BLOWING YOUR TOP!

We have been watching one of The Great Courses on Pompeii.  It is a fascinating look at the society that formed in the Bay of Naples centuries before the time of Christ.  The predominant physical structure of the area is Mount Vesuvius.   The lecturer said that today, the volcano is about 3,000 feet high.  Prior to its eruption in A. D. 79, the volcano was in excess of 7,000 feet high.  The effect of the volcano blowing its top was a sudden cataclysmic pouring of lava, volcanic ash and pumice throughout the region.  Notably, Pompeii was buried in 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice.   That is blowing your top in a big way!

When we were in Yellowstone National Park, we observed a number of geysers including one call the White Dome Geyser.  It was clear why it was called that – it was a white dome that looked like the top of an ice cream cone. 

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White Dome Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

It would erupt at different times each day with a spray that went high into the air.  Although it is the result of volcanic activity deep underground, clearly the White Dome Geyser is on the scale of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  It is much more controlled, still venting, but not destroying.

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Fortunately, few of us ever experience a Mt. Vesuvius explosion.  But, on a personal level, blowing your top can take a variety of forms.  Usually there is loud, sometimes abusive, language accompanied by throwing things, slamming doors, or breaking items that are in our way … in short, there is dynamic activity that potentially destroys something, or someone, in the process of relieving our pent-up anger.  Then, when all is done, there is a, perhaps, strained quiet, but after the outburst at least it is quiet.  The outburst is over – now it is time to assess the damage. 

Scripture talks about blowing your top … not in those words, but the meaning is abundantly clear.  Take these Old Testament references for example:

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 14:29  

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 15:18  

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11  

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,”

Proverbs 22:24  

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8  

This theme is continued in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Ephesians 4:26.  This verse states that it is alright to become angry; but we must not let it fester so that you become enraged, and out of control so that you then are guilty of sin.  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:31  

Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.””

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus was angry when His Father’s house was subject to desecration, when people were being cheated and when people could not pray there.

Scripture tells us that God can become angry, very angry indeed!  But His is a righteous anger when His creation has become so sinful that He cannot tolerate to even look upon it.

Consider the flood which wiped out all people, animals and plants, except for Noah, his family, and the animals secreted in the ark. (Genesis 6 and 7)  Consider Sodom and Gomorrah where God said He would spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people in them.  When He could not identify even that few righteous ones, the cities were destroyed by fire from heaven. (Genesis 18 and 19)

David recognized that God could become angry. 

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”

Psalm 90:11  

David also recognized that God was merciful and slow to anger.

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

Psalm 86:15  

If we are honest, our anger is usually triggered by a feeling of personal hurt, by a sense of being ignored or cast aside.  Our own agenda has been violated, our desires have been dashed, our wants have been slighted.  We feel that others have taken advantage of us to our detriment and to their benefit, and we are angry.  In short, our anger is usually self-centered.  We are focused on I/Me/Mine.

As Christians, we are called to be like our Father and to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said we should live like this:

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  

We are called to keep our anger under control.  Note the list that includes anger and the list that includes self-control in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of GodBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 519-:24

Don’t blow your top.  When the acid of anger wells up in your heart, quench it with the fruit of the Spirit.  Remember that you did not deserve to be saved from your sins – it was an unmerited gift from God.  Because of that gift, you should give others undeserved love as well.  Remember, Paul gave this instruction, from Deuteronomy 32:39, to the Christian:

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

Romans 12:19 

For the Christian, there really is no need to blow his/her top!

Father, forgive me when I have become angry with others, when I have vented my anger in an ungodly manner rather than seeking the other person’s good.  Help me to remember the Holy Spirit is my strength and guide and may I grow in self-control today, and throughout my life.

The Donkey and The Horse

After publishing the post HORSE, WAR AND PROVIDENCE, I received a comment from a dear friend at church that prompted the need for additional thoughts about the post.  

First.  In biblical times, what the king rode announced his intentions. If he came on a donkey, he was coming in peace.  In the book of Zechariah we read this prophesy:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

We know what Jesus rode into Jerusalem during His incarnation.  At the beginning of the week we call The Passion Week, Jesus was going into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and knowing that He was going to be charged, convicted and executed for crimes that you and I have done, not for any wrongdoing that He, in His perfect obedience to God, had committed.  But, before the crowds hollered “Crucify Him” they screamed “Hosanna to the Son of David”, as He rode into the city on a donkey.  

“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.””  

Matthew 21:7-11 ESV

The King of Kings was riding a donkey and this had been foretold by Zechariah long before Jesus was born.  

Second.  If the king came on a horse, he was coming for war.  In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John had a vision of the end times and in that vision he describes what Jesus will be riding the next time He comes to earth as the triumphant King of King and Lord of Lords.

White horse statue, St Francois Xavier, Manitoba

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

This has not yet happened, but the Bible says it will, and that which God has ordained will, indeed, come to pass. 

“I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 24:14 ESV

We must never ignore or forget that God is totally sovereign over all that occurs in His world.  As Ezekiel says, whatever God says He will do, it will happen.  When He speaks, He does not lie neither does He forget; nothing gets in the way of what He has planned. He is not powerless when confronted by those whom we consider powerful.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.

Proverbs 21:1 ESV

Beloved, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ and have believed on Him alone for your salvation, these words should be of comfort to you.  Even though things look dismal, even when many are against you and they have surrounded you with malice, hateful words, threatening actions … you are God’s and nothing will wipe you out of His hand.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 KJV

Are you persuaded?  Jesus came the first time as a baby, who as an adult rode a donkey when he came into Jerusalem for the last time.  The next time He visits our world He will be riding on a white horse, coming not as a helpless baby but as the living ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

Praise His Holy Name!

Father, I thank You that You provided a way for us to come before You through the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ, your Son.  Thank You Lord Jesus for being obedient, even to the point of the cross, and thank You for welcoming those who You have called into Your family.  Thank You Holy Spirit for convicting us of our sin and for guaranteeing our salvation through faith in Christ alone.  And thank You Holy Spirit for indwelling us and for enabling us to become transformed into the image of our Lord.  We praise Your Name, Triune God, for You are worthy to be praised.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 20, FAITHFULNESS part two

 FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 20

 FAITHFULNESS – BELIEVING GOD AND TRUSTING GOD AND HIS WORD

PART TWO

 

John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) notes:  

“Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer and in the short term more like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” 

 

What does Scripture say?

 

And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until   he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

Joshua 23:14-16.  What is the definition of faithfulness?  “… not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you.”  Seems to me that this is a pretty good definition!

 

So, what does God’s faithfulness mean to His people? 

 

God’s faithfulness is the attribute where He is ever mindful of His covenant and fulfills all the promises which He has made to His people.  This faithfulness of God is of the utmost practical significance to the people of God.  This faithfulness is the ground of their confidence, the foundation of their hope, and the cause of their rejoicing. 

 

It saves them from the despair to which their own unfaithfulness might easily lead, it gives them courage to carry on in spite of their failures, and it fills their hearts with joyful anticipations, even when they are deeply conscious of the fact that they should have forfeited all the blessings of God because of their own wayward actions. 

 

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. 

Deuteronomy 7:9

 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:9

 

The saying is trustworthy, for … if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:11-13

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

Our response to God’s faithfulness is, obviously, faithfulness to God.   This is the fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow within us as we grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.   He gives us the ability to remain faithful as we seek His strength and lean on our Lord.

 

Jesus said that we were to be faithful to him in our obedience and allegiance to Him when he said:

 

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” 

Matthew 10:32-33.   

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

1 Corinthians 13:7. 

 

In Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards quotes this verse and notes that Paul is showing that charity includes a suffering spirit so that it “bears all things;” and that we do this by encouraging the two graces of faith and hope.  

 

Indeed, Edwards states that the fruit of faith through agape love “cannot be conquered by all the opposition the world brings against it, for faith overcomes the world” and also he notes that faith and hope in God enables the Christian to triumph in Christ Jesus.”

 

Faithfulness in interpersonal relationships is evidenced when, the Holy Spirit gives us the disposition to trust others. We give others the benefit of the doubt and we, ourselves, are trustworthy.  We are faithful to our vows, to our commitments and to our world. 

 

An example of faithfulness that is given to us in Scripture is marriage:

Marriage has a unique place because it speaks of an absolute faithfulness, a covenant between radically different persons, male and female; and so it echoes the absolute covenant of God with his chosen, a covenant between radically different partners.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury 

 

In other words, our marriages, our family life, our relationships with those in our intimate circle should reflect the faithfulness and love that characterizes God’s relationship with His people.  When people see us in the restaurant, at the mall, in the movies or by the hospital or nursing home bedside – do they see a faithfulness in all circumstances?   Is our marriage a witness of our relationship with Jesus?  Are you utterly reliable in the little things that no one will notice as well as the big ones that are out in front of others?  

 

Let us pray that the Lord would increase our faithfulness and that we would be able, at the end of the day, to lay our head down and hear His voice say:

 

Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”. 

Matthew 21:25. 

 

Being called “Old Faithful” is a goal worth achieving in the Lord’s Kingdom! 

 

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.