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”.

PLAN AND GO – OR GO WITH THE FLOW?

I find it interesting when I talk to people about vacations.  Some folks just “go with the flow.”   No need to plan where they are going to stop, “there will be a place somewhere!”   No need to get tickets ahead of time, “there will be a seat available!” 

Others plan every hour and second of their time away from home.  They have hotel and restaurant reservations.  They have tickets, in hand, for various events they want to see or in which they want to participate.  And, they have maps galore including the most up-to-date GPS program available.  

I suspect that most people are a combination of these two extremes, but I am mostly a “planner” while my husband is more of a “go with the flow” guy.  It makes for some interesting times. 

taylor-mcgee-campbell-wisconsin-dormatory
Taylor University, Upland, Indiana — picture of McGee-Campbell-Wisconsin, my dormitory when I was a student in the late 1960s. It had been demolished by the time our daughter graduated from the University in 2000. 

We had two children in college at the same time.  They both were in out-of-state schools, each about 7 hours away from our home but in opposite directions!  This did not create too much of a problem until the year when Parents’ Weekend was held on the same date for both schools.  Normally we do things together, but given the circumstances, I went to our daughter’s school and my husband went to our son’s school.   

vmi-jackson-hall-1996
Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia, picture taken in 1998 of Jackson Hall (the dormitory) when our son was a cadet there.

Since we were going in opposite directions, leaving at different times, it never occurred to me to make my husband’s hotel reservations.  He made his own plans when he traveled for work so I didn’t think twice about his plans for this trip, especially since he was going to an area not far from his birthplace. 

I planned my trip and even arranged for an Aunt to meet me in the small Indiana college town as a surprise for our daughter.  I had started loading the car with things that she wanted for her dorm room when my husband asked: “Where am I staying tonight?”    I responded: “I don’t know; where did you make your reservations?”  

The blank look on his face was all the answer I needed.  No reservations.  “Well,” he said, “there are loads of rooms in the area.”  So I headed for Indiana and he headed for Virginia.  He knew the area well, in fact it had been his sales territory for a number of years, so I was not concerned about his ability to find lodging. 

What neither of us knew was that all of the gazillion schools in northern Virginia had Parents’ Weekend at the same time.   What he also did not know, but soon found out, was that no rooms were available in any of the hotels/motels near the VMI campus.

I, on the other hand, was safely booked into my hotel when I tried calling him on his cell phone.  At that point in the day, he told me about all the Parents’ Weekend activities and mentioned that he did not yet have a room.  He was confident that it would be easy to find one; he just had “not really looked”.

Later, he called to tell me that he found lodging – an hour away from the college and in the direction of our home.  He was not in a regular room but in the hotel’s conference room.  I then had a mental picture of a long table with all the chairs pushed in forming a fence with his sleeping form stretched out between the chairs, a book for his pillow. Rather like the Biblical Patriarch Jacob, I thought!   

conference-room-table

While he let me have that delusion for a while, later in the conversation he told me that the room had a sleeper sofa.  There went the Jacob analogy!

Praise the Lord that He is sovereign.  In our arrogance and sin, we think that we have our life all worked out, but we must remember that our life is always under His control, whether we plan and schedule or relax about the details.  Job learned this millennia ago when he said:

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” 

Job 42:1-2

Moving into the New Testament, when Pilate said that he had the power to either free or crucify Jesus, Jesus corrected him:

“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” 

John 19:10-11. 

In Proverbs 19:21 the writer says:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”  

I have to confess that my planning down to the infinite detail is something of which I must repent since it falls in the category of prideful sin.  You know, something along these lines: “I’ve got this, Lord.  You can take care of more important things!” 

I further suspect that Bill’s relaxed attitude is much more like that which our Lord desires.  Rest in His arms and let Him handle the details.  I’m basing this on the teachings in Matthew chapter 6, a chapter which I commend to your reading.

In it, Jesus talked about anxiety and told His disciples, and us, not to worry about our life or what we are going to eat or wear.  God knows what we need and He will work His will through us.  At the end of the chapter, He says:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:33-34 ESV 

Yeah, I believe that this supports my husband’s relaxed attitude about planning, and it is something that I have to cultivate in my own life on a daily basis.

Ultimately, both of us had marvelous times with the children on our respective Parents’ Weekends.   Even when things seem to be hectic, helter-skelter, and going awry, God has even the tiniest details in His hands.  What an incredible, caring and omniscient God we serve.  What a glorious blessing it is to call Him “Father” through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Thank You, Father, for guiding us through the hurdles that we encounter in this world.  Thank You for loving us and sending Your Son to be our Savior.  Thank You for blessing us with Your Spirit as He teaches and encourages us along the way.  Thank You that Your purpose always prevails, even when things seem out of control to our limited way of thinking! 

 

QUESTION — IS IT A POT OR PAN?

 

Often we have questions that seem insurmountable about things are so weighty that our head feels like exploding, but in hindsight the questions seemed irrelevant and trivial at best.  

Take, for example, the question “What is the difference between kitchen pots and kitchen pans?” 

pot-and-pan
A frying PAN and a stock POT.

One is supposedly a pot and the other is a pan.  So, which is which?  What, pray tell, is the difference?

According to Wonderopolis, a pot can correctly be called a pan, but a pan can’t correctly be called a pot. So if you ask a chef for a pan, you could get either a pot or a pan. However, if you ask for a pot and a chef hands you a pan, the chef would be wrong!  Is this really worth pondering at length?   And then there is the pot that can be used as a pan or is it a pan that can be used as a pot? 

pot-or-pan
I fry in this non-stick coated pan and I cook sauces in this pot. So is it a “potpan”?

For a non-chef kind of cook (like me), my response (I am afraid to admit) would be “who really cares?”  Isn’t that a tempest in a [tea]pot or pan? (Pardon the partial pun!)

But then there are other questions that are far more important, but even then we don’t always have an answer for difficult life questions that confront us. 

  • “What do I do for my career?” 
  • “Is this the right person for me to marry?”
  • “Is my church feeding me from Scripture or is it merely giving me warm, cozy thoughts to contemplate?”
  • “When I volunteer at the mission, am I doing it in service to my own ego or in service to my Lord?”

We can search counselors’ thoughts and life coaches’ theories but they fall short – well-meaning but insufficient. 

We can turn to Scripture and read until our eyes are blurry but sometimes even then the answer eludes us. 

Or, we can turn to prayer – and then commune with the One who loves us and who sent His Son to secure our salvation. This One does know the answer to even the hardest of questions, because He is sovereign.  I Timothy 6:15-16.  In fact, He knew the answer to the questions we were going to ask even before we were born! Psalm 139.

We still may not know the answer to the problem facing us, but if we know God as our Father who loves us and gave His son for our eternal life with Him, we can rest in His grace and sovereignty.

I married immediately after college graduation and then worked to put my husband through seminary.  Eleven years and two children later, I began attending law school, not only because my husband said I should, but because I believed that the Lord was directing me to this career.  After MUCH prayer, I applied, quite confident that I would be told that I was too old, I had two small children, and I was too stupid. I rather thought I would go through the motions and do everything I needed to do in application to the school and then God would close that door and I would be done with the “you should go to law school” comments from my husband and various co-workers. 

When the phone call came advising me that I had secured the one open spot to begin school in two weeks, September 1980, I was stunned.  I quit my job, and two weeks later found myself purchasing enormous books (none of which had pictures!).  I was terrified but determined to do this because it was clear the Lord had directed me to this path.

Three months later, my husband told me our marriage was not worth working on and he left the apartment.  Three months after that he left the church, the city and the state. I seriously began questioning whether I had misunderstood God’s plan.  I could not believe that He would have me in school with two preschool children, no means of financial support, no family close by to assist.

The children and I moved to federal housing and I completed my education through tears and questions about how we were going to live.  Needless to say, things were not easy for us and we did not have everything that our greedy little hearts ever wanted.  But when I began to falter and fears overtook my heart, the Lord would send someone or something to encourage me and remind me that He is God and in control and He had us in His Hands.  He did not give me answers, He gave me Himself and that was more than enough.

A quick glance at the First Century Christians belies the interpretation of Scripture that God will give us only good times in this world if we merely believe in Jesus. Simply put, Nero did not provide a good time for Christians!  Nope, can’t find any “prosperity gospel” there!  But, even during those horrific days, the Christians praised God and believed His promise of eternal life if they persevered and relied on Him. 

Jesus says in Matthew 6:31-33: 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Jesus here is not promising all the goodies that this world has to offer.  No, He is telling his disciples that they should rest in God – seek first God and His righteousness … then everything else will fall in line according to God’s purpose. 

The details of life may be messy and hard and we may not know the answer to our questions now.  We may not understand the situation we are in, but we can remember that we are not God … we are temporal, mortal, dust.  He is omniscient, omnipotent.  He is not limited by time, indeed He created time for our benefit.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

Psalm 90:4 ESV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

So, while we don’t know the answer to the questions we have, we do know the end result of our struggle is secured. God has given us Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and His Holy Spirit is our resident Counselor.  Our everlasting life and our presence with Him is satisfaction of our only real need.

Crazy questions may abound in our world.  But for the question that is the most important one of all, the question that transcends the here and now, the question that defeats mortality and the evil in this world, we can know the answer.  

The all important question is —  Where will you spend eternity?

For those in Christ, that answer is “With Him now and forever more.”     Matthew 25:36-40 and John 6:37-40. 

Praise His Holy Name!

Thank you Father for granting mercy and grace by sending Your Son to die the death that we deserve so that we can have eternal life with You.  Thank You for providing the answer to the only question that needs to be asked.  We praise Your holy name.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Have you ever been asked “Where do you live?”

 

Childhood home on Olympia Street '59
Childhood home on Olympia Street in Chicago, Illinois.

That question often came up when I was a young child … neighborhood children ask this question to find out if my house was near enough so that they could come visit without having to ask their mother or father.

 

Even as an adult we often ask “Where do you live?”  Sometimes the answer is a physical street address and sometimes it is a city, or a county, or a country.  But it is guaranteed that we all live somewhere.

 

One of the most unusual houses I have seen is the one pictured below, near Willow, Alaska.  It was visible from the train ride as we made our way to Denali National Park.  Looking at the vista, you might think you were looking at a cell tower rather than a house.  It stands tall … over the neighboring trees.

Alaska - 7 layer house in woods (C)
View from Alaska Railroad on trip to the Denali National Park.

 

A close up of the house reveals that it is, in fact, a structure made up of at least 7 “houses”, built on top of each other, above the surrounding forest.

Alaska - Dr Seuss Tower House outside Denali - close up (C)
Close up view of “The Dr. Seuss House” outside Willow, Alaska.

According to the locals, the 12-story house stands above the surrounding trees with each “house” stacked so that it appears to be either an afterthought or a layer on a very tall cake.  The owner built the house after a forest fire, and the house originally had views of Mount Denali (former Mount McKinley) as well as the neighboring Denali National Park.  However, as nature will do, trees regrow after a fire and, as a result, the owner lost the view that he prized so dearly.  So, not being a quitter, he added more and more stories to his house.  The result is the 12-story tower that appears to be another tall tree in the forest, at least it did from the train!  The locals call it “The Dr. Seuss Tower House”.  [There is an aerial video of the house as well as some photographs of the entire building in an article written by Alexa Carrasco, dated April 7, 2015, and found at http://www.curbed.com/2015/4/7/9972998/dr-seuss-willow-alaska-house.]

Where do you live?

For the Christian, the answer to that question is not just our physical address or city in which we reside.  While that information is a correct answer to the inquiry, it is not the definitive statement of where our true ultimate home is.

 

In John 14:2-3, Jesus says:

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

So, where is your home?  Here or there?

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21.

So, where is your treasure?  Here or there?

 

An old country gospel hymn says, in part:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door;

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

 

Oh Lord, you know, I have no friend like You.

If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door;

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

 

We have a job to do on this spinning planet called Earth; we are here to do the Lord’s work.  He has commissioned His people to witness to others about His life, death, resurrection, ascension and intercession for us before the Father.  We are to tell others of His sacrifice on the cross so that His righteousness could be applied to those who come to Him in faith and believe in Him, following His commandments and loving others as He loved us.   We are to present the gospel when the opportunity is made available to us.

 

We cannot just sit and pine for our home in Glory.  In short, we should not be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good!

 

But, we also should not have a strangle-hold on this world and its treasures because they are only temporary.  They will not go into eternity with us.  The Psalmist knew this truth!

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.

Psalm 49:16-17.

Our treasures are to be with the Lord, while we are temporary residents of this world.

 

So, where do you live?  Where is your house?

However, the far more important questions are:  Where is your home?  Where is your treasure?  Where is your heart?

 

Father, I pray that I would keep my eyes on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, rather than on this world and the lure of money, position, power, ease, etc.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would attune my heart to His song and that I would look for the places that He wants me to go and do that which He directs.  May my treasures and my heart be in Heaven, through Jesus Christ, my Lord.

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE, PART TWO

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 14

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART TWO

Last week we looked at patience/ longsuffering in our society and how it is defined in the Hebrew and Greek of Scripture.  Now, we will consider what Scripture tells us about how we are to exhibit this patience!

 

What does Scripture say?

 

  1. When we love God we want to imitate Him and, thus, we want to exhibit longsuffering because one of the attributes of God is patience/ longsuffering.

 

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …”

Exodus 34:6

 

This longsuffering is shown in God’s bearing innumerable, continuous and abhorrent injuries, not just from men in the generic sense but from each of us individually on a daily basis.   In short, it is God’s mercy in being longsuffering and patient so that he is slow to exact judgment on people.

Jonathan Edwards expressed it like this:

“If we consider the wickedness there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world in existence and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain alike on the just and on the unjust and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is his longsuffering toward us.”

As children imitate their parents, so we as children of God should imitate our Father – as He is longsuffering, so we should be likewise.

 

  1. When we love God we will want to express our gratitude for His longsuffering that has been exercised toward us.

All the injuries that have been received by us from others pale in comparison with the injuries which we have done to God and for which God has forgiven us!  As we accept the forgiveness of God and His longsuffering on our behalf, we must show, as far as we are able, the same forgiving patience to others when they have harmed us.  We can do this because of our thankfulness and gratitude to God for His forgiveness to us.

 

  1. We are not bearing injuries from others if those injuries disturb our calmness of mind or if they put us into excitement and tumult.

We should continue to have love in our heart toward the one who injured us and refuse to let the injury interrupt or destroy our love for him/her.   We should not lose the quietness and repose of our own mind and heart over the injury we have suffered from someone else.

Remember who we are to imitate and into whose likeness we are being transformed – our Lord Jesus Christ.  No matter what evil he suffered, no matter what injury was inflicted on him, he bore them without retaliation or revenge … he loved the very people who inflicted the injury and he did not get flustered, angry or excited by it.

 

  1. We should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than to take any opportunity and, perhaps the right, to defending ourselves.

The Christian spirit of longsuffering will refuse to take the advantage that we might have to vindicate ourselves when we are injured, especially if by taking that action we might cause harm to the one who hurt us.   Also, taking the advantage to address the harm will almost always lead to a loss of peace and will create hostility between people.

Paul admonished the Corinthians about this in 1 Corinthians 6:7 where he said:

 “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.  Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?”

Longsuffering may be required for the sake of peace as charity may direct.  This should be our first response to injury.

 

  1. The main root of a meek and longsuffering spirit is humility, and this humility is brought about by our love for God.

Pride or self-conceit is usually the foundation of an unforgiving and vengeful spirit.  Love to God leads us to remember our unworthiness of His mercy and grace because of the sin that we so easily commit.  There is no room for pride when we face the God who has given us so much – His Son.

 

  1. Our love to God enables us to recognize His sovereignty. In other words, God’s hand is in the injury that we suffer, not only the hand of the man who did the injury, and we will submit to God’s will in everything. 

When we love God, we will see His hand in everything as He is sovereign.  Remember agape love – one aspect of that love is that we acknowledge God’s absolute right to govern us in all aspects of our life.  Our response to the injury from another person should be to see that it actually came through God’s love and wisdom for our good and for His own purpose for our life.

Remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they came to him in Egypt seeking relief from the famine:

“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

Joseph recognized God’s sovereign hand at work, even in the horrible treatment given to him by his brothers.  When he had a chance to retaliate, he declined and, instead, gave them a place to live and food for their families and flocks.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

  • We meekly bear with the injuries received from others.

There is no eye for an eye or tit for tat.  Christ is the example.  Jonathan Edwards summarizes this eloquently in Lecture iv:

“And, at last, when he was most ignominiously dealt with of all, when his professed friend betrayed, and his enemies seized him, and led him away to scourging and the death of the cross, he went as a lamb to slaughter, opening not his mouth.  Not one word of bitterness escaped him.  There was no interruption of the calmness of his mind under his heavy distress and sufferings, nor was there the least desire for revenge.  But, on the contrary, he prayed for his murderers, that they might be forgiven, even when they were about nailing him to the cross; and not only prayed for them, but pleaded in their behalf with his Father that they knew not what they did.  The sufferings of his life and the agonies of his death did not interrupt his long-suffering towards those that injured him.”

 

  • The spirit of longsuffering is commended to us not only by the example of Jesus Christ, but also by the example of the saints.

Think of Stephen – Acts 7:59-60 when his persecutors were killing him by stoning, he kneeled down and prayed that the Lord would not hold this sin against them, and then he died.

Think of Paul – Although he was injured numerous times, 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, he exhibited a spirit of longsuffering when, after being beaten and chained, he was singing in prison so loudly that the other prisoners heard him and the jailer and his family were converted.  Acts 16.

Think of the 1st century Christian martyrs. We cannot ignore their example of longsuffering during the horrific persecution of Nero and the rulers who came after him, even in our modern age throughout areas of the world which do not touch the U.S. but of which we are aware!

 

  • This longsuffering on the part of the Christian is rewarded with the exercise of Divine longsuffering toward us.

 

We are often told in Scriptures that men are to be dealt with by God hereafter according to their way of dealing with others while here on earth.

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.

Psalm 18:25, 26

 

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

 

If you are hurt by the action or speech of someone, before taking steps to get even or to set the record straight, pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to be patient and longsuffering.  Pray that you would love the individual as God loves you and extend patient longsuffering toward the other person while you remember God’s longsuffering toward you on a daily basis.

 

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, Series Post No. 3 OF TRANSFORMATION

We come to to the end of the introduction to the Fruit of the Spirit and consider here transformation.  That is, our transformation into the likeness of our Lord by the renewing of our minds.  In short, it is our growth in righteousness!

What does Scripture say?

 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, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

He then commands that we not remain glued to this world but that we should change our focus to our Savior.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

We are to allow our minds to be transformed and renewed by the Spirit of our Father.  As the believer matures in the Lord, as she prays for understanding and wisdom, and as she reads the Word and is taught by teachers and preachers who base their lessons on the Word, the Holy Spirit will grow these characteristics in her.  The ultimate purpose of this growth is that we will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Holy Spirit renews our mind and heart by giving us a divine attitude. Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are

 “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteous and holiness.”

Paul is repeating what Jesus said about pursuing righteousness.  In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told his disciples:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seeking indicates active desire and longing.  Seeking is not passive – it is not considering a suggestion.  Seeking is searching and striving for the object sought.  Seeking something is pursuing it with intent to find it.  This seeking and pursuing righteousness is enabled in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.

We cannot be “created after the likeness of God” as Paul noted in Ephesians 4:24 other than through the transformation brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and this transformation is evidenced by love both to God and to man. 

How does this apply to my daily life?

So, what does all this have to do with the topic of our study – the fruit of the Spirit?  Righteousness.  It is what we are called to seek – it is what we are called to nurture – it is what we are called to desire – it is what we are called to do.   He also reminds us of what John Calvin has said:

 “There will be no excuse of the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness.

Now, regarding Calvin’s statement, I was pretty sure I knew what “indolence” meant, but I checked it in the thesaurus just to be sure – I am sorry that I did.  See what you think.  I have listed the various synonyms for indolence, now you insert whichever word you think fits best in that quote – “There will be no excuse of the laziness, idleness, sloth, sluggishness, inactivity, apathy, or lethargy of those who both conceal the gifts of God and waste their time in idleness.”

If we are transformed into the image of Christ Jesus, how does this reveal itself?  As previously noted, the transformation is evidenced by love to God and to man.  That being the case, there are some questions that we have to answer:

  • Do I conceal the gifts of God by refusing to use my gifts, time, talent, and money for the kingdom of God?
    • Do you?
  • Do I waste precious time God has given me in idleness or sluggishness, in apathy or, perhaps, in activities that do not reflect His presence in my life?
    • Do you?
  • How do I express my love to God?
    • What about you?
  • How do I express my love to others?
    • What about you?
  • Am I pursuing righteousness or am I hoping that it will just drop on me in some sort of cloud?
    • What about you?
  • Or, do I even care about righteousness in the first place?
    • What about you?

The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident as the Holy Spirit works in our lives as we pursue righteousness in obedience to our Lord’s command.  We can pursue righteousness because we know that God will supply all that we need to do so through His Holy Spirit.

Dr. R. C. Sproul encourages us by noting that “God has not given His people an unattainable goal; the Spirit enables us to please Him (see Hebrews 13:16).  This is also reflected in Philippians 4:19 where Paul says:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” [KJV]

 Listen to the words of Philippians 4:19 as sung in My God Shall Supply from Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album entitled “Truth Sings the Word”..

 

Take some time to meditate this week on these questions and on the Scripture referenced above, and ask the Spirit of our God to prepare your heart and mind for the study of His work in our lives.

Next week we will begin our look at the first of the listing in Galatians 5:  Love. [Hint:  it is far more than casseroles and cards!]

 

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.  

 

 

GOD’S WOODLAND CREATURES AND US!

Often, we think of God’s woodland creatures in terms of big animals. Such as the caribou that we saw in Alaska. Tall, heavy with incredible racks on the top of their head. The muscles that are necessary to hold their head up are incredibly strong, they would have to be to carry the antlers as they do. And they are fast, when speed is needed.

Caribou close up
Caribou with large rack grazing in the Denali National Park., Alaska.

 

Out west we have the buffalo, certainly a handsome specimen of strength and endurance!

Buffalo in ND
Buffalo in the American West, specifically in the plains of North Dakota.

 

Then, of course, we think of the bear. Huge, frightful jaws and paws with claws that can rip almost anything, certainly a person if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time! He is certainly not someone I want to encounter without a bus surrounding me!

Bear in Denali
Bear walking across the plane in Denali National Park, Alaska.

 

Another of God’s creatures is the deer that inhabits the wooded areas of our country. Traveling through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can drive an 11 mile loop road around Cades Cove, the first settlement in the Smoky Mountains, and deer are always visible. Of course we are not afraid of deer – we remember Bambi!

Deer in woods Oregon 2009 178 (C)
Deer grazing in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park along the loop road in Cades Cove.

 

But there are also the small woodland creatures, and many of them are not confined to the “woods” as in forest, take squirrels and chipmunks for example. Many abide in urban areas, finding shelter and food in unique places.

 

It is not very hard to find food in our backyard. Not only do we feed the squirrels and chipmunks by hand, when possible – we also have several feeders around the yard. They provide continued amusement, as long as the food supply is available!

Squirrel at corn cobs on feeder (C)
Squirrel eating corn at the backyard “picnic table” just below the bird feeder.

 

Not all squirrels have their own private restaurant, however. Many have to forage for their dinner. Consider the squirrels and chipmunks seen in Oregon at the Lava Butte Lookout. This squirrel blends in with the lava rocks and minimal vegetation so well that we almost missed him. [Hint: if you can’t find him, he is in the very center of the picture, nibbling on some greenery right in front of him.]

Squirrel can you see him Oregon 2009 229
Squirrel seen in Oregon nibbling on greenery growing among the rocks.

 

This little chipmunk apparently made a home in the lava cone near Bend, Oregon. Not much in the way of greenery, but he must find food in the area.

Chipmunk in cinder cone Oregon 2009 190
A chipmunk in a cinder cone in Oregon.

 

Here, the little guy running down the steps must be successful in spotting some food that looked good to him.

Chipmonk on steps Oregon 2009 199 (C)
A chipmunk trotting down the wooden stairs at the Lave Butte lookout, near Bend, Oregon.

 

Clearly, our Creator God has equipped the squirrels, chipmunks, caribou, deer and all His creatures with the ability to find sustenance, even in the harshest of places. Rocks are not edible, but there is an abundance of food for this chipmunk as he is seemingly protected in his rocky restaurant.

Chipmunk in cinder cone (C)Oregon 2009 232
A chipmunk standing in a cinder cone, Oregon.

 

This Alaskan squirrel appears to be ready for winter, although it was only August when we saw him, but winter comes quickly so it is best to be prepared!

Alaskan squirrel (C)
An Alaskan squirrel, looking for goodies before winter covered the landscape with snow and ice.

 

The Creator God cares for each member of His creation. Jesus says, in Matthew 6:26:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

 

This same passage expands God’s care for His creation by including care for even the flowers and grass of the field. See Matthew 6:30 where Jesus says:

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

 

I don’t believe that Jesus intended to say that birds and grass were the only parts of creation that God tends with His loving hand. Rather, they are illustrative of the depth of love God has for His creation. Grass is temporal and is burned when its short life is over. Birds may seem insignificant to us, but not to God.

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.

 

Jesus is teaching by comparison. God loves these seemingly insignificant parts of His creation so that He knows even when a sparrow falls out of a tree, so that he knows even the number of hairs on our heads, even the insignificant parts of His creation illustrate His love and care to those for whom He sent His Son to die!

 

God has a plan for His creation and, for those who are in Christ Jesus, God has a specific plan for us to accomplish during our time on this earth. We are not insignificant even though we may feel that way at times. Whatever our age, whatever our station in life, whatever our physical or mental abilities, we are not insignificant.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.    Ephesians 2:10.

 

When negative thoughts attack you, when you feel like no one sees or cares, remember the chipmunk or the squirrel, or the sparrow or the grass. Those features of God’s creation merit His attention at all times … how much more does He care for those He created in His image and into which He breathed the breath of life. Genesis 2:27.
Praise His Holy Name.

 

Father, thank you for providing for the little critters you created. Thank you for giving us the wide variety in animals to look at and care for. Thank you for telling us that we are not insignificant. But most of all, thank you for sending your Son to die for our sins, and to provide redemption for us so that we can be your children. Thank you for your love, mercy and grace.