Monday, September 3, 2012

Fragrance for Dark Days

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ 

and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."
2 Corinthians 2:14

Have you ever faced a situation or watched the news on TV and wondered why God does not intervene? We may find ourselves asking that question because we live in a world where we receive news instantly and are bombarded with stories of abuse, terrorism, poverty, hunger, disease, murders, kidnappings, and other painful things. Some of us even have firsthand knowledge of these terrible things. For me, the questions often surface when I see the face of a starving child on TV, listen to a news report about a baby whose parents shook him to death, or hear of a man who has brutally molested, sodomized or raped a child. They also surface when I hear that a student killed another student or hear hateful words people use to kill the spirit of others. I wonder shy God didn't do something. The more I study the Scripture, the more I believe this is an inappropriate question, because God did do something! He sent His Son so He could redeem us and when He redeemed us He put a new heart within us. He gave us His Spirit to renew our hearts day by day. He instructed us to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking, to be put away from us along with all malice. He told us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving just as Christ forgave us. In the gospels He went so far as instructing us to love our enemies. He wants us to make a difference. We are to spread knowledge of Him to the world. We are not to just do that by teaching the Scripture but by living it out through our actions and our words. 
So what does that mean for us at a personal practical level? When we are around those who are slandering and gossiping and biting each other, God wants us to use words that affirm and build others up. If we are in the mist of people who are in a hurtful conflict, God asks us to be the first one to use kind words, the first one to seek forgiveness, or the first to offer forgiveness another. If we find ourselves in a strained relationship, God is asking us to make a difference by not accusing or blaming, but speaking the truth in a loving way that invites reconciliation and healing. If we encounter others who foster hatred, God desires is to overcome it with loving acts He does through us. If we know someone who is hurting, God desires to comfort her through us. If we know someone who is lonely, God desires to offer fellowship through us. If we know someone who is hungry or needs clothing, God wants to provide needs through us. If we feel we need a more spiritual atmosphere, we called to create it.
Even when we think back on something as tragic as the terrorist's attack on September 11th we realize in the face of something as hateful as that was. the Spirit of God rose up in people to counter the hatred with loving kindness. Look at the money that poured in. Look at the number of Christian counselors that gave of their time to help people deal with shock, trauma, and grief. Look at the endless hours firemen and policemen put into looking for survivors and bodies of those who died. One of the reasons God may have chosen not to remove evil from our world is so that His goodness would shine all the more brightly in the face of it. I said at the beginning that I thought the question, "Why doesn't God do something?" was inappropriate. God indwells in believers and gives us the capacity to love as He loves, forgive as He forgives and to overcome evil with good. The more appropriate question when hard times come might be "What is God is calling me to do?” God has chosen to indwell believers and if each one of us rises to the occasion and asks what He would have us do, He will be visible through us. As His people, we don't have to ask why He doesn't do something, but instead we must be willing to do what He asks. As His people, we don't need to be overwhelmed by the dark, evil times–it is merely a backdrop for His glory to shine brightly through us. Am I shining bright enough for you to see?     

Prayer:  Father, thank you for saving us. You have called each of us to put on the new nature that reflects Your nature to the world the same way that Christ bore your image to us.  Help us to love boldly in the face of hatred.  Help us to forgive in the face of bitterness.  Help us to feed in the face of starvation.  Help us to be gracious in our speech in the face of backbiting.  Help us be humble in the face of pride.  Help us to be gentle and kind in the face of accusation.  Help us to shine in the face of darkness.  Amen.  

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!