20 SEP: AROMA OF CHRIST

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved. 2 Corinthians 2:15

READ 2 CORINTHIANS 2:14-17

Hot and dusty, Bob dismounted from the bus he had ridden to a city far from home. He was tired from a long day of travel and grateful that he would be able to have dinner with friends of friends who lived in the area. They welcomed him in, and he immediately felt a sense of peace. He felt at home, comfortable, safe, and valued.

Later, wondering why he had felt such peace in an unfamiliar place, Bob found an answer in 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul describes people who follow God as having the “pleasing aroma of Christ.” “That’s exactly it!” Bob said to himself. His hosts had “smelled like” Christ.

When Paul says that God leads His people in Christ’s “triumphal procession” spreading the fragrance of His truth, he’s referring to a practice in the ancient world. Victorious armies would burn incense as they marched through the streets. For their supporters, the smell brought joy. In the same way, Paul says the people of God carry a pleasing fragrance to those who believe. It isn’t something we create on our own but something God gives as He leads us in spreading the knowledge of Him.

REFLECT & PRAY 

Heavenly Father, thank You for leading Your people in triumph and spreading the fragrance of Your truth through us.

Who smells like Christ to you?

19 SEP: ROOTED

Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. — 2 Chronicles 24:2

READ 2 CHRONICLES 24:15-22

Joash must have been confused and frightened when he was told about the evil deeds of his grandmother Athaliah. She had murdered his brothers to usurp the power of the throne in Judah. But baby Joash had been safely hidden away by his aunt and uncle for 6 years (2 Chronicles 22:10-12). As he grew, he enjoyed the love and instruction of his caregivers. When Joash was only 7 years old, he was secretly crowned king and his grandmother was overthrown (23:12-15).

Young King Joash had a wise counselor by his side—his very own Uncle Jehoiada (Chronicles 22–25). Joash was one of the rare “good kings” of Judah, and while his uncle was alive he obeyed the Lord by doing right (24:2). But once his uncle was no longer there to teach and lead by example, Joash fell away and his life ended badly (24:15-25). It seems that the roots of his faith did not run very deep. He even began to worship idols. Perhaps Joash’s “faith” had been more his uncle’s than his own.

Others can teach us the principles of their faith, but each of us must come individually to a lasting and personal faith in Christ. For faith to be real, it must become our own. God will help us walk with Him and become rooted and established in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7). 

REFLECT & PRAY 

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, And it told Thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith And be closer drawn to Thee.

The faith that continues to the end gives proof that it was genuine in the beginning.

18 SEP: OUR BEING KNOWN

 I acknowledged my sin to You . . . . I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. — Psalm 32:5

READ JAMES 5:16-20

One of the most difficult inner conflicts we have is our desire to be known versus our fear of being known. As beings created in the image of God we are made to be known—known by God and also by others. Yet due to our fallen nature, all of us have sins and weaknesses that we don’t want others to know about. We use the phrase “dark side” to refer to aspects of our lives that we keep hidden. And we use slogans like “put your best foot forward” to encourage others to show their best side.

One reason we are unwilling to risk being known is that we fear rejection and ridicule. But when we discover that God knows us, loves us, and is willing to forgive even the worst thing we have done, our fear of being known by God begins to fade away. And when we find a community of believers who understands the dynamic relationship between forgiveness and confession, we feel safe confessing our sins to one another (James 5:16).

The life of faith is not about showing only our good side. It’s about exposing our dark side to the light of Christ through confession to God and also to others. In this way we can receive healing and live in the freedom of forgiveness. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, help me to expose my sin, Those secret wrongs that lurk within; I would confess them all to Thee; Transparent I would always be.

The voice of sin may be loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder.

17 SEP: GOD'S POINT OF VIEW

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

READ HABAKKUK 1:1-11

Why does the intoxicated driver escape an accident unharmed while his sober victim is seriously injured? Why do bad people prosper while good people suffer? How often have you been so confused by things going on in your life that you have cried out, “Doesn’t God care?”

Habakkuk struggled with this same question as he saw the distressing situation in Judah where wickedness and injustice were running rampant (Habakkuk 1:1-4). His confusion drove him to ask God when He would act to fix the situation. God’s reply was nothing short of perplexing.

God said that He would use the Chaldeans as the means of Judah’s correction. The Chaldeans were notorious for their cruelty (verse 7). They were bent on violence (verse 9) and worshiped nothing but their military prowess and false gods (verses 10-11).

In moments when we don’t understand God’s ways, we need to trust His unchanging character. That’s exactly what Habakkuk did. He believed that God is a God of justice, mercy, and truth (Psalm 89:14). In the process, he learned to look at his circumstances from the framework of God’s character instead of looking at God’s character from the context of his own circumstances. He concluded, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19). 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, it is easy to let my circumstances change how I understand You. Help me to remember that You are good and faithful, even though I can’t see everything and may not understand how You are working.

Our situation may look very different from God’s point of view.

16 SEP: FEELING ABANDONED?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

READ PSALM 22:1-21

In his book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis records an imaginary conversation between a senior devil and a junior devil as they discuss how to properly tempt a Christian. The two devils desired to destroy the believer’s faith in God. “Be not deceived,” the senior devil says to the junior. “Our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human . . . looks round upon a universe in which every trace of [God] seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

The Bible gives us many examples of people who acted with faith despite their feelings of abandonment. Abram felt that God’s promise of an heir had gone unheeded (Genesis 15:2-3). The psalmist felt ignored in his trouble (Psalm 10:1). Job’s troubles were so great that he thought God might even kill him (Job 13:15). And Jesus from the cross cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Yet in each instance God was shown to be faithful (Genesis 21:1-7; Psalm 10:16-18; Job 38:1–42:17; Matthew 28:9-20).

Although Satan may try to tempt you to think you are forsaken, God is always near. He never forsakes His own. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrew 13:5). We may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (verse 6). 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, although clouds and darkness sometimes shroud me, I know that You are close by my side. Thank You.

God is always near in spite of our fears.

15 SEP: GOD'S COMPASS

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

READ PSALM 119:105-112

During World War II, small compasses saved the lives of 27 sailors 300 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Waldemar Semenov, a retired merchant seaman, was serving as a junior engineer aboard the SS Alcoa Guide when a German submarine surfaced and opened fire on the ship. The ship was hit, caught fire, and began to sink. Semenov and his crew lowered compass-equipped lifeboats into the water and used the compasses to guide them toward the shipping lanes closer to shore. After three days, the men were rescued.

The psalmist reminded God’s people that His Word was a trustworthy “compass.” He likened it to a lamp. In that day, the flickering light cast by an olive oil lamp was only bright enough to show a traveler his next step. To the psalmist, God’s Word was such a lamp, providing enough light to illuminate the path for those pursuing God (Psalm 119:105). When the psalmist was wandering in the dark on a chaotic path of life, he believed that God, through the guidance of His Word, would provide direction.

When we lose our bearings in life, we can trust our God who gives His trustworthy Word as our compass, using it to lead us into deeper fellowship with Him. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Heavenly Father, it is difficult to navigate life. I drift sometimes, but I will trust in You. Lead me and guide me by the faithfulness and reliability of Your Word.

God has given us His Word to help us know and follow Him.

14 SEP: BLAME GAME

My wrong be upon you! . . . The Lord judge between you and me. — Genesis 16:5

READ GENESIS 16:1-6; 21:8-13

When Jenny’s husband left her for another woman, she vowed that she would never meet his new wife. But when she realized that her bitterness was damaging her children’s relationship with their father, she asked for God’s help to take the first steps toward overcoming bitterness in a situation she couldn’t change.

In Genesis 16, we read the story of a couple to whom God later promised a baby. When Sarai suggested that her husband Abram have a child with their servant Hagar, she wasn’t fully trusting God for the child He had promised. When the baby was born, Hagar despised Sarai (Genesis 16:3-4), and Sarai became bitter (verses 5-6).

Hagar had been the slave with no rights and suddenly she was special. How did Sarai react? By blaming others, including Abram (verse 5). God’s promise was realized in the birth of Isaac 14 years later. Even his weaning celebration was spoiled by Sarai’s attitude (21:8-10).

It may never have been easy for Sarai to have lived with the consequences of their decision to go ahead of God. It may have taken a miracle of grace to change her attitude but that could have transformed everything. Sarai couldn’t reverse the decision, but through God’s strength, she could have lived with it differently, and given God the glory. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Thank You, Lord, that though our situations may not change, Your grace is strong enough to change us in our situations. Help us as we struggle sometimes to live in this sinful world.

By God’s grace, we can reflect His light in the dark times.