Plans Of Hope

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sitting In The Sun October 9, 2014

Photo Cred: Misty Foster ©, 2014

Photo Cred: Misty Foster ©, 2014

Sitting at work today my heart was burdened with many things. Change doesn’t come easy for any of us, but in the midst of it all we are reminded that God never changes (see Malachi 3:6). While that truth doesn’t make change any easier, at least we know change comes from the One who is steadfast and immoveable.

I often experience that in times when we are burdened, God will send little reminders of His presence and love, just because He can. Today, as I sat working, a ray of sunlight washed over my face and as I looked up this small window above my desk had a bright ray of warm light coming through. Just for a few minutes, my whole face was covered in sun and then it moved on.

I’m a sun dweller. I am always cold so you can often find me looking for the sunny spot to sit in, but today, the sun came to me. This has never happened before  and for just a moment, I felt God was letting me know He is with me. Just a small reminder that if I lift my face up, He is there to cover me with His love and warmth no matter what is happening in my life.

Often times we think our interactions with God have to be these grand epiphany situations and they don’t. As we know from Elijah (see 1 Kings 19), sometimes it’s just the still small voice of the Lord speaking gently to our hearts letting us know He is with us always.

Just a few moments in the sun and my soul was restored. Just a few moments of God’s light and my spirit was renewed. Just a few moments in a gentle whisper from my Savior and I am content.

Let the sun find you today my friends. Let His warmth and comfort wash over you and release any burdens you are carrying. His presence is all we need.

M.

 

Can You Bench Press a Buick? July 18, 2014

someecards.com

someecards.com

Strong is having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks; another definition is to be able to withstand great force or pressure. I know strong people. Some are physically strong because they exercise their muscles. Others are spiritually strong because they exercise their faith.

Strength is a relative term; it depends on what you are comparing against. I can run 3 miles but compared to others who lift weights, I’m a wimp. I’m strong in the Lord, but there are still days where I need to be reminded of His goodness.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase, “what does not kill me makes me stronger.” If we are able to survive something that has life threatening potential then usually we come through the process stronger than before.

I agree with Nietzsche, but as a believer I know it’s not my strength that makes me strong, but God’s. Only by God’s ability are we able to face the hardest situations. These are times Paul described when we are “Hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Because in the midst of those really hard things, God promises us that He will strengthen us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10, emphasis added).

Recently, I saw this type of strength in action as I watched a father give a testimony of his daughter at her funeral. At 52 days, her life was too short by earthly standards, but the impact she has made is an eternal one. Watching him speak, with his wife by his side, was impossible for my heart to fathom. How could he stand there, poised and sure? How was he even functioning and not collapsed into a ball of emotion? He explained there was no way he should be standing there, able to speak and share, except for he knew his strength came from God.

Compared to God, we are weak. But it’s in this weakness that we are made strong, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10, emphasis added).

When we are weak, He is strongest in us.

While it’s tough to feel weak, you can rest assure God is a trustworthy God. If there is something extremely difficult in your life, you can be confident there is a purpose. And because we can trust Him we can stand boldly knowing that in the darkest times He is faithful. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one” (Ps. 28:7-8).

Fortresses are usually made of some type of stone; hard, solid. Jesus is our fortress, the rock of our faith. He is often referred to as the Cornerstone and if you know anything about buildings then you know that the cornerstone is one of the foundational stones. It’s typically the first stone set and is the guide for setting all of the stones after it. In ancient buildings this stone was usually one of the largest and most solid. It had to be carefully constructed and it carried the weight of the entire building. Ephesians tells us that Jesus Himself is the chief cornerstone (see Eph. 2:20). He is the eternal guide, sure and strong, to which we can model our life. He is able to withstand any weight that can threaten to crush us.

someecards.com

someecards.com

This meme makes me laugh every time I see it but it’s a good reminder. Even though God’s strength can hold us up, there are things in this life we shouldn’t tangle with. We need to be mindful of the things that can harm us and stay away from them. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Avoid the things that bring death and let God carry the weight of what you can’t muster.

So, can you bench press a Buick? Some days I feel like I should be able to, but on the days when I have no strength left, I rely on the One, “In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). His strength never wanes, His promise never falters. He will give you the power you need when you need it. Leave the Buicks…and the bears to Him.

M.

 

Tainted July 4, 2014

Angela Johnson Sculptures www.ajsculptures.com

Angela Johnson Sculptures
http://www.ajsculptures.com

Tainted is a rough word. It means contaminated or polluted. Synonyms are infected, spoiled, ruined, destroyed. It’s a word that is strong in whatever sense it’s used, but when it comes to using it with people, it’s even more harsh.

In the book of Leviticus God gives His law to the Israelites and in chapter 15 we see the laws for bodily discharges. Not the most appealing parts of Scripture, probably not the part you underline and memorize. But don’t check out just yet, stay with me, I’m going somewhere. In verses 19 – 27 we see the laws of women with discharges of blood. I have read these Scriptures many times and confess I have sped over them more often than not but recently my brain made a connection that broke my heart.

Verse 19 begins, “If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening. And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.”

So basically she’s unclean
and anything she touches is unclean
and anyone or anything that touches anything she’s touched is unclean.

Things are beginning to get complicated. But the next verse is where I stopped in my tracks, “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean.”

Instantly, words echoed in my head,

Twelve years.

“Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years.”

Twelve. Years.

We don’t know her name or where she is from or even what the condition was. We just know she had “suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mark 25:26, emphasis added).  According to this Levitical law, she was unclean. Tainted. Spoiled. Ruined. For twelve years.

Her life must have been sad and lonely. Knowing the law, friends and neighbors probably didn’t jump at the chance to spend time with her because they would immediately become unclean in the process and stay that way for the entire day. They would have to take the cleansing measures to ensure they didn’t remain unclean.

No friends dropping by for lunch.
No invitations to go out and spend a day in the marketplace.
No spending festivals together.

Even when she did go out, people who knew her probably avoided her. For twelve years.

So desperate for something different in her life that she could only reach out in quiet isolation to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. One thought in her mind,

“If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” (v. 28)

She didn’t even feel she could approach Him in the open, but her faith in who He was gave her courage to simply reach out. And in her faith she was healed. “Immediately the fountain of blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction” (v. 29). What a moment of utter joy that must have been. How could she contain herself knowing instantly, her misery was gone? Her life changed. She could be clean again. The healing power of Jesus had just made her whole.

Interestingly, Jesus knew He had been touched, He felt the power leaving Him to heal her affliction. As the crowd is crushing in on Him, He asked who touched Him. There were so many people, so many hands, feet, bodies crowding around, but He knew. As His eyes locked with hers, “The woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction’” (vv.33-34).

Jesus wasn’t worried about losing power. He wasn’t upset that someone had been made well without His permission or against His will. He wanted to see the woman who had enough faith in her spirit to believe that a simple touch could bring her healing. Jesus was the ultimate Healer then and He still is today.

Do you feel tainted by years of sin? Do you feel like you can’t possibly approach the Healer and ask for healing? Is there something in your life that has gone on for so long you are in quiet desperation, feeling like you can never be made clean? Jesus came to heal. Though we don’t know this woman’s name, I am assured that Jesus did. Because He knows mine. And He knows yours. We don’t know what her affliction was, but Jesus did. Because He knows mine. And He knows yours. There is no issue that is too hard for Him to heal; there is no length of time that He cannot wipe away. Her faith in Him made her well.

Won’t you reach out for the Healer and let Him set you free? From suffering to set free. From unclean to pristine. He makes all things new. He is looking to remove whatever makes you an outcast and give you peace and healing in exchange. He did it for her and He can do it for you.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
(Isa. 61:1)

Today, on Independence Day, I pray you find freedom in Christ because He came and He died to make you free. Free from sin. Free from the bondage that holds you captive. Free from whatever taints you. Let Him proclaim liberty in your life and make you well.

M.

 

Remind Me Who I Am June 18, 2014

Some moments in life, whether good or bad, can instantly define who you are. As much as I would like to erase its existence, today is about one of those moments.

I lost my temper. For those of you who know me, you aren’t surprised. It’s an area of constant struggle, the thorn in my flesh. Paul had one (see 2 Cor. 12), why should I be surprised that I do too? It’s an area of constant battle and sometimes continual failure. It’s the area I am pretty sure will only be perfected in Christ on the day I reach eternity, but I will fight the good fight until I get there. My temper, my anger, my thoughts, my mouth. The battle rages day and night, my flesh against my spirit. Paul says it perfectly,

“For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice;
but what I hate, that I do…
For the good that I will to do, I do not do;
but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

(Romans 7:15, 19)

For those of you who don’t know me, sorry to shatter any notion you may have had of a perfect Christian who is always bright and smiling. For the most part, God has already done a mighty work in me, but there is far more work to be done.

I lost my temper. I make no excuse. It was a heated conversation with someone I love. The situation was volatile. I was trying to make a point. She was upset. I was on edge. She was walking away. I was feeling disrespected. Her voice was growing louder. I was trying to remain calm. She used profanity. I lost it. One f-bomb and I quickly stretched out my hand to slap her. One moment. Even now, I weep. One moment.

These moments aren’t life ending but they are life changing. Once it occurs, it defines you. There’s no going back. I apologized immediately and asked for forgiveness but I was broken. Broken because it’s not the woman I want to be. Broken because it’s not the woman God wants me to be. Broken because I should have maintained self-control. Later, my husband would hold me as I wept, but it would never change that moment. I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t undo it. I couldn’t make anything different. And I still can’t today.

It occurred years ago, but I’m still reminded of it. If I point out that someone has lost their temper, almost always, I am reminded how I lost mine. Even when it’s not spoken, it feels like the elephant that’s in the room that no one wants to talk about. You know it’s there. I know it’s there. We all know it’s there.

As often happens in my life, a song has mended my heart; Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray.

When I lose my way, And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see, Is who I don’t wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places, When I can’t remember what grace is.

Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

God doesn’t define me by this; He knows I’m a sinner and He knows I lost my temper. He also knows that I am His. Because I walk with Him daily and I accept the forgiveness He offers, I am clean. I belong to Him. He calls me His beloved. He takes broken things and makes them whole again, not by my goodness, but by His. Because of the cross there is “No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).

By His spirit, I walk in the spirit. At that time, I allowed my flesh to win. Since then, I have bought into the lies and accusations. I have allowed myself to be defined by the moment. I have forgotten God has made me a new creation, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). I doubted who God has made me today. Luckily, He (and Jason Gray) reminded me:

When I can’t receive Your love,
Afraid I’ll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I’m Your beloved,
Can You help me believe it.

I’m the one you love,
I’m the one you love,
That will be enough,
I’m the one you love.

He quietly reminds me I don’t have to be enough, because He is enough. My value is because I am loved by the God of the universe. It doesn’t erase this moment from my past. It happened. I won’t ever be able to take it back but God does not define me by it. He sees me through the blood of His son who He sent because I needed a Savior.

It’s the battle I struggle with.
But it’s not who I am in Christ.
It never will be.

Do you have a moment? Have you forgotten who you are in Christ? Beloved, if you let Him, He will remind you. He will show you that you are enough in Him and He sees you as clean and free.

M.

 

Ejected From the Game May 30, 2014

In sports, an ejection is the elimination of a player (or personnel) due to a violation of the rules. Common violations leading to ejection are: unsportamanlike conduct, mistreating officials, or egregious violation of the rules. Players as well as coaches, managers, or other non-playing personnel can be ejected. Usually someone isn’t acting in accordance with the rules of the game or they are getting out of hand with their comments to officials. It never looks like a fun experience and those ejected are usually churning out a slew of obscenities as they are escorted out.

In Numbers 13, the Israelites began to conquer the Promised Land. Upon arriving in Canaan, Moses sent twelve spies for forty days to determine if they had a chance against the current inhabitants. “Go up this way…and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage” (vv 17-20).

Twelve spies went in; ten come back with a bad report: Yes! The land is good. No! It cannot be conquered. “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey…Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak (giants) there…” (vv. 27-28).

Only two of the twelve, Joshua and Caleb, were ready to take the land, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (v.30). But the ten were adamant, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (v. 31).

Two books back, in Exodus, God spent most of the book saving the Israelites.

From Pharaoh.
From starvation.
From fatigue.
From their clothes wearing out.
From enemies.
From sin.
From themselves.

The phrase “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” is used over 30 times in various ways between Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Repeatedly, God had to remind the obstinate Israelites that He is the God who brought them out of the land of Egypt.

His goal for the Israelites was the Promised Land. As in…the land He promised them. But they were so scared, so angry, so discontented, they couldn’t see past themselves to what God was trying to do.

Sometimes, in the midst of uncomfortable situations,
we trade the truth we know
(God promised them the land, He practically GAVE it to them)
for a lie we believe
(it’s better to go back to Egypt).

They were too afraid to go forward. Even though they knew God’s promise lay ahead, they would rather go backwards.

Joshua and Caleb saw the same land the others did but saw a different some one. They didn’t fear because they saw it through the lens of what they knew about God, “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them” (vv. 7-9).

The difference between the ten and the two? A matter of the spirit, “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” God was looking for a heart to delight in. His pleasure was for His children to receive the inheritance He had for them (v24).

Sadly, because the Israelites rejected God’s plan, He rejected them from His promise, “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in”(vv. 29-30). They would never enter the Promised Land.

God knew how many times the Israelites had tested him, “All these men have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice” (v.22). God knows when we doubt Him and knows when we test His plan. It breaks His heart and it puts us out of God’s will. Because of this, a trip that should have been taken a few months ended up with the Israelites wondering the desert for 40 years.

For me, the saddest part is the end of chapter 14, “Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you” (vv. 42-43, emphasis added).

Because the Israelites rejected God’s promise,
He ejected them from the game
and often times we do the same thing.

We reject the Lord. He is no longer part of our plans. We are left defenseless and in danger.

Sometimes God’s plans feel scary. Sometimes, we complain about our circumstances a little more than we should (present company included). Sometimes, we condemn ourselves to wander in a place we were never meant to spend more than a few days in. When people come to me for counsel regarding decisions in their life, my number one piece of advice is, “Never be afraid of what the Lord has for you.” Don’t allow what you see in front of you to overshadow what you know about God and His great love. He has good plans. He wants to keep you in the game. If you are obedient, you can be a mighty player on His team. Play by His rules, don’t mouth off to the Official, and play the game in order to win “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

M.

 

I Have Two Kids. May 9, 2014

My Little Family.

My Little Family.

I have two kids. I did not carry these children in my belly. I did not give birth to them. They share no DNA with me. Our blood types are not the same. They don’t look like me. They don’t have my nose. Or my smile. Or my eyes. They don’t even call me mom. But, I have two kids.

When you’re a step parent you are put into this interesting category of parent/non-parent. Sometimes you’re a parent. Sometimes, you’re not. Generally, people will agree you’re a parent because you are a stepparent to the child. But start talking about bonding and connection and you get shifted to the non-parent side. You can’t possibly understand because you didn’t carry the child. You didn’t struggle to give birth to the child. You don’t share blood lines. You aren’t “truly” their parent. You. Don’t. Understand.

There is a clear distinction between “us” and “them.” I’m a them. I’m a step-parent. I wasn’t there when my kids were born but I will tell you this: on June 28, 1997 I became a mama for the first time and again on March 8, 2000.

It’s a frustrating place to be because I feel things I have never felt for another living being. I hope, dream, desire, and utterly ache more things for my children than I have for any other person in my life. And I have to ask, if (according to some) I cannot feel the same love for my children as if I had birthed them, then why at times does everything in me shudder as if willing them to triumph and succeed in their every endeavor in life? Yet at the very same time praying they know the disappointment of defeat in order for them to become well rounded people. I want them to be able to say confidently as Paul did, “To have learned in whatever state…to be content… how to be abased, and…how to abound. Everywhere and in all things… both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil.4:11-13).

There are times I watch them attempt life, from swimming to orchestra, from cooking dinner to working on school projects and I implore God to show them the best in life to bless them abundantly and just enough of the worst in life to keep them humble. I want them to soar high in success but also learn to have the struggles God purposes for them in order to fulfill the plan He has for them. I want them to learn to balance heartache with happiness. To find joy in the depths of pain and grace in the throes of achievement. To find who they are in Christ and who He is in their lives.

I did not give birth to them but I can say they gave birth to something in me; a beautiful love my heart had never known. My brother Will made a great observation about the love of parents and children. If there is such a bond because of a mother carrying a child then how does a father have the same love for his child? How does the child love their father? Even though they share chromosomes and blood lines, the father didn’t birth the child. Some fathers aren’t even around during the birthing process. Yet there are fathers with stronger bonds than those of a mother. I know some mothers who don’t feel any bonds with their children. There is no mother-child love to speak of.

I absolutely agree carrying a child and birthing it from your womb is one of the most miraculous gifts the Lord bestows on His children. I also absolutely know I could not love my children any more today than if I had birthed them. I have a different love for them, because I chose them. I adopted them as mine, just as God has adopted me.

See, God is my heavenly Father, but not my earthly one. He birthed me in spirit as I gave my life to Him, but He didn’t birth me from a womb. He created me and formed me in my inward parts but the bond we have is not one of flesh, but one of His love. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:3-5, emphasis added).

He chose to love me just as I chose to love my children. I could have been an arms length step-mama, keeping my kids far enough to be sufficient. But I chose to let them into my heart. I chose to be affectionate to them and I chose to let their affection shower me.

God says it’s by His Spirit that we are made sons (and daughters), “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’”(Rom. 8:14-15). By His spirit of love, we can come to the Father and call Him Abba, which literally translates, Daddy. My children can come to me because of the spirit of my love for them and because of that can call me their mama.

While they don’t call me mama, they call me something far greater. When you hear my sweet kidlets talk about me, they say, “My Misty.” So, not only have I adopted my children in the spirit of love, they have adopted me with personal possession. I am theirs and nothing can ever change that. They have already determined that their children will call me Mimi and while I have asked them to at least wait another 10 years before making me a grandmother, the thought of my sweet grandbabies running around calling me Mimi makes me weep.

Will God ever call Duncan and me to have children of our own? I don’t pretend to know God’s will for my future, but as of today, I have two kids. No, I didn’t birth them, but I chose them, just as God chose me to be His and just as He chose me to be their step-mama. There is nothing any one can tell me that will ever make me believe differently. My heart knows it. My mind knows it. And best of all, my kids know it.

For all those mamas out there: birth, adopted, step, or otherwise. You’re all “real” mamas to me. Happy Mother’s Day.

M.

 

The Sweet Smell of Sacrifice April 30, 2014

What is sweet smelling to you? A new baby? Your mama’s kitchen? Your daddy’s aftershave? Some say puppy’s breath (gross!) or their grandmother’s hand lotion. On my first date with Duncan, I smelled his cologne and melted. I thought, “He smells amazing!”

Some interesting facts about smell:

  1. People can detect blood relatives by scent alone; mothers can identify their biological children and children can detect their siblings.
  2. It is said to be the most sensitive of the senses. People can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year. Visual recall is only about 50% after three months.
  3. It is said to be most linked to our emotional recollection (which explains why I still swoon for my husband’s cologne!)
  4. It is the first of all our senses to develop and before we are born our sense of smell is fully formed and functioning.
  5. Humans have five to six million odor detecting cells but that is nothing compared to the animal kingdom. Rabbits have 100 million and a dog 220 million.
  6. The human brain can process roughly 10,000 smells in an area the size of a postage stamp, each triggering a neural response.

So smell is the strongest of our senses and it’s heavily tied to emotions and memories. It’s with us from the time we are born and it’s so strong we can recognize the specific scents of our immediate family members.

The word aroma means a distinctive, typically pleasant smell. The phrase sweet aroma is used forty-four times in the New King James Bible, with the most occurrences in Leviticus and Numbers (17 and 18 respectively). It is most used in reference to a sacrifice made to the Lord. A sacrifice to the Lord in our lives is a sweet smell; just like us, He remembers it. My husband, the carnivore, often jokes that the “sweet smell” is of cooking meat on the altar, “Invite God to your barbeques” is his motto.

Repetition in the Bible should catch our attention.
If something is repeated, it’s important.
Three times, pay attention.
Forty-four times? Life-changing.

Leviticus 26 gives us a choice from God: blessing or curse. If we walk in His statutes and keep His commandments then a long list of blessings follows: abundant lives, peace, prosperity, defeated enemies, and freedom. Disobedience brings a much longer list. Words like: terror, disease, defeat, rob, and destroy bring curses from the Lord. The worst? God says, “I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” (Lev. 26:31).

When we are in disobedience God won’t smell our sacrifices. They go unnoticed. They are ignored.

A holy God cannot smell the unholy sacrifice of a disobedient child.

Sacrifice is a serious thing to the Lord, not to be taken lightly. God doesn’t need our sacrifice, He can do without it. It’s what’s behind the sacrifice that means more; it’s the state of the heart in obedience. It’s an outward symbol of the inward state of our heart.

In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul disobeys God. He was told to destroy the Amalekites. Instead he kept the livestock to sacrifice to the Lord. God didn’t ask for a sacrifice. It was a blatant disregard to God’s very specific instruction and Saul paid for it. “So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king’” (vv. 22-23, emphasis added). God likens disobedience with witchcraft and stubbornness with idolatry. In that instant, the kingdom was stripped from Saul’s hands.

King David, Saul’s successor, would tell us it’s not about what we can offer to the Lord in livestock or treasures. It’s our hearts the Lord is looking for upon the altar, “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise (Ps. 51:16-17).

God wants us on the altar. He wants our pride and our choices and all the grandiose plans we make for our lives burning before Him. He opens our hearts and ears and calls us to Himself, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require (Ps. 40:6-7). He wants us to be the sweet aroma of obedience.

We are never more like Christ than
when we offer ourselves up in sacrifice to:
His plans,
His future,
His instruction.

“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corin. 2:15). He wants to smell the scent of our obedience but more than that, He wants to use it to draw others to Him.

One bad thing about running in the summer: grilling. I have to stop myself from trying to get an invite to dinner. This is the same concept with the Lord. He wants the sweet aroma of our obedience to waft to those around us so they can peek over the fences of our lives and ask for an invitation to dine with the One who loves us.

I imagine God’s sense of smell is far keener than that of a dog. He can smell the reality behind our best efforts even when we pretend that what we are putting on the altar is real. He knows when it truly is the sweet aroma of an obedient heart or some sheep in our lives we were meant to destroy. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus, “The house was filled with the fragrance of oil” (John 12:3). God wants our house and our lives to be filled with the fragrance of Him.

More often than I care to admit, I don’t smell like a sweet aroma. I often go my own way. I make my own plans. I interpret God’s instruction through a lens of self and pride. But I want to smell sweet in His presence. More and more I am asking the Lord to burn off anything that isn’t of Him and leave only what is pleasing in His sight. And I know He will because I am His child. He can recognize me by smell alone; the sweet smell of the sacrifice His Son paid for me. I hope He can smell you too.

M.

 

 
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