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Friday, February 24, 2006

Smelled an Odd Smell

We were riding the bus from our apartment out to the lumber yard near the edge of town. This bus trip was like any bus trip in Russia. The bus was crowded. We were packed in with people closer than anyone in America would feel comfortable with.

Having ridden the bus in Russia for several years, we are somewhat accustomed to the various odors which one can smell. Cigarettes and alcohol are the predominate smells. Though often you can smell garlic and there is always the person who either has really poor personal hygiene issues, can’t afford deodorant or both! We are so used to the range of odors that we only notice when the smells are particularly strong or different. It is a question of which is worse. Riding the bus in the summer, when everyone is hot and sweaty, and your face may end up in the armpit of the person next to you, or riding the bus in the winter, when the windows are ice covered, your bundled up with coats and sweaters and can hardly move and the floor is slippery with ice and slush.

On this particular winter day, while hanging onto the overhead rail, hoping to not lose my grip and crash into the person next to me, I noticed something different. There was a strong, sweet smell of incense. As I glanced around I noticed that there was an Orthodox priest riding on the bus. As you might be aware, the Orthodox Church uses a large amount of incense in their services. This priest, who served with His whole life in the church, offering prayers and incense to God, was literally saturated by the smell of the incense.

In the Orthodox Church incense is said to be representative of the worshippers offering prayer to God. The sweet odor is representative of how those prayers are received by God. He receives our prayers as a sweet smelling aroma which is pleasing to Him. This is a great illustration of what our lives as believers should be like.

If you do a word search in your concordance for the word “aroma” you will find about 50 references, depending upon the English translation that you use. If you add the words “incense” and “fragrance” you will come up with hundreds of references. Most of the references are in the Old Testament where the word aroma is used describes the smell of the sacrifices offered to God by the Jews in the worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple.

In the New Testament the word aroma is used in three different places

2 Cor 2:14-16 14But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. NASU

Here the Apostle Paul is speaking about what kind of “odor” we should have as believers. We should have about us an “aroma” of faith, making it evident to those who come in contact with us that we are different. As I write this I am convicted of the many, many times in which this has not been true in my life. My life often has the same aroma as those around me who have no faith. Lord, make us different! Help my life have the aroma of Christ the Savior.

Eph 5:2 2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. NASU

In this passage Paul tells us that we should be as Christ, reflecting the love of God to those around us, giving our lives to serve others. Christ did this and because of that sacrifice He was considered as a fragrant aroma to God. Our lives, lived as an expression of the love of Christ should have the sweet fragrance of Christ.

I think about how often in my marriage that is not true. Marriage is a great place to expose bad smells! Every day we have the opportunity over and over again to either stink or smell sweet. Our actions and reactions to our spouse and other family members are an indication of how well the “incense” of Christ’s love has permeated our being.

Phil 4:18 18But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. NASU

This verse speaks of money. When you read the verses preceding this you will see that Paul had received a monetary gift from the believers in Philippi. This gift was given to Paul to allow him to continue ministering as an apostolic missionary. Paul tells the Philippian believers that this sacrificial gift was a sweet, fragrant aroma, which pleased God. Money can have a sweet smell or a rotten smell. Money, when used in a way that glorifies God has a fragrance like incense. Sacrificial giving, to missions, to the poor, to support the preaching of the Gospel is an acceptable sacrifice to God.

Our money, sacrificially given to help further the preaching of the Gospel, both in our local area and around the world is pleasing to God. These gifts are accepted by Him as if they were a sweet smelling aroma.

When people are near you what do they smell? What odors are you giving off?

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