FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Post 10, PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PART ONE

For the most part, the world thinks of peace in negative terms such as the absence of hostility, or perhaps the absence of tension.  As with the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, the Biblical view of the term is quite different.

 

Augustine of Hippo defined peace as “The tranquility of order.”  In the context of this definition, he said there are three applications of this type of peace:

Peace with God – or the spiritual order

Peace on earth – or the relational order

Peace of God — or the psychological order.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

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 5:21-22.

 

Martin Luther said that the word “peace” in Galatians 5 means that the Christian is at peace with both God and man, Luther going further into how we should conduct ourselves, saying:

 

Christians are to be peaceful and quiet. Not argumentative, not hateful, but thoughtful and patient.

 

In his book, The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul states:

 

For the Christian, the holy war is over: the peace has been established.  Access to the Father is ours.  But we still must tremble before our God.  He is still holy.  Our trembling is the tremor of awe and veneration, not the trembling of the coward or the pagan frightened by the rustling of a leaf.  Luther explained it this way: “We are to fear God not with a servile fear like that of a prisoner before his tormentor but as children who do not wish to displease their beloved Father.”  We come to Him in confidence; we come to Him in boldness; we have access.  We have a holy peace.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 153

 

Both the Greek and the Hebrew word for peace have the same meaning — confidence and rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than in your own.   The opposite of peace is anxiety and worry.  The world’s counterfeit of true peace is indifference, or perhaps apathy, having an “I don’t care” attitude.

 

According to Strong’s Lexicon, there are a number of words in Hebrew that refer to peace and its various definitions.  The Hebrew word with which we are most familiar is, in English, shalom.

Image result for shalom

Its transliteration is shalowm and it is pronounced shä·lōm’.

 

This Hebrew word means:

  1. completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
    1. completeness (in number)
    2. safety, soundness (in body)
    3. welfare, health, prosperity
    4. peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment
    5. peace, friendship
  2. Shalom embodies the concept of completeness, wholeness, harmony and fulfillment. It is unimpaired relationship with God and man and fulfillment in one’s undertakings.    The source of Shalom peace is God.

 

Looking at its use in the Old Testament:

 

  • It referred to a condition of freedom from disturbance, whether outwardly, as of a nation from war or enemies, or inwardly, within the soul. To a people harassed by foes, peace was the primary blessing. In Psalm 122:7, shalom is translated “security” where it is said:

“Peace be within your walls and security within your towers.” 

 

  • Shalom was the common friendly greeting, used in asking after the health of anyone; also in farewells. Genesis 29:6 “He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well!” This phrase literally meaning “Is there peace to him?” This is again exampled in Judges 6:23 where Scripture says:

“But the Lord said to him, Peace be to you. Do not fear, you shall not die.”

 

  • Peace from enemies, thus implying prosperity, was the great desire of the nation and was the gift of God if the people walked in His ways. Aaron’s blessing to the people of Israel was dictated by the Lord and it is found in Numbers 6:24-26. We frequently hear it in benediction at the end of our worship:

The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

  • In Leviticus 26:6, God makes promises to the people of Israel for peace if they follow his laws:

“I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.”

  • In Isaiah 26:3-4 we have the promise:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

This verse actually says in the Hebrew: “you keep him in peace peace
whose mind is stayed on you”.  Also note the reason for this peace, in verse 4 we read the Lord God is an everlasting rock.  Talk about a good foundation for peace!

How does this apply to my daily life?

We certainly are not done considering peace and what it means as a part of the fruit of the Spirit that indwells the believer.  But for now, I would ask that you read the Bible references above in your own Bible, translations and paraphrases.

 

  • Consider what the Old Testament people desired for peace and what God says will come if they obey His commands.

 

  • Consider what you desire for peace and how it might reveal itself in your life through the Holy Spirit.

 

  • Consider having peace peace … perfect peace. Let this thought comfort you during this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to do this, even before we go into consideration of peace in the New Testament.

 

Here, Damaris sings the song “I Sing Peace” taken from her album The Heart of God.  Enjoy listening to her as you consider having perfect peace this week.

 

 

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.  

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 7, JOY, Part One

 

JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

 PART ONE

This week we are considering Joy.  We know that everyone wants to be happy.  In our culture, happiness is talked about and searched for, but seldom is real joy experienced.

 

The internet dictionary.com defines joy as being “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”  A picture of joy, I believe, is this one of a young boy with his grilled cheese sandwich.   Eyes closed, bread in both hands, cherishing the taste in his mouth.  He seems to be in little boy bliss!

Joy of grilled cheese sandwich (C)

In an attempt to find happiness, people try all sorts of things, way beyond grilled cheese sandwiches.  For example, Indian philosophy has given a 7 prong approach to locating happiness.

 

  • Think less, feel more
  • Frown less, smile more
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Judge less, accept more
  • Watch less, do more
  • Complain less, appreciate more
  • Fear less, love more

 

These things are good and they may help you lead a more productive happy life.  Any time that you focus on others and have your eyes off of yourself your life is likely to be happier.  But, these actions are based on our own efforts, and any happiness that is achieved is fleeting because it is based on outward circumstances.

 

This is the fundamental difference between Christians and unregenerate persons around us.  Even though we use the same word Joy, the Joy given to the Christian is separate and apart from outward circumstances of this world … it is not the power of positive thinking nor is it based on the prosperity gospel’s promise of vast monetary wealth here and now.

ORANGE - JOY

What does Scripture say?

 

Using the orange analogy that we developed previously, Biblical Joy is a segment of the fruit of the Holy Spirit as found 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. 

 

The Greek word Chara Joy – refers to a delight in God and His salvation for the sheer beauty and worth of who He is.    The world’s counterfeit of this fruit is elation that comes with blessings rather than from thoughts of the One who blesses.  Further, because the world’s joy is based on external things, there will be mood swings based on circumstances.

 

The Holy Spirit’s Joy is not dependent on external circumstances but is deep seeded and is rooted in the heart filled with love for our Lord.

 

Martin Luther said:

Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodious hymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct, inspire, and refresh themselves.

 

Matthew Henry understands Paul’s use of the term “Joy” as part of the fruit of the Spirit as being “a constant delight in God.”

 

Unlike the writings of other faith systems, Joy is well embedded in Holy Scripture of the Bible.  Scriptural Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God because it is based on the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we cannot have Biblical Joy!

 

Note:  The Bible distinguishes scriptural Joy from pleasure – the Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our English word hedonism, and it is the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking.  Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4)

 

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.

  • Ecclesiastes 2 records the sad story of one who tried to build his life on pleasure-seeking and was left empty and disillusioned.
  • 1 Timothy 5:6 says that the self-indulgent person is dead even while seeming to be alive.
  • Titus 3:3 notes that pleasure-seeking often enslaves the person in a vicious cycle of addiction.

 

In contrast, the God of Scripture knows Joy and He wants His people to know Joy.

  • Psalms 104:3 speaks of God rejoicing in His creative works.
  • Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.”
  • Luke 2:10, a focal verse at Christmastime, reminds us of the perfect example of bringing joy from the Lord in the Angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds at Bethlehem.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

 

How does this apply to my life?

 

In John 15:9-12, Jesus told us to keep His commands and to abide in His love, further stating that He told us this so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”   

 

The answer to the question “Can we have that same joy?” is a resounding YES.  We can, and do, have within us the same Joy that Jesus was speaking of.  We can confidently say this because we have His Spirit within us and He provides Joy as we listen to Him, as we read the Scripture and as we rely on Him for all things.

 

Is our joy different from the happiness that is sought so desperately by the world?  As you should be aware by now, the answer to this question is an unequivocal YES.  Our joy is different because of Who it is based on – our joy is not dependent on circumstances or things.   Our joy is based on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and we experience it through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

In speaking of Galatians 5:22, Author Keri Wyatt Kent says:

“This verse is not a to-do list for us to work through, but a description of the transformation that occurs when God’s Spirit begins to work in us.”

 

This week, pray that the Holy Spirit would continue this transformation by enlarging your love and joy in Christ.  Ruminate about keeping the commands of our Lord so that you can abide in His love.  Then, take action and do that which the Lord commands.  I believe that you will find that your joy will be abundant as you live and serve Him through the power of His Spirit.

 

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.  

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, NO. 2, OF GIFTS, FRUIT AND LIFE!

We often hear about the gifts of the Spirit in sermons and when Christians speak of their lives in Christ. The Apostle Paul points out that there are a vast variety of gifts, but they all come from the same source, the Holy Spirit, and they are for the purpose of the ministry of the same Lord to the glory of the same God and Father of all. 1 Corinthians 12:3-5. Gifts from the Spirit are, for the most part, visible; that is, they are apparent to others. For example, the gift of hospitality, Romans 12:13, is exercised when we welcome others into our home, this clearly being a service to others outside the family. The gift of teaching is, by definition, something done before others since we don’t usually teach ourselves! Ephesians 4:11. In short, the gifts of the Spirit are external, on display for the Body of Christ to see and profit therefrom.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is different. Generally speaking, the fruit of the Spirit is quiet, internal, and personal. Love, joy, peace, patience … these things are not visible to others, they are characteristics that we have because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We may exhibit actions that reflect these characteristics, but the fruit itself is based on our relationship with the Spirit and comes from beyond our ability – they are not just the power of positive thinking.

 What does Scripture say?

Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, there is not a separate fruit for one person and another fruit for someone else. There is one Spirit and that Spirit produces fruit. In other words, the Spirit will give many giftS but it will only give one fruit.

 

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

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

An analogy that I have used is the orange. It is one orange but it is made up of multiple segments. Those segments are not identical, although they are very similar. Think of the fruit of the Spirit as an orange, with each segment identified as one of the characteristics listed in Galatians 5.

 

Orange fruit
The orange is an analogy to the fruit of the Spirit. Here are each of the segments identified from the listing in Galatians 5.

 

Please don’t stretch the analogy too far. But, each Christian has the Holy Spirit in her heart. This means that she HAS the seed of the fruit of the Spirit implanted in the soil of her heart – and that seed will sprout and grow ALL of these qualities, because the Spirit encompasses EACH ONE of the qualities identified in Galatians chapter 5

Thus, a Christian woman can’t say “I don’t have the gift of patience!” as an excuse for her outburst at having to wait in line at the bank or for her frustration with the delay in God’s providing an answer to her prayer. If she is a Christian, she already HAS the fruit of the Spirit of patience, because it is part of the Holy Spirit and, at conversion, the Holy Spirit became resident within her. She may not have allowed the Spirit to control her actions, but it is not because this fruit is absent. That is an issue of yielding herself to the control of the Spirit.

Likewise, a man can’t say the he cannot control his anger, because this was not a gift given to him by the Spirit. Rather, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and, if the man is a Christian, he has the Spirit within him and, thus, self-control is resident in his heart. He may not exhibit self-control if he is not letting the Spirit live through him, but, again, that is an issue of yielding to the Spirit, not an issue of an absence of the virtue.

A word of warning: we have to recognize that each segment of the fruit of the Spirit has a name that is similar to words that the world uses, but it is a mistake for us to think that the fruit of the Spirit is similar to anything that the world can experience. The world experiences a mere shadow of that which the regenerate person experiences because of the Holy God’s presence within them.

 How does this apply to my daily life?

 For now, I would challenge you to read and study Galatians 5:19-22 again. The first part of this passage details the actions of the person without Christ as their Lord and Savior. The second part details the fruit of the Spirit that illustrates living a life in opposition to that which was first listed.  Compare the traits discussed and honestly look at your own heart. Where do you see your life with Christ?

Reviewing the fruit of the Spirit gives us clear guidance about how the Spirit should affect our daily lives. We are laying the groundwork here … have patience  (that’s one segment of the fruit, by the way!). Soon we will begin consideration of the specific characteristics individually and will think about what the Scripture says, how that is different than what the world says, and there will be some challenges for applying what we have learned to your Christian life with the Spirit guiding your steps and your words.

Next time, we will consider what the Spirit is doing in our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit. What transformation are we talking about? Why should we want this? Then on to the first segment – LOVE. A hint: My bet is that it is not what you think it is! It is a lot more!

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.  

 

LAUGHTER, JOY AND LOVE.

We live very close to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

Smoky Mountains vista
Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Picture taken of vista that is seen from Cades Cove.

 

In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a town at the entrance to the Park, there are many things for tourists to do, and among them is having your picture taken while you are dressed up in old-time garb. The resulting picture in sepia tones appears to be very old, perhaps of people who bear a striking resemblance of you but who lived generations ago.

 

One of the requirements when the picture is taken is that you have to look serious. I am told that holding a smile for a period of time is more difficult than holding a frown. Before the days of fast shutter speeds or digital photography, it took time for the image to be exposed, for example, for a tin-type. In short, you had to be still. If you smiled, your mouth would be a blur – if you frowned, or at least were serious, your mouth would be in focus.

 

Here is one picture where the children had an incredible level of seriousness, while Mom, who probably glanced at them just before the camera snapped, seemed to be ready to laugh.

 

old time family picture
Tourist picture of family taken by photographer at an “Old Tyme” studio in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Laughter – Joy – Love. What blessings from the Lord!

Laughter

When I think of laughter in Scripture, the first thought is of Sarah laughing when the angel of the Lord told her husband that she would have a child in her old age. See Genesis 18.

 

Actually, the word for “laughter” is not often used in the Scripture, but the Bible is replete with times that people reveled in the joy that the Lord their God gave to them. I can’t help but think that, in the midst of the glorious joy that they had, the people in Scripture laughed – not in derision, but in sheer joy!

Joy

What can be more infectious than a child’s joy!

 

Happy baby girl (C)
Smiling baby girl showing her joy at her surroundings.

 

The Psalmist wrote numerous psalms about joy, of which this is an example:

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11 [ESV]

 

Paul wrote in Romans:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 [ESV]

 

Luke characterized the disciples as follows:

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 [ESV]

 

What can be more infectious than the joy of a small child? The Joy that the believer has in his/her Lord and Savior. It is a glorious gift from the Holy Spirit.

Love

The number of Scripture passages that deal with love are myriad – the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the love we should have for each other – love is written throughout the pages of Scripture. For example:

 

The Psalmist says:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6 [ESV]

 

When I think of God’s love, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the cross. But the image that speaks to me about Jesus’ love for His sheep is this one that is hanging in our study at home. The lamb is resting so comfortably on His shoulder and it is being held so tenderly by the nail scarred hands of the Lord.

 

Picture hanging in our office
Picture representing the Lord Jesus holding a lamb on His shoulder. His nail pierced hand is shown and the lamb is secure in His loving grip.

 

Paul, in Romans 5, provides this picture in words when he says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 [ESV]

 

Sometimes we want to laugh but the occasion does not warrant it – but even then, our eyes can shine with the joy that we are experiencing. God did not create us without feelings – He clearly wants us to experience laughter, joy and love.

 

While the world experiences a type of joy and love, the fruit of the Spirit encompasses joy and love on an entirely different level. It is joy that is not based on circumstances but on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Spirit that indwells the believer. We will consider the fruit of the Spirit next week when the new series begins on The Ruminant Scribe blog site.

 

Ask the Lord to give you glimpses of His joy and His love through His Spirit. You will be glad you did.

 

Father, thank You for granting to us the incredible blessing of emotions and feelings so that we can experience the summit of love and waves of joy. And, thank You for being with us when we experience difficulties and trials, too. Thank You, Sovereign Lord, for providing us with the Holy Spirit Who gives to us your joy and love now and for all eternity.  We praise your holy name.

WHEN GOING IN CIRCLES IS ACTUALLY GOING STRAIGHT!

When we were in England, one of the fascinating aspects of English life was driving. First, you drive on the wrong side of the street – or rather, you drive on the left-side lane of the street with the oncoming cars in the right-side lane. Not necessarily a problem once you get going, but trying to walk across the street can be deadly when you look to the left instead of to the right first.

 

Second, the traffic circles or “roundabouts”.   They are in use throughout the area and enable traffic to move smoothly, as long as you know how to read them. If you don’t understand it, however, you can go in circles for a good little while until the traffic thins and you can get to the lane you need to be in to exit the circular pattern of the roundabout.

 

Road signs in England
Roundabout road sign in England that is fairly easy to understand.

 

This one is fairly straight forward in directions … you are driving along and you will come to this circle to the left from which you can exit onto one of three roads, or you can go back in the other direction on the same road on which you are currently traveling.

 

There is one roundabout, however, that we heard of before we saw it. It is called the “Magic Roundabout”.

 

We came up to it at a stop light, and saw it up ahead. Here is the sign as we approached the roundabout.

Road signs in England another view magis roundabout
First glimpse of the sign for The Magic Roundabout in England.

 

Then we got closer to it and when my husband looked closely at the sign he said “Boy, is that a nightmare!”

 

Road signs from England the magic roundabout
The road sign shortly before entering The Magic Roundabout.

 

You truly do feel like you are going in circles, and the reality is that you are going in circles, at least for a time!   Going in circles does not get us very far very fast because we know that going straight is the shortest distance between two points. But in God’s perspective, going in circles may be the best route and the speediest way to do something may not be His better way.

 

In short, there are times in our lives when we are not to go straight. Instead, we have to negotiate the traffic circles as directed by the Holy Spirit so that we can be prepared to undertake the task that God has assigned for us. This diversion seems out of place, as if we are sidelined when we want to be in the thick of the fray. But, the circular route will teach things that we would miss if we took the direct route.

 

Think of Moses – he figuratively wandered in circles before he knew what God wanted him to do. He was raised in Pharaoh’s court, but he was not Egyptian. He killed an Egyptian and ran for his life to the desert in Midian. (Moses’ years 1 – 40) He took a job tending sheep for Jethro, the priest of Midian, and married Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter. (Moses’ years 41-80) Then he saw the burning bush and God told him what he was going to do for the next 40 years of his life!

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

 

Think about Joseph, one who had his circular route picked out for him, seemingly, by his brothers when they dropped him into the pit before selling him into slavery. Time in an Egyptian prison due to the fabrication of Potiphar’s wife, a fellow prisoner who forgot all about him once he was released, and lengthy time as second only to Pharaoh while he prepared the country for the famine that was going to afflict the entire region all made it seem that Joseph had morphed into the Egyptian culture pretty well.

 

And then it happened.   The famine came and suddenly his family stood before him asking for food. Joseph then understood his circular route and saw it as though it had become straight as an arrow.   In fact, he connected the dots for them when he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 [ESV]

 

I am convinced that no experience presented to us by God is a wasted experience. The route that seemed circular in retrospect was not unintended by God but was intended to teach you something that would be beneficial for your witness, if you allow it to be so.

  • That college class that you have never used … just wait. It will be important at some point in your life in your ministry for your Lord.
  • The illness that overtook you … you can testify to the healing that God provided in support of someone struggling with the same thing.
  • That untimely death that devastated your family … can be used by God to enable you to comfort someone who is going through the same experience and as evidence that healing does come even through extreme pain.

 

So, while the circular route may not be fun, and it may introduce events that are outside your plans for your life, trust God.   God may have a task ahead of you for which you would be ill-prepared if you had not learned the lessons taught during your circular travels.

 

Our God is Sovereign. His plan controls and will not be thwarted by anyone. His children are in His hands and He will guide them, even to the point of carrying His chilren home to be with Him in heaven. Trust Him – you can do so without concern because He is trustworthy, He is God, the great I AM.

 

Father, thank You for loving us and calling us to be your children. Thank You for having our lives in your control even when it seems that we are going in circles. Thank You for teaching us the lessons while we are in the circles that we cannot learn but for the diversion from the seemingly straight path. And, thank You for your Son whose life, death and resurrection enables us to be able to enter your presence so that we can even say Thank You!

NEW SERIES COMING TO THE RUMINANT SCRIBE!

In April, 2016, The Ruminant Scribe blog will turn one year old.  So, it seems a good time to begin something new.

Beginning in April, there will be a new series coming to The Ruminant Scribe.  More specifically, we will be looking at the Fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians 5:22-23.  We will be considering what the Scripture says about this fruit, how it manifested itself in Jesus’ life, and how we can put it in practice in our own lives.  The plan is to post the Fruit of the Spirit study on Friday and the general “snapshot” post on Tuesday.

I am praying that this series will be challenging to you, it certainly was to me when I prepared the study.  I need to be reminded of how critical the fruit of the Spirit is, so I wanted to refresh it in my mind and share it with you as well.

If you have comments or thoughts about the series, please let me know.  If the Lord speaks to you as you read the post or as you read the Scripture referenced, please share your thoughts and insights.   You can place a question, comment, thought or insight in the comment section of the post and I should receive notification of it.  I will respond as soon as I can.  I am excited about this new series and this adventure in Bible study through blogging!

Blessings to you, this day and always through our Lord Jesus Christ.

WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

A simple glance at a garden, forest or lawn gives evidence that all flowers and trees are not the same.   What is in the seed of the plant is what will come out as it matures.

 

Palm tree (C)
Palm tree at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas.

 

We know, for example, that it is futile to ask a date palm or a fig tree to grow as a shrub or to bloom as a rose.

 

Book pictures - flowers 15
Flowering shrub planted in front yard, definitely not a rose!.

 

 

We can identify the plant by its fruit. Every farmer knows this, and even those of us who are from the city know this is true.

 

It was true 2000 years ago, too.  See, for example, Scripture in the Book of  James where the writer talks about the consistency between the seed and the fruit in James 3:9-12 [ESV] just after speaking of the difficulty of taming the tongue:

 

With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

 

In other words, what is inside the plant determines what the outer growth will be.  In like manner, what is in my heart and soul will determine what my actions will be.

 

Thus, I need to consider my words and actions in light of my assertion that I am a believer in Jesus Christ and that I have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Non-believers will be evaluating me at every moment … what kind of affect does this Jesus have on my life? Are my words loving or are they cutting?  Are they affirming or are they hurtful?  Am I building up or tearing down?

 

When I curse or say unkind things to others, I think “Where did that come from?”   Scripture would answer that question by saying “It is from sin”.   We still will sin because we are not our Lord. Even the Apostle Paul said:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Romans 7:15 [ESV]

 

But, the good news is that Jesus conquered the disease of sin that infected each person since Adam’s fall when He died on the cross to take our punishment and to cover us in His righteousness before His Father, the Holy God of Scripture.   Therefore, as believers in Jesus Christ, our old sin nature no longer holds control over us. In short, we are able to, and we should be, exhibiting Jesus’ nature.

 

The Apostle Paul tells us that the evidence of our being new creatures in Christ is the growth of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

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

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

These qualities have their source in the Holy Spirit and, while their names are common, the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian by virtue of the Holy Spirit residing in her heart are anything but common.

 

So, when people hear me speaking, do they hear tantrums and outbursts or do they hear the voice of Jesus?   When I interact with others in a commercial setting, do they hear anger and fury because of some delay which was unavoidable or do they see Jesus’ patience when He dealt with people who could not understand, even showing patience with those who actively rejected His words?

 

In short, the question is whether I, as a believer in Christ, exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, i.e., characteristics of His Spirit given to us by the Holy Spirit, as I live my life before others around me?    We should be striving for living a life consistent with the characteristics of Jesus Christ as He gives us the grace to so do through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

I know that I have to confess my sin for refusing to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and for denying my Lord by my actions before others. What about you?

 

Father, forgive me when I have ignored your Spirit and have acted and spoken in ways that undermined my witness for my Lord and Savior.  I pray that I would keep my eyes focused on you, and that I would reflect Jesus Christ to those around me. I ask that the fruit of the Spirit would grow and be evident in my life, so that You will be honored and glorified in all things.

TRAINS – TOOLS FOR TRANSFORMATION!

At the outset, I want to thank my Beloved Husband for acting as my consultant extraordinaire on the topic of trains, engines, fuel, etc.  This has been a hobby/interest of his for decades and I appreciate his willingness to help me with the accuracy of my account below.

——-

Every Christmas we watch the 1946 classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who gave up his personal dreams in order to help others. The primary dream that George Bailey had was to travel across the world, having adventures and thrills that were simply not available in the small town of Bedford Falls.

Near the beginning of the movie, George hears a train whistle and the following colloquy occurs between George and Uncle Billy:

George: There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?

Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…

George: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

 

Trains. Where distances made it virtually impossible for travel between communities, the train removed that impossibility; indeed, they increased mobility and the speed at which you could cross our continent. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad even linked both sides of our country together!

Long train
Long passenger train going to California.

Take for example this long passenger train going cross country, from Illinois to California.  The picture does not say the destination, but I was on that train in 1955 as we went to visit my grandparents.

 

Train travel expanded the horizon so that people could experience areas of the country far from their local community. Families that were divided by hundreds and thousands of miles could now visit, after a marvelous trip on the train.

 

There were trains of various sizes and purposes, fueled by a variety of materials; but all were intended to go from one place to another.

Train - 611
The 611.

 

 

The Norfolk and Western 611 is a steam engine that was based in Roanoke, Virginia.   My husband has a long history with this particular locomotive. It has recently been restored to pull excursions.

Train 611 in curve
The 611 steaming through a curve.

 

 

The Alaska Railroad runs trains throughout the State of Alaska and the trains provide vital links to supplies and assistance to those folks who live in areas outside of the cities. Numerous reality television shows illustrate the railroad and its involvement with the “off-griders” in Alaska.

 

Train Alaska Railroad train engine,  cropped Anchorage (C)
Alaska Railroad train engine.

 

The Alaska Railroad also has tours of the state, with beautiful observation cars for the tourists’ enjoyment.

 

Train Alaska Railroad Train observation car, Anchorage Alaska, Moore (C)
Alaska Railroad observation car.

 

 

Railroad train - inside observation car
Inside the Alaska Railroad observation car.

 

And there are train engines that have specialized purposes … consider the snow plow in Alaska!

Train - snow plow on engine front
Snow plow to be used on the train tracks in Alaska.

 

Then there are the trains that carry freight from one place to another. Imagine how many trucks would be required to carry the freight that one train can pull!

Train - Freight train Rio Grande
Freight train Rio Grande Railroad.

 

Yosemite 2011 Sugar Pine Railroad Train (C)
Yosemite Sugar Pine Mountain Railroad.

 

 

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can go just a little off the road and find train tracks that have long been abandoned, reminiscent of the logging activity that took place there centuries ago.

Train Century old logging railroad train  in Blue Ridge Mountains
Centuries old abandoned logging tracks through mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Trains made the impossible possible. The Iron Horse pulled loads that were way beyond the ability of human or equine strength. The train could go into terrain and through inclement weather better than any transport available to man. Communities were brought closer because of the connection made by the train schedule. Isolation was lessened when the train arrived with materials from far away places.

 

 

Indeed, trains encouraged dreams and imaginations, as exploration of what was beyond the normalcy of life became a reality.    While airline and automobile travel may have eclipsed the train for some, it is hard to comprehend what our country would be like if it were not for the trains that belched their way onto the scene in the Nineteenth Century.

 

 

But trains would not have accomplished the revolution that they did if they just sat on the tracks and didn’t GO. In order for the Iron Horse to fulfill its mission, it needed power. That power came from various sources: wood, coal, diesel oil, and electricity, but there is no debate that power was required to have functional trains.

 

 

As Christians, we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet, His words are to come from us and we are to express His love to those around us. It certainly is no easy task since we are sinners, saved by grace, and we have to fight our sinful nature to do that which Jesus commands. In short, we cannot live the Christian life in our own power – we have to have the Holy Spirit within us to give us the power to overcome evil, sin and Satan.

 

 

Prior to the beginning of his ministry, immediately after his baptism by John, Jesus was led into the wilderness and was tempted 40 days by Satan. Jesus successfully withstood the tests hurled at him and, at the conclusion of the 40 days, Scripture tells us in Luke 4:14 that:

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

 

 

Through this Holy Spirit, He was able to heal and teach as no other had done before.  See Luke 4:32 where we read that the people “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” The King James Version of this verse says that “for his word was with power.”

 

 

In Luke 14:29 Jesus promises that the disciples would receive power from the Father, but they need to wait.

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

In the Book of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples why they would receive power from His Father:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 [ESV]

 

 

On the day of Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled, and as evidence of the power of the Spirit that filled the disciples, we read:

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 [ESV]

 

 

The same Spirit that powered Jesus is available to us as Christians for the empowerment of our life and witness. Indeed, when we become Christians, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our heart and we read the Scripture with open eyes and an understanding that the Spirit provides. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be bold in our testimony so that we give an answer to any who ask about our Savior. In short, the Holy Spirit is the power for our life in Christ.

 

 

The train transformed our world. Its power accomplished much and we have evidence of the trains’ successful work throughout not just our land but the entire world.  Trains had a variety of functions and purposes, but they all worked together to transform society.

 

 

Jesus Christ has transformed our world in a much more important, eternal way. His disciples are not all the same, each has his/her own spiritual gift to be used for building up of the Body of Christ. One by one, His disciples are spreading the gospel throughout the world and people are hearing of His work and saving atoning grace through His death and resurrection.   Through that witness, God’s mercy is extended to people who are becoming children of God and are being adopted into His family through faith in Christ alone.

 

 

The train cannot sit in the station without power and expect to do any work. The train’s impact on the world becomes evident when power is used to get the job done. Likewise, we, as Christians and believers in Jesus Christ, cannot sit in the church pew and expect that we have fulfilled some sort of obligation to our Savior. We must access the all-sufficient power of the Spirit that will transform all those who are to come to salvation in Jesus Christ.   We must represent Jesus Christ to each individual we meet, all through the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have failed to access the power you have provided through the Holy Spirit. Forgive me when I have not ministered to others as Christ would have me do, simply because I was too lazy to take action. Forgive me when I have failed to spread your Word to others in need. May I have the impact on my world that you want me to have so that your kingdom will be increased, all to your glory and honor.

CHOSEN

 

I had polio when I was an infant. The resulting disability was severe scoliosis – a twisting of the spine in both the thoracic and lumbar regions. The evidence of this twist is that one shoulder blade sticks out and the opposing hip is raised.

 

As a child, I was terribly self‐conscious of my condition and the attendant ramifications. Because of medical treatments attempting to stem the potentially fatal twisting, I was prohibited from participating in the elementary school’s physical education program. As a result, if there were teams for anything, whether a game or any competition, I was never chosen.   I was always the last one standing along the wall waiting for some compassionate leader to place me on a team, even though the team members were looking at me with eyes that were pleading “No, not here, not on this team!”

 

While I am certain that my experience is not typical, I suspect that there is a universal understanding of the feeling of not being chosen – of being left at the wall, waiting – of rejection.

 

But, praise the Lord, He has looked on me with favor.   In John 15:13‐17, Jesus says:

 

Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

 

John 15:13-17

 

God has chosen His people, from the foundation of the world. Indeed, in Deuteronomy 7 we read:

 

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

 

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 [ESV]

 

In the New Testament, Paul reiterates the concept of God’s intentional selection of those who would be His people:

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

 

Ephesians 1:3-4 [ESV]

 

Being chosen by God includes recognizing His intimate knowledge of us, not merely as one of millions of creatures that inhabit this planet called Earth. Centuries before Jesus lived, David wrote that God knew him even before he was born.  Specifically, in Psalm 139:16 we read:

 

“…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

 

This tells me that God’s knowledge of us is personal and intimate. Such intimacy is further described in Psalm 139 when we are told that God knows my thoughts, my words, and my ways.

 

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

 

Ps 139:2‐4.

 

Who else knows us like this? Not even my husband, who knows me very well, can predict what I am going to say before I say it. Indeed, this is often evident by the look on his face after I say something that catches him by surprise!

 

Yet Scripture says that, despite knowing all about me, God loves me and that He chose me to be a child of His even before time began, before the foundation of the world.

 

Just think of it – the God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, knows us as specific individuals on this minute planet in just one of the galaxies of the massive universe. And, in His sovereign majesty He has chosen us! He loves us, guides us, counsels us, and is present with us moment by moment. Indeed, His Spirit indwells those who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior … that means intimate communication with Him, now and forever more.

 

Shouldn’t this personal God receive our honor and worship? Shouldn’t His love to us cause us to follow Jesus’ example in love and service to each other, and to all those we come in contact with as we live our life for the Lord? I pray that we would respond to His wondrous grace and mercy with gratitude, love, reverence, obedience, and overwhelming joy!

 

Father, forgive me when I have accepted your love and grace without recognizing the incredible cost of my salvation; without remembering the magnitude of my sin that has been atoned for by Jesus’ death and resurrection; and forgive me when I fail to give others grace, mercy, love and encouragement. Father, thank you for your mercy in not giving me what I deserve, and thank you for your grace in giving me that which I could never acquire on my own, adoption into your family through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord.