Friday, August 30, 2013

Temptations vs Trials

Two words that pop up frequently, throughout scripture, are trials and temptations.   The Greek word for trials, “peirasmos”, which means that which breaks the pattern of tranquility or happiness, and occurs frequently in biblical Greek, has been  incorrectly  translated in the King James Version, as temptations.  Although they may seem similar, a temptation is far different from a trial.  Temptation is actually a “solicitation to do evil“, while trial refers to the difficulties God allows in our lives for the proving and strengthening of our faith.

 We know that God would never tempt us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” James 1:13. Temptation comes only from our adversary, the devil, as he beckons us, in delightful ways, to partake in some earthly pleasure.  His plan is to avert our spiritual eyes from that which pleases God, in hopes that we will become ensnared in his web of evil.  Don’t think you are immune to temptation, whether you are a Christian or not, this solicitation, like the old Publisher’s Clearing House letter, will arrive at your door, sooner or later.  Jesus knew that and addressed it in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead me not into temptation”.  God would never lead us into sin, but he also doesn’t want us to be duped into believing the enemy’s alluring lie.

Trials are for the testing of faith and can come in the form of disappointments, frustrations, misunderstandings, unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, great loss, loneliness, fear, criticism, persecution, and conflict. If you consistently persevere through trials and never abandon your trust in God, then you prove to have genuine faith. Do we have to like trials? Of course not, they are sort of like exercise, we’re glad when it’s over, but feel stronger, even victorious because of the exertion expended.  When a false or weak Christian goes through a test, it will inevitably reveal his true colors. When a true believer goes through a test, he will be driven to prayer, leaning on the strength of God rather than his own weakness. Trials burn up imitation faith but strengthen true faith. They may cause pain in confronting us with our weaknesses, but they have the good result of causing us to turn from ourselves to the infinite strength of God.

Two things are true about temptations and trials. 1.” No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 and 2. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4. So, to sum this up, don’t ever say God is tempting you, that is not possible, but He will send trials.  The way we respond to both is what matures us, or destroys as believers. Be prepared and equipped, both are coming your way.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Lion of Judah

I really enjoy studying the Old Testament, and seeing how it foreshadows the coming of Christ.  As usual, God has a way of mixing up the orderliness that we, as mere humans, so dearly love.  For example, why did Jesus trace his lineage to the tribe of Judah?  If you remember your OT, Judah was the 3rd of Jacob’s 12 sons, the others being; Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin.  Normally we think of the oldest son inheriting his father’s blessing and a major portion, if not all, of his estate, but not in this case. As you read through the scriptures, you’ll find incident after incident where God changed this “law” of primogeniture to suit his future purposes. For example, Jacob himself had stolen his older brother, Esau’s birthright; Isaac trumped Ishmael, and David, the soon to be king, beat out all his brothers.

 “Why mess with the law?”, you might well ask, and here’s why.  God looks on the heart of a man or woman, not on outward appearances or birth order.  Judah’s older siblings were told, by Jacob, why they were skipped over.  Rueben for a sexual sin, and Simeon and Levi because of their violent natures.  Next in line was Judah, and he was to become God’s chosen man.  Maybe part of it was because he had earlier spared Joseph’s life by selling him into slavery rather than killing him, but I’m sure Jacob had prayed fervently about it before making such a decision.  “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” Genesis 49:8-10.

Now don’t get the impression that Judah lived an exemplary life, far from it.  He married a non-Jewish woman, had three unruly sons, and allowed pagan worship to enter his home.  Not exactly what I would call godly behavior, especially for the “Lion of Judah” the chosen son.  So, how did this all work out? I won’t spoil the whole racy story, be sure to read it for yourself in Genesis 38. Suffice it to say, that in spite of the poor, personal choices Judah made, God continued to steer this designated vessel into His safe harbor. Those other folks, listed in the ancestry of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16), were far from perfect individuals either, but they had one thing in common, a heart that ultimately turned and honored God.  All of us, who have been born anew, through a personal belief in Christ, are counted in His bloodline,as well.  Sure, we’re bound to make our share of mistakes, but even still, we’ll all be sharing in the Judah Family Reunion one day soon! Break out the Lion t-shirts!!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For Your Good

"Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13. I’ve read this passage many times before, but recently I heard someone read it, and the last part jumped out at me….”for your good.”

 How many times do you remember your parents saying to you, “this is for your own good”? Whether it was a punishment, a terrible tasting medicine, music lessons, or a task that that you weren’t eager to accomplish, that phrase never had a pleasant ring attached to it. But let’s take a step back and see this from God’s perspective.  He has clearly told us what he expects from us, in terms of behavior,  none of which is too difficult, and we know he means it all for good, so what gives?  As I see it, problems arise, for most people, not so much in the actions themselves, but rather in being told to by a higher authority to do them.

Why is it that we balk when it comes to obediently doing what we’re told, especially when we know that they’re for our good? Way back at the get go, Adam and Eve were the first to inaugurate human disobedience.  They had everything they could possibly want, and God had explained the rules, so why oh why did they mess it up for all of us? Obviously God gave us the desire to question and break away from what is good for us, have you been around a 2 year old lately? Unlike a toddler, who doesn’t understand what is for his own good, and needs to be reminded, we have experience and knowledge, and still go astray. For example, most people would agree that seatbelt use is for our own safety, but because the law states that we must put them on, many won’t, only for that reason.  

God requires us to walk in His ways, not to curtail our enjoyment of life, in fact just the opposite.  He wants us to experience the fullness that accompanies obedience.  When rebellion starts to rear its ugly head, and it will, ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize it for what it is, a dangerous detour from God’s protection.  Each day as you walk out into a world of perils, be  sure to buckle up His safety belt of obedience….it’s for your good!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Method in God's "Madness"

“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:1. This, tsunami of persecution, started on the very day that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death.  None of this sounds like good news for the fledgling church.  In fact,  blows like this could have easily put the kibosh on a humanly conceived organization; but this was no ordinary group.  God, in his usual, beyond our understanding way, used this horrific event as a springboard for his supernatural plans.

 Let’s analyze this verse a bit closer to see God’s method in his madness.  First of all, the death of Stephen.  How can a death be beneficial? The Book of Acts tells us that Stephen was a quiet man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit.  When an situation arose in the early church, over who would be involved in the daily distribution of food, this godly man and 6 others were chosen to be in charge. Not exactly a high profile ministry, but one that needed to be done.  He wasn’t a front man like Peter, just a humble, loving follower of his beloved Savior, “who was full of grace, power and did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Acts 6:8.  When jealous members of the “religious” Sanhedrin, trumped up bogus charges against this gentle man, he was arrested and brought before the high and mighty gathering.  A phenomenal thing happened as they rudely interrogated him. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like that of an angel”. Acts 6:15.

 Following this, transfiguration of sorts, Stephen, speaking under the unction of the Holy Spirit, boldly, confidently gave a full account of God’s plan for salvation beginning from the days of Abraham until the death, resurrection and  ascension of Christ. He finished strong with these words, “ You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!  You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!  Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?  They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him - you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”  This impassioned speech caused the listeners to become furious, gnash their teeth and put him to death.  But, God performed a mighty work through Stephen, that day.  Even as he lay dying these his final words must have hit home; “ Lord Jesus receive my spirit and don’t hold this sin against them.“ Who knows how many were convicted that day, but I‘m guessing quite a few.

Secondly, the dispersion of all the believers.  How can that be construed as a positive move?  Well, if things had been comfy and cushy for the church, there would have been no urgency to leave the friendly confines of Jerusalem.  It was at this “low” point, as we humanly see it, that God used the opportunity to send the Gospel message out to the ends of the earth. In our own lives, if we allow God to do his thing, even the most devastating circumstances can become our greatest blessings.

 Recently a dear friend shared, with our Bible study group, how devastated she felt when her husband had lost his job years ago.  As she told a woman she knew, the lady didn’t coddle or empathize with her, instead she said, “This might be the best thing that ever happened to you.” Of course that’s not what my friend wanted to hear, and it made her angry.  But, because of this terrible loss, her husband went on to start his own business, which flourished financially over the years.  If he had stayed in the security of his old job, he never would have achieved this goal.  It’s never easy to face personal or financial loss, it hurts, but if we faithfully look beyond the immediate, and ask God to implement his perfect, supernaturally-charged plan,  he will.  Believe it, Stephen did!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gimmee a Pill!

I’m doing a happy dance today!  Late last year I found out that my cholesterol was 300, and my doctor wanted me to begin taking a statin drug to lower that big number.  Let me preface this by saying that I am not one who takes pills without seriously checking them out. In this case, I knew that a major part of the responsibility was mine. I’d lapsed into eating a fatty diet, and wasn’t doing enough aerobic exercise. So, before I started taking a drug, I convinced the doctor to give me another 6 months to alter my diet and exercise.

A nasty bout of stomach flu in January, jump-started my lifestyle change, and from that point on I diligently began eliminating high fat foods, adding fresh fruits, vegetables, and flax to my diet along with more work out time. The trial period was up last week, and I it was time to see if my hard work had accomplished anything.  When the labs came back, I would have been thrilled with a 25 point drop, but instead it went down 52 points…hence the happy dance. My husband tried to burst my bubble by telling me that 248 was still higher than his 230, and it is,  I know I have more work to do, but I’m satisfied  knowing that it can be done, without pills, and I‘m eager to continue.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-pharmaceuticals. I don’t have any problem taking synthroid. Since my thyroid is gone, I have no choice, but I also knew, that if I only took a pill, the number would come down, but my eating and exercise habits would stay the same. We all love a quick-fix, and pills are great for that, but I was convinced that to be truly healthy, changes had to be implemented by me alone.

When I look at the church, I see a similar scenario. Lots of folks want the benefits and “fire insurance” that the church offers, but they don’t really want to leave their old lifestyles behind. So they “join” a church, preferably one with relaxed rules, and a watered down gospel, but even if it doesn’t, they continue in the same old, unhealthy, sinful lifestyle, ignorantly thinking that because they are card-carrying church members, everything is hunky dory! Just like taking a pill, their spiritual condition is masked, but the cause is ignored.

There’s no way we can call ourselves Christians, and persist in doing what is in opposition to God.  God’s grace is not a pill we take to ward off evil, but begins with a lifestyle change, we must make individually, that brings us into true bodily and spiritual health.   Anything else is like putting a band aid on a cancer.  I’m not recommending you quit taking your earthly medications, but be sure you are also doing all you can to improve your health.  In the same way, obediently follow Dr. God’s plan for eternal life, and you‘ll be happy, pill-free happy dancing too! “Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live!” Isaiah 38:16.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Salvation Story

I’ve talked a lot about having a personal salvation story/testimony, and today I want to share mine with you.  I was born into a “Christian” home.  My father had been somewhat Catholic, and my Mom a spiritual seeker.  Eventually they settled on a name-brand church, in which they had us kids "baptized", and began involving themselves in “ministries“; singing in the choir, working at church functions, and ushering on Sunday mornings. All noble, good things, but I vividly recall my Mom saying, “There has to be more.”   For me, as a kid, the statement was ludicrous, who would want more of that boring stuff?

 Through high school and college I would tell you I was a Christian, if you asked, after all I  didn’t not believe in God, but I rarely attended church.  I would liken my belief in a supreme being to knowing, at the time, that Richard Nixon was president.  While I had the facts correct, and could answer some basis questions about the man, I’d never met him in person, shared a meal or had any kind of personal relationship with him. The arrangement was working fine for me.  What I didn’t know about God, and Richard Nixon didn’t bother me in the least.  I was obliviously content with my spiritual status.

A few years later, my Dad was transferred to southern Illinois from Staten Island, NY.  I was in my last year of college, so the change, while drastic, didn’t effect me much, until I graduated and came home.  Somewhere in the interim, my parents had gone off the spiritual deep end.  My mother’s deep desire to find “something more“, accompanied by some issues they were dealing with, with my younger sister, led them to come in contact with a pastor of a small church.  One of the first things he asked them was, “Have you accepted Christ as your savior?”  His question touched that empty void, and eventually led  them both to salvation and baptism.  Coming home, and finding my parents reading the Bible and going to church all the time, was unsettling to say the least.  In an effort to evangelize, they would ask me to attend services with them.  “No Way!!” was my pat answer.  It was bad enough that they were religious fanatics, but to try and drag me in was too much.

A funny thing happened as the months went by.  I had begun taking guitar lessons, and was enjoying it immensely. The young pastor happened to be at our house one day, and started asking me about my instrument.  He was a nice guy, and didn’t push religion on me.  After a few weeks he asked me if I’d like to sing a song at a revival service at the church.  To this day, I don’t know why I accepted.  I only knew 2 chords, a couple of tunes and singing in front of a group normally would have terrified me. The worldly me was preoccupied with what to wear, not about stage fright, or worse yet, having to sit through the service.  I had selected a Joan Baez-ish Indian print granny skirt with coordinating top, and was pumped when I set foot “on Stage”.  I sang "We Are One in the Spirit", the only churchy tune I knew, with just 2 chords, and it was a big hit.  The congregation applauded and Amen-ed as I exited to my pew, full of excitement.

But now I was trapped.  For an hour I listened as I heard the good news proclaimed like never before, for what it was, Good News!!  At the end, the pastor gave an invitation, to all those who had not accepted Christ as their savior, to come forward.  I didn’t think that was me, but there was that tiny annoying bit of doubt.  As the weeks went on, I found myself hungry to know more about this relationship/salvation thing. After-all, was I or wasn't I saved, I'd been baptized as a child, didn't that count?  The pastor even began a weekly Bible study for me and my sisters; I was hooked.  That nagging doubt, grew into the certain knowledge that I was living outside of God’s will.

It didn’t happen immediately, but over time, and with scriptural guidance from that pastor, I became acutely aware of my need to be “saved”, in other words, I came under conviction. One evening after Bible study, I casually asked the preacher if he had any time to baptize me.  Thinking he would schedule it for a later date, he shocked me by saying, “We have water, why hesitate.”  My parents, who must have been praying for me all this time, drove over to the church, and without hesitation I repented, and gave my life to Christ, burying the old Donna in the waters of that baptistery.  What has ensued over these 40+ years has been  wonderful, difficult, maturing and always amazing.  Have I ever regretted my choice?  No Way!!  While God continues to equip, remind, and even reprimand, me over the years, the joy that I have found in him has only grown fuller.  I hope there will be many chapters left in my continuing earthly saga, until He writes, "The End", but Chapter One: "My Salvation Story", is dearest to my heart.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Coming to the End of One's Self

On a recent road trip, I noticed this frayed rope end.  The was sun highlighting the many loose fibers, and it brought to mind something my Mom always says, “That person has not come to the end of themselves, yet.”  What she meant was, that like an unraveling rope, every human being reaches a point, in their lives, where they are helpless, coming apart, with no place to go.  Maybe the situation is caused by a financial problem, a relationship in peril, a health issue, or just an empty space in ones soul,  that has them coming apart.  Whatever the problem is, it seems to be unsolvable, and it is, with only our human resources and strength.  At that point, which we will now refer to as “the end of one’s self“, an individual has to make a life-changing decision; do you continue trying to stop the fraying on your own, knowing that all previous attempts have proved futile, or out of desperation, do you call out to God for his assistance?

I like to think of God, sitting in his enormous Lazy-Boy, reading the paper, waiting for us to arrive at just that place. When we finally acknowledge our helplessness, and give him the “call”, he gets up and loving pulls us out of the mess we’ve created. It’s not pretty to watch the process of one coming to the end of themselves, but in one way or another, we’ve all had to do it.  Maybe you’re still in the struggle, maybe it’s your child, friend or other loved one, who it is doesn’t matter, but the solution always remains the same; God’s grace.  

Read Psalm 38, and see how David wisely sought God when he reached his end.  “For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. Many have become my enemies without cause ; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me, though I seek only to do what is good. Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.”  When you’re at your end, call out, and let His love change you from frayed to “un-frayed“!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Joyfully Proclaiming

At a recent Sunday service, the pastor used as his text, the story in Luke of the Gerasene Demoniac.  If you recall, just prior to crossing the Sea of Galilee, and arriving on the shores of the Gerasene region, Jesus had told his disciples, “…“Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Luke 8: 22.  Hold on to that snippet of a verse, I’ll come back to it.

During the crossing, a fierce storm blew in, and Jesus, who was napping, had to be awakened.  It was pretty obvious that some force wanted to keep Jesus from arriving at his destination. But, he got up, spoke to the storm, and it immediately calmed down, allowing them to continue safely. “ As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in a cemetery outside the town.” Luke 8:27.  From all accounts, this guy had been off his meds for quite some time.  Chains couldn’t hold him, people were terrified of him, and he did bodily harm to himself.  In other words, he didn’t do much for the property values in the area.  This man, was completely under the control of not one, but many demons.  Interestingly, the demons knew who Jesus was right away, and begged him to leave them alone.  Of course, that was not God’s plan for this poor, captive fellow, so the demons asked to be sent into a huge herd of pigs.

 Long story short, into the swine they went, and ran of a steep hill, drowning in the lake below. The herdsman ran into town spreading the word of what had just happened.  Instead of being amazed at the miraculous change in the man, who was now fully clothed and in his right mind, they told Jesus to get outta Dodge, fast.  The man himself begged to follow Jesus, but Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.” Luke 8:38-39.  Nothing more is written of how the ex-Demoniac’s testimony effected the townspeople, but he was changed and spiritually on-fire,  telling everyone about his salvation story. This is the same command that Jesus gives to all of us, to tell our story of how his love has set us free from the shackles of sin.  No one is going to be won over by reciting dusty doctrine and spouting religious rules, instead people want to see how Jesus has made a difference in your life.

 Do you have a story?  If not, have you truly come into relationship with Jesus?  Your story is “His”tory.  Pull out that small verse I told you to remember.  “…“Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” It seems that Jesus went to all that work, just to free one sin-possessed individual, because they left the area right afterwards.  Keep in mind, that you, and your personal salvation is so important, that Jesus would have gone to the cross for you alone. So, get out there and joyfully proclaim the great things God has done, and is doing for you!!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Holy Spirit Speak

“…do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:19-20.  When Jesus spoke these words, to his disciples, he was preparing them for the inevitable issues that they would face on the missionary trail. In this case, how they would verbally respond after an arrest. Scripture tells us that they did, indeed, face arrest and imprisonment, and these words of encouragement were to serve them well.

While I’ve never been arrested for talking about my faith in Christ, I have, on numerous occasions, called on the power of the Holy Spirit to direct my words.  One incident, in particular, comes to my mind so vividly.  Several years ago, I underwent surgery to remove my over active thyroid gland.  During that same week, one of my dearest friends and prayer partners, Mary, succumbed to leukemia.  Her struggle with the disease, and subsequent testimony, will be material for another blog, but today I want to focus on her wake service.  Before my surgery, I had gone to see and pray with Mary.  When I asked what she wanted me to pray for she answered, “A peaceful death.” Her husband, who was sitting by me, teared up, and my human spirit rebuked her request.  “No God, I can’t pray for that!”, I screamed inwardly.  So I did my best to offer up encouragement, and skirt around her final prayer need. Two days after I returned home from the hospital, Mary died, peacefully.

 For many years Mary had been in the  Bible study group that I led, but it still came as a surprise when her children came to me and said that Mary had requested that I speak at her wake service. I was honored and humbled, of course.  Mary’s oldest son, and her niece were to be the only other  speakers. Right away my humanness kicked in.  What would I say?  The day of the wake, I physically crashed, and the doctor told me I had to stay home…no public speaking!  I’ll talk more about that in a future blog, too, but suffice it to say, with God’s motivation, I pulled myself together, knotted a bright scarf around my  Frankenstein-ish neck, and headed to church.  I was chilled, and nervously clammy, as I awaited my turn at the pulpit. The other two eulogizers seemed so calm, as the beautiful descriptions of Mary rolled effortlessly off their tongues.

The priest looked my way indicating that it was my turn.  Somehow, my leaden feet made their way up the long marble aisle to find no pulpit for my Bible.  During the day, when I finally let God speak to me, he told me that he would give me the words if I would use Proverbs 31, "The Wife of Noble Character", as his springboard. As I turned to face the solemn, assembled congregation, I thought I might faint.  Every eye was focused on me, every ear waiting to hear what words I had prepared.  The truth is, I had a few notes, but nothing like the others before me.  “Oh Holy Spirit, I defer to you”, I prayed silently.  No sooner had I opened my mouth, than a flow of warmth and peace, starting at the top of my head began filling me with supernatural strength.  From that point on, the words were all uttered under the power of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who had seen me earlier that day would have been in awe, heck, I was in awe!  There was no way I could have spoken, let alone keep vertical, without him, and all the credit is due to him.  One man even told me he saw an aura envelope me as I spoke, how cool is that!!  Perhaps, you too will be called on to speak for your Father.  Don’t give into fear, believe Him, and me, he will uphold his promise in amazing fashion!! 

Dear Mary, in the middle, on her 50th wedding anniversary.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The "Utilitarian" Church

During a casual lunch conversation, with a close friend, she mentioned that someone we both knew, had gotten married in the Utilitarian Church.  I had to laugh, as I corrected her, saying, “Oh you mean Unitarian.”  Immediately, God dropped this gem into my cranium.  The dictionary defines the utilitarian as: having regard to utility or usefulness rather than beauty, ornamentation, etc. Many, self-professed Christians, have indeed made the beautiful church, that he created, into something that is merely utilitarian. Sadly, we’ve all run across lots of folks, who “go to church” when there is a need to be met, ie.; pretty wedding pictures, baptism, funeral and perhaps Christmas and Easter, to model new outfits.  The remainder of the time, they stay clear of the building, the ministries and most distressingly, God.  While they occasionally partake in the ceremonies, including communion, their hearts, minds and beliefs are far away from God.  The church holds no more value to them than a microwave oven, and they joke about how they only attend when it suits their purpose. 

A big part of the problem, I think, comes from them confusing religion with relationship. Think about the things you’ve chosen in your life, including cars and microwaves, you usually research them, check prices and make a decision based on your findings, after all this will be a relationship of sorts.  Now consider how you came to be in the church you’re in.  Did you choose to become a Christian, after careful study, prayer, repentance and acceptance, or was religion passed along to you like a used winter coat? Obviously, the God that we personally choose to be in relationship with, rather than religion that is handed to us, will be the one we love, and have a growing passion for.  

Sure, God’s church exists to meet our needs, but not strictly in utilitarian fashion. Consider the earliest accounts of the church in Acts: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47.  Physical, material, emotional and spiritual needs were met, as they devoted themselves to the church with glad and sincere hearts.  Is this how you feel when you “go to church”?  Today, my prayer, for all of you who are currently attending the Utilitarian church, is that God reveal his true, beautiful, passion-filled  creation to you! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why be Hollow?

On a pleasant August evening, as I was surveying the maturing tomatoes, green peppers and basil, I spied this huge, perfectly formed pumpkin, ripening under the protection of prickly leaves.  I envisioned it adorning my front porch, or as part of an autumnal harvest display, in all its orange glory.  Just as quickly as I had found this beauty, my hopes were dashed. On closer inspection I noticed that insects, or pumpkin-flesh-eating vermin, had eaten their way through the bottom to the succulent innards, rendering it useless for a jack-o-lantern or pie. My Halloween plans had become a “Hollow”een let down. From the outside, the pumpkin looked healthy, but I knew it would soon collapse on itself as the invaders continued feasting on its interior support structure.

It’s interesting, that God should point this out to me, because I had just used the term, hollow, to describe a young man I know.  Those who see him on a daily basis may think he looks normal, but I could perceive spiritual intruders whose goal it is, is to see him cave in. Do you know anyone like that, or maybe it’s you.  A person who puts on a good face to the world, but is aching, longing for something, but not sure what that something is.  The constant ache soon breaks down the spiritual flesh giving easy entrance to all sorts of trespassers; drugs, alcohol, depression, anything that will temporarily fill the aching void.

 It is my belief, and I’m not alone in this area of thought, that God has created all of us with this hollow, empty space.  St. Augustine and Blaise Pascal both wrote about it. “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” (Blaise Pascal).  Before we truly come into a personal, intimate relationship with our Redeemer, everyone tries to fill that void with all manner of stuff; some good, others destructive.  When this space is filled incorrectly, it can lead to spiritual, and in some cases, physical death. Even as we attempt to squash the proverbial square peg into a round hole, God continues to call us.

The poor pumpkin has no recourse, it will die, but we, when we earnestly listen and heed his call, the hole will be plugged,  the void filled and eternal life will be ours. Paul knew what it meant to have that void filled, and here is his prayer for all of us:  “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19. There’s no reason to be hollow, when God longs to fill us.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Occasional Sin in the Safe

Like many people, I have a small, fireproof box to keep car titles, passports and an heirloom ring, among other valuable items. I only access it when I need to.  It got me thinking about other things we keep in safe places.  I’d say most Christians are familiar with what habits, and forms of conduct, God considers sinful. So, knowing full well what is displeasing/sinful, why is it then that many folks keep a couple around in a safe place.  Let’s say you like to drink, I’m not talking about the infrequent social cocktail, but the kind that leads to drunkenness. I know numerous people who try to rationalize their behavior by saying that since they don’t do it every night, and go to church every week, God doesn’t mind. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be the fool who attempts to point out, scripturally, that they are walking on a slippery slope!  The hackles will go up, and you’ll find yourself being called a judgmental, Bible-thumper!

Does God encourage us to keep a little sin, for our personal enjoyment, as long as we do other good stuff?  Is it possible to keep a little adultery, anger, or sexual perversion?  Can you keep a bit of Ebola around and not get sick? Perhaps you’re married, but you have a lover you see only once a month or so, you don’t want a divorce, no one is being hurt, and you love your spouse, so how bad can that be?  Pretty bad, if you are the unsuspecting spouse. But that’s exactly what we do to God; we cheat on him, and think he doesn’t mind! “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.” Galatians 6:7.  I would have to question the relationship a person like that has with God.  Were they ever really, saved, or do they think church membership is their ticket to heaven?

While none of us is immune to the alluring siren call of sin, the power of the indwelling, grieving Holy Spirit should be sufficient to turn us away.  “And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live.” Ephesians 4:30.  And please, don’t fall back on the old, “I didn’t realize it was sin”, or “this is the way I’ve always been, I can’t help it.”  Neither one will stand up in a court of law, let alone with our Father.  If you’re not sure what displeases God, check your Bible, but here’s a short list: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:20-21.  I’d say that’s pretty darn clear! There is no “little sin” in God’s economy, anger is as detestable as murder.

 Do you have an occasional sin you keep in your safe? “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” Galatians 5:24. So what are you waiting for, open it up and start nailing!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What do you want me to do for you?

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52.

 Most of us are familiar with this story of Blind Bartimaeus.  Here was a man, presumably blind since birth, who not only had to deal with the physical disability, but also the emotional/spiritual one.  Remember, that at that time, Jews believed that a physical impairment was due to the sins of the parents attaching themselves to their ancestors.  It was bad enough to maneuver in a darkened environment, but thinking that your parents, or your sin was responsible, would have been the biggest crippler. Add to that, being ostracized from society, and life must have been difficult indeed for Bart.  Day after day, he earned a meager living by begging alongside the dusty road.  As he sat there, with the other “sin-afflicted” folks, they must have shared gossip and current events, to pass the time.  Surely, the topic of the new rabbi, Jesus, must have come up more than once. Tales of miraculous healings being performed, on the blind, lame and even the dead, made life a bit more tolerable for these poor unfortunates.

On a day that began as any other, Jesus and his followers were passing by.  In his prayers and dreams, Bart had imagined himself fully-sighted, having been touched by the rabbi.  Up until then, it had only been a dream, but a dream that he held on to with all his might.  As the assembled throng grew restless with excitement, he heard the name Jesus being called out.  “Today is my day to see,”  he said as he jumped to his feet.  Even though there must have been a multitude of hurting people, Jesus heard the voice of Bartimaeus above the din.  Calling him to his side, Jesus asked, what might have seemed like a silly question,  “What do you want me to do for you?”  Bart could have said, “well duh, isn’t it obvious, I’m blind,” but he responded by telling Jesus his need.  Many might say it was his desperation, but tell me, what prayer isn’t rooted in desperation?  Jesus knew that vision was the  desire of the blind man’s heart, but he wanted him to verbalize it.  He was healed immediately, because of his persistent faith.

What is your need today?  A health condition; a wayward child or loved one; are you, like Bart, at the point of desperation? If so, that’s wonderful, Jesus is passing by your way, don’t sit silently, shout out and tell him, in faith, what you  want him to do for you. “You do not have, because you do not ask.” James 4:2.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Witness or Witness Protection?

 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8.  Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he gave the assembled apostles this promise, and the accompanied order, to be witnesses. To be precise, the words spoken by the apostles just before this statement, questioned Jesus on when he would restore his kingdom.  Their primary concern seems to have been the timetable for when Jesus would return to establish his earthly kingdom, and annihilate their enemies.  The idea of going out into a hostile environment, to witness, was not first and foremost in their minds.
 Let’s face it, before Pentecost,  they were a frightened, quaking bunch, seeking more to enter a “Witness  Protection” program, than be witnesses.   I can’t say I blame them, they not only saw the miraculous things Jesus did in his life, but they were there when he died that horrific death on the cross. We all know that changed when the promised comforter, the Holy Spirit, arrived and empowered them.

Being a witness doesn’t mean we pull out a soapbox,  on the courthouse lawn, and start spouting fire and brimstone. Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of Christians, and non-Christians believe.  The noun, witness, is:  “an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, or spectator.” While we may not have “seen” Jesus, in the same first-hand way that the apostles did, our relationship with him should be as close or closer.  Once we come into relationship with him, and begin growing in, and experiencing his Holy Spirit working through us, that should give us plenty to share with the world in the active verb form of witness! Most people are hesitant to witness because of ridicule, rejection,  coming up against difficult questions, or because they don’t feel it’s their job.

So what does it mean to be a witness, or to witness?  In the most basic sense it’s sharing our own salvation story with the world. People want to know how Christ has effected your life,
on a deeply personal level, not religious, impersonal, prepared doctrinal stuff….just tell your story! Where do you stand as a witness for Christ?  Do you have a story to tell? Are you joyfully spreading the word, or hiding out under a fake mustache in witness protection? Witnessing is not an obligation, or an option, it’s an order to all believers from our Savior. Sharing what you are passionate about is never a dreary forced duty, it’s a free-flowing and exciting account of who you love!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Christ in the Small Stuff

As I was listening to the radio, the other day, I heard this little story.  A man was traveling with a friend to a Christian conference, along the way they stopped for gas and a bathroom break.  The gentleman telling the tale relates that as he was washing his hands, eager to leave the cramped, foul-smelling environment, he noticed his friend’s unusual behavior.  He moistened and soaped up some paper towels and returned to the stall he had just finished using.  In amazement, the story teller watched as his pal carefully wiped clean the toilet, and then with another clean towel did the same to the sink. He couldn’t help but think that a case of momentary OCD had overcome his friend, so he asked;  “Why are you doing that, this is a gas station bathroom, they have people hired to do this odious job.”  As his companion dried his hands, he responded; “I don’t know who the next person will be, or how they will be feeling emotionally, or physically, but I want to leave the space, better than how I found it.”

 He went on to say that as a Christian, aren’t we supposed to do just that?  Whether it’s washing the pile of accumulated mugs in the sink at the office; putting back the cart at Wal-Mart or any number of small tasks, it matters not job, but the fact that we want to make a difference, the same way Christ did.  No matter where he went, or who he was involved with, he always left the place or person in a better condition.  Think about it; the wedding at Cana; the woman caught in adultery; the hungry people on the Mount of Olives; Lazarus and his sisters; blind men; demon-possessed people, well, you get the idea.  “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’”

As his followers, can we say we are doing the same?  Are you hanging your head right now, like I am?  Sure, I do some nice stuff now and then, but does that same spirit, of making things better than they were, flow freely, or is it forced.  In addition, are we looking for some kind of compensation for doing what should be natural?  As we grow in Him, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit nudge and encourage us to be more loving and Christ-like, leaving that sweet, lingering fragrance of him in even the smelliest places. “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  Mother Teresa

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Brotherly Love?

Come with me, if you will, to the blowout Welcome Home party at the Prodigal Son’s house.  Are you picturing the merry scene?  Plentiful food and drink and lively music fill the huge canvas tent, while friends, neighbors and servants vie for the son’s attention.  As the celebrity, he is inundated with questions, encouraged with back pats, and in general basks in the warm glow of renewed friendship, and his devoted father’s love.  As he hugs his dad for the umpteenth time, the crowd raises their glasses amidst claps and cheers. But look closer, do you see that one sullen guy in the corner?  He is the only unhappy one in attendance, almost seething with animosity.  Who is it, you might ask, an old enemy?  Sadly it is his own older brother.  Let’s go over and chat with him.  As you listen you realize he is afflicted with a justifiable case of sibling rivalry.

 Speaking as the oldest, we were always expected to set the behavioral example, and that’s not easy.  I’m sure, that through the years, his younger bro had been difficult to deal with, and he may have thought that the younger was the favorite son, especially when dad reminded him of his obligations as the eldest.  It happens.  Scripture shows us many examples: Cain and Abel; Ishmael and Isaac; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his older brothers; and Mary and Martha.  There was always some burr under the saddle that brought strife into these relationships.  I’m sure that the Prodigal’s brother was  relieved when the “spur” in his life left home.  “Now I can be Dad’s golden boy!”, he probably thought.  But as the months and years went by, he saw his Abba mourning for the loss of his youngest child, no matter how hard he worked to please him.

 The story doesn’t say anything bad about the older brother, so I assume he was a good, dutiful son.  One day that all changed, when the pesky rapscallion returned, and big bro wandered in on the fiesta. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” Luke 15:25-30.

 You know, I really feel badly for this brother, do you?  There he was, never causing waves, busting his buns and what did he ever get? Nada, or at least that’s what he thought.  It’s easy to show empathy to an injured or grieving person, but when someone has good things happen, when you feel they don’t deserve it, it is oh so difficult.  Here’s what his father told him: “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’?” Luke 15:31-32.  Is there a bur under your saddle today?  Human relationships will always have them, but with God’s help, we must allow the annoyance to grow us, not into calloused individuals, but loving and caring ones, able to see the full picture through our Father's eyes.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Prodigal's Father

Recently I wrote some thoughts on the parable of the Prodigal Son, from the son’s stinky, sinful perspective. Today let’s look at the dad‘s side.  Truly the heart of this story is the loving reaction of the father at the return of his wayward son.  In human terms, the kid had messed up his life, and that of his dad, big time. He more or less demanded that he be given his inheritance, before his father was dead.  The process of doing so meant that acreage and livestock had to be sold, breaking up the ranch for future generations.  The father complied.

Flash forward to the son’s ignoble return journey.  It was a long trip, by foot,  and he had plenty of time to reflect on his behavior.  I’m sure he practiced over and over what he would say to dear old Dad.  I’m sorry didn’t seem enough, so he finally settled on this:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:18.  There are many parents who would have said, “you’re absolutely right!  You’ve caused nothing but grief.  You can’t be trusted and I’m ashamed of you, but because you are family, I’ll let you in.  You’ll be here on probation, and yes, you must stay with the hired hands.  I will personally monitor your behavior, and you’ll have extra work to do to earn your way back into the family. You no good, rotten kid!”

 Actually, that’s what the son expected, after all he deserved every bit of the punishment, and more.  But, scripture tells us that the heartsick father, who must have scanned the horizon everyday for his son to return, reacted in this manner. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20. “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “ Luke 15:22.

 Everyone of us was, or still is a prodigal child.  We have separated ourselves from our father, caused him pain by our disobedience, and deserve the punishment due us.  Thank God, he doesn't react like a human father, even when he has every right to.  When we come to him, and confess our depravity, he rejoices and fully welcomes us into the family. No 2nd class treatment, no probation period or extra work detail. Just the opposite, he restores us to the status of his beloved child. If you haven’t made that decision, what’s holding you back?  Your father is waiting with open arms at the front door for you….run to him, and let the rejoicing begin!!  His Grace is Amazing!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Heirs of the Promise

Heirs of the promise. “You are the descendants of the prophets and the heirs of the promise that God made to our ancestors when he said to Abraham, 'Through your descendant all people on earth will be blessed.' “ Acts 3:25.

 Promises, promises was a hit song by Dion Warwick, many moons ago, and it’s also what advertising, people and society offers to us, in abundance.  One of the dictionary definitions is: an express assurance on which expectation is to be based.  For example, a hair care product that builds up an expectation in us of achieving a thick, lustrous mane. Sometimes it happens, but usually the results are inferior to the expectation, if they happen at all. We hear the word so often that most people are immune to it, and don’t even hold any hope, or expectation.  God has made assurances to us as believers.  These are not mere substance-less “air” promises, but covenant truths which we, as “heirs“, can feel confident in.  An heir, in legal terms is, a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter's death. While an earthly will may be contested, God’s covenant is “heir” tight. 

 Let’s take a look at the earliest covenant, between God and Abram.  In that time, when people swore an oath or made a promise to each other, an animal was sacrificed, cut in two pieces, and the involved parties would walk through the carcass, shaking hands at the end to seal the deal.  As you recall from your OT knowledge, God had promised Abram that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars, and ground that now belonged to his enemies. Abe was a 90+ year old guy, with no kids, so his human mind could not envision how this could happen, to him it was impossible, but he still believed.  To prove the validity of this far-fetched promise, God ordered Abram to collect and prepare the animals, and then God did the rest. “After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. So the LORD made a covenant with Abram that day…” Genesis 15:17.   

God himself went between the sacrificial animals, thus forging the irrevocable covenant promise. This act was the foundation, and centuries later God entered into a new covenant with all believers, through the sacrificial death of his own precious son.  If the one with Abram is still valid, you can rest assured the one written in blood is too.  Are you an heir of the promise, looking forward to the day when you will receive your rightful inheritance?  Or, do you have doubts, and find yourself looking for loopholes in the agreement. When you feel doubt creep in, remember old Abe.  “And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Genesis 15:6.  Believe and receive, doubt and do without. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Don't Invite Fear in!

Do you make it a habit to invite everyone in who knocks at your front door?  Of course not!  There have been times I actually hid, pretending I wasn’t home, to dissuade a salesman or unwanted person. So why is it, that when Mr. Fear comes a knocking, many folks not only welcome him in, but have a comfy room prepared for him!

Call it worry, anxiety or panic attack, the fact is, the human reaction to something scary, or potentially threatening, is fear.  My 9 year old grandson becomes a quivering mass of nerves when he sees a bug, or finds himself in a high place. Fear happens, but as Christians, we have the upper hand, the ultimate weapon to annihilate it, God’s perfect love.  Sure bugs, high places, having concern for loved ones in dangerous occupations, you fill in the fear blank as it applies to you, are still going to happen, but we don’t have to ask the fear they cause to take up residence!  God needs us to be strong, not shaking in our spiritual boots.  Next time this Mr. Fear rings your door bell, boldly turn him away, telling him he is not, nor will he ever be, welcome. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18.


Friday, August 2, 2013

A Teacup Full of Answers

As a child, I thought my dad knew everything, and had the answers to all my queries.  How high is the sky; what makes the sky blue; why do birds have feathers; and what is dirt made of?  I’d constantly bombard him with questions, on a daily basis.  He never failed to come up with a response that satisfied the child me.  Today I look back and wonder if they were accurate, or was he merely appeasing me. Back then, what mattered most was the fact that it made me feel secure knowing he was the answer man.

 Having raised my own kids, and now with grand kids asking all kinds of tough stuff, I realize that just about anything I tell them they’ll believe.  Obviously I try to respond with an understandable, mostly correct answer, based on their age and ability to comprehend.  Going into technical details will only confuse them, so I keep it simple.  As adults don’t we do the same thing with God?  We come to him with gallons of questions, but only hold out a teacup for him to fill with the answers. The cold, hard fact is, that the volume of answers our individual teacups can hold, is all we can humanly grasp.  The vastness of God, his creation, and his plans for us are way too much for us to take in all at once.  I do think, that as we persevere in prayer, he will continue to fill our cups as needed.  So, be content, and secure, knowing that your Heavenly Father is the ultimate answer man. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7. Keep holding out your teacup!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Heightening Your Sense of Smell

You may not believe this, but at one time in my life, I was a card carrying member of the Porkettes.  No, it wasn’t a social club for weight-challenged gals, it was the female counterpart of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. Yes, I have to admit that I, unwillingly, used to hang around with pigs.  Some of the other Porkettes would actually wax poetic about raising these creatures, but not me.  Please remember that I was raised on Staten Island, NY, and the closest I had ever gotten to a pig was a pork chop! Don’t get me wrong, I love animals, but pigs are in a category all by themselves. Here’s my personal impression of them: They are smart enough to be extremely ornery; possess quickness to out run you; are pig-headedly stubborn, and most of all they STINK!!  I don’t mean wet dog smelly, we’re talking one of the top 10 worst odors in the world, smelly. Some people say they got used to the stench, or  jokingly said they smelled like money.  I did not fall into either group. The day the last one of those beasts left our farm, ranks as one of the happiest events of my life.

So why am I picking on porkers today; because they stink!  The Bible doesn’t hold them in high regard either.  Jews weren’t, and still aren’t, allowed to eat them; Jesus got rid of a slew of demons by allowing them to enter a herd of porkers; and the Prodigal Son. Let’s concentrate on the Prodigal Son’s relationship with pigs today.  We’re all familiar with his sinful, money-squandering ways, and his eventual fall into the stinking pig pen.  In this place, the lowest of the low, for a Jew, scripture tells us this; “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” Luke 15:17-19.
It says he came to his senses, and I think his sense of smell was instrumental in bringing about his change of heart. His whole attitude and lifestyle was malodorous, to those around him, but he couldn’t smell it on himself, until he hit the bottom in that pen.  It’s easy for us “clean, sweet-smelling, sinless” folks to be repelled by a whiff of pig poop, but when you’re knee deep in it, it’s a different story.  Thank God that this young man’s heavenly father fine tuned his olfactory glands, allowing to smell what he had become, and brought him home to a joyous earthly father.

 So it was with everyone of us, we stunk because of original sin. The problem was, we weren‘t aware of it until our sense of smell kicked in, and we chose to allow God to clean up our individual pens. Do you know someone, or are you that someone, still kicking around in the manure?  Ask God to fine tune your sense of smell, if anything stinks, he‘ll give you the ability you to smell it!!