GLORIOUS BEAUTY ON DISPLAY

Sometimes we get a glimpse of the incredible variety and diversity among even things that usually look very similar.

While that sentence sounds like gibberish, I am thinking of the glorious beauty that God gives each Autumn when the leaves on most deciduous trees change from their traditional green color into an incredible pallet of colors of various intensities, hues and shades. 

Colorful vista in Virginia mountains

As we were driving through the mountains of Virginia recently, the views from the highway were breathtaking as the colorful leaves broadcast their praise to their Creator.  The beautiful views in the mountains made me think of the Scripture speaking of the joy we can have through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In Matthew Poole’s in-depth commentary on Isaiah 55, he says the scripture speaks of an invitation to seek spiritual blessings from Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father.  We should come to Christ speedily, by repentance, and rest assured that His grace is infinite, His Word is powerful and that believers in Him will have joy eternal. 

In Isaiah 55:12-13 God is speaking, and it reads as follows:

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 55:12-13 

Colorful leaves along highway in Virginia

The mountains and hills and the trees of the field will break forth in singing and clapping their hands at the joy of the Lord and at His reign.  

Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter IV.1 says:

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

Scripture confirms this statement of faith.  See for example:

Colossians 1:16

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

Psalm 33:5 says:

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love [goodness] of the LORD.

This world was created by our God for His glory, and even the plants and animals were created for His glory.  In fact, we, too, were created by God and it is our incredible privilege to live for His glory and to love Him supremely.

Beloved, does your spirit soar when you consider the love that the Lord has for you?  Do you look around at this beautiful time of the year and see the Lord’s hand outstretched before you? 

Open your eyes and see the marvelous works of God.  Praise His name and come to Him in repentance and love.  Bless His name throughout your days, and the peace of our Lord will rest upon you eternally.

Father, thank You for evidence of Your love and blessing as we look around us during the beautiful autumn days.  I pray that I would not take these blessings for granted but that I would praise You and glorify You each day that I live.  In Jesus name, I pray.

 

AN ACTIVITY BASED ON A RELATIONSHIP

For the past several years, I have been privileged to be included on a prayer list of concerns raised by some precious children in a nearby elementary school.  They participate in The Good News Club, an after school ministry for a couple of hours once a week, and part of that time is spent in prayer.  They then give the leader their prayer requests and it is sent to the various praying participants via email.

As an older adult, it is heart-warming, and sometimes humorous, to read some of their prayer requests. 

  • Praise that a child’s mom came back to be with her family.
  • Prays that his great-grandmother gets better.
  • Pray for her teacher’s daughter, that she stops coughing.
  • Pray that a fever blister in her mouth will go away
  • Pray that he can pay attention
  • Pray that the dog will stop barking

Each request, however, reflects a concern that these precious children have, either at home or at school.  In other words, these concerns touch their entire universe. 

As adults, we have learned to be a bit more obtuse when we pray.  Asking for some specific thing for our own selves might be too brash. So, we will phrase it in some other way so that we might be able to trick God into thinking we are praying for others, when it is actually our own desires at issue.  Even when intervening on behalf of someone else, most often we tell God what we want Him to do.

In the Canterbury Cathedral, as in the other cathedrals we visited in England, there were many tombs of various persons and heads of the church.  We found it interesting that the archbishops were, almost always, depicted with their hands clasped in prayer.

canterbury-cathedral-tomb
Ornate tomb of an archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

I don’t know if they were praying for their own soul or if they were praying for their congregation, but I do know that prayers of intervention for others are appropriate.  For example, Paul says:

We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong, and our prayer is for your perfection.

 2 Corinthians 13:9.

tomb-of-one-of-the-archbishops-of-canterbury
Tomb of Archbishop John Bird Sumner, 1780-1862, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

In Colossians 1:3-4 he tells his readers that he thanks God for their faith when he prays for them.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…

Notice, however, that Paul’s prayers are not a laundry list of things that Paul wanted.  He certainly did not see the Father as a giant Santa Claus in the sky who would give out goodies for his personal benefit  … he didn’t even pray to be released from prison!  Read Acts chapter 16 for the incredible story of Paul in jail in Philippi, which was a leading city in the district of Macedonia.

Rather, Paul’s prayers related to strengthening the spiritual welfare of the believers, to the continued spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for healing to occur so that God’s power would be revealed and He would get the glory.

Paul understood that, fundamentally, prayer is a conversation between two parties … the believer in Christ Jesus and God.  But these parties are not peers:  they are not equal in any manner.   We are the creation, and we are mortal.  We are sinners and the best we have to offer God is likened to giving Him filthy rags. 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Isaiah 64:6 [NIV]

But for God’s sending Jesus Christ, we would not be able to have any prayer life because we could not approach God due to our sin.  Christ’s life, death and resurrection defeated the control sin has over us when He clothed us in His righteousness.  That is what God sees … sinners clothed in Jesus’ righteousness who were saved by His Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord. 

Thank God for the righteousness that has been given to you through Jesus Christ.  Grow in your relationship with the Father, feed it with study of His Word, sit quietly and let Him speak to you so that your prayers are not a one-sided conversation that is a thinly veiled demand that God act in a certain way to satisfy your temporal desires. 

praying hands
Praying Hands.

While we can, and must, pray for the children and their concerns, our prayers must first be recognition of Who God is and we should give thanks for God’s gift of grace, His holiness, His attributes of love, patience, goodness, beauty, … the list could go on. 

Through prayer, we can have an intimate relationship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of all. But we must remember that we cannot just barge into God’s court with our demands even if they are camouflaged as requests.  We must have respect and reverence for the Almighty God.   So, start your prayer with time in adoration of Him.  Then, that adoration will naturally lead to confession of those times when we have fallen short of His desires for us.  This will flow into thankfulness for the forgiveness and cleansing from our sin that He gives to us through Jesus Christ.  And then, and only then, launch into a prayer of supplication.  This pattern of prayer is often referred to by the acrostic ACTS.

  • A – adoration of God
  • C – confession of our sins
  • T – thanksgiving for His cleansing of our sins
  • S – supplication for others and then, and only then, for ourselves

Offer God prayers of praise and thanksgiving multiple times per day.  Praise Him for His love and wondrous works on our behalf.  Praise Him for allowing us to come before Him in prayer. Thank Him and let your spirit be, first and foremost, one of gratitude in prayer.  Then see if your prayer life takes on new vibrancy when you intercede for others.

A singer from my youth was George Beverly Shea, who frequently sang at the Billy Graham Crusades.  On his album Echoes of My Soul, he sings a song entitled “Early in the Morning”.  Listen and think about what you can thank the Lord for today!

 

Father, I thank You for giving me the privilege of coming into Your presence through Your Son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I thank You for promising to hear my petitions and I know that You will answer them according to Your divine will.  I praise Your name for Your grace and love, extended to all those to believe in the name of Your Son.  Strengthen us in prayer as we seek to serve you in our world.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, PATIENCE, part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 13

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART ONE

The fruit of the Spirit at issue this week is Patience, also known as longsuffering.

 

I have no doubt that each of us has, at one time in our life or another, said that we want patience but we don’t want to wait for it!   Mr. Paul Sweeney asked a question that I have raised a number of times in general conversation:

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”

 

Hal Borland said:  “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

 

The patience that we are speaking of as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is different than that which has its basis in the person or in society in general.  The patience that is referenced in Galatians 5 is grounded in the Holy Spirit.

What does Scripture say?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

The longsuffering that is a fruit of the Spirit stems, as do the other characteristics that we have examined, from love of Jesus Christ our Lord and comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of our Lord.

 

In Hebrew, the word longsuffering is a combination of the words Arek and Aph which mean, respectively, Long and Nose. (By the way, the word Aph or nostril first appears in Scripture in Genesis 2:7 where we are told “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”)

 

So the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for longsuffering is “long of nose” with reference to “long breathing”.  Because anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, this term meant “long of anger,” or “slow to wrath.”  In the ESV the word longsuffering is translated “slow to anger.”

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Psalm 86:15

 

Longsuffering, in the Greek context, is the word makrothumia, and it is a bit more expanded in definition.  It relates to “long of mind or soul” which is regarded as the seat of the emotions.  This is in contrast to “shortness of mind or soul”, in other words irascibility, impatience, or intolerance.

 

Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church defines makrothumia found in Galatians 5 as the “ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing.  To suffer joyfully.”  Strong’s Lexicon explains that this term is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.  Its opposite is revenge or wrath.

 

Longsuffering is attributed to God in connection with his “bearing long” with sinners and His intentional delay in executing judgment on them, thereby allowing time for them to come to Him in repentance.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

 

Now the God of patience [macrothumia] and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (KJV)

Romans 15: 5-6

 

We are also to be longsuffering toward others.

Be patient [macrothumia], therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

The Apostle Paul associates longsuffering with endurance which suggests patient endurance of trials and sufferings, and its further association with joy indicates a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

Colossians 1:11

 

In this regard, Matthew Henry defines long-suffering as patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries.

 

Christians are frequently admonished and exhorted to cherish and show longsuffering toward one another.   For example:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [longsuffering], bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:12.

 

This is not the type of patience that waits in the line at the bank, without screaming for service, but with the foot tapping in frustration.  Rather, this kind of patience is not available by our own efforts, it comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit and, just as the other fruit of the Spirit, this fruit is not available to the unregenerate man.  It is a mark of the Christian as she is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly through the power that the Holy Spirit provides as we lean on Him and learn of Him.  We look to Jesus as our chief example to imitate – He was the penultimate example of longsuffering patience throughout his life, death and even after His resurrection.

How does this apply to my daily life?

Does this patience/ longsuffering have relevance to our modern life? YES.   Just look at what David describes in Psalm 55 when he realizes Ahithophel had betrayed him, and consider how this relates to the feelings you experienced upon betrayal and disappointment.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 

Psalm 55:12-14

 

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalm 55, said of the hurt that we can experience even from our “Christian friends”,

There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest.

 

However, while recognizing the universality of disappointment or emotional sabotage, Scripture teaches that longsuffering or patience does not permit either retaliation or revenge!

 

The Christian has the duty to bear the injuries suffered from others even if it requires longsuffering. This means that we do not bring any immediate suffering on the one who injured us.  We are not to show any bitterness toward him, either in speech or in action.

 

Is this hard?  Yes.  Is it commanded? Yes.  Does it require the Holy Spirit to work in us?  Yes.

 

Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, the Apostle Paul said:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

 

Next week we will consider how this patience is evidenced in our lives.  In the meantime, consider how you can relate to those who have hurt you in the past and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the patience and longsuffering that you need so that you can respond in love and not bitterness.

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.