"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fragrant Offerings

Sometimes when I am out and about, usually when I am overdue for lunch or dinner, I catch the aroma of delicious food cooking. Winter nights leaving the office, I smell the medley of restaurants downtown, or walking the dogs in the summer, the fragrances of barbeques in the neighborhood envelop me. Then there are the non-food related pleasures of sweet honeysuckle, pine, roses and Colorado rain bringing the evergreen and sage into the valley as an unexpected gift. I count these as gifts from God and, I thank him for them.

In the early church, people were acquainted with the offerings involved in various religions, both pagan and Jewish. No doubt the fragrant offerings from the temple were a part of their lives, even if they were not Jews. So Paul's expression of appreciation to them made perfect sense to them:

"I am amply supplied now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, and acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen" Philippians 4:18-20

It is important to remember, occasionally, that Paul was writing from prison. So, when he speaks of all his needs being amply supplied. it is a testimony to his ability to be content in any and every circumstance (4:11-13). How many of us would feel that God was meeting all our needs under these circumstances? But Paul's focus was not personal comfort or gain (the values embraced even in the church these days), rather to have the resources to spread the gospel as far as possible in his lifetime. Apparently God met these needs a little at a time, repeatedly demonstrating his provision. That believers were God's instruments and the conduits of these fragrant offerings was a blessing to them and to Paul. As they were generous with what God provided, their gifts rose back to God with the sweet aroma of grace.

Paul gives the lesson back to them. Just as God has met all his needs, God will meet all their needs as well. Note that needs and luxuries are two different things entirely. Food, clothing, shelter, and resources to give back to the Kingdom of God...These are needs. God is not challenged by meeting our needs, but does so out of his glorious riches. (Advertising is very good at persuading us that we "need" a lot of other things, and I see this as a friendly attack on our focus and our faith.)

Paul's perspective was one of God's faithfulness to meet his real needs. He saw God's faithfulness in any and every circumstance, and he had some terrible ones to endure. The principle here, to boil it down to its basic elements is this: when your life is all about God, you never have reason to despair. Everything else in this life is temporary (sand) but, he is the Rock upon which to build the purpose of your life. So the closing statement to this paragraph is a natural conclusion: All the glory goes to God our Father for ever and ever. Amen!


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