PRAISE GOD FOR OUR FREEDOM TODAY, JULY 4, 2019

THIS IS A REPOST OF THE ENTRY JULY 4, 2016 AND IT EXPRESSES MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS TODAY, JUST AS IT DID THEN.  I PRAY THAT THE GOD OF ALL WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, PEACE AND MERCY WILL USE THESE WORDS TO EDIFY YOU AND BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF, AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY THAT WE ARE BLESSED WITH IN OUR COUNTRY AND AS WE CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM FROM OUR SINS THAT OUR LORD HAS PROVIDED THROUGH HIS SACRIFICIAL DEATH ON OUR BEHALF.

Today, Independence Day, July 4, 2016, we celebrate the fact that we are a free people.  We do not have the tyrannical rule of those who subjugate the people for their own profit.  We do not have the fear that our property will be confiscated if we disagree with the sovereign over some issue.  We do not have the fear that the government will prevent us from worshiping God according to our own beliefs and the Scripture.  Indeed, we don’t even have to give honor to those who guaranteed these freedoms for us.

Harold Wittenborn 1943
Harold Wittenborn, my father, a loving Christian witness, and a veteran of World War II. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

But on this day, July 4, we stop to celebrate all those who served to give us our freedom.  The soldiers who fought in the various wars, World War I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts, and a host of other conflicts around the world, both past and present.

Marine officer
My son, now retired from the USMC, was preserved by God through numerous conflicts overseas.

We celebrate those who survived the wars and returned to their families, and we remember those who are no longer with us, whether they died on the battlefield or in the subsequent years since their service.

But, freedom without some standard, some constraint, some guideline is really nothing other than anarchy – everyone doing that which seems fitting (and profitable for) themselves.

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)

When we abandon the governing standard, we have undermined the very freedom that allows us to select that standard as our own.

I suggest that Scripture presents the standard that we should follow – the Old Testament Law of God as given to His hand-picked man, Moses, is the standard that shows us how we are to live.  It applies to those under the Law in the Old Testament and it applies as an indicator of God’s character to those of us who live in New Testament times, following Christ’s death and resurrection.

Flag
Old Glory flying high.

Today, it is right that we should honor our flag, our military, our Constitution and our Country.  God has blessed America with incredible riches, beauty and power.

However, it is also right that we offer our thanksgiving to God for the country in which we live.   The men who founded our Country had incredible vision and were confident that they had been led by the Hand of God in their decisions and focus for the new land. 

President George Washington, in his first inaugural address delivered April 30, 1789, stated:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aides can supply every human defect; that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.  In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Today, let us give thanks for the vision of our Founding Fathers and for the courage of the men and women who forged the way into the land, who established this marvelous country, and who preserved it, some with their lives, for freedom to be upheld and sustained for future generations.

 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

Today, let us also give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we could be covered in His righteousness before God the Father Almighty.   His death and resurrection grants us freedom not only for the here and now but also for eternity.  His sacrifice granted us freedom from spiritual death, from sin, from the power of Satan and from the power of our sinful nature.

Father, we give thanks to You for this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s independence. The song “America the Beautiful” reminds us of your constant blessings on us. Your grace and your mercy have been given to us in full measure, abounding fully to your glory.  As we celebrate our independence today, may we be aware of your hand in the workings of our country and, moreover, may we be aware that true freedom comes only from You, and for that we give You thanks.

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”.

AN ACTIVITY BASED ON A RELATIONSHIP

For the past several years, I have been privileged to be included on a prayer list of concerns raised by some precious children in a nearby elementary school.  They participate in The Good News Club, an after school ministry for a couple of hours once a week, and part of that time is spent in prayer.  They then give the leader their prayer requests and it is sent to the various praying participants via email.

As an older adult, it is heart-warming, and sometimes humorous, to read some of their prayer requests. 

  • Praise that a child’s mom came back to be with her family.
  • Prays that his great-grandmother gets better.
  • Pray for her teacher’s daughter, that she stops coughing.
  • Pray that a fever blister in her mouth will go away
  • Pray that he can pay attention
  • Pray that the dog will stop barking

Each request, however, reflects a concern that these precious children have, either at home or at school.  In other words, these concerns touch their entire universe. 

As adults, we have learned to be a bit more obtuse when we pray.  Asking for some specific thing for our own selves might be too brash. So, we will phrase it in some other way so that we might be able to trick God into thinking we are praying for others, when it is actually our own desires at issue.  Even when intervening on behalf of someone else, most often we tell God what we want Him to do.

In the Canterbury Cathedral, as in the other cathedrals we visited in England, there were many tombs of various persons and heads of the church.  We found it interesting that the archbishops were, almost always, depicted with their hands clasped in prayer.

canterbury-cathedral-tomb
Ornate tomb of an archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

I don’t know if they were praying for their own soul or if they were praying for their congregation, but I do know that prayers of intervention for others are appropriate.  For example, Paul says:

We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong, and our prayer is for your perfection.

 2 Corinthians 13:9.

tomb-of-one-of-the-archbishops-of-canterbury
Tomb of Archbishop John Bird Sumner, 1780-1862, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

In Colossians 1:3-4 he tells his readers that he thanks God for their faith when he prays for them.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…

Notice, however, that Paul’s prayers are not a laundry list of things that Paul wanted.  He certainly did not see the Father as a giant Santa Claus in the sky who would give out goodies for his personal benefit  … he didn’t even pray to be released from prison!  Read Acts chapter 16 for the incredible story of Paul in jail in Philippi, which was a leading city in the district of Macedonia.

Rather, Paul’s prayers related to strengthening the spiritual welfare of the believers, to the continued spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for healing to occur so that God’s power would be revealed and He would get the glory.

Paul understood that, fundamentally, prayer is a conversation between two parties … the believer in Christ Jesus and God.  But these parties are not peers:  they are not equal in any manner.   We are the creation, and we are mortal.  We are sinners and the best we have to offer God is likened to giving Him filthy rags. 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Isaiah 64:6 [NIV]

But for God’s sending Jesus Christ, we would not be able to have any prayer life because we could not approach God due to our sin.  Christ’s life, death and resurrection defeated the control sin has over us when He clothed us in His righteousness.  That is what God sees … sinners clothed in Jesus’ righteousness who were saved by His Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord. 

Thank God for the righteousness that has been given to you through Jesus Christ.  Grow in your relationship with the Father, feed it with study of His Word, sit quietly and let Him speak to you so that your prayers are not a one-sided conversation that is a thinly veiled demand that God act in a certain way to satisfy your temporal desires. 

praying hands
Praying Hands.

While we can, and must, pray for the children and their concerns, our prayers must first be recognition of Who God is and we should give thanks for God’s gift of grace, His holiness, His attributes of love, patience, goodness, beauty, … the list could go on. 

Through prayer, we can have an intimate relationship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of all. But we must remember that we cannot just barge into God’s court with our demands even if they are camouflaged as requests.  We must have respect and reverence for the Almighty God.   So, start your prayer with time in adoration of Him.  Then, that adoration will naturally lead to confession of those times when we have fallen short of His desires for us.  This will flow into thankfulness for the forgiveness and cleansing from our sin that He gives to us through Jesus Christ.  And then, and only then, launch into a prayer of supplication.  This pattern of prayer is often referred to by the acrostic ACTS.

  • A – adoration of God
  • C – confession of our sins
  • T – thanksgiving for His cleansing of our sins
  • S – supplication for others and then, and only then, for ourselves

Offer God prayers of praise and thanksgiving multiple times per day.  Praise Him for His love and wondrous works on our behalf.  Praise Him for allowing us to come before Him in prayer. Thank Him and let your spirit be, first and foremost, one of gratitude in prayer.  Then see if your prayer life takes on new vibrancy when you intercede for others.

A singer from my youth was George Beverly Shea, who frequently sang at the Billy Graham Crusades.  On his album Echoes of My Soul, he sings a song entitled “Early in the Morning”.  Listen and think about what you can thank the Lord for today!

 

Father, I thank You for giving me the privilege of coming into Your presence through Your Son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I thank You for promising to hear my petitions and I know that You will answer them according to Your divine will.  I praise Your name for Your grace and love, extended to all those to believe in the name of Your Son.  Strengthen us in prayer as we seek to serve you in our world.

WHATEVER SHE HAS, SHE WANTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Cuddles, our MinPin canine daughter, often seems to provide vivid illustrations of Biblical truths.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” pose.

Recently, she wanted to go outside.  Now she had been outside earlier in the evening, and at that time she had barked incessantly until we let her out and the barking was transferred to the neighbors instead of to us.  Then she barked to come in and we, as properly trained dog parents, got up and obeyed her bark.

Moments later, she was again barking to go outside.  At this point, my husband said “Whatever she has, she wants something different!” 

When she was outside, she wanted to be inside.  When she was inside, she wanted to be outside.  When she was playing with a toy, she wanted a different one (the one her sister was playing with, actually).  When she got that toy, she put her paw on it and barked for something else.

 

cuddles-playing-with-toy-2
Cuddles playing with her toy.

After reading thus far, you might say that she is not well-trained and we need to get her to a trainer post haste.  I agree with you – but we did have her with a trainer who was great, and then we failed to continue with the regimen — now we have this.

But it seems to me that she exhibits what many of us do on a regular basis.

When we have good health, we want more money.  When we have money, we want better health.  When we have ample food but no self-discipline, we want to be slender but we don’t want to do the work to get there.  When we are young, we wish we were older so we could do things that we cannot yet do, but when we are seniors we look with longing at the young and wish we were young again so we could do some things differently (of course this desire for youth also comes with the requirement that we retain the wisdom that age brings).

Are we satisfied with what God has given us?  As Christians, Scripture exhorts us to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves for our God is in control:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

used-thanksgiving-meal
Table set for the Thanksgiving Day feast.

In just a few days we, in the United States, will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday where we set time aside and thank God for those daring folks who came to this country when there was little to draw them here.  It was a harsh land and the transition from European “civilization” to the American frontier life was anything but easy.  They relied upon God daily as they worshiped and prayed for each other during those difficult early years.

It surely is right that we honor and remember the Pilgrims and their sacrifices so that, hundreds of years later, we could live in an incredible land of abundance, majestic beauty and awesome breadth.  It is right that we offer prayers of thanks to God for their acts of heroism and for His providential care of them in coming to and in establishing our country.

But it is even more appropriate for us to, daily, thank God for His provision, love, grace and mercy toward us.  We ought not reserve our thanksgiving for a day with that moniker! 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

  • When was the last time you thanked God for life, for His gift of air to breathe, for His provision of food for your table, for His grace to our sin-cursed heart by sending His Son for our salvation?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for whatever position or condition you are in, even if it is difficult and/or painful, even if it is not what you would have chosen for yourself?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for difficulties in the secure confidence that He will use these circumstances for your good and His glory?

Will you pray like this on Thanksgiving Day? 

Will you pray like this in December, when Thanksgiving is just a memory?  What about in 2017?  Will you pray like this daily and thank God for what He has blessed you with, even if that “blessing” is difficulty or a trial?  God is in control and He will use all those experiences for His glory even if that is outside the scope of your vision right now.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

You may never know what effect your response to difficulty will have on others, but God knows and He will bless you for your obedience to His commands.   

Christian, give thanks to Him for all things and you will be blessed, now and for all eternity.

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of your love, grace and mercy; for your atoning work through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross all for the purpose of providing us salvation and release from the bondage of sin so that we may have eternal life through His name.  Father, we thank You for your provision of all the things that we need for life and we pray forgiveness when we have squandered them or when we have claimed to have merited them through our own efforts.  Give us eyes to see and hearts to understand that all we have and all we are is a result of your grace, mercy and provision as You are the one and true God, and through Christ You are our Father.

 

 

PRAISE GOD FOR OUR FREEDOM

Today, Independence Day, July 4, 2016, we celebrate the fact that we are a free people.  We do not have the tyrannical rule of those who subjugate the people for their own profit.  We do not have the fear that our property will be confiscated if we disagree with the sovereign over some issue.  We do not have the fear that the government will prevent us from worshiping God according to our own beliefs and the Scripture.  Indeed, we don’t even have to give honor to those who guaranteed these freedoms for us.

Harold Wittenborn 1943
Harold Wittenborn, my father, loving Christian witness, and veteran of World War II. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

But on this day, July 4, we stop to celebrate all those who served to give us our freedom.  The soldiers who fought in the various wars, World War I and II, the Korean  and Viet Nam Conflicts, and a host of other conflicts around the world, both past and present.

Marine officer
My son, now retired from the USMC, was preserved by God through conflicts overseas.

We celebrate those who survived the wars and returned to their families, and we remember those who are no longer with us, whether they died on the battlefield or in the subsequent years since their service.

But, freedom without some standard, some constraint, some guideline is really nothing other than anarchy – everyone doing that which seems fitting (and profitable for) themselves.

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)

When we abandon the governing standard, we have undermined the very freedom that allows us to select that standard as our own.

I suggest that Scripture presents the standard that we should follow – the Old Testament Law of God as given to His hand-picked man, Moses, is the standard that shows us how we are to live.  It applies to those under the Law in the Old Testament and it applies as an indicator of God’s character to those of us who live in New Testament times, following Christ’s death and resurrection.

Flag
Old Glory flying high.

Today, it is right that we should honor our flag, our military, our Constitution and our Country.  God has blessed America with incredible riches, beauty and power.

However, it is also right that we offer our thanksgiving to God for the country in which we live.   The men who founded our Country had incredible vision and were confident that they had been led by the Hand of God in their decisions and focus for the new land.

President George Washington, in his first inaugural address delivered April 30, 1789, stated:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aides can supply every human defect; that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Today, let us give thanks for the vision of our Founding Fathers and for the courage of the men and women who forged the way into the land, who established this marvelous country, and who preserved it, some with their lives, for freedom to be upheld and sustained for future generations.

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

Today, let us also give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we could be covered in His righteousness before God the Father Almighty.   His death and resurrection grants us freedom not only for the here and now but also for eternity.  His sacrifice granted us freedom from spiritual death, from sin, from the power of Satan and from the power of our sinful nature.

Father, we give thanks to You for this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s independence. The song “America the Beautiful” reminds us of your constant blessings on us. Your grace and your mercy have been given to us in full measure, abounding fully to your glory.  As we celebrate our independence today, may we be aware of your hand in the workings of our country and, moreover, may we be aware that true freedom comes only from You, and for that we give You thanks.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 5 LOVE, PART TWO

Continuing our consideration of LOVE, we are thinking about love from the Holy Spirit, therefore it is love as God loves … Agape love.  So we need to see what this love looks like, and then see if we have those characteristics in our life.

 

In Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series he identifies several characteristics of Agape love, the love that should be evident in our lives because the Holy Spirit is resident within us as Christians.

 

What does Scripture say?

  1. Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God.

 

Without the Holy Spirit’s involvement in my life, worship would be far from what I would want to do on a Sunday morning.  But the Holy Spirit changes all that.  The Christian wants to honor and worship God – why? Because God is living within her, the Spirit urges her to honor and worship God and she responds by doing so.   Jesus said:

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

John 4:23-24.

 

  1. Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word.

 

Paul says:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 

I  Thessalonians 2:13.

 

In Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, in John 17:17, he prays:

Sanctify them in the truth: your word is truth.”

 

Agape love reads God’s Word, loves God’s Word, believes God’s Word, and trusts God’s Word.  If God’s Word sets forth a standard that is difficult to follow, Agape love mandates that such standard should still be followed even if society cries out against it.  God’s Word is inviolate, and the Christian gives it full credit and trust.

 

  1. Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.

 

Sovereignty – this is something we in the United States don’t really understand culturally, but it is grounded in our psyche – God put a desire for a sovereign in our very being – not for a physical king, but for HIM.

 

Indeed, in the Old Testament, God was the King of His people Israel, leading them through the wilderness and preserving them as they encountered enemies along the way.  But then we read in 1 Samuel 8:5-7 that the people came to the prophet Samuel and demanded a king  so they could “be like all the other nations around them.”  Samuel objected to this demand but he presented the request to God.

And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”  [KJV]

What a sad comment from our God — “they have rejected me”.

 

David says:

“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

Psalm 74:12

 

In 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul says:

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

 

Of course, we also have the promise of Romans 8:28-30 that God will work in all things to our ultimate good, specifically that we will be with Him for all eternity through Christ our Lord.

 

Agape love says that God is sovereign and that He has the absolute right to govern His creation in all things, and that, Beloved, includes even you and me.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

  • With Agape love in our hearts, we recognize that we are the creation, not the Creator. The Holy Spirit is in our heart and He is enabling us to worship and honor God as God.   We desire to worship Him.  We want to come into His presence and sing His glories, hear His Word and learn from His Spirit as it is preached to us.

The emphasis on our worship is God, not us.  With Agape love, I will not be saying “I didn’t get anything out of the sermon today” because I am not the one that is to be the focus of worship.  Rather, my prayer is that my worship has given God the honor and glory that He deserves.

 

  • With Agape love, we will want to read and study His Word. You would never fold a letter from your boyfriend or girlfriend and put it in your pocket without taking it out of the envelope and reading it.  Rather, you would virtually memorize it, not out of an obligation to do so but because you want to have the words in your heart to cherish for all time.

The Bible is God’s Word to us, a love letter, if you will, given for us to read and learn of God, what His character is like, what He desires for His people, what He wants in worship.  The New Testament continues the theme that began in the Old Testament, detailing the life of Jesus Christ, the fullest revelation of God that we could possibly ask for, the One who was fully man and fully God.  The One who revealed God and His nature to the fullest extent possible.  Jesus even explicitly saying:

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

 

  • With Agape love, we will acknowledge that God is Sovereign. He has absolute authority over us, to send us wherever He wants us to go, to have us do that which He desires.  He is not a tyrant that He should gain glee in hurting His children.  Rather, His plan for us is far better than that which we could imagine, with benefits that are eternal, not just for the here and now.

Listen to Isaiah 43:11-13 as presented in the song entitled I Am The Lord, sung by Ed Kerr on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song Album entitled Hope of Heaven.  Let the reality of these words sink into your mind and heart and think of them as you go about your daily activities.  Agape love – the first fruit of the Spirit.

 

 

We will look at additional characteristics of this fruit in the next post.

 

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.

 

 

PUSHMI-PULLYU – INDECISION IS HARMFUL!

Have you ever wondered, considered, fretted, worried, and then wondered again about taking some course of action?   What should I do? Where should I go? Should I change jobs or retire? What medical procedure would be the best? What should I order in a restaurant that I won’t be wearing around my hips 5 years from now? (Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch, I concede!)

Indecision – this is the breeding ground for inaction and it is breeding ground for doubts about God’s sovereignty, your salvation, and a host of other questions that Satan will interject so that your devotion to your Lord will be diminished, or at least diverted!

Last year, when we were in Nashville, Tennessee, we stopped at the Lane Motor Museum, which has been a subject of a prior post on The Ruminant Scribe. I saved discussion of this specific vehicle because it seemed to me to be a visual representation of indecision!

 

Pushmi-Pullyu-Story-of-Doctor-Dolittle
Pushmi-Pullyu fictional character from The Story of Doctor Doolittle, written by Hugh Loftling in the 1920s.

 

My first thought when I saw this vehicle at the museum was “This is a pushmi-pullyu!!”

In the The Story of Doctor Dolittle, there was a fictional character called the pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”). It was a “gazelle-unicorn cross” which had a head at each end of its body.

[Image and information about the book was obtained on April 25, 2016, from http://www.bing.com/images and from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_Doctor_Dolittle.]

Although the pushmi-pullyu was fictional, the vehicle in front of me at the museum was not — even so, I could not help but think of this humorous character!

Lane Motor Museum double car
Firemen’s vehicle, Cogolin, France.

 

It is a vehicle with two front ends. We were told that all the vehicles in the museum were functional and drivable, but I don’t know if both ends of the vehicle drove or if only one side did.

I am told, although I am no French expert to be sure, that “Sapeurs-Pompiers” is French for firemen.  Cogolin is a small city in south east France in the French region Provence-Alpes-Cot d’Azur. The town has about 11000 people.   So, this vehicle, with its two steering wheels, two front tires, two front windshields … two working front ends was, apparently, at least at one point in time, a fire vehicle for the town of Cogolin, France. How it came to be at the Lane Motor Museum in Tennessee is unknown to me, but I can attest that it was there!

Lane Motor Museum double car inside
Close up view of the two front ends of the Firemen’s vehicle, Cogolin, France.

 

No matter how it got to Nashville, it seems to me to be a classic representation of the “pushmi-pullyu” conflict that is also known as indecision.

James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James in Scripture, speaks of indecision and its difficulties.

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8.

The King James Version of this scripture uses the term “wavereth” rather than the term “doubting” in verse 6.   Looking up the meaning of this word in Strong’s Lexicon, you find the following information for G1252, diakrinō, the Greek word translated “doubting” in the ESV and “wavereth” in the KJV:

  1. to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer

  2. to learn by discrimination, to try, decide

      1. to determine, give judgment, decide a dispute
  3. to withdraw from one, desert

  4. to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend

  5. to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt

To me, these definitions are more indicative of the struggle going on in the one who is undecided, a struggle that the simple term “doubting” does not seem to connote. The first part of entry number 5 is particularly illustrative for me  – “To be at variance with one’s self”. That seems to be the quintessential description of indecision!

The reality of indecision, however, is not the point. All of us are subject to some indecision at one time or another. Rather,  James is warning that those who are “at variance with” themselves must not suppose that they “will receive anything from the Lord” in answer to her prayers.

The consequence of indecision is that the Lord will not be responsive to the prayer that is subject of doubt.

Of course, we also must remember that prayers must be made in alignment with God’s will for answers to be received. I am confident that Paul did not doubt when he prayed to be relieved from his physical infirmity. But he did not get the relief that he desired.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

The fact is that fervent, unwavering prayer raised to God’s throne does not equate to the instant resolution that we may envision. Rather, as Paul points out, he asked the Lord to take this “thorn” from him but instead of removal the Lord gave him grace, an even greater relief. Pain is real, but grace is overwhelming and eternal. I have learned that when I am weak, then I am strong because it is God working through me, and that makes all the difference!

Don’t be a pushmi-pullyu!  Don’t be double minded – be single minded. Have your mind focused on the Trinity: on God, on Jesus Christ, and on His Holy Spirit. Look to the Lord’s way for your life and you will be blessed, even  through unexpected answers to your prayers.

Father, forgive me, I pray, when I have prayed while doubting that an answer would come. Forgive me when I have doubted that Your plan for my life was the best or that You had my eternal best interest in mind. Forgive me when I have simply failed to yield control of my life to You, in all things, for You are sovereign and I desire to yield to Your guidance and authority in all things. Strengthen me in this, I pray.

 

ON OBEDIENCE, BOUNDARIES AND PRAISE

On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson prayed for our nation in Washington, D. C., and said:

 

Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“[O]bedience to Thy law” … It took just a paltry two hundred years for our society to break through the restraint of obedience to God’s law into a society which is fast approaching the description found in the book of Judges in Scripture:

… Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 [ESV]

 

For some reason, our society has apparently equated obedience to God’s Law with an unwarranted and unwanted restraint on our freedom, as setting up boundaries that we do not want to recognize. The problem, of course, is that without any restraint, there is anarchy and license which results in degradation of the individual, the family and the society. Like it or not, adults as well as children need boundaries and, although the lines may be far different for each, they are present nonetheless.

 

A fence is a visible boundary which serves a multitude of beneficial purposes. We accept the freedom of movement within the fenced yard and, at the same time, we recognize that the fence provides a type of security and protection that would not be there without its presence.

 

Indeed, often we forget the fence is there … we just take the benefit from it. I was looking out the window during breakfast one morning and saw something shining back at me.

 

Sunlight on fence
The fence when something was shining, revealing the presence of the fence when it otherwise was camouflaged.

 

Upon closer inspection, the glow was a result of the sun shining off the fence along the lot line. Most of the fence was hidden in the mass of branches, limbs, leaves, and shade so that I had forgotten it was there. But the sunlight revealed its position as it served to protect the back yard and to define where we could run and play without interference.

 

Fence in the sun
The fence up close revealing more clearly the sunlight shining on the fence.

 

That fence shining in the sunlight reminded me of God’s Law. It too is a type of fence that sets boundaries for our lives, precepts that God wants us to implant in our hearts. Because man cannot conform to the conduct that God mandates in His Law, there was put in place a system of burnt offerings and sacrifices that foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb that would fully atone for sin.

 

The Old Testament Prophet Samuel eloquently expressed what God wanted from His people in 1 Samuel 15:

 

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses, in easy to understand language, the tenets of the Reformed faith in question and answer format. The very first question and answer pair is:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

Question 39 asks and answers:

Q: What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A:   The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will.

Question 40 and 41 then go farther and teach that God requires obedience to the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments.

 

This obedience to God’s will was reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He responded to a question propounded to Him:

 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 [ESV]

 

Obedience – a concept that is passé, that is “old fashioned”, that is “outdated”, that is “inconvenient” – and it is a concept that is based on Scripture.

 

True Christianity is not defined by the culture of this world but is based on Scripture and the culture that is reflected in the Kingdom of God.  Obedience might not be what our culture teaches, but it must be a way of life for the Christian. Not so that we “follow the rules” but so that we give praise to God as we live a life pleasing to Him through His Son and the power of His Spirit. Let us be known as a people who obey our Lord and His commands, even when we are labeled “old fashioned” to do so.

 

Father, I pray that I would honor You by obeying Your commands and the commands of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Forgive me when I have fought against the restraint that you placed on me; open my eyes to see that even the fence of Your Law is based on Your holiness and justice, and love! Thank You for loving me enough to give me boundaries, for my protection and for Your honor and glory.

How firm a foundation …!

Reverend Franklin Graham stated, in an article for the National Day of Prayer,

“I believe our nation is in trouble today, probably more than I’ve seen in my lifetime. We are contending with issues that are causing the very foundation of our country to crumble. Our moral and spiritual roots are eroding, the economy is misleading, family life is disintegrating, and political forces are at unprecedented odds. There seem to be very few leaders who will take a stand for God and for His Word.”  http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/how_to_pray_for_america

 

Foundations are important. Without a firm foundation, the whole structure falls, whether it is a building, home, career, church or country.

 

Most of us have experienced the lack of a foundation. The easiest to recall may be the first time you went to the beach and have stood, ankle deep, in the ocean. As wave upon wave rolled through your legs and over your feet and ankles, you can feel the sand shift under you. Soon, if you stood there long enough, you will be knee deep in sand because the water has “rearranged” the “ground” upon which you based your stance, and there was nothing secure underneath you.

 

Ocean - standing
Boy standing in ocean as waves move the sand under his feet.

 

In what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus Christ talks about the need for a foundation as he spoke to his disciples and the people gathered around him. In Matthew 7:24-27 [NIV] he provided the following parable where He particularly was speaking about those who hear his words but do not intend to follow His teaching:

 

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

 

Clearly, Jesus’ parable has a multitude of lessons encapsulated in these four verses. But the focus here is on “foundation”. What is the foundation that the wise man used for his house? What foundation is secure so that the house did not collapse even during difficult times?

 

Scripture states that this Rock is Jesus Christ Himself. In Isaiah 28:16, the writer states that there is a rock provided for us to build this house upon, and that rock is Christ. He is laid for a foundation, and other foundation can no man lay. The church is built upon this Rock, and every believer is secure on this Foundation.  I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20.

 

foundation
Rocks forming the foundation of the porch at cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.

 

The foolish builders in Jesus’ parable based their hope upon anything but Christ, and you can rest assured that such unsecured foundation will certainly fail them on a stormy day. This picture of rocks as a foundation for the front porch was taken at the Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove, Tennessee.  While the porch has been sturdy with this “rocky” foundation for a very long time, such foundation for your life will yield no true comfort and satisfaction for times of trouble in this life or at the time of death and future judgment. (There is more information about Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains National Park that can be found at the Parks’ website, at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm.)

 

This dilemma was described eloquently in Job 27:8 [KJV]:

For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he may gain [much], if God takes away his life?

 

Job continues to compare the foolish builder’s hope with the spider’s web.

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it but it does not hold.

Job 8:14-15. [NIV]

 

Clearly, having the right foundation is of paramount import. Indeed, it has eternal consequences.

 

The Psalmist says:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Psalm 33:12 [ESV]

 

The writer of Psalms 11 then asks this question:

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Psalms 11:3 [ESV]

 

The answer, Beloved, is to pray … to look to the Lord who is the only foundation that will stand, no matter what happens. When things look bleak, Scripture tells us that God is not hindered by the leaders of men, see Proverbs 21:1 [ESV]:

 

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

 

Even the king, who is the most powerful person in the kingdom, is subject to the sovereign will of Almighty God, whether he recognizes it or not! The Lord turns the king’s heart however He desires.

 

Are you going through difficulties now? Have you in the past? In the unlikely event that the answers to these two questions are “no”, in all likelihood you will have difficulties in the future. But you do not have to be terrified or dismayed.

 

Are you concerned about our country and the course it seems to be traveling?  Pray.

 

Read the Word and pray that the country will return to the foundation upon which it was founded. Pray that God will be allowed to return to the school, the governmental body, the court. Pray that God will shower His grace upon our country and that we would repent of our arrogance and insistence that we would ignore His Word and His Son.

 

God rescued Israel when they prayed to him and repented of their sin … let us do so now and pray that He will not depart from our land.

 

Beloved, pray and then trust Him and praise His Name even when things are hard … the Lord will be blessed and you will be glorifying Him in all things.

 

                                                

Father, I know that You are sovereign and that no leader rises to power but for You allowing him/her to do so. I know Scripture says that You can turn the leaders’ hearts because they are like a stream of water in your Hand. Lord I pray for our country, for our leaders and for our people. Prick our hearts that we would turn to You and not trust in our own power. You gave us this land; may we be stewards of it as we rely on You to guide our course.