Sunday 26 August 2018

The Fragrance of the Lord

We carry the fragrance of Christ’s character and love in our lives whether we are conscious of it or not. People recognise the Lord in us as this permeates through our lives. In fact, the more we dwell in the Presence of the Lord the more of His fragrance we exude to others.

Source: PInterest
One morning recently, I was sitting in bed having my daily reading when the most amazing smell of toast wafted up to me from downstairs. My son was obviously making himself a piece of toast for his breakfast, but the smell was so strong and so evocative. In a moment of time I was transported back 38 years to when I worked at the Department of Transport with a lovely team of people. Every morning when we arrived at work we would head off to the little kitchen to make our morning cuppa and there it was; the toaster.  Anyone could use it at any time of the day, but most people used it for ‘a nice piece of toast to start the day off'. The lovely, inviting, warming and welcoming smell of that toaster inviting you down the corridor and into the kitchen to partake of a morning delight still stays with me today. I had not thought about it for such a long time, until this particular morning when that same smell hit my senses again, stirring so many lovely memories of the wonderfully friendly and funny team I worked with. Memories came back of how welcome that tea and toast was on the mornings that my boyfriend (now husband) used to encourage me to drive into Birmingham through the busy city centre traffic, to improve my driving skills ahead of my driving test. I would arrive at the office ‘shaky’ after avoiding goodness knows how many scrapes on the way to work. My lovely colleague would sit me down, knowing that I had driven into work again and head off to the kitchen to make me a lifesaving cuppa and the obligatory `nice piece of toast`. After that I could face the day!

The smell bought it all these wonderful memories back in a nostalgic cloud. How blessed I was to have such nice memories and how blessed we are to have a sense of smell.  Our sense of smell is one of the most evocative senses we have. A single whiff can instantly transport us to other places, other times and instantly conjure up a myriad of memories either good or bad. How many of us have smelled that familiar disinfectant smell and thought of school toilets? Or someone passes you wearing a perfume and you remember a person or a place. In my first job, all the girls wore Estee Lauder Youth Dew. A strong heady perfume that was very fashionable then. I hated it then and I still do now, but how do you tell a whole office of mature women, when you are the ‘junior’ that you can`t stand their perfume? You don’t, you learn to bear it or block it out.

Source: Salt and Light Blog
This all got me thinking about fragrances. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT) tells us; `Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate to such a task as this? It’s an amazing thought to think that we carry the fragrance of the Lord in our lives. Just like if you hug someone who is wearing a strong perfume the smell transfers to you and people can smell the other person's perfume on you, so the Bible says we carry the fragrance of Christ’s character and love in our lives whether we are conscious of it or not. People recognise the Lord in us as this permeates through our lives. In fact, the more we dwell in the Presence of the Lord the more of His fragrance we exude to others.

We also know that this fragrance we carry is not always welcome. To those who are seeking the Lord we are the fragrance of life but to those who do not wish to follow the Lord we appear to be carrying a fragrance they do not like or want to savour, in fact we are like the smell of death. This can be hard for us if we want to fit in with the people we meet every day. Its easy sometimes to want to mask the fragrance, to not let the beauty of the fragrance of the Lord flow from us because we know the people around us don’t appreciate that fragrance.  Paul says in the reading above; ‘who of us is adequate to the task’. To be willing for the fragrance of the Lord to constantly flow out of us means sacrifice. We must take time to sit with the Lord so that His fragrance permeates into our lives and then we must be willing to share that fragrance with people knowing that the fragrance of the Lord will offend as many people as it blesses.

I attended a college course recently and as the course ended I reflected that I had not told many people that I was a Christian. I wondered why that was and I tried to tell myself that it was because I had not had many opportunities, but the truth was I had not really allowed myself to let the fragrance of the Lord flow out freely. I ended the course feeling disappointed that I had not shed the wonderful perfume of God’s love around more, I will not meet those people again and I can now reflect on a missed opportunity which I regret not being more willing to share. It really is a matter of choice, just how much I allow the fragrance to flow from me, but it also needs cultivation. Perfume needs to be applied if a person is to become fragranced. Time must be spent in the Presence of the one who imbibes us with the fragrance (Jesus himself) for us to soak in that fragrance of His Grace, so that every part of our lives is touched by the beauty that is the Lord, in that way sharing the fragrance wherever we go will be a natural thing not contrived.

Its amazing what small things the Lord uses to teach us. Today it was a smell of toast that brought these thoughts and challenges to mind. I`m so grateful that its in the everyday things of life that the Lord speaks to us and brings to us new challenges and new blessings.

Lord today help me to be the fragrance of Christ to the people I meet.

Author: Jan Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 19 August 2018

The Wrong Question?

Those of us that want to walk with Jesus deliberately come into the light so that His truth may search our hearts and prompt us in repentance (John 3:19-21).There is no merit in living a lie or wanting anything but the truth

What follows came in great part from a conversation with a dear Christian brother over lunch not very long ago. The rest is coming as I write from a present conversation with the Lord about tangible things that are troubling me. Let's see where we get to...

When I was in 'real work' (I am retired) one of the constant lessons when helping people with a problem was that they always started with the 'wrong question'. For example, someone with a recurring problem around managing money might say; ‘How do we get the right financial information?’ After further discussion, it might turn out that in fact the problem they were facing was not about the information at all but that they were in fact not very good at negotiating the money that they needed with other people. Or someone might ask; ‘how can I use my computer better?’ when the real problem was that they didn’t communicate their needs and intentions to others clearly enough.

In John 4 there is a good example of the way in which Jesus answered wrong questions with right answers in the story about Him meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. She asks in John 4:9-10 ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’. The exchange leads to the woman seeing Jesus first as a Jew, then  she called Him ‘Sir’, then she called Him a Prophet and then recognised Him as the Messiah, as Jesus’ true identity was revealed. Like all real conversations, the result was both challenging and joyous. The woman had to face up to who she was; John 4:18 ‘The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband’ and had the joy of meeting the Messiah and the opportunity for a changed life.

In my work examples, when people discovered that their issue was actually different to their initial ideas/questions the result could often be disconcerting and very challenging for them. Often it is easier to think that our difficulties are to do with machines and technical things like money rather than problems with how other people perceive us and interact with us. Realising that we must change the way that we behave towards others can be a shock and a very hard thing to do without help. It can make us anxious or afraid and so we cover up the real issue with something that’s easier for us to cope with. Fortunately for us Jesus is very good at getting to the heart of a problem. We do have to keep listening to Him though – His voice to us as a historical figure in the Bible (a Jew) will appear very different when we own Him as Lord of our lives (Messiah). The woman started out as talking to someone that she had been taught to despise, through growing respect she called Him ‘Sir’ to honour and awe as she experienced His prophetic gift and finally to Lord as she greeted her Messiah. Sometimes we stop in this journey and only hear part of the truth. Its only as Lord of our lives that the full revelation of what Jesus has to say to us is heard.

Source: SlidePlayer
In John 3:1-22 Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He is a leader and is anxious about being seen in public with such a controversial figure and He knows that being seen coming to Jesus will threaten his reputation, career and lifestyle. He has his approach all worked out – his introduction is well crafted; John 3:2-3 ‘Teacher we know that you have come from God for no one can do the signs that you do unless God is with Him’. Jesus replied, Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God’ … Jesus proceeds to show Nicodemus the way to eternal life and life in the Spirit. ‘How can these things be’ says Nicodemus in amazement. Here Jesus not only got to the root of the problem but answered the questions that Nicodemus didn’t know how to ask; John 3:10 ‘you the teacher of Israel and don’t know these things’? asks Jesus.  His words demand a response – a life changing response – repentance – a ‘change of mind’.

King David had taken another man’s wife and God holds him accountable in 2 Samuel 12:1-14 by sending Nathan the prophet to him with a story of about a rich man who had stolen the only pet lamb of a poor servant. David was angry and ready to take action to avenge the wrong and was so blind to the implications of the story that he was oblivious to its true meaning until Nathan says; ‘You are the man’. There is an old saying that when we point at other people with one finger there are three other fingers pointing back at us. It can be that the reality is that it’s us that needs to be sorted out first before we go pointing fingers elsewhere. I once prepared a talk on repentance but even as I prepared it the Lord said ‘you can’t give this until you have sorted out that issue that I have spoken to you about before’. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 that we must attend to the plank that is in our own eye before we go poking around for specks in other people’s eyes. After all, if you can’t see clearly to help remove a speck in someone’s eye you may do a lot more damage than good. Is the answer to our question ‘what’s wrong with them Lord’ for us to look at ourselves in the mirror instead?

Two further scenarios from the gospels; the first is the ‘set up’ that the Jewish leaders had prepared for Jesus with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3-11 ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ This was clearly a setup, pure and simple, but Jesus uses truth to disarm the schemers; Jesus replies; ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’. There was a preacher I once heard that said at this point in the story ‘Methinks that He (Jesus) wrote some sin in the ground with His finger’. Jesus was not at all interested in the agenda of these false leaders but He still challenged them with the truth and gave them a chance to repent. They were all convicted and eventually left. I wonder when we are judging another in our hearts what sin (forgiven or unforgiven) that Jesus would need to write down for us to be convicted and brought to our senses? We must all be aware that whatever judgement we use will be the judgement that will be used against us (Matthew 7:1-2). I have seen this work in my own life already. I have in the past judged and acted against people who I thought were doing a bad job without understanding what they were up against. It’s only been when the Lord has allowed me to be in that same situation that I have realised why the person had done what they did. I must repent of my thoughts and deeds (and poor witness before the world) with my words and actions. We can be dismissive of scripture thinking that ‘we would never treat Jesus in that way’ without realising that we can do exactly that without being aware of it. It’s not our questions to Him that are always important but instead Him asking us to give an account and His challenge that we need to listen to carefully.

The last story that I talked about with my friend that prompted these thoughts can be found in Luke 20:1-8. It’s when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus by what authority He acted in the way that He did. Jesus replied; ‘I will answer you if you answer me one question – the baptism of John was it from men or from God’. I have always seen this as Jesus giving a ‘clever brush off’ to His critics but my friend pointed out that here again Jesus was attempting to get to the truth and providing a chance for repentance even though the leaders motives were twisted and corrupt. Baptism by John was one of repentance – of changing one’s mind or mind-set as we tend to say today. In repentance, there is God’s part and our part. God’s part is to bring us to a place of conviction and attention and to meet us and renew us when we come to an end of ourselves and give in to Him. Our part is to determine to change our minds and go another way – as the scripture in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke says, ‘bring forth fruits to repentance’ – to demonstrate a determination to change the way that we think. These leader’s minds were embedded in keeping their status, power and wealth and caring little for truth and righteousness. Even though their false question meant only to get Jesus into trouble it also gave them a chance to reconsider. There was only one answer for them; ‘was the baptism of John from God’ – Yes. What was the baptism of John about? – repentance – turning from their old corrupt lives and towards a new way of thinking and living. These men rejected that offer from Jesus which was an eternally foolish thing to do.

What do we do in response to God’s truth? What do we do when we question Jesus and find that He comes back with questions of His own? What do we do when we find that it’s us that needs to change not others? It says in John that those who do evil hate to come into the light because it shows what their deeds are like. Those of us that want to walk with Jesus deliberately come into the light so that His truth may search our hearts and prompt us in repentance (John 3:19-21). There is no merit in living a lie or wanting anything but the truth; John 6:37 ‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away’. He will respond to our questions and get to the heart of a matter. Let’s not be afraid of His challenges because it’s all about perfecting us; Proverbs 4:18 ‘The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

Author: Chris Pearson

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Sunday 12 August 2018

Sitting in the Presence of God

What treasure we have - an intimate relationship with God who loves us so much and almighty God wants to be close to us, to share what's on His heart.

Source: YouTube
God has recently been speaking to us about sitting in His Presence and waiting on Him: 2 Corinthians 4:18 ‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’. As we wait on Him, we remember that God is with us and there are times in our lives when God's Presence is very real however these are not the norm. We live by faith and by understanding the scriptures and we know that not only does He dwell in us but He is also with us. So, as we sit in His Presence, we are abiding in Christ.

John 15:4 tells us; ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you….’. To know and acknowledge that God is always with us requires discipline. When we pray, we look to God, sovereign over all – we look up and out of ourselves to the triune God. As we wait in His Presence, just sitting, knowing that He is with us, He loves us and always wants to speak to us, we can hear what He says to us. He once said to me that I was to snuggle up to him. How beautiful is that?! Earlier this year Jesus said to me that I was to rest in His arms and not to worry about things. I know He loves me however I was not receiving His love at that time because I was too concerned about 'stuff'. He led me to Luke 10:38-44 where He tells Martha that she is concerned about many things however Mary has chosen the better way’ to sit at His feet.

Source: Atomic Market
Waiting on God is not meant to be stressful, it is simply resting in Him. It is a discipline because we have wandering and busy minds set on the things of earth. When our minds wander, we need to just bring it back to that place of silence and being in the Presence of God. It doesn't matter if we have to continually do this, we will win the battle, even if not at the first time of doing it. There will also be times when we don't hear His voice but that doesn't matter either, it is enough just to be in His Presence. We lead such busy lives that we can find it difficult to just sit and not to be doing something. 

C.S Lewis writes about it in his book, ‘Mere Christianity’; ‘Christ says, Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work - I want you. ‘That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And your first job each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.  And so on, all day....  We can only do it for moments at first.  But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our systems because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us’. Jesus is our great example. Henry Nouwen writes of Jesus; ‘His primary concern was to be obedient to his father, to live constantly in his presence. Only then did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationship with people’.  I have quoted these writers because they put it much better than I can.

What treasure we have - an intimate relationship with God who loves us so much and almighty God wants to be close to us, to share what's on His heart. I love what one of our Deacons said recently – How God had shown her that it's like sitting on the sofa next to her husband and reading a book about him!  God wants an intimate relationship with us!

Finally, in order to hear God, we must read the Bible. The scriptures keep us in the truth and will show us if we get into wrong thinking because the Bible is corrective as well as speaking truth.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’. There is not one of us who cannot wait on God and sit in His Presence and when we do, the rewards are great. So, if you have never done it, now is the time to start!

Author: Muriel Allen

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 5 August 2018

Sharing fruit that will last

It's not enough to just bear fruit, we must share that fruit with others, so they can be blessed and impacted by the Kingdom of God

Matthew 7:20 tells us; ‘By their fruit you will recognise them’. When we speak about the fruit of the spirit, we are talking about those nine qualities of character identified in Galatians 5:22-23 ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’. This fruit is not only for show but are for sharing with others, otherwise it is no better than fruit that was never grown in the first place.

Imagine you drive up to a roadside fruit and vegetable stall, with the intention of buying fresh, home-grown produce such as carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers along with several varieties of other fruits, everything you need and more. Just as you start to select your items, the farmer who owns the stall, says, ‘Sorry this produce is not for sale. I just like to grow them, and enjoy looking at them, until they rot. Then I throw them away’; ‘What!?’ I hear you exclaim! I very much doubt that you have ever encountered such an absurd situation, and you probably never will. Farmers need customers to purchase and to consume their produce. Yes, they are beautiful to look at, but it's God’s ordained plan and purpose to bring health, nutrition and well-being to people, through this produce.

Source: Bible Verses To Go
Using the example above: if all we do is go to church and listen without really hearing, if we preach without really perceiving and if we analyse and examine each other’s fruit, we are failing miserably. It's not enough to just bear fruit, we must share that fruit with others, so they can be blessed and impacted by the Kingdom of God. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes ‘For we are God's masterpiece, He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good works He planned for us long ago’. Bearing fruit and sharing fruit are two sides of the same spiritual coin.

Take a few moments to look at the video below and see the faces of the unsuspecting people who are exposed to the fruit of the spirit of Love, Joy, Peace and others, displayed during the worship song. You will see some expressions of bewilderment but others of happiness, joy and elation at what they are watching and hearing.  We don’t all have to break out into worship songs however we would live in a very different world if we could demonstrate the fruit of the spirit in our everyday lives.

So, come on brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, let us bear and share all the gifts of the fruit of the spirit that God has given us to the glory and Praise of His Name.

Be blessed.

Author: Herbert Jean

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