Tag Archives: 2 Corinthians

Revelation 8:3-4 – Incense, Prayer & Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

In Revelation 8 we have a lovely picture of incense and prayers rising before God,

‘Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.’ (Revelation 8:3-4 NRSV)

This is such an amazing picture of prayer, and more than that, of our prayers coming before God.

There are two other verses which refer to incense and prayer, one more from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament:

‘When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.’ (Revelation 5:8 NRSV)
 
‘Let my prayer be counted as incense before you’ (Psalms 141:2 NRSV)

Prayer is incense, is like incense and is offered with incense!

This says a great deal about how important prayer is to God.  The incense that was used in Tabernacle and later Temple worship was not cheap!  It was made from costly ingredients, some of which came from long distances away.  It was also to be made to a specific recipe that was to be used only for worshipping God (see Exodus 30:34-38).

Prayer that God listens to costs!  Now there are times when we pray and it costs us nothing, God still hears those prayers, but they do not really grab his attention.  Jesus’ prayers were answered by his Heavenly Father because he put all of himself into them.  This is also something we see in great hero’s of faith, they know that they have to put themselves on the line when it comes to prayer.  It can be very hard to say, ‘yet, not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42 NRSV) as Jesus does in the garden of Gethsemane, but this is what the hero’s of the faith have done, and it is also what we can do too!  This is where we get our depth in prayer.

Prayer is made up of different ingredients!  This may surprise you, but this is one reason why breadth of prayer is so important.  In the incense recipe different things were to be mixed together in equal quantities, this would have balanced the scent, and made the incense more beautiful to smell!  It is no wonder that the incense was to be burnt before God alone.  What do you mix in your prayer?  There should be worship, petition, intercession, listening, praise and thanksgiving to name but a few things.  We should also pray in different ways, both individually and especially corporately.  This is why we need breadth of prayer.

In this association  between incense and prayer we also see something else.  They seem to be especially closely linked when prayer is being answered by God.

As I said in my post 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – The Fragrance of Jesus that last week I smelled incense in the service at Maswell last week.  This was during the worship and God’s presence was really there.  One thing that I did not share though was that during the service we had prayed for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to be released, and I did feel that God was really happy with that.

Today, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been released and acquitted, that is God!  He is now back with his family, and with the other members of his church.  I praise God for his faithfulness, a reflection of God’s faithfulness to him!

Now I know that incense had two meanings, although I only at first recognised one fo them.  That Jesus was there among his people, and that all the prayers of all the church (including Maswell) for Pastor Youcef had come before God, and that the answer would soon be revealed!

WOW!!! WHAT A GOD!!! HE IS SO AMAZING!!!

Heavenly Father, help us to realise how highly you value prayer, and how it should be made up of different ingredients.  Help us to be prepared to give all we have in prayer as Jesus did, and help us to have balanced prayer lives.  And thank you that you do answer prayer, help us to be expectant to see your answers, praying in faith to see you act.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – The Fragrance of Jesus

‘But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.  For we are the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not peddlers of God’s word life so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.’ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NRSV)

All our senses are very informative, but also very subjective.  But more than that at times what we perceive is related to what God is revealing to us.  We see it in this Scripture, and I have seen this in action in the lives of two other people, and also this Sunday at church.  I shall explain.

On two occasions when I was working in Canaan Bookshop in Staines.  I was there with Andy Gilmour the manager when we had two alcoholics come into the shop, both had had some drink, but neither were too drunk that what they said would come from their imagination.  The first was an old gentleman and the second was a middle-aged lady, they came in at different times, and the incidents were separated by quite a months.

The old gentleman came in and said something like this, ‘Wow, its amazing! Can you smell it?’, ‘Smell what?’ me.  ‘Incense, beautiful incense!’ gentleman, and so the conversation went on for a few minutes, and he walked out if anything slightly happier than when he came in as God had touched him in some way, which was nothing to do with us!

On the second occasion, the lady came in, her manner and comments were the complete opposite to his.  ‘It smells horrible in here!’ lady.  Blank looks on our faces,  ‘Can you smell it?’ lady. ‘Smell what?’ one of us. ‘Its horrible, like death …’ lady.  Again this is not exactly what was said, but it gets over the gist of the conversation.

In both cases neither Andy nor I smelled a thing, but both the people smelled something and reacted to that smell.  The Scripture quoted above explains it, the man smelled life and he will give his life to Jesus at some point.  But the lady will not, she smelled death which mirrors the fact she is perishing, even to this day this saddens me, but I know that God is just and only he can see the end from the beginning.

On Sunday during the worship time at Maswell Park Church I smelled incense, for a while it was a very strong scent, then I kept getting whiffs of it.  It was like the finest incense I have ever had the pleasure to smell, but without the smoke!  I did not share it during the service, but afterwards I shared it with Daniel, the very gifted young man who had been leading worship, which I think encouraged him!

I shared it on Facebook on Sunday evening and an old friend of mine Mike, who also used to go to Maswell, shared that he had also experienced it once, and that was at Maswell too!  This encouraged me, as when I had mentioned it to my husband on the way home about it he said that he could not smell anything!  He did however comment on how good the worship was, and how he could happily have spent a longer in worship.

Lord Jesus, help us to be people of your presence.  To be so close to you that we both sense your fragrance and carry it with us wherever we go.  That your glory may be revealed, in your name we pray, Amen.

 

More Effective Prayer

#15habits Guest post Thanks to Theresa for allowing me this opportunity to guest post on The Bountiful Reaper, and may you be abundantly blessed by God!

More Effective Prayer

James 5:16 (NKJV)

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

I would like say at the outset, that I am on a journey, the desire of my heart is to become everything in Christ that it is possible to become, to know God intimately and live in his presence 24 hour a day, so that God is glorified in everything I do.

This post is part of that journey, a journey to deeper intimacy, and discovery of God and his righteousness, that we have in Christ.

I have been going around the mountain for years, and circumstances have forced me into seeking a deeper relationship with God, a relationship that I have been asking God for for years in prayer, though I have never made the effort to go deeper, I have been waiting for God, and have never waited on God until now, I have plenty of head knowledge, but not enough heart knowledge, and this journey is about getting the knowledge from my head to my heart.

When I look at the scripture above, I absolutely believe in the truth of what it says, we read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

And it is that particular word righteousness in both of these scriptures that I would like to explore, and encourage a renewed zeal for the righteousness of God. If scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness, then I believe there is profit found in a deeper righteousness!

Before I continue a quick definition of what righteousness is and what righteousness allows.

The simplest definition is Right Standing or relationship with God, allowing us to enter his presence.

I have been of the understanding for many years that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, the bible does tell us that. I do not dispute the evidence of positional righteousness, as seen in Romans 3:22a (NKJV)

even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.

And in Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)

and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

And also in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

However I have come to believe through much searching and seeking God, that although there is a positional righteousness by Grace through faith alone in order for our salvation to occur, it does not stop there, I believe that there is also a deeper relational righteousness, not our own righteousness, which will profit us nothing and is as filthy rags, please read on, and discover this relational righteousness that we as Christians need to seek after.

In my opening scripture from James 5:16. I believe that the righteousness referred to there is a relational righteousness, not something we are but rather that we are able to become.

If we look at the Philippians 3 verse in context, see below Paul talks about the relationship he desires in order to fully experience the positional righteousness so that it becomes a relational righteousness by faith, in Christ from God. In other words, the more I become conformed to the image of Christ, through deeper relationship, the more I become the righteousness of God in Christ.

Philippians 3:7-10 (NKJV)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…

The same is true of 2 Corinthians 5:21

If we look at the context, bearing in mind that these were Christians Paul was speaking to, we read

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (NKJV)

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

It clearly shows a relational focus rather than a purely positional one, as a result of our reconciliation with God we are able to BECOME the righteousness of God in Christ, as we seek his face, God wants that deeper intimacy with us, and I absolutely believe that signs and wonders will follow.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Also Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

I look at it like this, if the presence of God had to be present in this room right now, would I feel as if I was going to die because of the sin in my life?

Right here right now in my life the answer is a definite yes to that one. So what do I do about it?

I keep pressing in and keep seeking his face, keep praying, and confessing my sins as he reveals them to me, reading his word, waiting on him, listening, praising and worshipping. Seek, Seek, Seek, those who seek him with their whole heart and mind and strength will find Him!

So does this mean that, my prayers are currently ineffective?

The answer to that is no, all prayer is effective, there are just in my understanding degrees of effectiveness, The more we pray the will of God the more effective our prayers are, the prayers of Jesus were 100% effective, He tells us that he did nothing that the Father had not told him to do, and there are many out there who have the same 100% rate, and they are impacting the world, yet even those people seek to get deeper with God every day. Put on Christ daily, the Full Armour of God, immerse Yourself in Him, daily, all day, we need to become like Jesus, a reflection of Him, complete death to self!

God is limitless, and we have not even scratched the surface of what is available to us in terms of blessing when we become the righteousness and holiness of God in Christ Jesus. I have an absolute hunger to get as much of God as I can get, so that he can be glorified through me, we are all labourers called to the harvest!

We all can attain,  and I know I will attain that level of righteousness mentioned in the opening verse, I have made a choice, and I am not going to stop seeking more of God everyday, until I die or he returns, and I have to choose to do that everyday, it is my choice, God will never force me to do it, it is a decision of my will every single day, his mercies are new every morning, and it is my prayer that every Christian will attain it, in the meantime I thank God for his mercy and Grace and for the Gifts of healing from the Holy Spirit, yet I long to see the day when we will start to operate fully in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, with signs and wonders that follow, doing the things that Jesus did and the greater things he said we would do. I pray for a unity of spirit, and of mind as we put on Christ daily, that the Church the bride of Christ may present herself Holy and Glorious in his sight! And pray effective fervent prayers that avail much! So be it.

One Question remains to be asked. How much do You want it?

Shalom Rav
Glory to God
Richard
speaktothismountain