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Intentionally Removing the Bitter Root

Inch Plant Bloom“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” -Hebrews 12:15

We have an interesting plant in our yard. It’s called an Inch Plant. The flowers on this plant are a pretty shade of pink. The rest of the plant is a purplish, kind of leafy vine. It’s trying to take over the yard.

My husband has learned that if he trims the plant, he can take the trimmings and plant them in other parts of the yard where they’ll produce new plants. If he doesn’t pick up the trimmings and do something intentional with them, though, they will take root where they fall. And if he never trims the plant, it really will take over the yard—perhaps the whole neighborhood—and fast!

Bitterness is like that Inch Plant. When someone hurts us, we may choose to forgive—and even mean it. But memories tend to linger like the plant trimmings. If we don’t do something intentional with them, we may find ourselves dwelling on the memory, then on the pain. Just like that, bitterness can take root in our minds and hearts again.

Inch PlantTo be intentional, we need to take hold of the memory as soon as it forms. We need to remember that we chose to forgive and reaffirm that decision. Then we need to take the memory to God. Forgiving doesn’t mean that justice won’t be done. It means we choose to trust God’s method of handling the matter—without our action or input. We remove ourselves from the judgment seat—and even from the witness bench.

Then, instead of demanding justice or dwelling on how we were wronged, we can talk to God about how we felt when we were hurt and tell Him about whatever feelings returned with the memory. We can tell Him that we choose to forgive yet again—just as He’s forgiven us. We can ask Him to heal our hearts and take away the pain. We reaffirm our faith in God’s care and go on our way full of His peace.

Interestingly enough, God’s peace can grow and spread just like bitterness can. We can (and probably will) pass either along to the people around us, too. Rehashing a bitter memory may tempt us sometimes, but peace is a healthier option to let take root in our hearts and minds.

Father, remind me to treat bitterness like a weed and root it out whenever it appears. I choose to forgive those who’ve hurt me. I trust You to work in their lives—just as I know You are working in mine. Help me to surrender painful memories to You to cultivate Your peace in my life. Amen.

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Progressing through Hurt with Hope

Progressing

“Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.” -Deuteronomy 26:7

I like Deuteronomy 26. It shows a common progression through life – something we all experience, yet all in different ways. It also reveals the hope that comes from trusting God through it all.

As we travel through life, we all experience times of “misery, toil and oppression.” The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. Most of us experience different kinds of troubles, trials, and pain. If we’re wise, though, we cry out to God through these times, knowing He will hear our voices and deliver us at just the right time. He did this for the Israelites – then He did it for them again and again. He has done it for His people throughout history. He has also rescued you and me from one thing or another all through our lives. Ultimately, He’ll come a final time to take us home to heaven where all suffering will go away for good. This recurrence of pain on earth will end.

Back to life’s progression. 1) We experience some kind of suffering. 2) We cry out to God. 3) He rescues us – in His time . . . at just the right time. 4) “Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household” -Deuteronomy 26:11. We praise Him. We thank Him. We celebrate His victory on our behalf.

But that’s not all.

Verses 12 through 15 talk about living faithfully for God after He rescues us. We follow our celebration of God’s goodness and our freedom with obedience and by reaching out to others who need rescue as well. Moses told the Israelites to care for the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless, and widows. We can ask God to show us who to strengthen, encourage, and comfort in His name.

And then, (yes, there’s another then) when we least expect it while we’re still living on this earth, we’ll probably get to go through the whole process again because, as painful as it is, each time we go through it, cooperating with God’s Spirit, crying out to God, He’ll draw us closer to Him. He’ll make us more like His Son. He’ll use our experience to build new skills that we can use to minister to others more effectively. He’ll reveal His glory in and through us . . . again.

You’re probably wishing I’d have left at least the first part of that last paragraph out. Me, too. But as I struggle through a season of crying out, I’m trusting that all I’ve written there is true. Our God is in control. He sees. He hears. He uses all for good.

“You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” -Deuteronomy 26:17-19

We have declared that we will follow Jesus no matter what. God has declared that we are His treasure and He will keep His promises to us. This is what really matters whether we’re crying out, rejoicing, or serving others in His name.

I thank You, Lord, for Your continued interest in me. I know You will use every painful experience for good. In You all is redeemed. Please work in and through me as You want to for the glory of Your name. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Book Review: “The Inheritance”

The InheritanceIt’s been too long since I’ve found the time to read a Michael Phillips book. He remains one of my favorite authors, and his newest book, The Inheritance, reminded me why. This author is a master at creating memorable settings, and his characters within them are deep. Phillips takes us right inside their heads as he draws us into each carefully crafted scene. He reveals needed information at just the right time. The story moves slowly, but precisely, to reveal essential Truth.

The Inheritance is set mostly on Whales Reef, one of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. When clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch dies unexpectedly and without a will, the entire community is thrown into uncertainty. To make things worse, an obnoxious oil tycoon attempts to manipulate the situation in his favor, hoping to purchase the island, remove its inhabitants, and exploit its resources for himself. Only events set in motion more than sixty years before have the unexpected potential to save the islanders’ way of life and to restore what matters most.

As I reached the end of this book, it seemed to me that the whole thing was actually a prelude to the real story to be continued in the next book of this Secrets of the Shetlands series. I’m looking forward to reading it, hopefully soon! I recommend this book to fans of George MacDonald, Scottish historical fiction, and Christian fiction with a powerful take-away message for life. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Praying for Healing Needs

James 5-16

Yesterday morning, our pastor included a time of prayer for physical healing in the worship service. He invited people with specific concerns to come forward to be anointed and prayed for publicly. Friends and family gathered around to support them in prayer, too. As I was praying for these, I thought of friends and family far away who also need physical healing. I prayed for them, then, because physical needs are often accompanied by emotional needs, I went on to pray for people who need to be healed emotionally. Of course, this reminded me of people in need of social healing—people suffering relational wounds, attachment injuries, separation from loved ones, loneliness. These need healing, too. I was just beginning to pray for people in need of spiritual healing when prayer time ended and the service went in another direction. But I liked praying this way. That’s why I’m sharing the idea with you today.

Is this a Parachute Prayer? Not really, but it’s close. When we pray this way, we are using a prayer prompt, and perhaps, you never know, God’s Spirit will bring it to mind at some random moment, calling us into God’s Presence to pray for loved ones and acquaintances in need of healing. In that case, it would become a Parachute Prayer.

But I see this more as a tool for a time of more concentrated prayer.* We all know many people in need of different kinds of healing. Sometimes we tell them we’ll pray for them and whisper a quick prayer in the moment but forget to bring the need before the Lord in a deeper way.

I always feel sad when I realize this has happened; I try to remember. I know it’s important. But sometimes I forget. I believe this new prayer prompt can help.

Whenever we go to God with a healing need, let’s take the time to let God’s Spirit lead our thoughts to other people with similar needs. As time allows and as we exhaust one list, say our list of people who need to be healed physically, let’s move on to people who need other kinds of healing: emotional, social, spiritual, mental. There’s no need to worry about saying a lot of words about each need. We’ll just talk to God about each person’s situation, how we feel about it, what we’re hoping He’ll do for them. Then we’ll reaffirm our trust in His perfect wisdom regarding the situation and thank Him for working in and through each person’s life. He loves all the people we’re concerned about, and He’s already working faithfully for their good.

Father, we thank You for teaching us to pray and for calling us into Your Presence on behalf of people who need to be healed. Remind us to pray for them often, enjoying time with You as we do. Amen.


*To learn more about this, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available at Amazon.

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The Real Value of Bible List Verses

Fruit of the Spirit

“Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”John 6:24

I used to be a big fan of list verses. That’s my name for the Bible verses that contain lists of character traits we all want more of in our lives. For example, Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lists ways to identify love: it’s patient, it’s kind, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not rejoice in evil, it rejoices in the truth, it always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres, and it never fails. Colossians 3:12 tells us what virtues to clothe ourselves in: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In fact, verses 1-17 of that chapter are one big good stuff/bad stuff list.

All of these verses are helpful, and I am still a big fan. But over the years, there’s been a shift in my understanding of them. Now I love them for completely different reasons than I used to.

You see, I used to see them as to-do lists. I wanted to accomplish the getting of these traits into my life. My motivation was right: I wanted, and still want, to live a life that glorifies God. I thought developing these things in my life was what God wanted me to do.

The truth is, though, that I am not able to develop these things in my life. I need God to develop them in me. This is what He wants to do. God Is love, therefore His active Presence in my life produces everything on the Corinthians list. The Galatians list is called The Fruit of the Spirit for a reason; those virtues flow from Him. And even the virtues from the Colossians list come from setting our hearts on what’s above: Christ, now seated at the right hand of God. (See Colossians 3:1-4.)

The list verses have great value but not as to-do lists, things for us to generate in our lives in order to glorify God. In fact, in John 5:41, Jesus said, “I do not accept glory from human beings.” His glory comes from His work in our lives not from anything we try to do ourselves.

But when we look to Him, remain in His Presence, keep our lives rooted in His Spirit, we allow Him to work through us, producing all good things. The value of the lists comes from the way they help us recognize God’s Presence and work in our lives—or the lack of such.

The Real Value

In John 6:24, the crowds realized that Jesus wasn’t with them. They wanted what only He could offer, so they went in search of Him. We can do the same thing. When we realize that our lives aren’t as loving as they should be, that the Spirit isn’t producing fruit in us, that our spiritual clothing is becoming tattered, that’s our cue to drop everything we’re doing and seek Jesus with all our hearts. The Christian life is all about learning to be where Jesus is all of the time, so that He can continue to work in and through us for His glory and our good and the good of everyone around us. The lists, lists of things God produces, help us identify problems, so that we can know when we need to draw closer to our God.

When the crowds found Jesus, He gave them the only to-do list we need:

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” -John 6:28-29

We stick close. We believe. He makes us into people who bring Him glory.

Father, thank You for inspiring Paul and others to give us lists that help us see how closely we’re living to You. When we recognize actions and attitudes that don’t come from You, from Your Spirit, from above, help us to act on that cue to talk to You, to read Your Word, to enjoy worship and fellowship with Your people who are doing the same. More of You in our lives, Lord. That is all we need. Amen.


Do you want to learn more about drawing closer to God through prayer throughout each day? Read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Click here to learn more.

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Life Preserving God’s Way

Luke 17-33

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” -Luke 17:33

In how many ways do we try to preserve our lives?

  • Scrapbooks
  • Journals
  • Mementos
  • Strict Routines
  • Safe Choices (no risks)
  • Shrines to the Past
  • Refusals to Let Go or to Try Something New
  • On-line Friendships (the comforting illusion of never saying good-bye)

I think I must confess I tend to be a life preserver. A memory keeper. A chronicler. I love taking pictures and journaling memories. I love keeping in touch with friends far away, hearing what’s new in their lives. I’m also a big fan of predictable routines.

Is that always bad? I don’t think so. Some things are worth preserving in some form when we can. In several places in the Bible, God told His people to practice rituals or build monuments that would help them remember. He knew and still knows that memories of what He has done for His people build trust and identity. They also give God’s people the opportunity to pass the story on to the next generation so they can enjoy knowing and trusting God, too. There is a time and a purpose to save: when it reminds us of what God has done, when it reminds us of who we are, when it reminds us from where we came, when it helps us to love or to teach. Without memories, there is no identity, no attachment, no meaning.

Just before Christmas last year, I found some old e-mails I’d printed out and kept many years ago. My grandmother had told me to write down cute things the boys did and said while they were little because otherwise I’d forget. Instead I kept copies of the daily e-mail messages I was sending to my mom. (This was before Facebook, text messaging, digital photography, or camera phones; e-mail was the new, great thing, and I was so thankful for it.) I was writing the messages because we were separated by a full continent, and I wanted my parents to know their grandkids. I kept copies as a simple way of following Grandma’s advice, but I never reread them until the end of last year.

And then I laughed myself silly, wondering as I did how I survived raising kids. Mothers of littles, you are heroes! As I consider each of my grown sons, I can testify, just in case you’re tempted to doubt, it’s worth every melted M & M staining the carpet, near death of a small rodent rescued just in time from testing a homemade parachute, and Brer Rabbit superglue incident broadcast by speaker phone to a room full of strangers.

If you don’t believe I mean this, let me remind you that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a sibling group and go through it all over again (hopefully minus the stains, rodents, and superglue—I’m trusting our new additions will come up with something surprising and new just as each of our boys did in turn). Raising kids, helping them reach their potential, watching them grow and mature—always worthwhile, no matter what. I’d be willing to raise mine again, but they’re doing just fine where they are . . . and so, as God is leading, my husband and I will raise some more. (I thank you for your prayers.)

Life Preserving Gods Way

I think that’s the key here. Preserving what was and what is as it is takes energy. Jesus wants us to use that energy to follow Him instead. He doesn’t want us to preserve what we’re going to lose anyway. He wants us to live! Just as I’ve raised my kids and they are living their own lives, I must continue to live mine. Do I enjoy the occasional visit with stories and pictures and memories? Yes. But my home is not a shrine to what was. It is a place where people live, now, doing whatever their hands find to do in Jesus’ name. We need to view our churches and work within our communities in the same way.

We can’t go back into the past. We can’t take the past into the future. We have to let go. And when we do, we get to enjoy all the new adventures Jesus is leading us into—ultimately, in Heaven with Him.

In any moment, all we try to preserve may be gone forever. If that is all we have, then we’ll be left with nothing when that moment comes. But moments devoted to Jesus are preserved—by Him—for all eternity. We can trust Him to save what matters as we live every moment for Him.

Jesus, thank You for this warning. Help us to live for You now, faithfully following wherever you lead. We’re entrusting our past, present, and future to You. You are absolutely worthy. Amen.

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The Challenge and Blessing of Change

Bluebonnets

Change.

Life seems to require it.

But the pain of going through it brings blessing.

When we cooperate.

This has been on my heart these past few weeks. Twenty Sixteen is already proving to be a huge year of change!

At the moment, I’m sitting in a functional house full of boxes that need to be emptied. Yes, we’ve moved—again. This time by choice. How weird is that? We just couldn’t find peace in the house we were renting; we felt unsafe. So we moved. And we’re so glad we did!

DSC01646Yesterday, to take a break from the boxes, I tried something crafty, and it worked! I covered our front door’s windows for privacy and made them pretty in the process. (Click here to learn how.)

I also went on the season’s first flower hunt yesterday. I’m back in Texas where this passion began, but I’ve found new places to explore. I’ve made a list. I visited the first site yesterday where I found curious buds about to bloom, but not quite. Soon I must go back to see what’s hiding in those green packages.

Our God made all growing things to change.

A few years ago, my brother gave me a spice rack, hoping to encourage me to cook with something more interesting than salt. I took him up on the challenge, found at least one recipe for each spice, and blogged about my experiences in learning to cook. I went from cooking quick and easy for a family of five that included three young boys to cooking more creatively for just two. Then, by necessity, I learned to cook with less dairy, no soy, then no gluten—and sometimes, when extended family visits—without nitrates or eggs. Now, as we prepare to adopt a child or two or four, I’ll need to learn to cook for a family again. This time I’ll be looking for quick and easy without the ingredients we can no longer handle. And now I have a whole spice drawer to go with the spice rack I often refill! I think I’ll start blogging about my experiences in learning to cook all over again—again.

MysteryPlantLearning one set of successful recipes wasn’t enough. Even my cooking must change. I’m excited about the challenge.

I think I used to think that childhood was the time for change, that once a person reached adulthood, things stayed pretty much the same until death. Spouse, career, family, home. Unlike the Hobbit, I welcomed the adventure God called our family into—military ministry. But I think maybe I wanted (or expected to get) that adventure on my terms. I wanted to pick and choose my challenges. I had expectations of what I’d find in each place and how I’d deal with it and how life would respond to me.

Tolkien got it right when he wrote The Hobbit. Life is best when it’s full of adventure and challenge and change—even if that adventure, challenge, and change mean dealing with something difficult right where you are. These are the gifts God uses to help us learn to rely on Him and to mature. Sometimes He lets us choose our challenges, but even then they come with surprises. All we really have control over is how we choose to respond. We can ask God for more of His strength, courage, power, and wisdom as we handle life with thanksgiving, dignity, and grace—or we can whine, complain, get angry, and demand our cozy Hobbit hole.

That won’t do us any good, though. The neighbors have already auctioned off our stuff and leased the space to someone else. When one adventure’s over, a new one must begin. Even if we settle down, life will continue to change.

We don’t always have a choice about the changes in our lives. Illness, death, downsizing, disaster. These come upon us, and our only choice is in how we respond, what work we’ll let God do in our lives through the trouble that has come our way. But when we do have a choice, if we always make the safe choice, let security determine our path, we’ll never change and grow—and we’ll miss out on many blessings God has planted along our way.

Yellow from a DistanceWhen I went flower hunting yesterday, there was a paved path along a creek. Some flowers were close to the path, but the bluebonnets I was most excited about were scattered in a field several yards away. I’ve walked on the path before and seen all kinds of critters scamper across it—including big spiders and snakes. (Okay, the snakes don’t really scamper.) I knew these were lurking in the field between me and the flowers I wanted to photograph.

I really don’t like spiders or snakes.

In some places, the grass around the flowers was tall, giving critters great hiding places. I stayed on the path and took pictures from a distance here. In other places, though, the grass had been cut right up to where the flowers were. Walking to the flowers was still a little risky, but not so much. It was a calculated risk worth the effort with care.

As we navigate our way through this life, we can prayerfully take such calculated risks with care, as God leads, in order to change, grow, and mature—and enjoy great blessings along the way! In fact, on the walk back to my car, I saw a mother with two little girls heading straight across the field to the flowers, no hesitation, only joy. As we grow to trust our heavenly Father with whatever comes our way, we’ll find such freedom to enjoy each new adventure in our lives.

Thanks for letting me ramble on and reflect a bit today. I hope to get back into my regular writing routine within a few days—unless things change.


Are you moving this season, too? Check out my devotional for encouragement as you do: Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway.

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Thanking God for What He Gives Us to Give

Thankful Giving

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’”Matthew 26:26

A new thought occurred to me when I read this passage yesterday morning. As many times as I’ve read the story of the Last Supper and heard it read during communion celebrations at church, I’m surprised—and thrilled—to have a new concept to consider. For me, it has come at just the right time. (Our God tends to work that way.) My husband and I are fairly new empty-nesters, entering what some generational researchers are starting to call our second adulthood. It’s a tempting time, a time when people are tempted to say, “We’re done! Let’s go play for the rest of our lives.” But we’ve still got a lot of life left in us—at least we still feel like we do—most days. We’re asking God how He wants us to spend this next phase of our life and thanking Him for every opportunity to serve.

This is how Jesus taught His followers to live. His actions at the Last Supper are the prime example for all of us.

Matthew 26:26 tells us that Jesus took the bread and gave thanks. I’ve always pictured this as Him saying grace before the meal, thanking God for the food as many of us do. But what I noticed yesterday was that, in this instance, Jesus didn’t give thanks for what He was about to receive, like we do at meals. He wasn’t simply and routinely thanking God for food that He was getting ready to ingest. Look more closely here. He gave thanks for what was already His, for what He was able and preparing to give—His life for us. Jesus gave thanks—then He gave.

Jesus gave thanks for the bread that represented His body which He gave away. He gave thanks not for what He had to keep for Himself but for what God had given Him to give away— to save everyone else.

It occurs to me that if we want to be more like Jesus, we have to realize that life isn’t about collecting and keeping and giving thanks for what we claim as ours. It’s about thanking God for the resources He provides that enable us to participate in His plan to provide for others wherever we see a need: our money, our time, our strength, our ideas, anything we think we possess. We trust God to care for us; we use His gifts to care for others in His name. And we celebrate the blessing of being able to do so. We give God our thanks.

First Peter 4:10 says it this way: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

What gifts has God given you that you can thank Him for and give away in Jesus’ name? Ask Him for what purpose He has graciously placed various resources in your care. Ask Him to help you use them to meet needs, and thank Him for every opportunity you seize.

Father, thank You for all of the resources You’ve entrusted to our care. Show us how to share them for the benefit of others, for the health of Your Kingdom now. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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Living Together in Unity

Psalm 133-1

It was like a Beatrix Potter story come true in our own back yard!

Two squirrels were fighting high up in our tree. My son turned to look just as one threw the other to the ground. The victim landed on his back and stayed there, stunned. As Seth was thinking about going to check on the squirrel, the neighborhood cat, who likes to hang out in our yard, beat him to it. The squirrel came to his senses just in time, jumped up, let out a screech of horror, and raced back up the tree.

I’m sure the brother squirrel apologized. The mother squirrel scolded. And everyone drank some chamomile tea.

Because the little squirrels couldn’t get along with each other, they left one of their number vulnerable to another threat. Thankfully, the drama in our backyard had a happy ending—for everyone except the cat.

Sometimes Christians struggle to get along, too. We’re still human after all. There are just so many different ways to not see eye to eye!

Yes. It’s challenging. But when we don’t make the effort to live in unity, we leave each other vulnerable to an even bigger threat:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8

Not to mention the damage our disagreements do to our testimony.

It’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity. It’s dangerous to all, though, when they don’t. Let’s learn a lesson from the squirrels: be thankful for our shared refuge (for us, in Christ, rather than in a tree)—and stock up on calming, chamomile tea!

Father, thank You for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, for adopting us all into Your family. Though it’s sometimes hard to get along, help each of us with this. Please give us patience with each other and the ability (and desire) to forgive quickly. Show us the bigger picture: we’re vulnerable to Satan’s trickery whenever we fight. Give us a Spirit of unity to stand together in You, come what may, for the glory of Your Kingdom and the good of all humankind. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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The Mysterious Aroma of Christ

“For we are the aroma of Christ among those who are saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” –2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Pansies

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why anyone would ever turn Jesus down. When I think of Jesus, I think of love, friendship, grace, mercy, peace, joy, hope, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, freedom—and the list goes on and on and on. Jesus defines all that is beautiful and glorious and happy. Why would anyone turn that down? I wrote the question in my journal and have been talking it over with God ever since.

I think, I think, I’m catching on.

R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, helped me start to understand. In this book, Sproul refers to Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6 and Peter’s encounter with Jesus in Luke 5. When Isaiah met God, he said, “Woe to me! . . . “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (v. 5).  Seeing Jesus in action, Peter said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8). The two men were experiencing something that frightens people away from God. In fact, they were experiencing God, and they wanted to draw away, not because of God but because of what He revealed in them.

As people go about their daily routines, minding their own business, their sin blends into the world’s sin and seems to disappear. All feels right; it’s comfortable. In God’s Presence, however, sin becomes painfully obvious. People feel ruined, full of shame, and eager to hide. They want the relief that comes only through God’s grace, yet often react by telling Jesus to go away.

We see this happening in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus visited the region of Gerasenes, he was met by a demon-possessed man who lived in the town graveyard. No one could subdue this man, so he hung around among the tombs. Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs, setting the man free.

You’d think the townspeople would have been thankful. Instead, they told Jesus to go away. I kind of wonder if maybe, perhaps, on some level, the people sorta liked their demon-crazed mascot. Compared to him, they looked pretty good—whatever they did. All sin in their town seemed to be in the graveyard where it belonged until Jesus sent the demons away. Suddenly, the people were in the Presence of Holy Perfection—and they felt uncomfortable. They told Jesus to go away.

If Christ dwells in us, if we are forgiven and living under His grace, it doesn’t matter how much love, friendship, grace, mercy, peace, joy, hope, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, and freedom we offer to the perishing. People will smell death when we’re around. They will watch for and point out and sometimes even invent failures in us to make themselves feel better about themselves (which is one reason why we must confess our sins and ask forgiveness instead of covering things up). Sometimes, unsaved loved ones may even tell us to just go away

No wonder Paul asked, “And who is equal to such a task?” How do we offer life when people smell death? How do we lead them to Christ when He repulses them because of their sin?

We can’t, of course. But God’s Spirit can. And so we live for Jesus, no matter how the world treats us and we pray continually* (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Lord, people don’t like being in Your Presence when there’s sin in their life. And Your Spirit dwells in us! Please help those we encounter to recognize their need in spite of their fear. Draw them to You when their instinct is to run away. This is something only You can do. Thankfully, it’s the longing of Your heart as well (Luke 13:34-35). In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


*Praying continually is the theme of my book, Parachute Prayer. To learn more about training yourself in this discipline, click here.