Monday, April 24, 2017

Diffusing His Fragrance

     In my home, I enjoy using essential oils.  A few drops in the water container of my diffusers, and the house is filled with a lovely scent.  I am always amazed how just a small amount of oil can produce such a powerful fragrance that seems to fill the rooms.  In the same way, we, as Christians, are to bring our faith to bear on every aspect of our lives so that others will see the love of God within us.  We are to be salt and light in this world of darkness, and like the diffusers I use in my home, we are to be the fragrance of Christ that permeates every portion of our world.
     Presently, around the world, there seems to be a clash of ideas like we have never seen before.  On one side, we see those who believe that man is the measure of everything.  This camp believes we are getting better all the time, and that all we need is a government who will meet all the needs.  These ideas came to the forefront during the Renaissance and have morphed into a movement that has spread across the globe.  According to the American Humanist Society, the definition is as follows:  "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."  That does not sound bad does it?  However, one of the banners on their page reads:  "Good without God".  This whole set of ideas really did not start in the Renaissance.  Rather, this concept was introduced in the Garden of Eden when Satan whispered to Eve, "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  Of course, we know that Eve ate the forbidden fruit and so did Adam.  Who would not want to be like God?  Why do we need Him if we can be like Him?  The motto of humanism at that website "Good without God" sounds very much like the serpent in the garden.
     On the other side of the equation, we find those who have embraced the truth found in the Bible which declares that God is our provider, sustainer, Creator, healer, King and Sovereign.  He is the only one who can meet our needs and the only way to salvation is through His Son Jesus Christ.  The ultimate picture of the clash between two world views comes when Jesus stood before Pilate the Roman head of state for the region.  When challenged by Pilate to answer his questions, Jesus' replies reveal the wisdom of God incarnate.  "Then Pilate said to Him, 'So you are a king?'  Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world-to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'  Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'" (John 18:37-38).  This is exactly the conflict we face as believers.  We have those who say "What is truth? After all, isn't everything relative?"  Yet, our response must be that we are proclaiming the truth, living it day to day, and following the only One who can truly meet all our needs.
     In a recent article in The American Family Association Journal, Dr. Stephen McDowell president of the Providence Foundation (providence foundation.com) and an author wrote a very good article entitled "Why do the leftists (still) rage?"  He argues that the great divide in our nation today is a clash of worldviews.  He says of this divide:  "It centers on such important issues as life, the family and morality - views on which the Bible is clear."  Indeed, our Lord told us that if the world hated Him it would also hate us.  We will face tribulations, but we are to continue diffusing the fragrance of Christ wherever we go because the Lord overcame the world.  Despite opposition, we have been commissioned to share the truth even if there are those who resist it.
     If we are to fulfill our call to be salt and light in this world, we must apply our Christian worldview according to Scripture to every area of our lives.  There is no room for compromise.  We cannot say, "This is my belief based on God's Word, but I do not want to bring it into my workplace, politics, or school."  Jesus said, "32Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.…(Matthew 10:32-33).  We have a truth to proclaim.  Not to prove that we are right, but to save men and women from eternal separation from God.  With the Holy Spirit's help, we can fulfill the call to be a sweet fragrance filling every space in this world with the truth that will set others free.   My prayer is that His Word would
dwell richly in each of us that it will effect all we say and do.  May we be faithful to this task that we might glorify God.  Selah!

Friday, April 21, 2017

MAKING MELODY TO THE LORD

     When I was a little girl, I remember very well attending church with my parents.  I was in awe of my mother's beautiful soprano voice as she sang hymns during the service.  It was the most striking memory, and I remember thinking that maybe one day I would be able to sing as well as she did.  All those precious hymns we sang found a place in my heart and to this day, I often break out singing in my kitchen or while doing chores around the house.  Not only is it a pleasant memory, but it is way for me to express my joy in the Lord and what He has done for me.
     King David learned this truth in his early years as well.  Tending his father's sheep was hard work and lonely too.  However, David spent time singing to the Lord the beautiful words of praise we find in the book of Psalms.  Using song, David poured out his heart before the Lord and these words were later sung by our Lord Jesus and His disciples in worship.  Psalm 98:4-5 tells us:  "4Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. 6With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King."  Then in Psalm 100:1-2, the author tells us:  " Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve t
he Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing."  Whether we are gifted singers or can only make a joyful noise unto the Lord, He is well pleased when we lift our voices to Him in praise.
     In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of admonition to believers:  "19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."  I love the phrase..."making melody with your heart to the Lord".  This should be our goal daily.  If our heart is filled with thankfulness to God and praise, we will not dwell on our circumstances.  Our lives may be filled with change but our God is the same yesterday, today and forever!  Acknowledging Him with our lips in song is like a fragrant offering to our God.
     Once again, in his letter to the Colossians (3:16), Paul encourages believers to sing:  "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."  When we meditate on the Psalms, we are singing God's Word back to Him, and we are also letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.  Think about it with me for a moment.  How did many of us learn the alphabet, or other basic pieces of knowledge?  We often learned by repetition and song.  So what are the benefits of making melody to the Lord?
     First, if we are feeling sad, we can brighten our spirits by singing to God.  At first it is an effort, but as we go along, our hearts are lifted out of despair.  Secondly, we are able to learn God's Word as we sing them to the Lord.  Third, singing praises to God encourages others around us as well.  It lifts the atmosphere in a home, and blesses others in worship.  Finally, singing to the Lord helps us focus on Him as we go about our work.  This is a "win - win" situation.
     Joining the choir several years ago, has been a rich blessing for me as I get to sing the songs of praise to God in worship.  Still, our songs should not be confined to church only.  We have so much to  praise and thank God for that we can never offer up a Psalm, hymn, or spiritual music enough times.  Remember that it is more important to sing from the heart in faith than to hit all the right notes.  Let us bless the Lord by making music each day!  Selah!

Monday, April 17, 2017

In the Afterglow

     Following Easter or any major holiday, there is always a let down of sorts.  The house needs to be cleaned if we had company, leftovers need to be put away and we resume our normal activities.  However, Easter is different.  For believers, this time of celebration should not be a one day event.  In fact, we need to live each day in the joy of Christ's resurrection.
     Yesterday both our choir and our Pastor gave a message based on the first letter of Peter verses 3-9:  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."  What beautiful words of hope that should make us rejoice each day as we go about our daily work.  Because of the resurrection, we also have that hope to carry us through the hard places in this life.  Likewise, we know that we, too, shall rise to new life in Christ as believers.
     If we break down these declarations made by Peter, we can see why a Christian should live in daily hope and joy.  First, our living hope means that we shall have eternal life in the presence of the Lord.  Our destination was purchased by the blood of Christ and His resurrection sealed for us an inheritance that as Peter describes is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.  No one can take this from us when we belong to Jesus Christ.
     Secondly, the Holy Spirit that comes to dwell within us at salvation confirms to us that we belong to Him.  He seals us that we may never lose that which God has graciously provided for us in Christ. Likewise the Spirit leads us into all truth and keeps alive the hope we have in our Lord.  Romans 15:13 reads:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."  It is the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that keeps our hearts and minds at rest in Christ even in the middle of the pain and trials of life.  Having lost a number of my loved ones, I have proven this true.  It was the Holy Spirit that kept my hope alive because I knew I would see them and be with them again.  Without Christ, I cannot imagine how I could have gone on.
     In addition, this living hope defends the believer against the attacks of Satan who always tries to remind us of our shortcomings and inflict us with guilt.  However, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is all the defense that we need.  We are set free from sin and guilt.  Therefore, we need only to quote Scripture when the enemy comes around our door and remind him that he is a defeated foe.  This is why it is so important to know and cling to Scripture.  It is our weapon that is sharper than any two edged sword.  Dear friends, we have the power of Jesus Christ living within us as believers.  We belong to the only One who has overcome the world.
     Indeed, this life brings with it troubles and persecution, but Peter wrote this that we may see beyond our circumstances which are only momentary.  Our eternal reward and inheritance are far greater than what we are going through here on earth.  Peter acknowledges that we experience grief here but he encourages us to rejoice for Christ will come again as He said.  The linchpin to all of this is the resurrection of our Savior.  If death could not hold Him, then He is able to keep our inheritance, and give to us a living hope day by day.  There is no need to live life in a hopeless state of mind.
     When Peter talks about our trials, there are several things he means in this passage that we need to remember.  According to the MacArthur Study Bible (footnote on verse 1:6, pg. 1889), Dr. MacArthur writes:  "...trouble does not last ('little while') 2. trouble serves a purpose ('if necessary'); 3. trouble brings turmoil ('grieved'); 4. trouble comes in various forms ('trials') and 5. trouble should not diminish the Christian's joy ('peace').  We need to remember this each day.
     Fixing our eyes on Jesus keeps us from the heartaches that come to all men.  We have a living hope because we have a risen Savior.  Therefore, we need to live each day like it is Easter...because it is.  The Apostle Peter said it well in his second letter verse 3A:  "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to His own glory and excellence...."  Because He lives, we also live and have a hope that nothing can steal from us.  Selah!