A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

We were driving down a highway one day when, straight ahead of us, there was what appeared to be a silo and a walkway going over the highway to a tall structure on the other side of the road.  While that may not be earthshaking, when I looked up from my reading it appeared to me that we had to drive directly underneath that walkway and in between the silo and the other structure.  There was nothing but farmland on either side of the highway for miles and the road seemed to be flat, no rise in elevation or hills to consider just more farmland up ahead.  But, there stood these two structures and the tiny bridge. 

20180610_133655

I have to say I was startled, and wondered how we were supposed to navigate this passageway.  My fears were unfounded, however, when we got to the point of no return and the road curved so that the buildings were on the right side of the roadbed.

20180610_133722

A change in direction.  We think things are going along just fine.  We have our lives all laid out.  The plan is determined and things are being put in place to execute that well-thought-out plan.

When all of a sudden, there is a change in direction.  A curve in the road that we didn’t see or even consider.  The flatness of our life’s terrain is a source of comfort and security.  We know what is going on and we don’t have to worry about surprises. 

Jesus said that His followers would have problems and trials in this life, He certainly did and He told us that we should expect it also. 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”

Luke 6:22 

But, Jesus also said that God, His Heavenly Father, knows all about all of His creation.  When a little sparrow falls from the tree, God knows about that.  Jesus then said, if God cares for the sparrow, just imagine how much He cares for you!  Again, Jesus said God knows how many hairs we have on our head. 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

If that is the case, do you really think God would be surprised about anything that would happen to you?

As certainly as the sun comes up in the morning, there will be surprises that come into our lives, some good ones and many others not so good, and we have to learn to handle them, sometimes in a split second.

How can we do that?  By leaning on the One who loves us with an eternal love and who does, indeed, have our life plan before Him.  While we may be surprised by events that occur and seem to derail our life, God is not surprised by any means.  He is omniscient – He is all-knowing.  Further, He is omnipotent – He is all-powerful. 

Combining those two eternal and immutable attributes of God, He knows all things that will happen to you and He is strong enough to be sure that His plan for you will be fulfilled.  That does not mean that there will not be difficulties for us as Christians.  Rather, it means that when there is a difficulty, we can be certain that we are in God’s hands and that He is in control of the situation. 

This is when faith comes into play.  We need to have faith in God so that we can truly rest in His eternal arms during whatever trial or difficulty we are experiencing at any given time.

A change in plans often is unwelcome, distressing and disturbing.  But it often brings surprises and growth in our spiritual life that outweigh all the distress originally felt.  In the process, we can learn a great deal about our God and our relationship with Him. 

Think you are running into an unmovable obstacle? Think again, God may have turned the roadway just in time so that you are, once again, on the straight and narrow way!

Father, I praise your name and give you all glory and honor because only You are God.  There are many imitations and false gods in today’s world, there are many things that man has made into a god such as money, fame, privilege, possessions, even family.  Forgive us when we replace You for anything else.   You are the one and only true God, and it is to You that our love and allegiance must be directed.

 

WHAT LIGHT? DID YOU SEE A LIGHT?

Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

Consider the following comparison.

1,  On November 3, 1871, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Oregon was lit and its beam was first broadcast over the ocean.  The light was a single wick lantern which burned refined lard oil and its light was a steady white beam that was 161 feet above sea level.

Let the light shine light Oregon 2009 412

A plaque at this display, shown in the picture, gives more information about this lighthouse lamp.

Let the light shine sign Oregon 2009 411

2.  Years ago, we were driving in Florida from Orlando to Cape Canaveral.   At that time, there were still undeveloped areas along the highway.  There was a bit of cloud cover so not many stars were shining through. 

As a passenger, just sat gazing out over the seemingly empty space when I thought I saw a light.  I turned my head, but there was nothing there.  I looked out the right-hand window when my peripheral vision detected a light to the left.  Turning my head, again there was nothing visible.

My husband asked what was wrong since I was turning my head back and forth, and I said that I thought I saw a light, but there was nothing there.  I really thought I was going batty or, more likely, that my vision was on the blink! 

Just then, the light beamed again and both of us saw it and laughed as we realized it was a strobe light for aircraft guidance.

Do you see the difference?  Strobe lights are not like the lighthouse that shines its light throughout the night sky.  Strobe lights can best be described as “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

Jesus said that we are to be lights in the world.  But that light should not be “on again/ off again”..  Strobe lights are like that.  We are like that too.  Jesus addressed this type of person when He used an agricultural example and said:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:43-45

Our actions don’t always match up with the words that we speak. 

We say that we love someone but then we spread gossip about them when we have the chance.  We say that we want to help others but then we are too busy to go the extra mile when the need arises.  We say that we are Christians, but we don’t attend church because “you know they are all hypocrites!”  We say we love Jesus, but then we hate our fellow Christians because they have different views than those we hold.  We say we love God, but then we curse using His name as an expletive when something happens that we don’t like.  We are strobe light Christians.

When we witness to the hairdresser and talk about all that we are doing for Jesus in the church and in the community, and then we criticize and condemn her for how she did our hair, the strobe light is dimmed.

When we put the decal on our car indicating that we love Jesus, the witness light is bright.  But the strobe is darkened when that same car cuts off others on the highway or when expletives are heard because of a slow start at the light.

Let us not be strobe light Christians.  Let us not dim the light with our pride, arrogance or lack of love.  As noted at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (and with just a bit of editorial license), “Let YOUR Light Shine” for the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Father, I pray that I would not tarnish my own witness for You by inconsiderate actions, unkind words, or unloving attitudes.  I pray that You would forgive me, Lord, when I have put my own desires ahead of others, my own wants ahead of others’ needs, my own interests before Yours. 

 

 

PERSONAL, PRIVATE PRAYER – DO I HAVE TO DO IT?

When we look at the New Testament scriptures, we see a pattern that reveals the importance of prayer, not just corporate prayer during Sabbath services but private, personal, intimate prayer with our Creator, Savior, Loving God.  In all things, Jesus is our example, so we look to Him for our understanding of personal prayer.

Jesus prayed intensely in the Garden of Gethsemane before being betrayed, arrested, tried and crucified, and He asked three of His disciples to support Him during this time.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Matthew 26:36-44 ESV

He was sad, sorrowful, asking the Father if there was a way that His assumption of our sin could be avoided.  In other words, “isn’t there some other way?”  Haven’t we cried the same thing to our Father?

But Jesus’ prayer didn’t stop with a refusal to do what the Father directed – He continued to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, saying, in essence, “Your way is the best.  If you want me to do this, so be itI will obey.” 

We have all had the experience of confronting a huge problem, frightening news that upends our universe.  Perhaps it is news of a deadly disease, or the fracture of a marriage that had seemed perfect.  Perhaps the violent, unanticipated loss of a child or spouse, or perhaps the agonizing vigil with an aging parent who no longer knows who you are.  We pray hard during those times.  We seek the Lord’s face and ask the hard questions, most of which begin with the word “Why”. 

There are a myriad of reasons that God allowed the difficult circumstance and we will never ever know all of them, but we can have confidence that they are all directly tied to His plan for your life.  He loves you and, even in the hard times when all logical arguments fail and it is sheer pain, unadulterated panic, and fear, if you are His child, He is holding you in His hand.  He wants you to understand that His grace is available and that His power is all-sufficient … trust Him and let Him hear all your fears, pain and panic.  Don’t try to sugarcoat your thoughts and feelings — He already knows them.  He will hold you and respond saying “my grace is sufficient for you.”   2 Corinthians 12:9.

USED Giant praying hands in Webb Missouri
Praying Hands in Webb Missouri

Jesus not only prayed when faced with the agonizing ordeal of the cross, He prayed, routinely, regularly, even when His ministry was at its peak and he was beset by many who wanted to be healed and to hear Him teach.  

“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Luke 5:15-16 ESV

In fact, He often would withdraw from people so He could be alone with His Father, in prayer. 

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

Matthew 14:23 ESV

“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12 ESV

Jesus even told His disciples and those around Him that private prayer between them and the Father is more important than praying before others, as the hypocrites did.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6 ESV  The disciples understood that prayer was important, so in Luke 11:1 we have the record that, after Jesus had been praying, they specifically asked Him to teach them to pray.  It is this request that gives us what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”. 

Private prayer was important in the Old Testament — David said:

“But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”

Psalm 88:13 ESV

Private prayer was important in the New Testament — The New Testament church also prayed earnestly for the spread of the Gospel and for the growth of the church.

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

Acts 1:14 ESV

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

Acts 12:5 ESV  This is the humorous scenario that we read about, when Peter was miraculously released from prison and came to the house where people were praying for his release, but the maid would not let him in because she didn’t recognize him as the one for whom they were praying!

If prayer was important to Jesus, if prayer was important to the disciples who lived and walked with Him, if prayer was important to the early church, it should be important to us.

Individual prayer – it is important.  Take time to be away from work, household chores, telephone, television, children, spouse, even well-meaning prayer partners … have dedicated time to talk with God on an intimate, individual basis.  Then listen.  Prayer is a benefit that Christ has secured for His sheep.  Don’t ignore it. 

So, have you prayed today?

Father, forgive me when I have ignored spending time with You.  Forgive me when the trivial has overridden the important, when materialism has crowded out the eternal, when I have sinned by saying a “prayer” that is a thinly veiled demand that You act on my behalf in a certain way.  Forgive me, Father.  Help me to put Your desires ahead of mine so that You will is done in my life and in the lives of those with whom I come in contact.  May I sincerely say “Your will be done”.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 22, GENTLENESS part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 22

GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

PART TWO

What does Scripture say?

 Humility means putting God and other persons ahead of our own personal selfish interests. Humility comes with the knowledge that God’s creation as a whole transcends our own narrow interests.

 

Humility will cause an individual to wholly subject himself to God.  Even if God sends affliction or depressed circumstances, the humble person does not complain but expresses his gratitude for what God has decreed. The humble man says with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12

How does this apply to my daily life?

  •  The humble person lives by the Golden Rule.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:31.

 

If we want to be loved, we must first give our love to others.  If we want to be respected, we must first give respect to all persons, most especially to those persons we do not like.  If we wish to be satisfied in our lives, we must first be generous toward others.

 

  • Gentleness/humility affects our talk, both with regard to attitude and topic. Scripture confirms this in numerous passages:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Proverbs 15:1-2

The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Matthew 12:35

 

More specifically, when it comes to our talk, gossip is an act of hostility intended to harm someone’s reputation. We must avoid the temptation to misrepresent someone’s character or actions even if we are covering those acts with “Bless her heart!”

 

  • Gentleness/humility also affects our speech and emotions in that the humble person will not respond in anger or revenge.

 

Instead of anger, the humble person’s reaction to life’s difficulties is understanding and empathy.  An understanding attitude will settle the dispute and avoid turning a minor issue into a major confrontation.  The humble demeanor is a perfect tool for avoiding disputes and hard feelings.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20

When we respond to anger with empathy and love, we can break the cycle of hatred and transform even our enemies into friends. Jesus recognized this when he gave us the unique command to love even our enemies:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

  • Certain characteristics can be found win the humble man or woman.

 

The humble man or woman avoids ambitious behavior.  She is not greedy for honor and does not desire to be above her neighbors.   She does not take upon herself that which does not belong to her as if the earth ought to be subject to her bidding. On the contrary, she gives all due deference to the judgment and desires of others.  Her behavior is consistent with Philippians 2:3:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”

 

The humble man or woman avoids ostentatious behavior. If she has any advantage, ability or benefit over her neighbors, she will not make a show of it.    In other words, she is not a Pharisee who, according to Jesus, did all their works to be seen of men.” Matt 23:5.

 

Rather, she knows that the impression others have of her is a small thing indeed.  She is content that the God in Heaven sees what was done and she desires that He approve of her efforts.

 

The humble man or woman will not express scornful or belittling behavior. Treating others with scorn and contempt is one of the most offensive manifestations of improper pride toward them.  The humble woman treats others with courtesy and friendliness – because she is aware of her own weakness before God, and she knows that it is God alone that makes her any different than others.

 

The humble will always have the spirit to “condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:16) and this is true even if the person is in a position of public trust and honor.

 

The humble man or woman will not exhibit willful or stubborn behavior.  The humble man or woman will not be stiff and inflexible, and insist that everything must go according to what they happen first to propose.  Further, the humble person will not make all the difficulty they can so as to make others uneasy if they do not get their own way.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

 

On the contrary, humility inclines men to have a yielding spirit to others, ready, for the sake of peace and to gratify others, to comply in many things with the desires of others, and to yield to their judgments when they are not inconsistent with truth and holiness.

 

A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it.

 

The humble spirit is desired by God and should be sought by the Christian.  Peter said that this spirit is the richest of all ornaments:  “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” 1 Peter 3:4.

 

We read in 1 Peter 5:5 that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   Regarding this verse, Jonathan Edwards says that in the original language, this means God “sets Himself in battle array against him,”  In other words, the proud spirit is abhorrent to God!  I certainly do not want God to fight against me!

 

Jesus – our Lord and Savior said:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

Matthew 5:9.

 

Gentleness/ Humility is the ornament of the spirit, the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience, the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God, the subject of the richest of His promises, the spirit with which He will dwell on earth, and which He will crown with glory in heaven hereafter.

 

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, KINDNESS, part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 16

 KINDNESS – A CONSTANT STATE OF READINESS TO HELP

PART TWO

So how do we show kindness to others – to whom should we be kind – what is kindness, after all?  What does the scripture tell us about these questions?

The greatest kindness we can do for another person is to witness to them of the Great King Jesus and lead them as the Holy Spirit directs toward their salvation and spiritual growth.  Most often, we do this by setting a good example as this is frequently the most effective witness of all, especially if, at the appropriate time, it is accompanied by our words telling of the gospel of the Lord Jesus as the Source of our life in Him.

For our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we help each other in faith and obedience and encourage each other when in trial or temptations.  We can bring spiritual joy and strength to each other as we seek to live for Christ before meeting Him in heaven.

What does Scripture say?

We as Christians are to be kind, not only in a spiritual context but also physically, to both individuals and the world, whether or not they claim Christ as their Savior.

We are told to help others in their difficulties and calamities.  See Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 35-36.

Kindness for the Christian can be summed up as being kind in three specific ways:

  • By giving to them of those things that they need and we possess.

“Give and it shall be given unto you.”

Luke 6:38

  • By doing for them and making an effort to help them to improve their situation.

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

I Thessalonians 2: 9

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do;”

Hebrews 6: 10

  • By suffering for them and assisting them in bearing their burdens and in doing everything that we can to lighten those burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”

1 John 3: 16

Now that we know that we are to be kind to others, who are the “others”? Or, another way to put it is, “to whom should we be kind?”

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to be kind to our neighbors, and it expands the definition of neighbor to anyone we meet along life’s way.  Luke 10:29 and following.

That parable, however begs the question: what kind of people are our neighbors so that we can be kind to them?

We are to be kind both to the good and to the bad.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … we are to imitate God.  We should be kind not just those who we consider good in our own eyes.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 45

In this regard, Jonathan Edwards has said:

“Some are proud, some immoral, some covetous, some profane, some unjust or severe, and some despisers of God.  But any or all of these bad qualities should not hinder our beneficence [kindness], nor prevent our doing them good as we have opportunity.  On this very account, we should the rather be diligent to benefit them, that we may win them to Christ; and especially should we be diligent to benefit them in spiritual things.”

It also goes without need for elaboration that we should be kind to our friends. But this duty of kindness also extends to our enemies!

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5: 44

And, we should be kind to the thankful as well as to the unthankful.   Again, this follows the example of Jesus.  Luke 6: 35 says He “is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil;” It is also consistent with the command that we should be merciful as He is merciful.  Luke 6:36.

How does this apply to my daily life?

We do not deserve God’s kindness and yet He is kind every moment of every day –as He showers us with His blessing and love in Christ Jesus, as He provides for our salvation and eternal life with Him, as He has given His grace and mercy in forgiveness of our sins, even the ones that we keep on doing and which He knows we will continue to do, yet in His infinite love, mercy and kindness He continues to forgive when we come to Him.

Please remember that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … and one of Jesus’ attributes was kindness that was extended to those he encountered throughout his life, even to his executioners, including you and me.  He died on the cross because of our sins, and we put him there as surely as any Roman spear or nail.  Such kindness freely given to us should result in an outpouring of love and kindness by us to others, not in our human power as just one more thing we have to do but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Kindness – it is such a common term, so flippantly used, and yet such a profound witness when it comes from a heart prompted by the Holy Spirit.  It is not a last minute thought or a flippant act of little consequence as the world describes; it is a life style of placing others first, of putting yourself in subservience to others so that their needs are met; it is going the extra mile and then some, because Jesus went all the way from heaven, to earth and then to the cross for you, and for me.  Such kindness cannot be repaid by any action on our part, but we can illustrate it to others as best we can, with prayerful praise and as a thankful witness for Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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.