Category Archives: Bible
There’s nothing like a baby being plopped on top of you and the smell of ammonia rousing you into wakefulness. Being a dad has it’s perks and lately they seem to come in especially pungent smells. With the addition of cloth diapers into our family’s daily parenting rituals, fatherhood has entered an all new state of nasal excellence!
While on the one hand, being woke up by the smell of diaper death does not make for a happy morning, it was a sweet reminder that I am a dad. I can think of a million more pleasant smells that remind me I am a dad – playdough being squished under my feet, a bowl of soggy cheerios, melted chocolate on the car seat, baby shampoo, macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes we can quite simply “smell” our kids coming from the other room.
I wonder what we smell like to God. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 2, Paul says,
“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. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”
He says that we are to God the aroma of Christ but then says we are the smell of death to some (those who are perishing) and the fragrance of life to others (those who are being saved). I once had a friend who looked down on Christians. He would say things like, “that reeks of Christianity.” He had been burned by some Christian’s and the deathly smell of smoke still burned his nostrils. For him, the aroma of Christ was an unwanted scent that unfortunately was probably tied to a well intentioned Christian who just wanted to smell good. We never want to be the smelly kid in class. Sometimes the smelly kid was the one who tried too hard to smell good! In order for our aroma as Christians to be one that makes people salivate, it cannot be too overpowering!
We underestimate our sense of smell sometimes. It really is amazing how what we smell can give us cues about the world around us. Walking in the door and smelling onions being sautéed. Fight or flight mechanisms in our brain going into alert mode when we smell smoke. We say “something smells fishy” when we feel unsure. Smells remind us of familiar places and long lost memories. This morning I woke up with the smell of diaper death beating up the sunrise. For some reason, it made me think of all the smelly situations we can get ourselves in and how the aroma of Christ is clouded by a foggy stench of our own sin at times. Paul says that when we smell good, God leads us in triumphal procession! We are the smell of defeat or the smell of victory.
Smell good to those around you today!
This morning I woke up and went for a bike ride. Miriam woke up crying and after I helped her go back to sleep, I realized that by being woken up by her, I had been granted a few moments where the house was quiet and I could have some time alone. Since Krista has been encouraging me to get a hobby and was pleased I was okay with one as active as bike-riding, I figured going for a little ride would be a good chance to focus my thoughts today. I really do love mornings and find that when I push myself to actually make the best of them, I am particularly contemplative.
I rode around our neighborhood (looking at googlemaps.com first so I wouldn’t get lost) and created for myself a loop that I could complete in about 20 minutes. When I returned, everyone was still asleep and I realized, I had more time to spend with God. That’s when I began my search for some type of devotional literature. I looked around the house and didn’t find anything worthy so I turned my search online. I went to some of my favorite spots only to find that nothing was particularly inspiring. Then it hit me….I could read the Bible!
I don’t know if it is just because I have been preoccupied with church stuff or home stuff but for some reason, it is often easier to turn to devotionals rather than the Bible for spiritual nourishment. This morning though, after my “aha!” moment, I turned to John 10. I think it may have been because I rode past this large field with a horse in it, I was thinking of a pasture that my thoughts were focusing on Jesus the Good Shepherd. Here is what John said to me,
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
While I do not think that reading devotionals will save me, I do think they will deepen my relationship with God. At those times when I am in need of pasture, I quickly go to my favorite authors in hopes that they will give me just what I need. This morning, it was just the Good Shepherd. he called me back to him by the sound of his voice. Entering through him brought me the salvation this morning I needed. He allows me to “come in and go out” and it is there that I find pasture. He knows the places where this sheep can be fed and where the best feeding place are at. Funny what happens when you try to enter the pasture through the gate instead of trying to hop over fences.
This morning I preached a sermon that has developed out of some spiritual awareness I have had recently. I have been thinking a lot about God’s nearness. God has been much nearer than I have known and felt. As I was preparing my sermon, I began tracing God’s presence throughout history in the Bible. I worked my thoughts into my sermon and thought I would share them here.
When God created the world. His desire for intimacy with his creation is seen as God walks in the garden in the cool of the day. God is near his People and now we claim that nearness as our own.
When Abraham feels as though the Covenant God made with him is being threatened by a command to sacrifice the very son promised to him. God’s story shows us a God that is so close He can halt a dagger as it pierces the air before it pierces the son of a covenant.
As a half million former slaves leave Egypt for a land promised to them, God’s presence leads them by fire at night and by smoke during the day, only to marvel this baby nation by paving the way through a mighty river.
As two rebellious nations make Israelites choose sides, God’s story brings us “in your face messages” ending with “thus saith the Lord” from reluctant prophets.
God’s story takes us into a foreign land where Jews mourn the loss of a Holy City. Other prophets emerge to help them know that while they are in a distant land they worship a not so distant God who shuts lion’s mouths and visits friends in a fiery furnace.
From the least likely places God shows just how involved he is by moving the heart of King Cyrus to deliver his people back to the promised land. His involvement guides prophets to expect an even more incredible deliverance from a coming Messiah.
Here God’s story takes the most exciting turn yet. Limiting the distance more than ever, God comes down to dwell in one man. Emanuel, God with us. The very God of creation walking and talking, breathing and hurting among those he created.
Just as quickly as God makes his dwelling on Earth, it appears that he makes an about face and leaves his own Son to die. In reality his ultimate attachment to you and to me is shown by attaching his own son to a cross.
When we think that God couldn’t get any closer to showing his love for us than a nail splitting wood, God’s own spirit splits our hearts and once again God’s dwelling place is not just among his people but now inside his people.
As we join God’s story we remember Jesus words before leaving his disciples. That as we go out into the entire world Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always.”
God is near.
I wonder what Jesus saw when he looked at this man. As soon as Jesus gets out of the boat this man comes out of the tombs to meet him. Did Jesus know that he too would one day be spending time in a tomb? Perhaps he also knew that, like the demon possessed man, no one could bind him. Chains could not hold the demoniac, hell couldn’t hold Jesus. The man knew who Jesus was instantly. It was as if all the evil in the world, bound up in this one man, knew the power of “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” to put an end to the suffering. As a fellow chain-breaker, Jesus knew what freedom would mean for this man. The man (or rather the demons inside) did not want Jesus to send them away, but Jesus – perhaps seeing in the man his own after death experiences, sent them away, leaving the formerly demon-possed man in his right mind. Later something interesting happens. Everyone around wanted Jesus to leave and the man, now without demons wanted to go with him. Throughout the entire book of Mark, Jesus is commanding people not to tell about their healing. Over and over again, he commands them to keep quiet. Here, but not only here, Jesus commands him to go and tell. The only other place in the entire book that Jesus commands someone to go and tell is after his own resurrection.
When tombs become empty, then people are told to go.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death is your sting?
The sting of death is sin
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
Today we celebrate! We celebrate because we can give thanks to God that Jesus holds the victory over death and the victory over sin. I love this passage because of the imagery. I think about a worker bee who is trying so hard to create something that at times seems so sweet. The honey that sin offers can be enticing at times. But going after the honeycomb means that you are likely going to get stung. For some, being stung by an actual bee can mean death. For all being stung by sin meant certain death. Until….
Until DEATH WAS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. Jesus drank the honey—he swallowed it up so its deadly work has NO POWER in our lives. Today as we celebrate His resurrection, we should remember that he took our sin and nailed it to the cross with his own body. The death he died for us carries the power to free us from the sting we were destined to feel.
Paul continues on in verse 58 to encourage Christians to “Stand firm, letting nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” His death frees us from sin. His resurrection gives us hope. Stand firm. He will return for you!