Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don’t Give In to Fear

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

            When I was in seminary, I took a personality profile test. It identified me as a people pleaser. A people pleaser is one who will adjust their words and actions to accommodate others. The motivation behind this is the need to be accepted; to be liked. Throughout my life I have struggled with this. I have often failed to say something that I should have said out of fear that the other person will not like it. People pleasers usually struggle with the fear of not being accepted by others.

            Fear is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons for immobilizing Christians. Out of fear people will follow the crowd and do things they know are wrong. Out of fear people will isolate themselves. Out of fear people will stay in a negative situation rather than make significant changes in their lives. Fear can cripple an individual believer or a whole church.

            Over 60 times in the Bible we are told not to be afraid. Before Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, God told him, do not be afraid. When God called Jeremiah to be his prophet, God told Jeremiah, do not be afraid. While Daniel was in captivity, God told him, do not be afraid. When Jesus sent out the Twelve as his ambassadors he told them, do not be afraid. After Jesus rose from the dead, he met his disciples in the upper room and told them, do not be afraid. When Jesus called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, he told him, do not be afraid. The message of God is very clear; he does not want us to live in fear. God’s words to Joshua give us some clues about overcoming fear in our lives.

            We can overcome fear because we know that God will never abandon us. At the beginning of WWII Great Britain stood alone against the onslaught of Nazi Germany. All of Europe had fallen. Only Great Britain remained free from Nazi occupation. The United States made a choice to make its resources available to England. It was the knowledge that they were not abandoned that gave the Brits the courage to keep going. No matter what the circumstances are that we face, we know that the resources of God are always available to us. He will not leave us to fend for ourselves. The resources of God are inexhaustible, so we can trust him with our future.

            We can overcome fear because we know that God is standing with us. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, America entered WWII as a full participant beside Great Britain. Instead of just making resources available, America actively stood beside Britain in battle. It is one thing to know that we are supported from a distance. It is something completely different to know that someone will face our situation with us. The last promise that Jesus gave to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was I will be with you to the very end of the age. Jesus is standing beside us to fight every spiritual battle we face. We are not alone in our struggles.

            We can overcome fear by being strong and courageous. When Timothy was tempted to give in to fear, Paul wrote him words of encouragement. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) There is a difference from being apprehensive and being dominated by fear. When fear takes over, we run away. Courage is the strength to take our stand in the face of our apprehension. The ability to do that comes from God and not from us. We can overcome fear because Christ has empowered us.

            In Ephesians 6, Paul challenges us to tap into the power of Christ as we face our enemy Satan. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

            We do not have to live in fear. We have the power, through Christ, to face every challenge of life. Through Christ, we have already won the ultimate victory. Our life is secure in Him for all of eternity. We can stand firm in his mighty power.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

Saturday, October 20, 2012


            When I was a student at Wheaton College, we had mandatory ROTC.  This meant that every Thursday morning all of the freshmen men had to get up early, put on a ROTC uniform and report for drill on the parade field. For reasons I won’t go into here, I signed up for a second year of ROTC, which meant that I actually took classes in military history and tactics. One of the things I learned was that you never turn your back to the enemy. As strange as it may sound, when confronted by an enemy, the best course of action is to press forward.

            Paul tells us that we are engaged in a great spiritual conflict. When we confront the enemy, we must press forward. To stop where we are will eventually mean defeat. But if we press forward we can experience victory in Christ.

            The Old Testament tells us the story of the people of Israel as they faced the Jordan River for the second time. To their back was the wilderness, a place they and their families had wandered for 40 years. In front of them was the Promised Land with formidable enemies and untold potential. What would they do? They had learned the lesson of turning back, so their only choice was to move forward. But how? The opening chapters of the book of Joshua give us the answer. As we observe what Joshua and the people of Israel did, we can gain insights into how God wants us to move forward in ministry for him.

            First, we must consecrate ourselves for service. Before the people of Israel moved forward, Joshua gave them some very important instructions. Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." (Joshua 3:5)

            What does it mean to consecrate yourself? It means to commit oneself to God and to his purposes; setting your life apart for Christ’s use. It means to put God first in your life. When we are consecrated to God, we make decisions based on what would bring glory to Him. We act in ways that reflect His values and His character. When we intentionally put Christ in first place in our lives, He will do amazing things through us.

            Second, we must commit to action. Much ministry today is all theory and little action. Joshua could not conquer the Promised Land alone. He needed an army behind him who would fight. Joshua knew that, in order to lead the people into the Promised Land, he would have to demonstrate courage and commitment. As Joshua stared across the Jordan and wondered what was ahead, God gave him these words of challenge. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

            As we face the challenges before us, we need the same courage that Joshua had. Our courage is not based on our abilities, but on the promise of Christ that He will go with us. We don’t know all that lies ahead of us, but we do know that Christ has told us to go into all the world and make disciples. We can do this with great confidence, because He will be with us to very end of the age.

            Third, we need to conquer new territory for Christ. God gave Joshua a great promise with a significant condition. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:3) God promised Joshua great success, but Joshua had to actually claim it. The more aggressive he was, the more success he could expect.

            Ministry is all about claiming new territory for Christ. The extent of spiritual success we can expect to experience is dependent on our willingness to plant our feet in enemy territory. Symbolically we stand on the edge of the Jordan. Behind us is a dry wilderness that promises relative safety, but a slow death. Before us are challenges, obstacles and the unknown, with the promise of untold blessings. I say the choice is clear. Forward!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

            If there is one word that best summarizes the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century it is conflict. There has been open conflict somewhere in our world almost constantly my whole life. Wars are destructive, political and divisive. Today, as in other times in our history, armed conflict has a religious overtone. The temptation for all of us is to take sides and blast away.

            The Bible gives us a very different perspective on the conflict so rampant in our world. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

            The real battle that we face is spiritual and not physical. It definitely has physical manifestations, but the root cause is not politics or ideology, but spiritual evil. Satan is a very real enemy. He had massed his spiritual forces to stand against Christ in the world. He is out to do as much damage as he possibly can. Peter tells us that he is a ferocious beast with an insatiable appetite. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

            The battle ground is not physical territory, but the lives of men and women and children. Satan cannot attack God directly, but he can attack God’s creation. He began his attack in the Garden of Eden, when he deceived Eve. He continues his attacks today. His ultimate goal is to destroy as many people as he can. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

            Jesus came into the world to turn the tide of the battle. When He willingly took the sin of the world on his shoulders and died on the cross, He defeated Satan. Satan’s main weapon is sin. Jesus disarmed sin at the cross. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NIV)

            In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the Devil. So how are we to fight this battle? Paul tells us that we need to change our thinking about how we do battle. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

            Jesus told us to wage war in a radically different way. Instead of giving in to the way of hate, Jesus calls us to use the power of love. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) Someone once said that the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend. This does not mean that we compromise our faith for the sake of peace. It does mean that we are to show genuine love for others. We can do this because we have been loved beyond measure by Jesus. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11 (NIV)

            Paul expands Jesus’ command to love our enemies in Romans 12. He gives us practical steps to take to disarm our enemies for the sake of Christ. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21 (NIV)

            We have been called to live radically different lives in our conflicted world. Our greatest weapon against the evil and destruction in our world is the love of Christ. This love needs to be demonstrated in practical, tangible ways. The world will not understand this, but if we are faithful, it will change our world. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV)

Friday, October 12, 2012


            I have often struggled with Paul’s words in Colossians 3:17.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

            What does it mean to do everything in the name of Jesus? What are the practical implications of this statement? To what extent does my “faith” affect the way I live my daily life?

            I was driving home from the Cities one day and I started thinking of all the things we fill our lives with. Unconsciously we compartmentalize these things into sacred and secular. For example, we are very comfortable with music as a form of worship, but we don’t see sports as a form of worship. We see gathering together on Sunday morning as a sacred event, but we don’t see going to work on Monday in the same way. So I ask again, what does it mean to do everything in the name of Jesus?

            Let me share a few random thoughts I have been pondering concerning this question. To do everything in the name of Jesus is to intentionally invite his participation in my activities. In one sense, it is wrong for me to invite Jesus to be present, because he is always present. But I can invite him to be an active participant in the activities of my life. I have begun to intentionally recognize Jesus’ presence throughout my day, inviting him to be in charge of my activities.

            Another way I can do everything in the name of Jesus is to submit to his authority in everything I do. Whenever the Bible speaks about the name of God, it is referring to God’s character, authority and power. Too often, I live my life under my own authority. I make my decisions based on what I want. To do everything in the name of Jesus means I must yield my will to Jesus’ authority. I need to fly the banner of Jesus over everything I do. To be honest, I’m not sure what that looks like in every situation. I do know that at least it means screening my decisions through the filter of Jesus’ authority.

            In the broadest sense, doing everything in the name of Jesus means living by faith daily; as a moment by moment experience. Our faith is not a part of our life that we bring out on Sunday and then put away for the rest of the week. Our faith is intended to be an integral our life. God wants us to live in faith like a fish lives in water. We are to be immersed in faith at all times. So how do we do that?!

            Paul gives us some help in Colossians 3:15-16. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

            This passage gives me some practical things I can do to move in the direction of doing everything in the name of Jesus.

            I can find my sense of wholeness and well-being in Jesus. When the world tears me down, I need to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart. I need to listen to his voice above all others.

            I can live in Christ’s word. The more I immerse myself in the Bible, taking seriously what I read, the closer I will draw to Christ. Like in any relationship, the more I invest in the relationship, really getting to know the other person, the closer we become.

            I can lean on others to support me. Jesus does not want us to live out our faith in a vacuum. We are strongest when we are in community.

            I can cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Instead of taking daily life for granted I can reflect upon the gift that it really is and give thanks to God.

            This week Satan has been looking for ways to discourage me and get me off track. I have felt the sting of the darts of cynicism, futility and doubt. At the same time I have felt the Spirit drawing me into a daily faith I don’t always understand. I have felt spiritually flat and yet had a deep desire to walk with Jesus. I have a growing passion to transform theoretical faith into practical daily faith. I find my heart resonating with the words of Paul, I want to know Christ! I want to know Christ, not just during a worship service on Sunday, but every day. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


            I had a conversation yesterday that caused me to reflect upon the increasing lack of trust in our world. People no longer trust the government to do what is best for the country. People are skeptical about what they read in the newspaper or hear on the news. This lack of trust saddens me because it is eroding our sense of community on all levels.
            When there is a lack of trust, people live in a constant state of fear. They begin to believe that there are malevolent forces at work seeking to harm them. They become suspicious and closed to others. They seek out only those who agree with them and then together they reinforce their particular brand of paranoia. We see this with political parties, social action groups, even neighborhood associations.

            I don’t believe that Jesus wants us to live our lives in fear and mistrust. One of the things that he told his disciples over and over again was “do not be afraid.” So how do we respond to a world that has a trust deficit?

            Be sure that we are trusting in the right things. In this world, people and institutions are going to disappoint us. If we experience this too often, our ability to trust is diminished. We need a trustworthy foundation from which we can face the disappointments of the world. Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us the key to being a trusting person.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. When we put our trust in the Lord, we can be sure that he will lead us in the right direction. He will give us the proper perspective on the situations that we face.

            Refuse to live in fear. There are so many things that can cause us to be afraid. When we give in to fear, we let go of faith. Jesus was very clear that, even though we will face difficult situations in life, we don’t have to live in fear. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV) As followers of Christ, we must do our part to demonstrate and work toward godly values and outcomes. But we also must recognize that we are not in control. When things don’t go the way we want them to go, instead of retreating into fear, we need to seek to redeem the situation for Christ. Remember that the Church has had its greatest impact on the world when it has had the least worldly power and influence.

            Resist Satan’s attempts to immobilize you. I was deeply distressed the other day when someone shared with me their latest doomsday scenario. I found myself moving toward self-preservation and isolationism. Then it dawned on me that I was playing right into Satan’s hands. Satan wants us to be distracted by things that have nothing to do with the Gospel. If he can get us to spend our energy on the latest conspiracy, then he keeps us from being the body of Christ in our world. Remember that Satan is looking for any opportunity to make us ineffective. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) We need to take our stand for Christ and not against other things. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 (NIV)

            Let me suggest positive steps we can take to counteract the loss of trust.
- Take a positive, proactive approach to our world. Rather than follow the trail of mistrust, seek to live at peace with everyone. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:17-18 (NIV)

- Pray for those who are in authority that God’s authority would reign in their lives and decisions. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

- Put your trust fully in Christ; focusing your life on serving Him, rather than worrying about the future.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

            Trust is at the very heart of our relationship with Christ. When we give in to the current trend of mistrust we unwittingly undercut our ability to have faith in Christ. There is no doubt that there are untrustworthy people and institutions in our world. But we do not have to become cynical, skeptical people. We can still live lives of trust, because our trust is in the Lord!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Need for Closure

            I lost another friend this week. He was a unique fellow; not the type that you would expect to meet in church. He came to use about twelve years ago. When he walked into the sanctuary, everyone noticed. He was short, balding and had tattoos and piercings everywhere. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Over the course of several months I befriended this unlikely churchman and about a year later he yielded his life to Jesus Christ and was baptized.

            There was no outward demonstration of a change in his life, at least not in the way he dressed. But there was real evidence that God was at work in his life. He became very active; attending church most every Sunday and doing whatever jobs he could. He painted walls, cleaned floors and helped out in the kitchen (much to the horror of some of our ladies).

            A couple of years ago he disappeared from our fellowship. Due to some mental issues, it was not unusual for him to “go underground” for a while. This time he seemed to disappear completely. Then I received a phone call informing me that he was in a nursing home, dying of cancer, and wanted to see me. Over the past couple of weeks, I went to see him as often as I could. I prayed with him and read scripture to him. Sometimes I just sat and watched him sleep. On Sunday evening he died.

            His wishes were that there would be no funeral. He wanted to be cremated, buried and forgotten. But he will not be forgotten. I grieve for him. The lack of a funeral hinders my ability to bring some closure to his life. I don’t want to just forget him. Today, for the very first time, I had some contact with his family. I hope this contact will help me and them bring some closure to his life.

            The Gospel of John records a time when Jesus went to a funeral. It was for a close friend named Lazarus. Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha, were experiencing deep grief. Jesus came to give them comfort and hope. In a way, he came to bring closure to that chapter of Lazarus’ life.

            John records Jesus’ emotions when he went to the grave site with Mary. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" John 11:32-36 (NIV)

            Jesus freely entered into the grief of Mary and Martha. He didn’t hold back, even though he knew that he would raise Lazarus from the dead. It was still important to go through the process of bringing closure to a life.

            Earlier Jesus had given Martha a clue as to what was to come. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:21-26 (NIV)

            In the end Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb and reunited him with his family.

            This past Friday my friend was reunited with his family for the first time in 18 years. They were able to talk with him. On the day that he died, they were there. He did not die alone.

            Jesus’ words still hold true for my friend. Even though he didn’t match up to the expectations of everyone else, he had placed his faith in Jesus. And so Jesus’ words apply to him. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" I have to say “YES!” I believe this. Knowing that my friend is at home with Jesus is the best closure that anyone can have.

            We did not have a funeral, nor will I probably ever see his grave. But my friend is not alone. He is safe in the arms of Jesus.

John 14:1-6 (NIV)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


            I was walking my dog the other day and observed that he sticks his nose into everything and anything. A dog learns about its world through its nose. When we go on walks, my dog is constantly sniffing things. He runs his nose through the grass, seeking out interesting smells. He stops at bushes, trees and fence posts to check out the scent left by other dogs. Then he dutifully adds his to the mix. He will also stick his nose into any disgusting pile of refuse that he can find. For a dog, smells are intense or mild, interesting or uninteresting. But there is one thing that is not in their catalogue of smells; good or bad. From my observation, there is no sense of a bad smell for my dog.

            I have been blessed with a very sensitive sense of smell. I can often pick up an aroma long before anyone else in my family becomes aware of it. This is both a blessing and a curse. I cannot go into candle stores or stores with heavy perfume because they overwhelm me. Unlike my dog, I can make a distinction between a smell that is good and one that is bad.  I am not talking about pleasant vs. unpleasant. I’m talking about normal vs. foul. I can take a whiff of the milk carton and know if the milk has gone bad. I can put on a running shirt and know that it is definitely time to throw it in the wash. When I worked in a hospital laboratory, I was trained to determine the presence of disease by the smell of certain bodily fluids.

            Here is my point. Many people would have us believe that we are just the highest form of animal. There is nothing about us that sets us apart as spiritual beings. Therefore, there is really no right or wrong, no higher standard of what is good or bad. For my dog, and all animals, there is no right or wrong, good or bad. There are different intensities of experience, but that is it. For human beings we have an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad. No one has to teach us this, we know it. We have a spiritual “sense of smell” that helps us determine good from bad. In other words, we have the ability to judge things on a higher level than animals do; on a non-tangible, transcendent level.

            For example, we know that it is good to care for the wounded and the weak. We do this for both humans and animals because we have a sense that it is the right thing to do. In the animal world, the wounded and the weak are at best abandoned and sometimes even attacked and killed by their own kind.

            God has placed within us a sense of morality that is not the product of culture or society. It has its roots in the reality that we have been created in the image of God. In 1 John 4:16, John states that God is love. It is a part of his very essence. Because we were created in God’s image, then we too have the capacity to demonstrate love. God is righteous and just, therefore we have a sense of justice and righteousness. Although love, justice and righteousness may take slightly different forms in different cultures, the foundational principles are the same and come from the same place, God.

            One of the things about our sense of smell is that it quickly fatigues. If a person is exposed to an intense aroma for a period of time, that person’s ability to consciously recognize that smell diminishes. For example, if you were to drive onto a hog farm, you would be confronted with an intense and unpleasant odor. You might wonder how anyone could live and work in those conditions. But the person who does live and work on that farm doesn’t even smell the odor anymore. Their sense of smell has blocked it out. Yet, if you happened to be wearing a strong perfume or aftershave, that person would be able to pick up that new aroma.

            The Bible tells us that it is possible for our spiritual sense of smell to become dull; to the point where we cease to be able to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:18-23 (NIV)

            The people who provide natural gas to our homes put a particularly potent odor into the odorless natural gas. The reason for this is so that people will recognize when there is a gas leak and they are in danger. If a person ignores this warning sign, it can mean disaster.

            God has placed warning signs in our world to alert us to the spiritual danger all around us. He has given us the truth through Christ and through the Bible. If we will pay attention, then our sense of right and wrong will remain strong. If we ignore these warning signs we are in danger of experiencing spiritual, emotional and physical harm. God has given us a spiritual sense of smell to protect us. We need to pay attention.

            When I am walking my dog I pay attention to what he is putting his nose into. Sometimes he sticks his nose into things that I know are not good for him. He may be tempted to consume whatever his nose has discovered, but in doing so he risks getting sick. So I often have to pull him away from his find. There are many things in our world that can attract us, but if we consume them they will make us sick. We need to trust the one who gave us a sense of right and wrong to guide us in the right way. Sometimes we will feel like he is being unfair, pulling us away from some tantalizing experience. But He knows what is best for us and we need to yield to His direction.

John 8:31-32 (NIV)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."