Housebound

Snow Predicted oil on canvas, artist George Lucas from Gaithersburg, Maryland
“Snow Predicted” oil on canvas, painted by George Lucas of Gaithersburg, Maryland

These are troubling days.  We are faced with a worldwide pandemic for the first time in most of our lives, and we don’t really know how to respond.  Yes, we know that we are to practice social distancing, that is we are to remain no closer than 6 feet from other people so that we do not come in contact with the virus from others.  We know that we are not to gather in groups of more than 10 because that creates a risk that someone in the group could be unaware that they are carrying the virus even though they are highly contagious at that point.  We know that we should stock up on food because we could be housebound for a long time.  We know that various businesses are shutting down with their workers facing furlough or unemployment, resulting in the loss of necessary paychecks for the household.  We also know that if we are in the “at risk” category of individuals, we should remain in our homes to avoid contamination by the virus.

In short, there are quite a number of things that we now know which are different than our ordinary experiences had been before this virus hit.  But one thing we see rampant, and that is the loss of toilet paper!  People are hoarding it, taking it by the pallet-full, clutching their toilet paper in the checkout lines as if it were a lifeline.  What’s with that?

Things are anything but routine now, and we are wondering if this is the “new normal”.

I don’t know when the virus will be contained or how long the housebound directive will be in place, but I do know the One who has that information, and He will not let us be housebound for a moment longer than is His plan.

The Psalmist says:

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:5

You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.

Psalm 115:11

It is a statement that is repeated in Proverbs:

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

Proverbs 3:5

And the Prophet Isaiah claims the same thing:

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

Isaiah 26:4

Yosemite El Capitan and bridal veil 6-2011 063
Yosemite National Park, El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls

When I think of God as an “everlasting rock”, my mind wanders to the sights we saw in Yosemite National Park.  Specifically, the view of El Capitan.  It is a huge granite monolith that rises almost 910 meter (3,000 foot) vertically from Yosemite Valley.  It’s massive size and strength is apparent when looking at it from across the valley.

But, come closer, and it is both intimidating and comforting.

Yosemite El Capitan 6-2011 069
A closer view of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park.

More than one climber has tried to scale its height, and a few have succeeded.  Some have turned back, and others have fallen to their death.  It is intimidating and yet when thinking of God as our everlasting rock, it is comforting.  Nothing is going to push El Capitan over.  Nothing is going to move our God out of the way, either.  Indeed, if God were to ordain an earthquake in the Yosemite Valley, El Capitan may well be toppeled, but it would only be at the ordinance of God, the ultimate Rock and the source of our salvation and redemption.

Beloved, if you are housebound, take heart.  You can worship God even in the sanctity of your own home, of your own hospital bed, of your own apartment, of your own heart!  Worship Him, the everlasting Rock and the author of our salvation.  Then, praise Him for the opportunity you have to be housebound, to be able to focus on your relationship with Him rather than on the cares of the world, of work and or school.  And you may want to think Him for giving you the time to clean out that closet, or tidy up the junk drawer in the kitchen, or the linen closet, or … well my entire house, actually!

The point is that we should praise God for all things, because 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

Father, I thank You for the blessings that are so freely given to all of us, including the freedom from fear of the coronavirus and freedom from anxiety for those who place their trust in You. Help me to be patient during this time of restricted activity, and help me to remember that You are in control of all things, even the most minute of activities by which we can honor You,  

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – SOVEREIGNTY

Unlike centuries ago, we no longer have many sovereigns in our world today.  When we visited England, we stayed in London and went to Buckingham Palace, one of the homes of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is in downtown London and it takes up significant acreage with the palace, gardens and grounds.

2011-04 England 139

Looking at Buckingham Palace from across the grounds you can get a glimpse at the magnitude of the Queen’s residence. 

2011-04 England 152

Standing closer, we could see the guard making his route securing the sovereign, as we were on the other side of the gate looking in with a throng of others.  

We in the United States have a hard time with the concept of “sovereignty”.  Our whole corporate psyche is centered on freedom.  We believe that we were born free, to live as and where we choose while doing whatever it is that we want to do.  No caste system.  No one dictating what profession or job we must take.  No one telling us where we can or cannot live.  

Having a person over us who is sovereign is exactly what our forefathers rebelled against and it was the springboard for the Revolutionary War between our country and England.

So, when we come to the attribute of God that is titled “Sovereignty”, we have a hard time comprehending all that such term entails.  It is easy to speak the words that “God is in control of everything.”  But the reality of a Sovereign God is much more far-reaching than a platitude.

In Exodus chapter 18, we have a beautiful vignette of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro:

“And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and [how] the LORD had delivered them. Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, “Blessed [be] the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, [and] who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the LORD [is] greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, [He was] above them.“”

Exodus 18:8-11 NKJV

Jethro was glad for the deliverance of Moses and the children of Israel and, after Moses had described all that God had done in Egypt, Jethro rejoiced and praised the LORD who is sovereign over all.  Nothing that some people may attribute to a god is outside His sovereign control.

The Psalmist says this about God’s sovereignty:

“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Psalm 115:2-3

God is sovereign over all mankind or anything that he worships, nothing compares to our God and Lord.

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

Proverbs 21:1

God is sovereign over other monarchs on earth – while the king might be making plans, the Lord God controls that which happens.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:33

As with kings, even the common man is subject to the sovereignty of God.  Men cast lots and then make their decisions based on that result, but God is the One who controls the decision that the lot mandates.

In fact, God is even sovereign over the actions of animals.

Recall what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10:

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

Matthew 10:29-31

Now, remember Jonah’s free transportation in the belly of the great fish, and then, at the word of the Lord, his being catapulted from the fish onto dry land.  Jonah 2:10.   Also, remember how God gave Balaam’s donkey the power of speech when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the street, but his master did not.  Numbers 22.

There is nothing outside the control of God’s loving hand.

  • Not the plans of the wicked even if they are dictators or despots.
  • Not the way our physical world works which sometimes seems to be in opposition to mankind such as when there are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or droughts.
  • Not the actions of demons or even Satan, remember how Satan had to get permission to test Job and could only take action within the confines established by God.
  • Not even my own free will. Regarding salvation, we may believe that we accepted Jesus through our own free will, but even then, it is God Who quickens our heart to become aware of our sin and our need of His grace. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:28, 38-39 

God’s sovereignty is a tremendous comfort to the believer because it enables him to have confidence that he does not need to fear, God is still on His throne and He is still sovereign – in charge – in control, no matter what might be going on in this temporal world.

We must remember that when sin entered the world, man had turned himself into a headlong catapult toward sickness, illness, pain, sorrow and death.  God intervened in Genesis 3:15 where we learn of a Redeemer, a Savior Who will pay the price of sin and redeem God’s children for Himself.  We all must die physically because of the curse of sin on our mortal bodies.  But, we don’t have to die spiritually if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.   

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37

Beloved, God’s sovereignty is an attribute that is hard for us to comprehend but it is the basis of God’s providence.  We know that God’s will, His providence, shall prevail because God’s sovereignty mandates it.  Nothing can defeat God’s will.  Praise His Holy Name!

God’s sovereignty + His love for His children

=

Unassailable confidence and comfort for the believer.

 

Father, there are no words available to express my praise and love for You and for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Lord, I cannot comprehend Your sovereignty and all that such attribute entails, but I do have confidence in You and Your sovereignty brings comfort to my heart.  Thank You, Lord.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — OMNIPOTENCE

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at something ahead of you?  Maybe it is a challenge physically.  Maybe it is overwhelming sorrow upon the loss of a loved one.  Perhaps it is failing health or an illness that you must face.  Everyone has felt being overwhelmed or that things are happening which are outside of your power, and you fear that you cannot battle through. If you cannot relate to this description now, rest assured that at some point in your life you will understand these words. 

We are mortal, finite, and of limited power and strength.  Many have accomplished great things in their lifetimes but even those at the pinnacle of power share the same mortality and finiteness of the rest of us.

But God is not like us, He is omnipotent. This is how John describes the power of God:

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

Revelation 19:6 KJV

The Amplified Bible renders this verse as follows:

“Then I heard something like the shout of a vast multitude, and like the boom of many pounding waves, and like the roar of mighty peals of thunder, saying,

“Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all reigns.””

God is omnipotent.  It is one of the attributes of His character.  It is not something that He puts on and takes off.  It is part of His nature, it is eternal, and it will never change.  He is all-powerful.  His Name is rightfully called The Almighty. 

Omnipotence is not a common word for us, but its parts are.  “Omni” is a word prefix that means “all, every, the whole, of every kind”.  “Potent” is a word that means “having great power, influence, or effect.”  Thus, “omnipotent” means “having unlimited power; able to do anything.”  Only God is omnipotent. 

Consider the Book of Job.  There we read of a man who was subjected to loss of property and family, loss of extreme wealth, loss of health, painful boils covering his body, and yet through all of that, he did not curse God.  Rather, he remained faithful to God and was rewarded for that faithfulness. 

The point for our consideration, however, is not how Job reacted to the tests.  Rather, it is how it came to be that Job was tested in the first place.

This is how we are introduced to Job:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

Job 1:1

The next verses in the chapter detail Job’s wealth and power in the community.  Then the scene switches to heaven with Satan conversing with God.  The thrust of Satan’s discussion is that Job honors God because God has blessed him.  In other words, Satan challenged God to take away the hedge around Job and Job would turn his back on God.  The first challenge and God’s response is as follows:

“”But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”

Job 1:11-12.  Notice that God was in control.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Satan received permission to hurt Job but there was a limit that Satan could not exceed.  After receiving word that his entire family and all his flocks and herds had been destroyed, Job said:

“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Job 1:21-22.  Satan was foiled.  Job followed the Lord and he did not sin.  But Satan did not leave poor Job alone.  The second challenge was set up:

“Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.  But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Job 2:4-7.  Satan was again allowed to test Job, but, as before, God put a limit on what Job could do.  God is omnipotent, and Satan is not.  Job again honored God despite his wife’s nagging that he should curse God and die.  Job 2:9-10

Job endured unimaginable pain and sorrow, and then he had his three friends who came to comfort him.  He remained faithful to God even though his friends encouraged him to admit his sin and get it over with! 

Paul said it this way:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Romans 11:36

In Ephesians Paul notes:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”

Ephesians 1:11

The Psalmist expressed God’s omnipotence by stating in Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

The prophet Jeremiah talks of God’s omnipotence when he said:

“‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17

Omnipotence mandates that nothing is too hard for God – things are either done or not done, according to His will, not because they are easy or hard.  God’s power to do all that He desires is the basis for His sovereignty which then accomplishes His providence. 

So, what does this attribute mean to us?  Beloved, it means that no matter what you are facing, no matter how horribly you are treated, no matter how severe the pain and suffering you are going through, God is in control. 

As finite and mortal beings, we are no match for Satan’s power.  But, God is neither afraid of Satan nor is He unable to control Satan.  Satan may be more powerful that we are, but He is not as powerful as God is. 

Keep Job in mind.  Satan can do nothing to us that God does not allow in His sovereign providence. 

Father, thank You for Your omnipotence, Your power over all things.  I take comfort and I draw strength from the fact that You are unshakeable and that Your will takes priority over all else.  Even when I don’t understand what is going on, I thank You that I can rely on You. I praise Your Holy Name!

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 21,GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 21

 GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

PART ONE

Gentleness, also known as humility, is a subject about which the world has a good bit to say but most of it is not from the Christian’s world view.

 

Consider the song “It’s hard to be humble” … I will quote some cleaned up lyrics for you if you don’t know this song from the late 70s.

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a heck of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.

C. S. Lewis says that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And someone aptly said that “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”

 

What does Scripture say?

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

In Scripture, the Greek word for gentleness (humility) is Prautas.  It is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.”  This is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.

 

Its opposite is aggressiveness, arrogance, and boastfulness and the world’s counterfeit is inferiority; being self-absorbed and self-consciousness.

 

When we think of gentleness or humility, we sometimes think of meekness which sounds like weakness … picturing someone who is rather milque-toast in nature.  However, that is not at all the scriptural view of either meekness or humility.

 

Meekness is the strength to refrain from taking part in a fight that you know you could win, or from making a point about which there could be no question, in order to prevent the damage that otherwise would be done.

 

Consider Moses the “in charge” leader bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In Numbers 12, God stood by him when Aaron and Miriam grumbled about his marriage to a Cushite woman, God calling them aside and saying:

 

“Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.   Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  (NIV)

 

After this, the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy and Aaron pleaded with Moses to seek God for healing for their sister.  Moses didn’t respond that Aaron and Miriam deserved what they got and he did not have an “I’m more important than you” attitude.  Instead, he pleaded with God on Miriam’s behalf and God healed her after 7 days.

 

Clearly Moses had access to the ear of the Lord.  He was powerful and knew that God stood by him.  But the verse that is most telling about Moses comes before this story … it is Numbers 12:3 which says:

 

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

 

Moses was humble –he was meek – he was gentle – and God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.   See Psalm 147:5-6:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

 

Remember that the whole point of the Fruit of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Jesus.  Therefore, we need to consider how Jesus responded to situations.

 

In Matthew 11:20 we read that Jesus was “humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).   In other words, Jesus was conscientiously following the Father’s plan for his earthly life rather than his own earthly desires.  This is consistent with his prayer in the Garden found in Luke 22:42:

 

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

 

Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments for a number of reasons.

 

First, with respect to our vertical relationship between God and man, humility goes hand in hand with obedience.  The one who is humble will follow God’s direction and will honor the plan that God has for his life.

 

Second, with respect to our horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures in this world, a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people.

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:19

How does this apply to my daily life?

Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth.  Theologian J. I. Packer says:

“Humility in Scripture means, not pretending to be worthless and refusing positions of responsibility, but knowing and keeping the place God has appointed for one. Being humble is a matter of holding on to God’s arrangement, whether it means the high exposure of leadership or the obscurity of subservience.”

 

In other words, humility affirms the inherent worth of all persons. We should exhibit a humble attitude whether we are the president or the janitor.  Our title or position does not matter – humility is expected if we are to grow in Christ Jesus.

 

The humble person has proper deference toward both God and others.   Our humility rests on a sense of our own comparative lack of value and honor in relation to God and to others.  Paul implies this rule when he says in Romans 12:3 that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

 

The humble woman will refuse to glory in any good that she has or does but rather will give all glory to God.

 

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake”

Psalm 115:1

 

This week, look for times when you can exhibit a gentle, humble spirit towards others.  Imitate Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let this fruit grow in your heart, mind, soul and life!

 

 

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.