Breathe!

One of summer’s special gifts that I enjoy is the fragrance of flowers filling the air. In May I sense the smell of lilacs and in June I fill my lungs with the aroma of roses. I love to sniff the sweet scent in the air. Respiration is an automatic function of my lungs but when I smell a delicate floral fragrance I become aware of my body’s task of breathing.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,
and the man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

The ability to breathe is a God-given gift. Through His breath, God gives life. If I can breathe, I am alive. If I cannot breathe, I am dead. These are facts relating to the human body. We know there is life in a newborn baby when he cries and inhales oxygen into his tiny lungs. I wonder what it was like for Jesus to take his first breath as a human being. He was God and He participated in the first act of breathing life into mankind. Then when he was born as the son of Mary, like all babies, he took his first breath of oxygen. Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is essential for all of mankind.

And with that He breathed on them
and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20:22

While living on earth, Jesus breathed the atmospheric air. When He died upon the cross, He quit breathing. After His resurrection and before His ascension, He breathed a new life into His disciples. He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. They received a presence and power of the Trinity never before experienced by mankind. In this passage of scripture Jesus extended peace to those around Him and He still offers that same peace to us. If I am uptight and anxious, I take a deep breath to calm down. I am actually inhaling the peace of God. Then as I let our my breath, I am exhaling the worries of the world. In both cases, I am breathing spiritually as well as physically.

Just as there are physical and spiritual benefits of breathing, there are physical and spiritual ramifications of breathing. Paul refers to these in his second letter to the Corinthians.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us
as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma
of the knowledge of him everywhere.
II Corinthians 2:14

Rochester, New York is known as the Flower City and Highland Park is internationally famous for its wide variety of lilacs. When we go to see the lilacs in bloom, the aroma of the various shrubs leads us from one bush to another. While the flowers vary in colors from light lavender to deep purple, we are also aware that some bushes are more fragrant than others. The entire park emits the floral fragrance of lilacs. The bushes seem to lead us in a procession just as Paul tells us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ. I like the conclusion of this scripture in the New Living Translation, “Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.”

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

Several years ago we were in Melbourne, Australia for an extended period of time. While my husband was working, I had free time. Since this city is known for its many gardens, I spent time wandering in these beautiful spots. The roses were in bloom and their fragrance would overtake me at unexpected times. I would simply stop and breathe in their perfume because I was not in a hurry. As the saying goes, I took time to smell the roses. Just as the rosy aroma in the air was pleasing to me, Paul informs us that we are to have the same influence upon those around us. The beginning of this verse in the New Living Translation says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” We are to be the aroma of Christ infiltrating the world around us.

Currently, I become aware of the gentle breeze blowing through the window near my computer desk. The breeze is breathing on me and the room is being filled with floral scents of the rose bushes outside. While I inhale the fragrance of the atmosphere around me, my mind is filled with the aromatic scriptures I have meditated upon.

My Reader, I extend to you the perfume of a bouquet of posies and promises. Breathe in the breath of God while you inhale your required oxygen.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

*Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

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The Fragrance of Humility

 

humility-2perfume-bottle-1And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Luke 7:37-38

humility-2Last week I shared this scripture from Luke 7 focusing upon the brokenness of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus. This week we will continue to look at the same scripture while thinking about the humility of the once sinful woman. In order for the woman to be able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair, she had to have her head near His feet. She had to bow down with her face to the ground. To me, this woman’s actions and lowly position reflect humility.

Wikipedia describes humility as an act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others. Humility involves having a clear perspective and respect for one‘s situation or relationship. Specifically in a spiritual context, this can mean a recognition of self in relation to God. The woman in Luke 7 certainly emulates this description. She experienced brokenness because of her former lifestyle and then she humbly accepted forgiveness for her sins and desired a new relationship with Jesus. James 4:6 states, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  I believe that Jesus found pleasure in both the presence and the actions of this woman at His feet. He experienced the fragrance of humility exuding from her.

perfume-bottle-1With the fragrance of humility in mind, I want to think about the perfume with which the woman anointed Jesus’ feet. The costly perfume poured out from the vile represented the woman’s life savings. She was willing to give her all in gratitude to the Man who had forgiven her sins. At one point in her life she may have been proud, but now she was humble because she had been broken free from her former sinful life. Most likely the fragrance of this scented oil was myrrh. It is interesting to note that the myrrh seed has a hard shell that must be crushed before its pleasing aroma can be emitted. The existence of the perfume used by this woman was evident by its aroma. The reality of the brokenness of this woman was manifested by her humility. The fragrance of the oil would have been noticed not only by Jesus but by everyone in the room. However, I believe that the humbleness of this woman was more pleasing to the Lord than the aroma of the perfume. There is a sacred fragrance to humbleness that is transmitted through a person’s life in a unique way. C. S. Lewis has said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Lewis’ quote describes the character of this woman and it is a character trait I want to assimilate in my life!

Now let’s relate a couple more scriptures with the story in Luke 7 as we continue our study about humility. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Another scripture in II Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Is humility an attitude we simply choose to put on when we get dressed in the morning? Is it a scented oil we dab behind our ears like a spritz of perfume? Definitely not! Philippians 2:3 exhorts, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” If we are to emit the fragrance of humility to those around us, we must not only follow the example of the woman in Luke 7 but we must also follow the example of Christ described in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Specifically in verse 7, we notice Jesus being in the humble position of a servant. The New American Standard Bible uses the words, “He emptied himself.” This reminds me of the woman emptying, or pouring out, the perfume from her alabaster vial upon the feet of Jesus in Luke 7. It also reminds me that I need to be emptied, or forgiven, of my sins. All these efforts reflect humility in action and they have a pleasing aroma to Christ

My Reader, humility is costly but it is worth the price. James 4:8 exhorts us to “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This is what transpired for the woman who was forgiven of her sins. Proverbs 27:9 says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad.” Join me in discovering the joy of the Lord by humbly approaching the throne of grace and experiencing a fragrant fellowship that can only be found at the feet of Jesus. There is a special fragrance found only in humility.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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