live every day for the Lord? My days were often filled with chores and activities, but not with the beauty, peace, and joy of Christ. I needed to learn how to master time; but not only to master it, but to manage it according to His direction.

Ultimately, resolving to use time for the Lord is a way of life. And every way of life begins with a mindset. How do you view time? How do you view each day? Is it a beautiful gift given to you by your merciful Heavenly Father or merely another 24 hours you are forced to get through?

We are not our own, therefore the time we are given is not our own.

If we truly understood this truth, how would we live?

As redeemed servants of Jesus Christ, we have been bought at a high price, the highest price that has ever been paid. Everything we have been given is a gift from our Father that should be laid right back at His feet, so that He can use it for His glory. This means that the 24 hours we have should be surrendered to Him at the beginning of each new day, asking Him to rule and reign over our schedules, our chores, our work, our play, our everything.

"As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer." (Psalm 103:15-16)

Oh my dear friends, we are here for only a short time. We will soon be gone. Our possessions, our money, our jobs, our reputations will all disappear in an instant. What are you doing with the time God has given you today to leave an impact on eternity?

This is one of my greatest struggles. Every morning, I plead with the Lord, asking Him to give me a focus on eternity, that everything else would seem unimportant. And yet, I still care so much about things that aren't really even mine. Oh, to truly live this day as if it were my last! How differently it would look!

About a month ago, the Lord gave my mom an idea on how to use her whole day focused on Christ. Isn't it frustrating when you have a beautiful time with the Lord in the morning and then at the end of the day, you look back and wonder where He's been?! Well, that was the struggle being discussed at our house, when the Lord gave my mom the idea of a timer.Yes, a timer.

We each have our own timer, which we start after our morning devotions. After an hour passes and the timer goes off, we go away to a quiet place and spend time (usually it's just a couple minutes) reading His Word, discussing the past hour with Him, repenting of any sins we had committed, and asking Him to direct us in the next hour. Then, we set our timer again and go back to what we were doing.

This idea has been such a blessing in our lives! Not only are we continually being refreshed by Christ, but we have been able to keep our eyes focused on Him throughout the entire day. At least for me, it has been one of the first steps to learning how to abide in Him, walking every step hand-in-hand with my Maker. Such joy, such intimacy with Christ has been brought about because of this. It is a beautiful thing!

One word of warning, though. If you decide to start using a timer, you need to be very watchful that you do not become lazy with it. What I mean is this: It is so easy to hear the timer go off, but then finish whatever you're doing first, before spending time with the Lord. Then, before you know it, another hour has passed and you forgot to spend time with Him at all.

This is exactly what had been happening in my life the past couple days. I was putting my schedule first and Christ second. The intimacy had disappeared and I was wondering why I was having such a hard time writing this post. Yes, to be completely honest with you, I've been working on this blogpost for the past several days, but am only now able to actually write it. The Lord needed to convict and change my heart first, before allowing me to share this idea on my blog. :)

"Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of. In nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God. In nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed. In nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act."

Overall, this whole post is not relevant if you are not seeking to cultivate a personal and deep relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are not seeking after Him, it doesn't matter what you do with your time. It will not be glorifying to Him. Only after you have laid your time at His feet and given Him the Kingship over it, can you live in a way where truly everything is done for the glory of God. (Colossians 3:17)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year~

"O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed
in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that
aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit,

to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth thy praise,
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy."

~The Valley of Vision, New Year