BLOWING YOUR TOP!

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

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

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White Dome Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 14:29  

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

Proverbs 15:18  

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

Proverbs 19:11  

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

Proverbs 22:24  

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

Psalm 37:8  

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 4:31  

Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:

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

Matthew 21:12-13

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

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

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

David recognized that God could become angry. 

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

Psalm 90:11  

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

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

Psalm 86:15  

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

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

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

James 1:19-20  

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

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

Galatians 519-:24

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

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

Romans 12:19 

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

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

Grand Canyon, River, and Nagging

When we visited Yellowstone National Park, we had the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River.  It certainly was deep and an impressive canyon.  Not on the scale of The Grand Canyon, but still wondrous in its own right.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with raven on spire
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River

When I took the picture above, I hoped that I had captured the bird that had soared into view just as I was snapping the shot, but I wasn’t sure.  After we got home, I checked, and there he was, sitting tall and proud on top of the tree looking out over the river far below in the canyon.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with raven on spire circled
My little friend in the circle!

It is a wonder when you look at the scenery in its broad perspective and realize that the canyon was created by the action of the river.  The water continues, moment by moment, day by day, year by year, to carve away the rock as it deepens the canyon.

We know that water is one of the necessary components to our life, in fact the human body is approximately 60% water.  We need it to drink, we need it for cleansing, we need it to live.

But water is also destructive.  We can well remember Hurricane Katrina with its incredible devastation and loss of life in the southern United States.  The canyons with their beautiful rivers running through them tell the story of thousands of years of sculpting as rocks are shaped and fissures are created.

Scripture brings the point home a bit more pointedly, however.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon has quite a bit to say about water and words.  Specifically, in Proverbs 27:15 we read:

A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; [ESV]

Houses in the Middle East were formed of planks loosely joined and covered with a coating of thatch, clay or plaster. (Remember the friends to let their disabled friend down through the roof so he could get to Jesus! See Matthew 9)  The roof of these homes was always likely to leak in heavy rain.  

Solomon is comparing the irritating  bickering and nagging of a wife to the continuous drip of water through an imperfectly constructed roof. This proverb has formed the basis for a Scottish saying: “A leaky house and a scolding wife are two bad companions.” 

In defense of women everywhere, I must hasten to note that this admonition does not singularly relate to the wife in the home.  The Message, a modern-day paraphrase, renders this wording of the proverb:

A nagging spouse is like
    the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet;
You can’t turn it off,
    and you can’t get away from it.

In short, both spouses can be leaky faucets if they don’t keep their eyes focused on the One who can give peace, even in difficult circumstances. 

Further, lest either spouse points a finger at the other, I would refer to Paul’s admonition regarding husbands and wives:

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. …  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Ephesians 5:28-20, 33

I pray that we will seek forgiveness when we have been a nag to our spouse or when we have ignored or frustrated our souse, and then i pray that we would seek strength from our Lord Jesus Christ to guard our mouths so that we will have an harmonious home rather than a contentious one.  I pray that we would love each other and that we would cherish and respect each other.  I pray that our homes would be beacons of light in which God’s Word shines as we reach out to others each day.

Father, thank You for providing us Your Word as a book of instruction, reproof and correction for us.  Thank You too for giving Solomon wisdom extraordinaire which he incorporated into the book of Proverbs, expressing Your wisdom for our understanding.  Open our eyes and our hearts as we read Your Word so that we can glorify You in our relationships with others, even in our marriage relationship. 

ANGER MANAGEMENT

On our trip to Yellowstone National Park, we visited the Norris Geyser Basin.   According to the information on the park’s signs, the basin is far below the towering peaks of the Gallatin Mountains.  Water accumulates underground.  The basin sits near the Yellowstone Caldera and is at the edge of one of the largest volcanos on our planet – the Yellowstone Volcano.  Heated by the volcano, the water travels upward to erupt from acidic geysers, or to rise from steaming fumaroles (an opening in or near a volcano through which hot, sulfurous gasses emerge), or to simmer in shimmering pools, steaming throughout all kinds of weather.  Names such as Fearless Geyser, Monarch Geyser, Yellow Funnel Spring, Steamboat Geyser, Whirligig Geyser, and Pinwheel Geyser give evidence of the variety of sights available in the Norris Geyser Basin, appropriately described as beautiful and bizzare.

While watching the geysers, I considered that they were rather like an allegory for what anger looks like.    

For example, the White Dome Geyser stands tall and is silent. 

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Until, at some unpredictable time, it erupts.

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Now, I’m certainly not saying that the geyser is angry … but the unpredictability of its eruption is similar to those whose anger can flare up for seemingly no reason.

Of course, we know that the geyser named Old Faithful erupts almost to the minute on its schedule.  No National Park Ranger has to tell it when to erupt – it just does it, day in and day out, on time, on schedule.

Old Faithful could represent the one whose anger erupts over the same trigger, time and time again.  Those around him/her know not to say anything about that trigger in fear that the tantrum could erupt again.

We even saw one vent in a fenced off area of a parking lot.

Yellowstone 083

Steam rising up from underground without an on or off button!  This geyser could represent the one whose anger is just under the surface, whose anger tinges his/her attitudes and reactions even if a full-fledged eruption does not occur.  It is just a matter of time.

Not all geysers shoot high into the heavens.  Some geysers bubble up from under the ground, and they continue bubbling nonstop.

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This could represent the one whose anger is always churning within, whether or not anything is said to others … the anger is seething and boiling up inside in a never-ending tumult of pain.

Anger – it is something that all of us, if we are honest, have experienced and most would likely say they have experienced it often. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.”

Long before Emerson said this the Psalmist said:

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:7-8

In the Book of Proverbs, we read Solomon’s words on anger:

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

Proverbs 14:29

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

Proverbs 15:18

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

Proverbs 22:24

“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

Proverbs 27:4

The Apostle Paul said:

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

Ephesians 4:31

But too often our anger is misplaced, and many times our anger is motived from self-interest, greed or a desire  to control.  I know that I have been angry over the actions of another person and the Holy Spirit immediately brings to mind a time when I had done the same thing to someone else.  In other words, sin in our life is also a cause for anger.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying something along these lines:  “When angry count to ten before you speak.  If very angry, count to one hundred.”

The advice to be reluctant before exercising anger is stated in scripture frequently, with the Apostle Paul saying:

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

Ephesians 4:26

I suspect that most everyone has heard “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”.  This is a good statement to newly weds and is a good policy for a positive marital relationship.  But it extends much more broadly to all our relationships. 

However, the first part of Ephesians 4:26 is not quoted as often.  In certain situations, it is appropriate to be angry. Remember Jesus at the temple when he was angry that it had been turned into a “den of thieves”?  Read Mark 11:15-17.  That is appropriate anger, my friend!

Aristotle said:

Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

I suggest to you that anger is frequently sinful and, when harbored continuously, is physically harmful to you.  Eruptions of anger increase blood pressure and all sorts of physical reactions when, in the long run, can cause damager to your body, even disregarding the damage it can cause to relationships, family members, etc.

Take time to consider the geysers and their eruptions, consider which one parallels your emotional make-up, and then consider the scripture that speaks to anger and its management. 

The Holy Spirit will help you because it is the Spirit’s job to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Father, I pray that we would read Your Word and consider whether the anger that we so often experience is a holy anger or if it is motivated by selfish desires, pride, arrogance or any other sin that we have harbored in our hearts.  Let us confess and repent of that sin and live a life that is based on Your Word and empowered by Your Spirit.  In Jesus Name, I pray.

TRUST IN …

When I was a young girl, we sang a song in our church titled “Trust and Obey”.   It is an old hymn that is not sung very often “now-a-days”.  But the other day I was thinking of trust, and that hymn came to mind. 

Trust.  It is a word that we hear often today in the phrase “Just trust me!”  But what is trust?  And should we just go around trusting everyone?  If not, who or what is worthy of our trust?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary says that trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. 

One example of trust is sitting in a chair.  When I lower myself into a chair, I trust that it will hold me and that it will not crumble under my weight.  If I sit on a little plastic chair in the toddler nursery at church, it is likely that it will break and I will be on the floor – in other words it was not something in which I should have placed my trust.  The object of my trust was unable to accomplish that which I expected.  In other words, the object of your trust is important!

When we see a parent tossing a baby in the air, with the child laughing and squealing in delight, only to then be caught by the parent, we see an excellent example of trust.  The child is not fearful that he will fall to the ground – his parent is there to catch him.  The child relies on the parent totally: that, too, is trust.

Helping child to swim (C)
Trust enables the child to jump into his father’s arms.

When our young grandson had not yet learned to swim, he was fearful of jumping in the water.  While he did not want to plunge into the unknown, his father was there with open arms, hands ready to greet him in the water.  But for his trust in is father, he would have satisfied himself with running around the edge of the pool and would never have gone in to experience the thrill of swimming.

Scripture speaks of trust often.  In fact, the word “trust” is used in the Psalms 35 times. 

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.”

Psalm 37:5

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 56:3

“I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.””

Psalm 91:2

Proverbs speaks of trusting.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

And the prophet Isaiah extols God as he speaks of his trust in Him.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12:2

Scripture also makes clear that the object of your trust is important.  In other words, does whatever you put your trust in merit your trust, is it trustworthy?  Some things are not, even though they may appear strong and invincible.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 20:7

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.”

Jeremiah 7:8

Both the Psalmist and the prophet warn that some things simply are not trustworthy.  This is in comparison to the Lord, Who is totally trustworthy.  What God says He will do, will, in fact, be accomplished.  When God says that He will keep His children in His hand, nothing will be able to take us out of His hand.  God’s promises are true and sure, and they will come to pass in His time and at His good pleasure.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

Isaiah 26:4

So, who or what do you trust?  Are you trusting in your strength and power, the modern equivalent of chariots and horses?   Are you trusting in your wealth and position, your title or your education?  Are you trusting in your good works or your charitable activities?  Nothing in this world is worthy of your trust for eternity because nothing in this world is eternal.  Rather, trust in the LORD.  He is worthy of your trust. He is strong and powerful so that you will find your trust is not misplaced when it is in Him.

Hear the hymn “Trust and Obey” as presented by Don Moen in this beautiful rendition complete with lyrics and picturesque scenery.

 

Father, forgive me when I have taken my eyes off Jesus and misplaced my trust in my own strength or activities.  Forgive me when I have relied on material things for security when You are the only true security in this world now and for eternity.  Forgive me when I have failed to trust and obey, two words that are so easy to say but sometimes to difficult to accomplish.  Enable me, through Your Spirit, to do Your will as a trust and obey Your voice today.

THE FEAR OF GOD

When we were in England, we visited a number of cathedrals and were amazed at the exquisite details in the construction and decoration of each of them.

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Bath Cathedral, Bath, England

The exteriors of the cathedrals had a focal point, upward to the sky as if the very building was praising God in prayer and thanksgiving.

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Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

 

Even the walls of the cathedrals evidenced exquisite workmanship and beautiful detail.

canterbury-wood-carvings-adorning-the-walls
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Carved woodwork adorning the walls of the Cathedral.

 

The church in Canterbury was established when Saint Augustine was sent as a missionary in 597 A.D.  In the town of Canterbury, there has been daily worship of God for over 1,400 years.  Just think about that for a moment! 

The original cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. Although there have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, parts of the Quire or Choir, which is the area between the nave and sanctuary in a cathedral, and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

canterbury-stained-glass-windows
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Stained glass windows. They were removed and sequestered for safety during World War II and reinstalled when the war ended.

See the Canterbury Cathedral’s website for more detailed information on this glorious church.  https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/history/cathedral-history-in-a-nutshell/

We came to the entrance of the cathedral property and walked through this gate.  At first I thought this was the church … then I realized it was “just” the gate to the property.  Even this aspect of the cathedral was designed and constructed with an emphasis on the heavens.

canterbury-the-archway-into-the-church-property
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Arched gate into the Cathedral property.

 

Why go to all this trouble in creating such glorious buildings in which to worship God?  Why do all this incredible craftsmanship during a period of time when people were living in far less sturdy structures?  Why do this at all?

I suggest that these folks had a right understanding of the “fear of the Lord”. 

Scripture has much to say about learning and fearing God.   See for example the following passages in the Old Testament:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,…”

Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

Psalm 111:10 ESV

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

So, what does it mean to fear God?  One definition of “fear” is, of course, to be afraid, to be in terror when we face God.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

The justified person, the believer in Jesus Christ, is not afraid of God, rather God is his Father and fear is washed away.  Paul wrote this to his spiritual son, Timothy:

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

But we are still admonished to “fear the Lord”, so if we are justified by Christ, what does it mean?

“Fear” when used in this context references our actions of “reverence” and “worship”.  We are to “be in awe of” Him and we are to “honor” Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 1:7 ESV

The note on Proverbs 1:7 in the Reformation Study Bible says, in part:

The fear of the Lord is the only basis of true knowledge.  This fear is not distrustful terror of God but rather the reverent awe and worshipful response of faith to the God who reveals Himself as the Creator, the Savior and the Judge.   

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the majesty of His creation?

yosemite-2011-wrm-126-waterfalls-and-river-c
Yosemite National Park, waterfall and river.

Have you ever been in awe of our God when looking at His expression through the detail of the small baby, a child created in the image of God?

baby-girl-1-month-old
One month old baby girl.

Has your spirit ever soared when entering a place of worship as you anticipate spending time with your Savior and God in worship?

canterbury-cathedral-view-of-the-altar-area
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England.  Interior of Cathedral looking at the altar area of the church.

Have you considered our Savior God who sent His only Son to die for your sins?  Have you thanked Him today, even this moment, for such love, grace and mercy?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Unfortunately, our culture has forgotten this precept.  We have instead turned to human philosophy and social engineers.  We have created a generation of children who have turned to Hollywood or the Internet for their heroes and role models.  The fantasy world of television and movies, with computer generated special effects, has become the reality that our youth crave.  Young and old alike seek thrills and/or escape by turning to drugs and alcohol.   We kill children without batting an eye, while we worry about the spotted owl or the snail darter fish.  

Scripture does not change – its teachings are true and they are timeless.  Thousands of years ago, God stated that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom.   It was true then, and it is true today. 

I believe that those building the cathedrals were honoring God and creating a place of worship that was a physical representation of the glory and magnificence due Him in worship. 

Note that I am not saying that all churches need to be this elaborate.  Nor am I ignoring the role that the Popes or other “leaders” likely played in desiring a place of magnificence for his own benefit. 

What I am saying is that we, even in our “modern” age, need to have a holy fear of our God.  It is a heart issue, not an architectural one.  We should give God the reverence, awe and honor to which He is due.  In short, He is not the “Big Guy in the Sky”.  He is our Creator, Sustainer and Savior … He is our Father and our God.

 

Father, forgive me when I have not given You the reverence that You deserve.  Let my heart sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” throughout the day and let my praise to You be last on my lips as sleep overcomes me.  May I love You and glorify You in all things.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 24, SELF-CONTROL part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 24

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART TWO

 

Developing the fruit of the Spirit of self-control is not instantaneous once we become Christians.

 

G. K. Beale says it like this:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175. [Emphasis mine]

 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, we have the seed of the fruit within us because the Holy Spirit resides within the Christian, but that seed may not have grown very much yet.  We have to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He can develop the character and image of Christ in us.

Remember our thoughts last week comparing a life without self-control to a jungle while a life with self-control is rather like a  well groomed, tended garden.

jungle-scene
   Jungle scene from Parrot Jungle in Kings Bay, Florida.
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Beautiful garden walkway from Kings Bay, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One characteristic of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to bridle the wild impulses that lead to destruction — self-control.  Note, we can have self-control in one area but not in another.  The Spirit will encourage you to increase self-control so that it encompasses all the areas of your life, not just some of them!

 

How do we develop self-control of the Holy Spirit?  There is no pill to take for it and there is no substitute for hard work.  We train ourselves, just as an athlete would do, so that we learn to exercise self-control through God’s grace and His Spirit.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

So, what does the scripture say about temperance [abstinence or restraint]?

 

Consider Eating:

 

Table manners are important!  Proverbs 23:1-3 speaks of restraint when eating with those over you:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.  Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.  

 

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

Proverbs 25:16

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. … “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” … At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1:8-16.  Honor God in controlling our appetite for food and beverages.

 

Consider Desires and Passions:

I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.

 Job 31:1

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,… 

 Titus 2:11-12

 

Consider our Dress

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9

 

Consider our Speech and Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Philippians 4:5

 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

 

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:6-8

 

Consider the standard for Christian Leaders

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8

 

Older Christians to be models for younger Christians

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

 Titus 2:2-5

 

Consider Self-Control In all things

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

 Titus 2:11-12

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

The temperate person lives within restraints and keeps his life under control.  Self-control is not strict adherence to rules.  Further, this is not done through sheer willpower, through grit teeth or rank stubbornness … it is done through the Spirit of our Lord and the strength that only He can give.  It is for the purpose of glorifying God by living self-controlled, upright and godly lives before those we come in contact with, in direct contrast to the worldly life that is so chaotic and random, without control or order.

 

Thinking back to last week’s lesson, is our life a jungle or a garden?  Are we tending it and, through self-control, weeding out the bad and developing the good for our Lord’s sake?  Have we committed ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can transform us into the image of Christ?

 

Let us develop self-control to the honor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit!

  

Blessings to you and I pray that you have been blessed as we have studied 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.   Next week we will have the final conclusion for the study; please join me as we seek to learn and do the will of our Father. 

$800,000,000 – WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?

The Powerball Lottery winning prize for the drawing later today is estimated to be $800,000,000. This is the highest figure ever in our lottery history.

 

Thousands of people are lining up to purchase tickets for the chance to win this massive amount of money.  Of course, the chances to win are something in the neighborhood of 1 in over 290,000,000. So, the likelihood is far greater that you will walk away with a ticket that is worth $0.00 (nothing) rather than a ticket worth millions of dollars.

 

People are talking about how much $800,000,000 is, really. One graphic that I saw on a news channel showed Earth with one dollar bills wrapped in a single file around the circumference of the planet. The commentator said that you would have to go around the Earth over 3 times before the stack of dollar bills would be exhausted.  Of course, there are also the statements that you could purchase 100 Lamborghinis or some million number of Starbucks coffees.

 

But the reality is that no one knows what they would do with that amount of money. Granted, the government would take over half in taxes, but even then, who would not be willing to have an extra $350,000,000 in their checking account!

 

Scripture says much about money. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah quotes the Lord:

Thus says the LORD, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 [ESV]

 

Scripture recognizes that humankind, in our arrogance and desire for control, would trust in our wisdom, might and wealth for protection rather than looking to God.  In contrast, God says that understanding Him and learning about Him is far better than mere earthly riches.

 

This thought is repeated by the writer of Proverbs:

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Proverbs 11:28 [ESV]

 

Whether we want to admit it or not, we know that worldly things we trust in can be wiped out in a second.   Illness can take our physical and mental prowess away from us with a speed that is, at times, breathtaking. Robbers, fire, stock market crashes can erase  fortunes in a day.   Righteousness, however, remains forever.

 

Paul in the first letter to Timothy discusses the desire for monetary wealth and the trap that it can disguise.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 [ESV]

 

This does not mean that money is inherently bad. The love of money is the problem.  When we replace God with money, problems then arise.  Indeed, Paul continues in the same chapter to advise Timothy about the proper use of wealth:

 

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 [ESV]

 

Jesus puts money and riches in stark focus in the story about the rich young ruler found in Matthew 9:16-26, Mark 10:17-31 and in Luke 18:18-30.

Biltmore 1
The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.

When I think of the rich young ruler, my mind goes to the vision of The Biltmore mansion in Asheville, North Carolina.  It is a beautiful mansion, on immaculate grounds that go on seemingly forever.  The home was built by George Vanderbilt and sits on an 8000 acre estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Biltmore 2
View of a small part of the Biltmore mansion.

 

The young man comes to Jesus asking about  what he must do to be saved and proudly tells Jesus that he has kept all of the Ten Commandments from his youth, anticipating that surely this would be sufficient for salvation.

Rather than getting into a debate about the accuracy of his statement, Jesus simply says that the young man should sell everything that he has and give it to the poor, at which point he would have treasure in heaven and could follow Jesus. The young man’s response comes next:

 

But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Luke 18:23 [ESV].

 

The young man had apparently forgotten what the first and tenth commandments require. By telling the young ruler to sell everything, Jesus put his finger on the idolatry that was at the center of the young man’s being — riches.

 

The Gospel writers then record what Jesus said as the young man left, unchanged, unrepentant and unsaved.

 

Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 18:24-25 [ESV]

 

Note that Jesus is not saying that riches are evil or that riches disqualify a person from entering heaven.

 

Rather, for this rich young ruler, money had taken the place rightfully belonging to God. This is the seductive lure of riches, in whatever form those riches may take. Jesus is teaching the disciples that those who are rich are tempted to depend on their riches for security, thereby making it difficult for many of them to admit that they need God.

 

The focus of our thoughts here is on money, particularly the $800,000,000 lottery winnings that are “up for grabs”.   But we would be remiss if we thought that only money is the topic of the Scripture’s warnings. We can be rich in achievement in intellectual, artistic, academic, commercial activities, or any of a myriad of other avenues that we can take during our lifetime. Persons who are achievers of great accolade or who have risen in the ranks of their peers at work, school, etc. are in the same position as those who have great monetary wealth, even if it is not $800,000,000.

 

The same warning applies – turn to the Lord God and rely on Him for your security, in the here and now as well as for eternity. Because your wealth, awards, plaques, possessions will have no ability to save when life ends.  Job 1:21 reiterates that we were born naked and we shall go into the grave naked … only the treasures that we have stored up in heaven will remain.

 

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Proverbs 3:7-10 [ESV]

 

Seek the Lord for wisdom. Use your wealth, your talents, your strength, your intellect, your musical abilities, your business acumen, all your talents and abilities for the honor and glory of God. Then it will be a blessing to you both now and forever more.

 

Father, I pray that I would honor and glorify you with all that you have provided to me. Whatever money, talent, intellect, abilities that you have granted to me, may I remember that they came from you and that they belong to you.  Forgive me when I have taken credit for something that rightfully was due to your grace and mercy.  I love you Lord. Forgive me when I have failed you. Strengthen me and enable me to walk in your grace and mercy giving all honor and glory to you, all the days of my life.

OUR PLANS AND PRAYER.

 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21 [ESV]

I am a self-admitted planner. It is difficult for me to just “go with the flow”. Even when I am “going with the flow,” I am planning what I will do whenever the “flow” gets to wherever we are going.  Digression from the task ahead is difficult for me to allow … but praise the Lord that my planning confronted  divine guidance through prayer today.

praying hands
Praying Hands.

I was scheduled for surgery and a number of beloved friends and family members said they would be praying that all would go well, that I would be protected from complications, and that healing would be sweet. As usual, there is a great deal of preparation for surgery and we did all that stuff, as directed, including packing the overnight bag, taking the book and Bible along with the Ipad, etc.

 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 [ESV]

 

The hospital directions were that I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but a note stated that I should take my morning medications before coming to the hospital with a sip of water. I drink milk with the medicine due to the taste if I use water: so, I took the meds with 2 sips of milk, much less than ¼ cup, and we were off to the hospital.

At the hospital, we were conducted into the surgical wing and I received the beautiful gag-green hospital gown to replace my clothing. Then I was placed under a warming blanket and was getting ready for the IV and monitors, etc.  That’s when my plans went awry but God intervened in His providence and answered prayer.

The anesthesiologist came in and asked what meds I had taken. I told him, and he said, “ok”.

Then the nurse came in and went over most of the same questions again and confirmed I had taken the morning meds at home.  She then asked when I took them. I responded “my husband poured the milk about 7 and I took them right after that.”

The nurse’s head popped up from her clipboard and she said “Milk?” and that was the beginning of the end of the surgery as planned.

She left the prep room saying that she needed to talk with the anesthesiologist about the milk. I was stunned – all this havoc over 2 sips of milk?

The answer to the prayers for protection and no complications became apparent when the anesthesiologist came in and told me that even a small amount of milk causes acid in the stomach. When you go under the anesthesia, all muscles are relaxed and that includes the muscle that keeps stomach acid in the stomach.  So, if you have acid there (like from milk) when laying on the flat surgical table under the anesthesia, you can have reflux of the acid into your lungs without anyone knowing it is happening. [Without getting into the science of it, even I know that this is not something that would be considered a good thing!]

I don’t know if God directed me to take the meds with milk so that surgery could not be done on the day that was planned, but I am confident that He answered prayers in prompting me to mention the milk so that I would be protected from adverse consequences otherwise.

The surgery is now rescheduled and I will not be using milk for my meds.

Praise the Lord that He answered prayer by bringing to mind the milk that I had consumed at just the right time so that unwanted complications could be avoided. God has been in the business of hearing and answering our prayers since the beginning.

Back in Genesis, Isaac prayed for his wife:

“And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” Genesis 25:21 [ESV]

Many years later, David said:

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.” Psalm 54:2 [ESV]

“But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:19 [ESV]

 

Then, in the New Testament, 2,000 years ago, we have the church praying for Peter.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  Acts 12:5 [ESV]

As a result of those prayers, God sent angels to the prison and released Peter at night. He went to the house where the church was praying for him and almost did not get in because no one believed that their prayers had been so miraculously answered!

Prayer at Westminster Cathedral (C)
Prayer at Westminster Cathedral, London, England

 

In speaking of prayer to God the Father, the writer of Hebrews 4:16 tells us:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [ESV]

Beloved, the same God who answered Isaac, and who answered Job, and who answered David, and who heard and answered the church’s prayers for Peter, hears and answers the prayers of His children today when we come boldly to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think praying is only for old people?

Think praying doesn’t do anything?

 Think praying is a boring waste of time?

 THINK AGAIN!

 

Father, forgive me when I take lightly the gracious gift of prayer. Forgive me when I fail to recognize the awesome privilege of coming in prayer to the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Forgive me when I forget that I can only come to you because of Jesus Christ, my Savior, who covers me with His righteousness and has forgiven me of my sins. Thank you Father for hearing the prayers of your children, even those raised on my behalf. Praise your Holy Name!

A CALL TO WAKE UP AND REPENT – Scripture reference corrected

I suspect that the question of how long our life will be is far from our normal conscious thought, until something happens to jar us out of our lethargy and into the reality that none of us is as big, as strong, as indestructible, or as far from leaving this life as we believe ourselves to be.

These thoughts are on my mind today because we just came back from the memorial service for a dear lady in our church who died this week after an extended illness.  While it was difficult to learn of her passing, we were relieved that she was no longer in pain, that her husband was no longer watching her suffer, and that he and the rest of her family could rest in the knowledge that she was with her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Family at my grandfather's grave
Family at my grandfather’s grave

Unlike our friend who suffered the ravages of disease for many years, the picture above is of the family after my grandfather suffered a premature, and unexpected death in 1956.  As I recall, his death was sudden, without an extended illness.  There was no way for the family to prepare themselves, one day he was with us, the next he was gone.

I know this is true of my own mother.  She died when I was 21.  I was living several states away so we communicated by phone.  I spoke with her on Sunday and we expressed concern about my father’s cancer.  He was in the hospital preparing for surgery, but we were not sure what the outcome would be. (Back then, you did not prepare for cancer surgery by sitting at home, you waited in the hospital bed for multiple procedures in preparation for surgery.) She was comforting me about my father, telling me that the Lord was with her and with Daddy and that He would take care of both of them.  I was not to worry.

That was the last time I heard my mother’s voice. Two days later, on Tuesday, I received a phone call that she had suffered a massive stroke.  She never came out of the coma and on Thursday she went to meet her Lord and Savior.  She was only 54 years old when she was called home.

Mother's tombstone
Mother’s tombstone

Hard to concentrate on trivial things when your life is turned upside down by a sudden death of a loved one.

No one has an answer to the multitude of questions that are raised when death comes like a thief in the night nor are there answers when we watch a loved one die a slow, excruciating death.  That simply is not within our sphere of knowledge.

Like it or not, we are the creation, not the Creator.

Mountain view in Alaska with caribou rack in foreground
Mountain view in Alaska with caribou rack in foreground

God is sovereign in all things, even in the length of time his creation exists.  Even before we are born, God knows when we will arrive as that bundle of joy and when we will leave this earthly existence.

Proverbs 90:12 says –OOPS —  CORRECTION:  Proverbs only has 31 chapters so clearly this is an incorrect reference.  Thanks to my dear friend Claudette Starr who noticed this mistake.  I do apologize for this error; my proofreading will have to improve in the future!  Now, back to the thought.  If you look at PSALMS 90:12 you will find the following text:

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

There are numerous lessons that can be learned when we attend a funeral, or when we learn that a loved one has died suddenly, not the least of which is that we are reminded that we need to be ready for “our own personal end of days” as well as “the end of days,” when Christ returns.

He sent His Son to be our Savior.  His Son, Jesus, died as an atonement for our sin, all of it.  Because he died for us, we no longer have to suffer the punishment that our sin places on us.  He rose from the dead and, because He lives and is interceding on our behalf, those who believe in Jesus’ Name will live eternally.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the Apostle Paul says it as clearly as possible:

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

That Tuesday, my mother had no idea that such day would be the irreversible beginning of herlast days”.

As Reformed Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ will bodily return one day.   Indeed, Paul affirms this in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Then, there will not be any more time to repent.  The die, as we say, will have been cast and the game of this world will be abruptly ended.  There will be no more time.  Even if Jesus does not return during our lifetime, we know that we will all have to face death, some sooner and some later; but it is inevitable.

It is a certainty that time will run out – whether it is when Jesus returns or at our own personal “end of days” — and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come.

The Apostle Paul was right – Repent, for today is the day of salvation!

Father, often we live our lives as if we will continue on for decades before anything major will happen, certainly before death knocks at our heart’s door; forgive us for being so callous and foolish.  Forgive us, Father, for thinking of salvation as a type of fire insurance.  Forgive us when we have marginalized Jesus’ work on the cross rather than bowing in humble obedience to Him.  Forgive us when we have ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting for a living, dynamic relationship with the Almighty Sovereign Creator God.  Father, forgive us!