The clergyman at the funeral was saying the right kinds of words, but – for me, at least – it was flat, dry, and devoid of the Spirit. I didn’t get the feeling that he thought of God as present in the room or that his intent was to connect those of us in the congregation with the Spirit. I came away from that service yesterday, empty and sad. In what should have been a holy place, a church dedicated to the worship of Christ, I found only a human performance, someone who appeared to be ‘going through the motions.’ Admittedly, such a conclusion is subjective, but it caused me to think about living my own life with an upward orientation. I asked myself, “Jerry, do you keep your own heart and mind in tune with the Spirit? Are you living your life primarily to please other people or to honor your God? Are you a holy man in whom the Spirit is at home?”
Those are hard questions. I cannot say that I meet those goals anywhere near even most of the time, but I want to! Paul’s simple directive – “Pray continually!” (1 Thes. 5:17) is aimed at the same goal. He is not asking each of us to enter a monastic order where we can spend our days in a prayer cell hidden from the pursuits of life. Instead, he teaches us to become God aware, so that all our life is addressed to the Lord. The classic by the 17th century Brother Lawrence “Practicing the Presence of God” is about living in this way. Lawrence was a simple man whose primary duties in his order were not ‘spiritual.’ Yet, in his kitchen work, he found that he could live with an upward orientation, experiencing the Presence of God.
Paul says that the Believer who lives his life with an upward orientation, who is filled with the Holy Spirit, has a unique quality that is like an expensive fragrance. “Through us, he (God) brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17, The Message)
When I first dated my wife Bev, 32 years ago, she wore a fragrance called WindSong. From that moment, whenever I detect that same fragrance, I think of her because the fragrance brings back a memory. The Word says that when we put on Christ, He creates a quality of life in us that is undeniable. We must live so as to turn others attention to God- and for some that will be a life enhancing moment; for others, a reminder that they are dead to God!
Like Paul, I am daunted by this responsibility for as I’ve already admitted, I fall short of representing Him well to my world too often. Yes, on my own, I cannot consistently live with an upward orientation. Only the Spirit of God, living in me, overcomes my weaknesses and flaws, my sins and my failures. Jesus taught this using a different illustration. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit!” (John 15) We are connected and from Him draw life.
As you venture into your life today, take Him with you.
Right now, take a moment to become ‘God aware.’
Now, ask the Spirit to make Himself known – to your thoughts, in your words- so that others, even those who are without faith in God, will say, “When he comes around, God comes with him.”
Father, we step onto the merry-go-round of life and it often gets hectic.
Our phones ring, deadlines come, fatigue sets in.
Please keep us in a place where we are aware of the Spirit.
Don’t let us live profanely, grieving You, pushing You to the edge of our mind and heart.
When we start to perform for others, thinking only of pleasing them,
remind us that You are the One we live for, that Your applause and approval
is what really matters. Protect us from empty religion, or even from spiritual acts done
to impress other people. Center our devotion on You.
This we pray in Christ’s Name. Amen.