Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“And Jesus took them, along with Him, and withdrew into privacy.”
Luke 9: 10, Amplified Bible
“When the human heart is full of cares and crushed almost to the earth by heavy sorrows; when every nerve and fiber groans with agony, there is no sweeter and surer relief than to fly to the sacred presence of Him who never fails to lift the load of sorrow from the suffering one. If the path of duty is lost to the tear-blinded eyes; if the wanderer is bewildered amid the shadows of the way, how oft has all been made plain by the sweet soul-communion with Jesus.”
Mrs. Charles Cowman, Words of Comfort and Cheer
Today’s Study Text:
“They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4: 13, K.J.V.
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 1
“Where Jesus’ touch is allowed full sway we shall grow. Little by little, day by day, a pushing off the old, pushing out the new, becoming more and better: more victory in temptation, more purity in life, more patience with others, more knowledge of His will through the Bible, more getting things done through prayer…But we’ll not be continually measuring how much: we’ll just be staying in the sunlight and dew of Jesus’ presence.”
S. D. Gordon
Do I ask Christ to fill me with His presence each day?
What does it mean to me, personally, to be at home with the presence of Jesus?
How would Jesus’ daily presence in my life change the way I live?
“The capitol of heaven is the heart in which Jesus is enthroned as King.”
Sadhu Sundar Singh, Indian Christian Convert
“Now when they (the people) saw the boldness and unfettered eloquence of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and untrained in the schools, common men with no educational advantages, they marveled; and they recognized that (Peter and John) had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4: 14, Amplified Bible
As I was working on the upcoming devotionals in the Old Testament book of II Kings, I got sidetracked a little in my personal Bible study. While we will continue with our daily devotionals that are taking us from Genesis to Revelation, there are times when I have felt that in one way or another, God was leading us into territory that was important, even critical to the life of someone in the Garden who might be in the middle of an extremely tough struggle in their life. Maybe you…or any one of us!
I’ve told you before that certain topics have been the result of letters you’ve emailed to me or a quote I’ve read that got me to thinking new thoughts about an old topic. Sometimes a book I’m reading is the catalyst that brings together a new series of studies and this is exactly what has transpired over the past couple of months.
In the past, I’ve shared with you what a blessing the writings of J.R. Macduff, a Scottish theologian, have been in my life and heart – over and over again. Whenever I read one of Pastor Macduff’s old books, I feel as if I’ve just had a soul-stirring conversation with a dear friend. And there’s no better compliment I could give to his writings than that his books have place a profound longing in my heart to know Jesus better; to love Him more; and to lean closer into Him than ever before.
Thus, it happened that around Easter of this year, I found a J.R. Macduff book entitled, Memories of Bethany. Macduff’s books are NEVER something I quickly skim through. I not only read them one time – every word – but often there are chapters I reread. And it was in one of the “rereading” times when I came upon the passage I quote right in the “Opening Thoughts” to the little book. Here’s how Macduff talks about Jesus’ relationship with a family who lived in Bethany:
“There is no one single resort in (Jesus) divine pilgrimage on which sanctified thought loves so fondly to dwell as on the home and village of Bethany. Its hours of sacred converse have long ago fled. Its honoured family have slumbered for ages in their tomb. Bethany’s Lord has been for centuries enthroned amid the glories of a brighter home. But though its memories are all that remain, the place is still fragrant with His presence.”
There it was! The special title for our new series. And it popped right off the page as I prayerfully read, “fragrant with His presence.” Oh, how my heart longs to have the fragrance of Christ’s presence fill my life. After reading so many emails over the past few months, I realized once again that as humans we can’t save ourselves. And right now, so many of us face such daunting challenges that overwhelm us because we can’t even begin to help ourselves. We desperately need Jesus’ presence in our lives.
As I read the phrase, “fragrant with His presence” I was reminded of an experience that happened to me many years ago. My dad had gone to Hawaii on business and when he returned, he came bearing gifts, which was his normal routine. Among the delights I received was a small little bottle of perfume drawn from an orchid only found on the islands of Hawaii. Then one day I was going to stay with friends and somehow, when packing my toiletries, I put the perfume in my tote bag with the lid tightly screwed onto the top of the dainty bottle. At least that was what I thought!
You’ve probably guessed what happened. Some time during my weekend journey the lid came off the perfume and the contents of the bottle leaked onto the tote and all the contents of my bag. But that wasn’t all. It got on my hands and the sleeves of my blouse as I tried to clean up the mess. However, with a little more investigation, I found the contents of the bottle had gotten into the carpet in the trunk of my little car. And it spilled onto my Bible which was also included with all my personal items. The fact was that you couldn’t open the car door without this aromatic smell filling your nose. And it didn’t go away, either. Even when I sold that car, someone noted how “wonderful your car smells!”
When I read Pastor Macduff’s touching words, the memory that came flooding over my mind of an aroma I still to this day cannot eradicate, opened my thoughts to the fact that it was the presence of Jesus at a home, a restful stop with the closest of friends, which didn’t just lift Jesus’ heart, but left the fragrance of His presence imprinted in the lives of the home’s occupants – Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Deep in my heart, as I’ve been studying the stories which found residence in this family and in their abode in Bethany, I have come to the heart-felt belief that it is the aroma of Jesus in your life and mine which will remind us daily – moment by moment – that even when we feel we are in the darkest days of our lives, we can be comforted with the fragrance of Jesus’ presence. That aroma won’t leave us.
Several days ago, I got an email from one of God’s daughters who has to go to Children’s Court again for an issue which has plagued her life for 7 years. How will she make it through this ordeal? It will be the fragrance of Jesus’ presence in her life that will remind her that “One” greater than any attorney, stands by her side.
A month ago, as Jim and I, along with my sister and our niece Bethanie stood around my brother-in-law’s bed. The doctor Gary chose to give him anesthesia came into the room and after getting through all the medical talk, he asked us to clasp hands around that bed. Knowing that Gary was a Christian as the doctor was, this doctor offered a prayer for heavenly wisdom and guidance. The fragrance of “His” presence was in the room at that moment of great uncertainty. I could feel it!
Recently Beverly sent a card to thank me for the Garden. She sent a gift at a time when I know she is job searching for something in the healthcare industry. But even through the struggles she faces that might take many of us down, I could breath in the aroma of “His” presence which infused every word penned on her card to me.
You see, when life’s challenges brings us up short and we feel as if we can’t put one foot in front of the other, we need to take a deep breath. Do you smell the aroma – that beautiful fragrance? The bouquet with a note that says, “I love you. I will never leave you or forsake you. No never.” And it’s signed, “Your forever friend, Jesus!”
Not long after Jesus death and His ascension to heaven, two of His’ disciples were found preaching, teaching and healing right out in public! The leading theologians of the day were certain they had stamped out the aroma of Jesus for good. But much to their chagrin, the word quickly spread – His followers, those untrained losers, including the “denier-and-chief” of all people, were out and about talking about Jesus. What was even worse, according to the religious leaders of the day, was that there was a familiar fragrance that emanated from the individuals who called themselves Jesus’ followers. Anyone who heard or saw Peter and John used these words to express what they witnessed: “They have been with Jesus.” The scent of the Savior had rubbed off on them. The aroma of His life filled the very places where they walked. The fragrance of Jesus’ unending love was present in all they did. I appreciate the way the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry applies the relevancy of Acts 4: 13 to you and me today: “Those that have been with Jesus, in conversation and communion with Him and have been attending to His Word (Bible study), and are praying in His name…will conduct themselves in every thing, so that those who converse with them may take knowledge (Greek: see the distinguished impression and mark upon the person) that they have been with Jesus; and this will make one so holy and heavenly and spiritual and cheerful that it will raise them above the world, and fill them (with the thoughts of another). One may know that they have been in the mount by the shining of their faces.”
Do you want to have the imprint of Jesus upon your life? I know I long for His “distinct mark” upon me. Then we need to come into His presence and as we lean closer and closer to Jesus, we will find that the aroma of His presence will without a doubt fill us.
As we visit with the family in Bethany in the coming days, it is my prayer that the aroma of Jesus’ love, which brought Him in unselfish love to this earth, will manifest itself in each of our lives as we carry with us the fragrance of His presence.
“If I want my heart to be changed to reflect Jesus, then I don’t need to just work harder for Jesus – I must learn how to lean harder into Jesus.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Transformation Garden.
“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to Thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly Thine, utterly dedicated unto Thee; and then use us, we pray Thee, as Thou wilt, but always to Thy glory, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind,
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
Vile and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.
Grace to pardon all my sin,
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within;
Thou of life the Fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.”
Charles Wesley, 1740
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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