What’s that Smell?

2 Corinthians 2

2 Corinthians 2 14

 

My brother (cool uncle that he is) gifted my daughter with a unique board game called P.U! -The Guessing Game of Smells.  Players try to guess what smell is radiating off of each scratch and sniff card.  Some are deliciously delightful and you don’t want to put the card down – like freshly baked cookies or peppermint.  And others – such as skunk, burnt rubber and doggy doo-doo – leave quite a lasting impression in the opposite direction.

 

Smells are powerful and memorable – and perhaps that is why Paul uses this powerful analogy in 2 Corinthians 14-16 (NIV).

 

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

 

Picture the streets in ancient Corinth (a busy seaport in current Greece) lined with the crowds which came out to see the Roman Emperor (God) and his general (Christ) leading their captives (those belonging to God and following Christ).  The Roman Emperor and general are powerful, awe-inspiring and triumphant.  The obedient, orderly, well-kept captives are clear witnesses to the superiority, majesty, might, and care of the emperor and general.  They indeed spread the knowledge of the triumph of Christ.

 

It is interesting to note that many versions remove the “captive” phrasing which might be seen today as a negative connotation for Christ’s followers.  The NASB for example says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ”.  In that day and age, the military image would have been very well understood.  But perhaps today we could imagine the owner (God) of the triumphant Super Bowl Championship football team at the head of the parade leading the football team (those who belong to God) who are testifying everywhere to the ‘sweetness’ of their football coach (Christ).

 

Either way – God is pleased at the witness and sweet smell of those who belong to Him.  He loves to see them show homage to their Christ/general/coach/His Son.  Others see this as well – and respond – one way or another.  Those who belong to God and are trophies of Christ’s victory are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ EVERYWHERE – both to “those who are being saved and those who are perishing”.   Our victory parade route should not stay within our church parking lot.  We need to let that sweet aroma waft through the entire city and countryside.  Even knowing that when some people smell it – they will smell death.  The losing football team (Satan’s) still has some very vocal, die-hard fans.  Sometimes when those who are perishing smell death they can react in very hostile ways.  We can, and must, still expect this today.  But don’t let it cancel your parade.  Carry on with the sweet smell of Christ – it brings life to those who will let it in.

This is so much more than a scratch and sniff board game.  More than a football play-off.  This is for life – or death.  Carry the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere you go.

-Marcia Railton

Paul Speaks Freely

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Acts 26

Because of his appeal to Caesar in chapter 25, Paul was guaranteed his next trial would take place in Rome. So when Paul stood before King Agrippa and other dignitaries, he wasn’t required to defend himself or give testimony. Having said that, Paul wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to witness about the works God had performed in his life–this was one of his life’s missions. So Paul, being able to speak freely, gave his most passionate testimony yet.
There are three things we should learn about apologetics (defending the Christian faith) from Paul’s final defense before he headed to Rome.

1. Know Your Stuff.

Although Festus called Paul crazy, he recognized him as a man of great understanding. Going back to his days as a Pharisee, Paul demonstrated his great zeal for truth and reason. He didn’t lose this enthusiasm when he became a follower of Jesus, he refocused it. Paul knew the Hebrew sacred writings better than anyone and was a master at reconciling the long-held truths of Scripture with his new-found recognition of Jesus as Messiah. Paul was also well learned in the other philosophies and religions of the day. This is most clearly seen in his visit to Mars Hill.
If we are going to be able to defend our faith, we must be knowledgable of both the ideas of Scripture and those contrary to them.

2. Live Above Reproach.

One of the most common critiques leveled against Christianity today is that its adherents are hypocrites. Nothing ruins credibility more effectively than saying one thing then doing the opposite. The Jews had quite a difficult time trying to get charges against Paul to stick. As has been mentioned before, Paul strived to live life with a clear conscience. So in order to discredit and disgrace Paul, the religious leaders had to contrive charges against him.
To be an effective witness and apologist for the Christian faith, we must also strive to live with a clear conscience.

3. Be Positive.

Another issue some have with Christians is that they can be too harsh when talking about their faith. Street preachers and picketers are tuned out and labeled as unfriendly fanatics (or worse) by passersby. Sadly, they are the only representatives of Christ some people every meet.
When Jesus was harsh it was with those who should known better (the religious elite). When Paul was trying to convince unbelievers of the wonderful nature of the Good News, he would do so in a positive way–highlighting things like the resurrection, the power of God, and the mercy He extends to sinners.
The truth is that there are certain tenets of Christianity that non-believers don’t like. When witnessing we should focus on the recognized positives of the faith that appeal to most people–mercy, justice, eternal life, etc. Once people start understanding things like the nature of God and morality, then we can start discussing the perceived negative doctrines of Christianity.
Paul was knowledgeable, had a clear conscience, and was positive when defending his faith and promoting the Good News. The power of the Gospel message is amazing and life-changing. If we want to further its reach and be better able to defend it, we must follow these three principles from Paul.
-Joel Fletcher

Rehashing the Road to Damascus

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Hello! My name is Joel Fletcher and I am going to be writing the daily devotions for this week. I live in Minnesota with my wonderful wife, delightful daughter, and as of next Friday, a pastoral puppy. I like adjectives, alliteration, and Aussiedors.

This week we’re going to wrap up the book of Acts.

Since chapter 9, Luke has been chronicling the campaigns of one Saul of Tarsus (now called Paul), a Jewish Pharisee turned Christian Missionary. Now the story of how this up-and-coming member of an exclusive Jewish religious group became the follower and apologist of a so-called radical who was crucified has already been told, but over the next few chapters, it will be reiterated.

At the end of chapter 21, Paul is arrested due to a ruckus caused by his presence in Jerusalem. From this moment until his presumed death in Rome, Paul will be in the custody of the Romans. This incarceration will enable Paul to spread the Gospel to people he would have not met otherwise.

The method Paul will use to do this is called witnessing. Witness or testimony is the attesting of facts or events. A witness is someone with personal knowledge of something. What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus is the central point he uses when sharing his testimony. As we will see throughout this week, Paul does not shy away from sharing what he knows to be the truth—even if it means facing death.

As you read through these final chapters of the Book of Acts this week, be mindful of how passionate Paul is in defense of his beliefs. Paul uses every opportunity he has to persuade people of the power of God, demonstrated in the resurrection of the Christ and his coming Kingdom. We may not have the same powerful testimony of being struck blind by the risen savior, but each one of us who believes has the opportunity and mandate to witness to any who will listen.

 

-Joel Fletcher

Reflect His Goodness

psalm 107-22

It’s been a week of thankfulness – recognizing God as the Giver of All Good Gifts, getting to know Him more and more through the gift of His Word, gratefully accepting the gift of His Son, Jesus, and being thankful even in the midst of a difficult time.

Now for the great yearly challenge – how do we continue the thankful thinking all year?

Perhaps the following quote from J.F. Kennedy will provide some help.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Show your gratitude, not just by saying, “Thank You” to God and to others, but by living a thankful lifestyle.  If we are deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given we will naturally want to share those blessings with others.  Opening our home to others, tithing to our church, caring for those experiencing difficult trials, and sharing with those who have less material blessings are all ways we can express our gratitude for what has been given.  We can reflect His goodness.  He has given to us.  We will give to others.

And, most importantly, when we are truly grateful for what God has done, for who He is and for His plan of salvation, for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness given, for the Kingdom hope – we will want to share it with others.  Inviting a friend to church, sharing a devotion with the family, praying with someone struggling, telling what God has done for you, giving a Bible, donating to missions (*), posting Scripture on your social media, home, office and locker walls, and the list goes on.

Read over Romans 10.  The world is full of people who do not know the gifts they could be receiving right now – who have not heard the message.  It is our job to, “Sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22).  What thank offerings will you present?  How will you tell of His works?  We are not responsible for other’s reaction to the saving message.  Just as Moses and Isaiah met up with resistance and obstinate people – so will we when we exercise our beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

Look over your thankful list (go ahead and write it down if you haven’t already this week).  Prayerfully consider how you can show your appreciation for each gift.  How can you pass along the joy you’ve received?  How will you reflect His goodness?

-Marcia Railton

 

(*) Be watching for the soon-to-be released Lord’s Harvest International Gift Catalog for some great ideas on how to help provide for needs on our missionary fronts (Bibles, church buildings or rent, a pastor’s transportation, an orphan’s or widow’s care, seed & fertilizer, etc….)