EVERYONE BELIEVES IN SOMETHING!

An old joke told by my husband goes something like this:

After a long discussion about serious matters confronting our country and our businesses, one man asked another “What do you believe?”  The response was “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee.”

While the humor is superficial, the real question hangs in the air like Spanish moss hangs from tree limbs – what do you believe?  Or, more pointedly, what do you believe about God?  This is the question, the only question, that is of eternal significance.  Do you believe that because you are a good person God will certainly accept you into His heaven?  Do you believe that your money and fame will be, on balance, more than your evil, selfish deeds on earth?  Do you even believe that there is a future or do you think that life on this earth is all there is?  What if you are wrong?  What then?

What you believe in is of critical import – it is a matter of eternal consequence.

One thing that is certain  is that you can trust the Holy Bible to be true.  What it says is true because it contains the Word of God, the Creator and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, regarding the need for a Savior, the Bible says this:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

John 3:16. 

Cross
Consider the cross, a reminder of the glorious gift provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While there are many additional concepts involved in God’s salvation for His people, the Scripture of the Holy Bible encapsulates them concisely and definitively in the John 3:16.  Christians can argue about the finer points, the details and the doctrine, but ultimately, eternal life comes down to believing in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

But salvation does not come just from believing that Jesus existed … even the devils believed that.  Rather, Paul expresses the belief required as:

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9

In our church, we recite The Apostles’ Creed each week.  

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic* church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

*Catholic means “universal”.

It is appropriate for us to remind ourselves of that which we believe because what we believe about Jesus Christ determines our ultimate destiny.  Why do we need Jesus as a Savior?  See Romans 3:23.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

Unfortunately, we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of our rebellious sin. 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”

Colossians 2:13

Paul said that we are “dead” ro God because of our trespasses and sins,  and we know that a dead person cannot do anything to bring himself back to life.  Rather, God has to intervene to raise that person from death to life in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9

If you receive Him as your Savior through grace alone, as you believe in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection and ascension into heaven, if you confess your sins and repent, Scripture says that you will be saved.  Your position in Heaven for eternity is guaranteed and you will be a new creation in Christ.

Think about the Apostles’ Creed and each of its elements.  Do you believe this?  Does it make a difference in your life?  Pray that you will be more aware of how your beliefs determine your actions, because they do.

Here is a song entitled “I Believe” sung by the Bar J Wranglers from their album entitled For God and Country.  I pray that you would be encouraged by its beautiful message.

 

Father, I thank You for Your grace that was extended to me by Christ’s death for me on the cross of Calvary.  I thank You for the mercy and forgiveness you granted to me and I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation.  I pray that these words would challenge those who may not know You, and I pray that Your Holy Spirit would touch their hearts and bring them to You.

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 23, SELF-CONTROL

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 23

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART ONE

You may recall that the initial entry in this list of graces from the Holy Spirit is “love” and this last entry is “self-control” or, in the King James Version, “temperance”.   In Greek language structure, it was common to place the elements that you wanted stressed at the beginning and at the end.  Thus, the first fruit of “love” would be known to be of paramount importance because of its placement at the head of the line.  This is true in our own language construct.  However, in the Greek writing, the last item is also intended to be emphasized.  Se we need to pay special attention to this characteristic that the Holy Spirit is desiring to develop in us.

As for the other fruit of the Spirit, the world speaks of this fruit but the meaning and application is greatly different than that which the Spirit imparts.

For example, Oscar Wilde has said “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”  No self-control there!

Tom Wilson (An American cartoonist, 1931-1978) said:  “About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you’re fighting temptation.”

cat-exercising-self-control
The look says it all!

Benjamin Franklin came closer to the Scriptural meaning when he said: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

In his World Biblical Commentary, Richard Longnecker says that the word “self-control” has a long history among Greek classical writers.  Plato used the term in contrast to overindulgence in both food and sex.  Aristotle gave it significant treatment in his writings on ethics, specifically pointing out the difference between the person who has powerful passions but keeps them under control (self-control) while its opposite (incontinence) is the person who does not deliberately choose the wrong but who has no strength to resist temptation.  The term “incontinence” is also called wantonness.   Aristotle thought self-control was primarily related to bodily enjoyment but that it was not improper to be incontinent with respect to money or temper or glory.

Later, Augustine said that incontinence was not a problem of knowledge, which is of knowing but not acting.  Rather, it was an issue of will.  He found that it was an everyday occurrence that men failed to exercise self-control by choosing the lesser over greater goods.

Romanticism came into vogue and the incontinent choice of feeling over reason became increasing more welcome.   Blake wrote that “those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”

All this progressed in a downhill spiral until the 1960s with the breakdown of conscience by “letting it all hang out” – acting out and emotional self-indulgence and drama.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incontinence_(philosophy)]

 What does Scripture say?

 We have come to the final entry in the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23.

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

Galatians 5:22-23.

At the time of Paul’s writings, self-control was a central concept in Hellenistic ethics.  Indeed, Josephus uses the noun in various places to refer to self-control in sexual matters.  Therefore, we can understand Paul’s placement of self-control at the end of the list as intending emphasis as well as to highlight the direct contrast to the list of vices of “drunkenness” and “orgies” that concluded the listing of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21.   The Spirit’s fruit of self-control is not limited to either control of the appetite for drink or the consequent tendency to unrestrained and immodest behavior.

 

The Greek word for self-control is  Egkrateia – self-control.   The Lexicon defines the term as being  1) the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites and  2) restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires.

 

Philip Rykers in the Reformed Expository Commentary on Galatians says that self-control means temperance or moderation, especially like drinking, sex, and eating.  He refers to this virtue as “a sober virtue” and says that it prevents liberty from becoming license in the Christian life.  A person with self-control has the restraint and self-discipline not to be ruled by passion, and, therefore, she is able to resist temptation.

 

James Montgomery Boice describes self-control as the quality that gives victory over fleshly desires and which is therefore closely related to chastity both in mind and conduct.  It is the “great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart and it is that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and yet to keep his garments unspotted from the world.”

How does this apply to my daily life?

Dr. R. C. Sproul references the frequent description of our world today, when we warn someone to “be careful,  it’s a jungle out there!”   Then he notes that God put man in a garden, not a jungle.  What is the difference between the two?

 

dscn2248
Jungle like conditions in bird habitat at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

 

used-flower-garden
Formal gardens at Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile, Alabama.

Both are places where things grow.  Both are places where there are animals of various types.  Both are places of a variety of plants and trees and shrubs.  But one is wild – not structured – not subject to any control.  The other is under control and has an intentional structure; the garden is actively tended – continually groomed, monitored, fed and weeded so that the plants can grow to their fullest potential.  The jungle is ignored and unrestrained; there is no intentional structure, rather anything is allowed to grow without any attention or direction.

 

God, in creation, put man in the Garden.  Because of man’s sin, he was ejected from the Garden and thus exchanged the Garden for a jungle and chaos was substituted for God’s order.  Self-control, temperance, is the fruit of the Spirit which replaces the jungle of uncontrolled emotions, passions, violence and chaos with a desire for God and His order.  It is our restraint through the Holy Spirit that conquers the chaos of the flesh and allows us to embrace the life that our Lord desires us to have through His Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion but of order, harmony and self-control, and it is this self-control that we must nurture by reading our scripture, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and growth. 

 

What is the difference between self-control as a fruit of the Spirit and self-discipline or sheer willpower?

 

Paul provides a distinction between living by the flesh and in the spirit in Romans 8:13-14:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

Again, Paul in Colossians 2:20-23 said:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

 

The self-control of the flesh is strict adherence to rules and regulations.  In contrast, the self-control from the Holy Spirit gives us restraint based on God’s strength, not on ours. 

 

We tend the garden of our heart by the exercise of self-control so that the weeds of the world cannot transform our garden into a jungle which is out of control and outside of God’s plan for us.

 

 

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.  

NEEDS AND WANTS!

I think that we, in the Western culture, have been lured by media and peer pressure to confuse and combine Needs and Wants.   You know what I mean … we tell ourselves we neeeeed something because we want it but if we just say that “I want that!” we sound childish, immature and demanding.  So instead, we come up with adult sounding reasons to illustrate the need for the particular thing while ignoring the abject desire for it that actually began this psychological discussion with ourselves.  We have created a “nee-ant” … a combination of need and want … and we do whatever we need to do to satisfy that desire.

Recently, our needs and wants were brought into focus when did our laundry during a trip to the beach with the family.  We had a plastic garbage bag as well as two laundry baskets that were heaped full of dirty clothes. 

Laundry baskets
Two laundry baskets, now empty, but formerly loaded with dirty clothes!

The campground laundry was very busy, it being extremely hot and humid thus requiring multiple changes of clothes, etc.  So, we searched the internet and found a laundry not too far from our location. 

The building itself had seen better days, but there were multiple open washers and dryers so it was fine with me if the ceiling fan was rattling and the floor was less than sterile.  

There was an old bicycle sitting inside the laundromat, up near the front window, and there was one gentleman loading his clothes from a washing machine into the coin-operated dryer. 

Some small talk ensued, mostly about politics and sports teams, and then quite suddenly he turned and looked at us and asked “Are ya’ll Christians?”  Our statement that we were Christians prompted him to apologize for some expletives that he had used earlier.  We continued speaking.

Ultimately, he suggested which dryers worked best, noting that he came to this laundry every week, did his clothes, and then went to work his night job,.  He had a plastic box with a lid, somewhat (but not much) larger than a banker’s box, and a small sack. 

When the dryer was done, he neatly folded his clothes and put them in the box and sack.  Before he left the laundry, he offered us a roll of plastic bags in case we needed them.  He wished us well and we returned the blessing. He went to the front of the laundry and got on the bicycle, taking his box and sack with his clean clothes home.

What a comparison – two laundry baskets and a garbage bag with an air conditioned car to transport us compared to a man on a bicycle with his clean clothes for the week in a box and a sack.

Needs and wants.  Praise the Lord for the material blessings that He has bestowed upon you, including the blessings above and beyond your needs.  Don’t assume that you have accomplished all this by yourself!  But also, don’t get your needs confused with your wants!

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had been blessed by God with many material goods, but he lacked thankfulness toward God:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

Luke 12:16-20.

People resist following Christ because they don’t want to give up control of their lives, without realizing that the spiritual blessings available through Christ far outweigh the material things of this world.  This world is temporary and the treasures laid up here will be gone in the blink of an eye … life after death is eternal, non-ending, forever. 

While we should thank God for blessing materially, much more important is our thankfulness for the spiritual blessings that we have received through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

For in him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses …, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:9-14.  These are just some of the spiritual blessings we receive through Christ.

In recounting his conversion from a persecutor of Christians to a follower of Jesus Christ, Paul told King Agrippa:

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Acts 26:15-18.

Forgiveness of sins.  Acceptance by God the Father.  Everlasting life through the life, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Sanctification through the Holy Spirit — spiritual blessings for which we should be praising our God continually, in word, deed, countenance, and in our heart’s spiritual praise.

The end of Acts 26 says:

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”  And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”

Acts 26:28-29.

There is no record of King Agrippa coming to know the Lord.  Don’t let that be your story … Don’t let your “nee-ants” get in the way of your life in Christ. 

 

Father, I pray that these words honor You and your Son.  I pray that your Word would be effective for your purposes, and I pray that my “nee-ants” don’t interfere with the witness and the work that You want me to do.

KNITTING — AND THE CHURCH!

Many years ago, my Grandmother taught me to crochet and my Aunt taught me to knit. Both crocheting and knitting involve creating knots in yarn when you follow the pattern so that the work will be beautiful and reflect that which you want to create.

 

Knitting - beginning of baby cap
This is the beginning of a baby cap, done on circular needles and, here, the yarn is still attached.

I have long ago forgotten how to crochet, but I remembered enough about knitting to pick it up in recent years. And, thanks to instructional videos on youTube, books that I had purchased long before youTube was a twinkle in anyone’s eye (and which were still available in the house, due to my pack-rat nature) about how to create stitches, and a recent Christmas present from our Daughter, I have made several items including:

A long scarf of light silver blue, ethereal yarn.

 

knitting - scarf laying on shawl
Long scarf of silver blue yarn. This yarn knotted up at the center of the ball and I had to have one of my sisters in the Lord help untie the knots so that I would have enough yarn to finish the scarf.

 

A white shawl knit with yarn that has silver specks throughout. Very subtle. .

 

knitting - white shawl
White shawl that I use in the car or RV if the wind is cool on my shoulders.

A baby blanket and matching cap for a yet unborn recipient.

knitting - blanket and baby cap
Baby blanket folded in thirds with pattern revealed at the top. A matching baby cap is next to the blanket.

 

Knitting - baby cap next to blanket
Here the blanket pattern is shown “up close and personal.”  Working with multi-shaded yarn makes a pretty pattern.

 

As well as dozens of little baby caps for our missionary team to take to Cuba for use with newborn infants in the hospital in an effort to keep flies away from the infants. It is humbling to knit these caps which are supposed to be the “size of a small orange” and to contemplate the little head that will fit into the cap.

 

I am not an accomplished knitter by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy doing it but I have not attempted sweaters or vests or anything that is complex in nature. Just not there yet!

 

I do know, however, that there are two stitches in knitting and everything is based on those two stitches – knit and purl. That’s it. There are slip stitches, knit two together, and other stitches with names that I likely mispronounce, all of which create various patterns and textures for the piece, but they are all based on knit and purl. Essentially, these two stitches create knots in the yarn and, once the knot is fixed, you go on to make the next knot!

 

The yarn that I have used is not special stuff or exotic in any respect. There is, however, a wide variety of yarns, which by definition is a continuous strand of twisted fiber. Natural fibers include wool or cotton, cashmere and silk. You can also knit with bamboo, linen and synthetic fibers such as nylon and acrylic. I even saw a pattern for knitting a reusable recyclable tote using grocery store plastic bags as the “yarn”.

 

Recently, when I worked on the baby blanket and cap, I was thinking about the transformation of the single strand of yarn into a usable blanket and cap. Just knotting the yarn in knit and purl stitches row after row created a fabric that has far more uses, and is far stronger, than the single strand of yarn itself.

 

Knitting - close up of blanket
Close up of blue baby blanket shadow box pattern.

 

I suggest that the individual Christian is, in some ways, like that strand of yarn. We can do some things, but we cannot be as effective on our own as we can be when we are joined with our Christian brothers and sisters. Don’t take the analogy too far – we do not want to get so knotted up that we are not able to do our work. But, when we are knit into the fabric of the body of Christ, we are strong and we can be used by the Lord in a myriad of ways.

 

The Apostle Paul talks about believers in this way.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:1-3 ESV

 

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Colossians 2:18-19 ESV

 

The believers in our Lord are “knit together in love” and when we hold to our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, we are knit together and are granted growth from God.

 

Knitting with yarn is fun and we can create lovely things just by twisting the yarn in knit and purl stitches. But, when we are knit together in love with one another in the body of Christ, just imagine what He can accomplish through His Spirit for His Church.

 

By the way, when you drop a stitch in knitting, you can go back and pick it up and, if done carefully, the pattern is not destroyed. Left unattended, that errant stitch can unravel and potentially ruin the entire work. In the same way, when one of the believers in the church is in trouble, has difficulties or is unable to do the work assigned, the rest of the body can, and should, step in and “pick him/her up” restoring the person to fellowship and tending to the physical, financial, emotional and spiritual needs that have arisen. In this way, the church’s work is unharmed and the Lord in honored. That is what being knit together in love is all about!

 

Praise the Lord for His mercy, grace and love and praise Him for knitting us together in His love.

 

Father, I thank you for your grace in providing the Church for support, encouragement, instruction, guidance and reproof as I go along my Christian walk. I pray that I would not be the stitch that drops off the needle so that my assigned task done for Christ would unravel. Thank you that we are knit together in love, your love!