Smelling Like Jesus

30 05 2011

I got to witness a miracle last week. A young mother came to be baptized. She and her friend had spent time talking about Jesus, the power of forgiveness, the call to surrender, and the amazing offer of grace, and she made the decision to become a child of God. She went down into the water a sinner – drowning in guilt, weighted down by humiliation, and haunted by regrets and what ifs. She rose up out of the water a new creation – pure, clean, renewed, and free to live in the fullness of God’s grace and power. It is a miracle that makes my heart beat faster every time I am blessed to see it.

The neatest part of the moment was the conversation between this young mother and her five-year old daughter. Long dark hair framed big brown eyes that watched with fascination and awe as mom answered the invitation to die to self and live for Christ. It was clear that they had talked about mom’s decision. The little girl knew that mom was going to be baptized in the water and she was overflowing with questions and curiosity. It was beautiful to listen to mom gently explain that someday the little girl would be able to choose to live for Jesus as well.

Just then a friend came over to give the woman a hug. “Do you feel fresh and clean?” the friend asked. Beaming, the woman agreed that she did. With that, the little girl got the strangest look on her face. She grabbed her mom’s hand and pulled it right up to her nose. She sniffed and smelled her mom’s skin, and then proudly pronounced, “Yep, you smell like Jesus!”

I love that. Leave it to a five-year old to go straight to the heart of transformation. This isn’t just a cute comment by an adorable kid. It is the deep truth of grace. “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” – 2 Corinthians 2:15. When we commit ourselves to His salvation, He changes us into the fragrance of Christ. Gone is the stink of sin, the smell of shame, and the stench of guilt and fear. Instead, we smell like Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to wear the fragrance of faith. I want to smell like Jesus. I want Jesus to be so much a part of who I am that He comes out of my pores. I want to live so deeply in His grace that others are aware of His nearness. I want to move so deliberately in His presence that He fills every part of who I am with Himself. I want others to be able to listen to my words, watch my actions, feel my touch, and hold my hand and say, “Yep, you smell like Jesus!”

The Symphony

27 05 2011

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” – I Corinthians 12:14

Last week, I caught another glimpse of the wonderful way God pulls us together to help the world see Him. My son plays in the orchestra at school. He plays the double bass – the big, tall instrument in the back. It was concert time and we enjoyed hearing how all the hours of practicing and rehearsals came together in what was literally a symphony.

After the concert, I told my son which song was my favorite piece. It was a beautiful number that captured my imagination. He got a bit of a frown on his face when I named the song. “But mom,” he said. “All I do in that song is play one note over and over.”

His comment provides an interesting lesson. In many ways, the body of Christ is like an orchestra. Each Christian plays a part. Our individual notes, combined with the harmonies and melodies of everyone else, create a beautiful song that gives the rest of the world an opportunity to hear the heart of God. Alone, my son’s bass note would sound one dimensional. Combined with the rest of the instruments, his note adds depth, intensity, and counterpoint to the whole, creating a thing of beauty and wonder.

Being a part of an orchestra requires learning to keep our eyes on the Conductor, following His lead and paying attention to His direction. He alone knows how to bring harmony out of the chaos of individual voices. Playing together means training our ears to listen to each other, respecting each other’s contribution to the whole, and learning the music God gives us as our part.

My Jesus Resolution is to play my note. God gave me my talents, my voice, my gifts, and my passions as notes to be combined with the whole of His orchestra. They are not meant to be played in isolation, where they would fall flat. I am created to live, dream, and work in the context of a larger community designed to play His song for the world.

The End of the World

25 05 2011

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” – Mark 13:32 

May 21st was being advertised as a momentous day. Howard Camping, an eighty-nine year old California preacher, adamantly proclaimed that Jesus was going to return at six p.m. on Saturday, May 21st. He spent millions of dollars advertising his interpretation of end times events, encouraging people to prepare for judgment.

Four days later, most of the world is laughing or shaking their heads. After the missed deadline, Mr. Camping released a press statement adjusting his interpretation to now reveal that the end will come on October 21st. He seems determined to pin God down. The world seems willing to give him his fifteen minutes. How should Christians view these happenings?

Scripture very clearly tells us that no one knows the day or the hour marked in God’s heart as the last day of the earth. That mystery is a source of hope. God alone holds the keys to the future. No man can twist God’s eternal purpose to meet his own needs or desires. God’s timing is perfect. He will move at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way to bring His own home. God can’t be pushed, bullied, manipulated, or coerced to leave even one stone unturned in His great desire to bring all men to Himself.

I think that Mr. Camping missed the point. Our hearts are not to be set on a specific date for Christ’s appearing. We are to search today for His presence. One day, Jesus will come in a magnificent, glorious, awesome way. We will get to see Him face to face, and spend every moment from that day forward living, worshipping, praising, and joyously experiencing all of the wonders He has stored up for those whose names are in the Book of Life.

But we prepare for the last day by looking for Him today. We are to keep our eyes open, our hearts ready, our spirits willing, and our ears attentive for His presence. When He moves, we go. When He calls, we listen. When He gives direction, we obey. When He draws us close to His heart, we rest in the truth that He is here. When we recognize His presence, we bow in surrender.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for Jesus. I am going to set my heart to searching for His presence, responding to His nearness, and listening to His voice. How I respond to Him today prepares my heart for how I will respond to Him whenever the last day comes. Jesus will appear today. Perhaps in the fullness of His glory. Perhaps in the whisper on the wind. Either way, I want to be ready.

The Letter

23 05 2011

Have you ever received a special letter? Letters are rare these days. It is easier to send a text message or an email than to sit down with pen and paper. Writing a letter is a gift that requires an investment of time and the heart.

When we receive a letter, we hold more in our hands than just a piece of paper covered with ink. We hold the voice and thoughts of another speaking just to us. In the midst of the words, we find connection. In the flow of paragraphs, we discover the rhythm of relationship. In its pages, we can hear the voice of someone reaching out to us. Letters do more than communicate. They are invitations to walk together, spend time in each other’s presence, and invest in the bond that connects us to each other’s hearts.

Did you know that your life is a letter? Second Corinthians 3:3 says, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Every day you walk through your life as a letter written by God to the world. The transformation God is working in your heart testifies to His provision and power. The grace that covers your soul invites others to the cross. The joy that radiates from you provides a lesson in light and hope for a dark world. The way that you face tomorrow points to the presence of I AM in you today.

My Jesus Resolution today is to read my letter. God is writing on my heart today. It is a story about His dreams for me, a catalog of His wonders, and an invitation to walk more closely by His side. As He engraves His words in me, they work to transform me more deeply into the image of His Son. I want to pay attention to what He is saying in me and through me. I want to notice the love that is written between the lines. It is a personal letter meant to be shared with everyone we meet. I want my life to be an open book that proclaims His grace, sings His praises, and announces His arrival.

Letting Go

20 05 2011

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 

Does it ever get easier? My daughter left for Africa yesterday. She is joining a team for five weeks committed to going into eastern Africa to bring medical care, basic hygiene and health education, and the word of God to the people in that part of the world. We put her on a plane with her trunk of medical supplies, committing her into the hands of God. Again.

I remember the first time she spent the night away from home. I sat in the parking lot and cried. The first day of school when I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that different voices would now be speaking into her heart. The first afternoon I handed her the car keys, telling her to be careful. The evening we came home to an empty bedroom after leaving her at college. Each moment was an opportunity to expand my trust, open my heart, and acknowledge that her life has always been in the hands of God.

I am so excited for all the ways that she is going to grow, the things she is going to experience, the ways that she will see God, and the light that she is going to share. This experience will stretch her faith. It will stretch mine too. Africa is on the other side of the world, but the same God who walks with me through my neighborhood will travel with her across the plains of the Serengeti. He will be there through the new sights, strange flavors, different rhythms, and exciting experiences – holding her, teaching her, watching over her, and loving her. He knows what it means for a child to leave home to walk in a different land. His presence with her is my assurance and the foundation of my hope.

My Jesus Resolution today is to trust the Father. My children are a gift given to me to cherish, teach, enjoy, and love. They expand my heart, open my eyes, lift my soul, and energize my steps. I have learned more about the heart of God from them than could be written in a thousand books. Today, He uses my daughter to teach me a new lesson. It is the lesson of Abraham, Hannah, Mary, and Eunice. Let go. Surrender even this precious piece of your heart into My hands and watch me work My wonders.

He’s Here

18 05 2011

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’” – Genesis 28:16 

My little guy was almost five. He was having a difficult time in preschool and facing major surgery on his eye. One afternoon, I picked him up from school and he bounced into the car with a giant smile on his face. Passionately, he began to tell me a story about his day.

“Jesus came to school today. It was the real Jesus – He came down from heaven!”

Confused and a little bewildered by his story, I asked him if someone had dressed in a costume for a Bible story. Perhaps a teacher had pretended to be a character in his class and he was confusing fiction with fact. He continued to be insistent that it was the real Jesus from heaven.

With continued doubt, I asked what Jesus had said to him. “He didn’t say anything,” my son said. “He just patted my head.”

I honestly don’t know what to make of his story. He was absolutely certain that Jesus had stood with him during that day at school. He would not be dissuaded or doubt or deny the reality of the moment. I was relating his story to someone who gently reminded me not to discount his encounter too quickly. He had received reassurance and blessing somehow that day. Children often have eyes of faith that see far more than our hearts are willing to believe. We should all be so aware of His presence.

My Jesus Resolution today is to keep my eyes and my heart open. He is here. He has promised that. He is closer than our next breath and more certain than our next heartbeat. Perhaps instead of wondering if He is here, I need to ask if my eyes are open to seeing Him or if my heart is prepared to meet Him. I am going to look for Him today. Let me know where you see Him.

She’s Home

16 05 2011

Our daughter is home from school. Another semester of classes, papers, library visits, and late night studying is behind her. She came home with piles of laundry, notebooks, bedding, and, of course, shoes. One look around our house announces that she is home.

It is amazing how one girl can change the feel of a house. Her presence fills every corner. Stuff is piled against the walls. New items are stacked on the tables. Different dishes line the counter. A much more pleasant aroma floats down the hallway. It only takes a few hours for her presence to change the order, smell, rhythm, and feel of the house.

I love it when she comes home. Every time I look at the way her presence fills our house, I learn a new lesson about Jesus. Through her, He gives me a living, breathing picture of what it means for Him to fill my life. I tend to want things to stay well-ordered, neat, and predictable. Jesus wants to move in and rearrange, redesign, and refashion. He wants to touch the simple places where I invest my heart. He wants to have a say in what’s in my kitchen, the books on my shelf, the movies in my cabinet, and the way I walk through the rooms of my life.

My Jesus Resolution today is to let the mess be a mirror. I want the presence of Jesus to be as obvious in my life as the piles of shoes proclaiming the arrival of my daughter. I want evidence of His nearness to be trumpeted through every part of who I am. I want His aroma to fill the hallways, His holiness to permeate my choices, and His goodness to be felt in the corners of my heart. I want to look in the mirror of His grace and ask if someone can easily see the presence of Jesus in my home. Is it obvious that He has taken up residence in my life? Does He feel at home in my heart? My daughter is home, and that is reason to smile. When Jesus is at home, it is pure joy.


13 05 2011

The sky is filled with clouds today. A soft layer of grey covers the blue, filtering the sunlight through prisms of mist. The world looks softer today. Wrapped in a blanket of clouds, the earth waits – a little quieter, a little cooler, and seemingly a little slower as the weight of the clouds presses in on the atmosphere.

Clouds should do more, however, than remind us to pick up an umbrella. The Bible is filled with pictures of clouds. Clouds announce the presence of God. They trumpet His nearness, calling us to prepare our hearts and bend our knees.

Clouds can remind us of the way God covers us, protects us, and leads us. Israel walked under a canopy as the pillar of cloud led them to the Promised Land. The pillar of cloud provided very visible, tangible evidence of God’s love and presence.

Clouds can help us focus on God’s holiness. In Exodus 19, a thick cloud covered Mount Sinai as Israel prepared to meet God. The cloud helped to showcase His awesome nature, His majesty and might, and the holiness to which He called His people to live.

Clouds can call us to pay attention to Jesus. Standing on the Mount of Transfiguration, a voice called out of a cloud, proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

Clouds can heighten our anticipation for the return of Jesus. Clouds play a large part in the pictures of the second coming painted in Revelation 1:7 and I Thessalonians 4:17. Every time we see a cloud, it should make our heart beat in wonder and our eyes look for His light.

My Jesus Resolution today is to watch the clouds. Clouds are more than vapors of water molecules bunched together in the sky. Each cloud testifies to the movement and majesty of God. The way the clouds wrap around the earth can remind me of the way I am enfolded in His love. The way light plays off the clouds can help draw my heart deeper into the light of His holiness.  Nahum 1:3 paints the neatest picture of clouds –“His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Every time I look at the clouds, I am going to see them as trails that trace the movement of God through my day.

God Wins

11 05 2011

I had the neatest reminder of an important truth today. Our four year old friend was riding with me in the car. He is into comparisons – who is bigger, faster, stronger, and tougher. He compares dinosaurs, superheroes, cars, birds, kids on the playground, and wild animals. After making an exhaustive list and concluding that a cheetah could outrun a dinosaur, he announced the most important news of all. “But you know, God wins everybody.”

I need to remember that God wins everybody. Kids aren’t the only ones who spend time on comparisons. We compare our bills with the money in the bank, our struggles with our strength, our worries with our wisdom, our appearance with the television, and our to-do lists with our resources. Inevitably, I come up short. The mountains are too high, the oceans too deep, the problems too vast, and the lists too long. I spend time worrying and fretting, keeping my eyes on the shadows when God calls me to look at the Son.

God wins everybody. There is no giant that can defeat Him, no enemy that will beat Him, no mountain that matches His strength, no problem that can outsmart Him, and no struggle that is too hard for Him. Whatever I am facing today is not bigger, stronger, faster, or tougher than my God.

Paul put it this way. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31.

God has promised to walk with us through the darkest circumstances, the brightest joys, the deepest worries, and the fiercest storms. He faced death so we can have life. He lived in our shoes so that we can walk by His side. He defeated sin so that we can have victory in grace. He calmed storms, raised the dead, healed the sick, and cast out demons so that we could spend today absolutely sure that God wins everybody.

My Jesus Resolution today is to make the right comparison. I am going to measure whatever comes my way today by the size of my God. I am not going to let the shadows of the world’s giants pull my eyes from the cross. I want to lay every problem, struggle, storm, and worry in His hands and watch them be swallowed up in His all-sufficient grace. God really is bigger, stronger, and faster. The world may try to dazzle me with its speed, strength, and smarts, but God really does win everybody.


9 05 2011

“See the kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” – I John 3:1 

I have great kids. Every day they open my eyes to the presence of God, His incredible mercy, generous grace, and amazing love. They teach me how to count my blessings…slowly and with a smile. They help me understand the inexpressible value of a word of gratitude, a gesture of kindness, and a simple touch. God blessed me with children because He knew that through them I would see Him in richer, fuller, deeper ways than I ever could on my own. They are my telescope into the vast reaches of God’s love.

Here are a couple of lessons my children have taught me this week.

Kids have no problem recognizing that they are under construction. Transformation is a part of their day. They expect to change, grow, and mature. Adults tend to put up an “I have it all together” finished product mask. Kids know that they are works in progress. They delight in the ways that they are becoming who they are supposed to become.

Children know how to celebrate. Kids are big celebrators. Give them a reason and they will do it up right. Leave them alone, and they will find their own reasons to express joy. They seem to understand the value of stopping and acknowledging the moment. Too often, I rush through on my way to the next “big thing”. I don’t take the time to praise God for the butterfly, cheer someone on for their step of faith, or notice the quiet triumph of kindness or sacrifice.

Kids love to be included. They are imitators by nature. They learn best when they stand alongside you, get their hands dirty with you, and match their steps with your own. In their desire to “help” they show me a picture of God’s delight. They are mirroring exactly the heart God wants me to have as I walk with Him. He never rolls His eyes and thinks that it would be so much simpler to do it all Himself. He loves it when we mismatch the forks, spill flour on the floor, or let the pitcher overflow because He knows that the best growth is found in moments when we try to match His steps. Just look at Peter, Moses, and David. My children regularly teach me that a wobbly step of faith is worth more than all of my good intentions combined.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be like my children. I want to grow up to embrace transformation, celebrate His presence, and imitate His heart. I want to anticipate the changes that tomorrow is going to bring to my heart and delight in the truth that I am a work in progress. I want to be someone who celebrates quickly and often. I want to count blessings before I complain about burdens. I want to spend my day playing Follow the Leader, matching my steps to His, eager to do whatever I see Him doing. Watching my children teaches me how to be His child.