My Not-So-Sweet Fragrance
Enjoying a peaceful cruise on the way home from work one evening, a car fast approached in my rearview mirror. Beginning to ride my bumper, I debated whether I had time to move into the right lane to allow him to pass before I needed to make my left hand turn off the highway. Turn approaching within a quarter mile, I stayed put. After all, I was going seven miles over the speed limit. And I was about to turn. What could he be mad about?
Continuing to ride my bumper, the driver swerved into the right lane, flashed his middle finger as he passed, then proceeded to cut me off and tap his brakes. “How dare he?” I thought.
Instead of heeding my mom’s advice to let unpleasant encounters slide off me like water on a duck’s back, my blood boiled. I hit the gas.
Making the same left hand turn, we spent the next five miles aggressively trying to pass each other, bumper riding, brake checking and sharing an assortment of coarse language. On the curvy country road, it’s a miracle we didn’t cause an accident.
I couldn’t shake the feeling of rage even after I arrived home. “He started it!” I thought as I attempted to justify my actions.
Walking around my now parked car to head inside, a glimmer caught my eye. Staring back at me was my gold Christian fish decal that I proudly portrayed on my lower left bumper. My heart sunk.
The Apostle Paul states,
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV)
How often I miss the mark. Not only is my fragrance at times less than delightful and “not so sweet,” sometimes it is downright awful. As Christ’s ambassadors, everything we do and say is a representation of Him, and our actions, whether good or bad, will be associated with Him. What a sobering thought.
I suspect nothing pains God’s heart more than to see His followers representing Him poorly to a world yearning for the unconditional love and redemption available only through Him. In talking with those who have rejected Christ or turned from their faith, many times the reason is, “because Christians are…” Judgmental. Selfish. Hateful. Uncaring. The list goes on. What they have observed in some followers of Christ left a bad taste in their mouths.
While accepting Christ does not automatically make us perfect and without fault, when we daily remind ourselves that we are called to be representatives of Christ and commit our actions, words and attitudes to Him, our mindset shifts. Instead of showing impatience with the elderly woman taking forever in the grocery checkout line, we show compassion. Instead of participating in gossip in the workplace, we speak words of encouragement. Instead of engaging in road rage as I humbly admit I did, we show love and repay evil with good.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV)
While I often fail, I thank God that His mercies are new every day and trust the Holy Spirit’s good work in me.
As my mom told me every day before I departed for school, “Don’t forget who you ARE, WHAT you’re about and WHO you represent.” We have the privilege of spreading the fragrance of Christ. Let us strive to be a sweet-smelling fragrance that will draw people to our Lord and Savior.
Nehemiah 10:28-29 28“The rest of the people–priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand– 29all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.
After the people had confessed their sins and repented, they took the difficult step of making things right with God. Then they went one step further. They took an oath. They realized how easily they slid back into the ways that destroyed the nation before, so they took an oath binding themselves with a curse if they broke it. The oath begins with the very things they had been most likely to compromise, marrying heathen wives, trading on the Sabbath, and not keeping the seventh-year release of debts and rest for the land.
We know the areas in our lives where we are most likely to compromise. It is usually in the same areas that Israel had problems, sex and money. They got serious about their weaknesses. They pledged together that if any of them went down that road again they would be justly cursed. How serious are you about sin in your life? Is it enough to make it very costly to do so? They took the curse quite seriously. They had seen the pain and devastation that sin caused and said, “If we go there, we deserve what we reap.” Have you observed the price of sin in your life? Have you really tallied up the cost of rebellion against the Holy Spirit? I’m not suggesting you take an oath unless you are led to do so, but I am suggesting you deal with your fleshly tendencies to go back down that road of compromise.
Most of the rest of the oath had to do with financial obligations to the temple and the commitment to keep the worship ministry alive and well. We have the same obligations in a spiritual sense. The temple is the family of God. Are we loving the body of Christ, or ignoring one another’s needs? Are our gatherings for worship as He commanded, “worship in spirit and in truth”?
Consider: Once you repent of sin and make restitution, go the next step. Ask the Lord to show you a deterrent to keep you from going down that road again.
I Want Answers Now
by Laura MacCorkle, crosswalk.com
In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9, NIV
Living in the Information Age, we’re so used to getting what we want as soon as we want it.
We’re becoming more and more accustomed to not having to wait for anything, as instant gratification is the norm in many areas of our lives.
- A gourmet, meat-and-three meal ready in less than three minutes from the microwave. Check.
- Instant text messages sent directly to our handheld communication devices. Check.
- Mobile phone reception and extensive coverage wherever we may travel. Check.
- Wireless Internet access so we can log on whenever and wherever we want. Check.
- A new group of “friends” in an online social network who we don’t have to spend face-time with in order to call friends. Check.
Can you relate? God forbid that we should ever have to wait on something, because that’s when the real whining and the complaining kick in. I should know.
I’ve been struggling with an ongoing life situation that has got me journaling and praying and reading and discussing up a storm. I don’t understand what God is doing, and I want answers and a flowchart of how this will all be worked out. Right now.
I want to plan my course and make something happen—move the situation along, if I can, and get the results that I think should be had and on my time schedule.
Not long after I have a mental outburst such as this, I am immediately convicted. And I know that this is not the right way to respond. How must God interpret this type of thinking? Does he lovingly shake his head and murmur, “Oh, sweet child. Someday she’ll learn.” Or perhaps I disappoint him because I cannot trust in him without struggling with my desire to first know all the steps he’s planning for me to get from Point A to Point Z.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another;
They will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
After reading this passage, I was reminded that it doesn’t matter that I understand what is going on in the world. It doesn’t matter that I can’t control what is or isn’t happening. What matters is that I know and profess that God is great, and that he is good. Period.
Why even struggle with trying to understand the ways of a sovereign God? He alone is worthy of our praise and adoration. Why not just immediately respond with celebration for who he is? Why not just surrender and rest in him? For his answers for our lives are never late and always arrive at just the right time.