THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … 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 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.   

HORSE, WAR AND PROVIDENCE

During the past weeks I have been watching the news and have become more and more concerned about the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula. Strong words come from various nations and war ships are being positioned while bombs are being prepared.  Difficult words to hear for the populace of any nation, particularly in this day when destruction could be catastrophic.

In reading Proverbs, I found comfort, even in this turbulent time, in the following verse:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

Proverbs 21:31

White horse statue, St Francois Xavier, Manitoba
White Horse statue in the Royal Municipality of St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba, Canada

 

In David’s day and for centuries thereafter, the horse was the consummate fighting machine.  While the horse did not guarantee a win, the one on horseback had the clear advantage.  So, it is understandable that if a battle was forthcoming, the horse would be made ready.

In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Poole [1624-1679] says that the “horse” encompasses any warlike preparation that is undertaken.  In other words, we must do that which is possible for us to do in preparation for the battle.  But, we must also recognize that the outcome of the battle is not up to us.  The key point of the verse is the second section which states that victory in the battle rests with the Lord. 

In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Henry [1662-1714] notes that all the plans of mankind are under the eye of God. 

He that sits in heaven laughs at men’s projects against him and his anointed, and will carry his point in spite of them, Psalm 2:1-6. … Be the cause ever so good, and the patrons of it ever so strong, and wise, and faithful, and the means of carrying it on, and gaining the point, ever so probable, still they must acknowledge God and take him along with them. Means indeed are to be used; the horse must be prepared against the day of battle, and the foot too; they must be armed and disciplined. In Solomon’s time even Israel’s kings used horses in war, though they were forbidden to multiply them. [See Deuteronomy 17:16]  But, after all, safety and salvation are of the Lord; he can save without armies, but armies cannot save without him; and therefore he must be sought to and trusted in for success, and when success is obtained he must have all the glory.

David reinforces this concept when he says: 

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Psalm 33:17

Mr. Poole’s commentary, consistent with Matthew Henry’s thought, expressed as follows:

Safety is of the Lord; the success of the battle depends not upon any human strength or art, but merely upon God’s providence, who gives the victory when and to whom he pleaseth, and ofttimes to those that have least reason to expect it.

Let these words be of comfort to you.  Remember that our God is in control, even when it appears that things are falling apart.  Remember too these words, also found in Proverbs 21:

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Proverbs 21:1

Faint not. Fear not.  Faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ will preserve you today, in times of difficulty, in times of fear, even at the time of death. If you are His child, if you have claimed Jesus as your Savior, you have no need to fear. 

As David said in the Old Testament:

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

And as Paul said in the New Testament:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … 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 8:35, 38-39

Father, thank You for Your Word that is true.  Thank You for the calming assurance that You are with me even when fear aims its arrows at my heart.  Thank You that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that the Holy Spirit will comfort me through all things, and that nothing can pull me out of Your hands.

 

 

 

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

We have just returned home from a trip through 5 different states – Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.  We did not “tour” throughout all these states, we did drive through them on the interstate highways.  It is easy to see the incredible variety of landscape that our country exhibits:

Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina make the driving scenic and sometimes scary.

fall-colors-in-east-tennessee
The mountains of East Tennessee.

Florida is significantly flatter than the mountains but there are beautiful beaches and palm trees, and fruit stands with fresh fruit even in March (we were there during the Strawberry Festival, yum!)

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida Intricate detail in palm tree
A beautiful palm tree in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida.

 

Whether or not the terrain was hilly or flat, there was one feature that was the same throughout all the states.  It was pervasive.  It was ubiquitous!  It is the orange road construction barrel.

Orange road construction barrel
Orange highway construction barrel. Some say it is our state flower, but I think it is all over our country!

Construction – it is good for the highways. 

We know that there are potholes, uneven lanes, torn up pavement, all sorts of problems with the roadways and construction to repair such problems is good.  You simply cannot get away from the barrels.  They are put up when no construction is in sight, yet.  They are put up when the grading equipment is alongside the lane of travel.  They give evidence of the upcoming improvement in road conditions, which is good even if they cause some congestion and delay at the present time.

USED Crane visible from interstate in Nashville
Crane hovering over construction in downtown Nashville.

Construction – it is good for the cities.

When there is construction, there is growth.  There is change and there is development.  Sometimes people differ on how or where construction should occur, but there can be no dispute that construction changes things. 

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

                Construction – it is good for US.

Seeing the construction in each of the states we traveled reminded me of the construction that is going on in each one of us, every moment of every day. We don’t have red barrels to tell others of the ongoing construction in our lives, but we are “under construction” nonetheless.  

Scripture teaches us that God loves us and that He gave His Son for us as an atonement for our sin.  This enables us to have confidence that we will be with Him now and forever if we have faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for our salvation. 

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Romans 5:9-10 ESV

“[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

But, salvation is not the end of the story.  Once we have received Jesus Christ into our heart through faith, we then become “under construction” as the Holy Spirit does His work in transforming us into the image of our Lord.  I have heard it said “God loves us as we are, but he doesn’t want us to stay this way!”  In other words, He desires that we be changed into the image of His Son. 

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

Romans 12:2 ESV

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

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

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

Praise the Lord that we are “under construction”.  We are lovingly being transformed by God from our sinful, earthly desires, impulses, thoughts, actions and words into the image of our Lord.  But it takes time!  While we are justified with God immediately upon our receiving the Lord Jesus as our Savior,  the transformation into the image of the Lord is not an instantaneous occurrence.

A song written by Sim Wilson entitled “Please be patient with me” captures the concept well:  

Chorus:

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

When God gets through with me, when God gets through with me,

I shall come forth, I shall come forth like pure gold.

Verse:

If you should see me and I’m not walking right,

And if you should hear me and I’m not talking right;

Please remember what God has done for me, 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yjsTLpo_vQ

This transformation does not occur through our own efforts.  It does not come about through our own strength by struggling to keep all the commandments or by trying to copy good things that we see others doing. 

This construction comes from the Holy Spirit’s work inside of us.  It is an inward change.  It is a change of our heart and of our will. In fact it is a total surrender of our own will to that of our Father.

Praise the Lord that He is transforming us as we live our life in grace through the Holy Spirit.  Rest in Him and He will perform His good work in you.

Please be patient with me! 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be!

 

Father, I thank You for sending the Holy Spirit into our world so that He would work in the life of each of Your children, transforming them into the image of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

MAINTAIN A GOOD NAME

In the summer of 1976 my parents visited Manitoba, Canada and took a number of pictures of fascinating things and places.  One picture that really tickled my fancy was that of Josiah Flintabbatey Flontain, (Flinty for short) a fictional character for whom the town of Flin Flon was named.  

flintabbatey-flonatin-monument-in-manitoba
The image of Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin graces the community in a monument to the town’s founder..

According to an “official” website, the town began with a prospector’s claim and a dime store novel.  Flinty, was the hero of a science fiction novel that was found in the wilderness by gold prospectors in the early 1900s.  When the prospectors found gold in 1914, they remembered the story of Flinty and called their claim Flin Flon. 

flin-flon-manitoba-canada
The community known as Flin Flon in Manitoba, Canada, as seen in 1976.

The name stuck, and Flin Flon became one of Manitoba’s largest cities. See the town’s website for more information on this unique community to our North.  See http://www.cityofflinflon.ca/tourist-bureau-park-campground-museum 

The name of Flin Flon had its genesis in a fictional character who was much beloved by the people in the area and they were willing to be known by his name.  Names are important.  They say something about who we are.  Names identify us and distinguish us from other people.  (Remember when you first learned of someone else who had “your” first name?  Takes some getting used to when you are a young child!) 

While Flinty was a fictional character, another One whose name we follow was not fictional.  Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and resurrected from the grave.  All this is written in the Holy Bible and is fact, not fiction.  He ascended into heaven where He lives to intercede on behalf of those who claim His name in faith and who have received the gift of salvation. Also fact, not fiction.

The Greek word for Christ is Christos meaning “anointed”, and “The Christ” was the anointed one of God, the Messiah, and the Son of God.  It follows from this that a believer in Jesus Christ would be called Christianos or a “follower of Christ”.  And that is exactly what the first believers were called as noted in the book of Acts:

… And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26 ESV

 

They learned Jesus’ teachings, His way of life, His relationship with God, His desires for them to be witnesses to others, and much more.  Jesus is not physically here right now to teach us, but we are not left to wonder what a His disciple should do.  He expressed what discipleship was on many occasions, but in Matthew it is stated as follows:

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. …”  

Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

We as believers carry Christ’s name.  As Christians, we are to be like Him. But, we cannot be like Him if we don’t learn of Him by studying His Word, by worshiping with other believers, by praying and by listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and who is charged with the job of growing us into the likeness of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV  

Your name is much more than just the moniker that you use to sign checks or the letters you print on the Welcome name tag at a conference.  When someone says “Look, there is [your name]”, they are not speaking of your signature – they are speaking of you and all the aspects of you that they know.  Your name encompasses your life activities, your behavior, your words, your demeanor, your personality, your character and your witness.

That is why, in Proverbs 22:1, we read:

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

The application to believers in Christ is clear.  Your name should be honorable, your conduct should be gracious and there should be none of the debauchery that is so prevalent in today’s fallen, godless world.  A Christian must never rank the approval of man over the truth of God and His Word.

Your name, your personal choice to honor God and live for Him, may be the witness that will be used by the Holy Spirit to draw people to God and His life-giving hope.

Choose a good name above all else – be a Christian disciple, learner, pupil of our Lord and seek Him all your days.  You will be blessed both now and in eternity.

 

Lord, help me to see You in all things.  Where there is anxiety, let me put my head on Your breast and let me hear Your heart of love reminding me that You are in control even when my world is falling apart.  Where there is fear, let me put my hands in Yours and so I can see the scars from the nails where You sacrificed Your life in payment of my sins.  Holy Spirit, guide my steps and my words so that I can be an effective witness for my Lord and Savior.

 

 

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.

 

 

FOUNTAINS, REFLECTIONS AND POWER

We were camping at a beautiful little campground in Crossville, Tennessee, Spring Lake RV Resort. 

spring-lake-campground
Spring Lake RV Resort, a panoramic view of peaceful campground.

Although the fall colors were not yet in their fullest, it was clear that they would be brilliant very soon.  

In the morning, the cool air held the promise of a beautiful day as we sat eating breakfast looking out at the lake.

 

used-spring-lake-breakfast
Eating breakfast outside with a view of the lake before us. God’s creation is magnificent!

In the evening, the air was crisp, requiring a shawl for me, as Bill and I sat on the swing and looked at the stars through the hanging pine branches overhead. 

One of the most relaxing and mesmerizing sights for us was watching the fountain in the center of the lake that began its work about 9 in the morning and continued, nonstop, until dark. 

spring-lake-fountain
Spring Lake fountain showing droplets plummeting to the lake’s surface.

Having worked on a number of water cases during my law practice, I am well aware of the importance of aerating lakes and ponds so that the water does not stagnate and cause all sorts of problems in the environment.  So I understood the reason for the fountain. 

But having knowledge of the characteristics of lakes and ponds and the variations of fountains and aeration systems did not eliminate the mesmerizing magic of watching the water shooting into the air, of seeing the mist going higher than the water itself, and then following the arc of the water spouts as they turned and plummeted to the lake’s surface.

spring-lake-fountain-and-ripples
Fountain and ripples on the lake from the falling water.

In the morning, as the sun rose over the lake, the fountain became even more hypnotizing when its reflection became apparent.

spring-lake-0648
Fountain spray reflected in the lake.

While thinking about the reflection in the lake, I also thought about how Scripture says we are to reflect the image of Christ to those with whom we come in contact.

We have just completed a 25 week series on the Fruit of the Spirit in this blog.  As I often noted in discussing the fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow, nourish and blossom in our hearts, minds and souls, the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In short, we are to reflect Jesus Christ to those we meet during our day.

Paul says we are not to conform to the world but we are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, see Romans 12:2:

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

In Romans 8:29, Paul describes the transformation that occurs in the Christian through the Holy Spirit when he says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The reflection of the fountain in the lake is not the same thing as the fountain itself.  The reflection has no power of its own; it cannot make an impact on the lake because it is just a reflection. 

Likewise, when we speak of “conformed to the image of his Son” we are not talking about physically looking like Jesus.  Nor do we have any power of our own, like the fountain reflection; we can do nothing apart from the source of our power, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Rather, we are Jesus’ image bearers to our world.  We are to have the same attitudes and spirit of the Lord.  What matters to Him should matter to us.  His response to people should be our response to people.  His sacrificial compassion should be evident in how we treat others, putting their needs ahead of our own at all times. 

But, we cannot do it on our own because we are sinful and God’s way is totally counter-cultural and against the ways of the world.  On our own, we are like the reflection of the fountain – powerless.  We must be transformed before we can do Christ’s work in the world.         

That required transformation comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, so we should cherish the development of the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts because that is evidence that we are growing in our Christian walk.  Then, when we are walking in the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is working on our transformation into the likeness of the Lord, we will be able to impact our world for the glory of God. 

The challenge – don’t be just a powerless mirror reflection of our Lord, one who says words without faith in action; one who does good deeds without telling of Jesus.  Connect to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform your heart and mind into the image of our Lord.  Then you will have His power to spread the Good News of the Gospel to those you meet throughout your day. 

 

Father, forgive me when I have failed to reflect your love to others, when I have neglected the needs of those around me, when I have put myself ahead of others on my list of importance!  Transform me from a powerless reflection into the vital image of your Son through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit so that I can be an effective witness of your power, grace, mercy and love.  May I spread your Gospel to others through your leading and your strength.

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 23, SELF-CONTROL

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 23

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

PART ONE

You may recall that the initial entry in this list of graces from the Holy Spirit is “love” and this last entry is “self-control” or, in the King James Version, “temperance”.   In Greek language structure, it was common to place the elements that you wanted stressed at the beginning and at the end.  Thus, the first fruit of “love” would be known to be of paramount importance because of its placement at the head of the line.  This is true in our own language construct.  However, in the Greek writing, the last item is also intended to be emphasized.  Se we need to pay special attention to this characteristic that the Holy Spirit is desiring to develop in us.

As for the other fruit of the Spirit, the world speaks of this fruit but the meaning and application is greatly different than that which the Spirit imparts.

For example, Oscar Wilde has said “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”  No self-control there!

Tom Wilson (An American cartoonist, 1931-1978) said:  “About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you’re fighting temptation.”

cat-exercising-self-control
The look says it all!

Benjamin Franklin came closer to the Scriptural meaning when he said: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

In his World Biblical Commentary, Richard Longnecker says that the word “self-control” has a long history among Greek classical writers.  Plato used the term in contrast to overindulgence in both food and sex.  Aristotle gave it significant treatment in his writings on ethics, specifically pointing out the difference between the person who has powerful passions but keeps them under control (self-control) while its opposite (incontinence) is the person who does not deliberately choose the wrong but who has no strength to resist temptation.  The term “incontinence” is also called wantonness.   Aristotle thought self-control was primarily related to bodily enjoyment but that it was not improper to be incontinent with respect to money or temper or glory.

Later, Augustine said that incontinence was not a problem of knowledge, which is of knowing but not acting.  Rather, it was an issue of will.  He found that it was an everyday occurrence that men failed to exercise self-control by choosing the lesser over greater goods.

Romanticism came into vogue and the incontinent choice of feeling over reason became increasing more welcome.   Blake wrote that “those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”

All this progressed in a downhill spiral until the 1960s with the breakdown of conscience by “letting it all hang out” – acting out and emotional self-indulgence and drama.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incontinence_(philosophy)]

 What does Scripture say?

 We have come to the final entry in the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23.

 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.

At the time of Paul’s writings, self-control was a central concept in Hellenistic ethics.  Indeed, Josephus uses the noun in various places to refer to self-control in sexual matters.  Therefore, we can understand Paul’s placement of self-control at the end of the list as intending emphasis as well as to highlight the direct contrast to the list of vices of “drunkenness” and “orgies” that concluded the listing of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21.   The Spirit’s fruit of self-control is not limited to either control of the appetite for drink or the consequent tendency to unrestrained and immodest behavior.

 

The Greek word for self-control is  Egkrateia – self-control.   The Lexicon defines the term as being  1) the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites and  2) restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires.

 

Philip Rykers in the Reformed Expository Commentary on Galatians says that self-control means temperance or moderation, especially like drinking, sex, and eating.  He refers to this virtue as “a sober virtue” and says that it prevents liberty from becoming license in the Christian life.  A person with self-control has the restraint and self-discipline not to be ruled by passion, and, therefore, she is able to resist temptation.

 

James Montgomery Boice describes self-control as the quality that gives victory over fleshly desires and which is therefore closely related to chastity both in mind and conduct.  It is the “great quality which comes to a man when Christ is in his heart and it is that quality which makes him able to live and to walk in the world, and yet to keep his garments unspotted from the world.”

How does this apply to my daily life?

Dr. R. C. Sproul references the frequent description of our world today, when we warn someone to “be careful,  it’s a jungle out there!”   Then he notes that God put man in a garden, not a jungle.  What is the difference between the two?

 

dscn2248
Jungle like conditions in bird habitat at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

 

used-flower-garden
Formal gardens at Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile, Alabama.

Both are places where things grow.  Both are places where there are animals of various types.  Both are places of a variety of plants and trees and shrubs.  But one is wild – not structured – not subject to any control.  The other is under control and has an intentional structure; the garden is actively tended – continually groomed, monitored, fed and weeded so that the plants can grow to their fullest potential.  The jungle is ignored and unrestrained; there is no intentional structure, rather anything is allowed to grow without any attention or direction.

 

God, in creation, put man in the Garden.  Because of man’s sin, he was ejected from the Garden and thus exchanged the Garden for a jungle and chaos was substituted for God’s order.  Self-control, temperance, is the fruit of the Spirit which replaces the jungle of uncontrolled emotions, passions, violence and chaos with a desire for God and His order.  It is our restraint through the Holy Spirit that conquers the chaos of the flesh and allows us to embrace the life that our Lord desires us to have through His Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion but of order, harmony and self-control, and it is this self-control that we must nurture by reading our scripture, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and growth. 

 

What is the difference between self-control as a fruit of the Spirit and self-discipline or sheer willpower?

 

Paul provides a distinction between living by the flesh and in the spirit in Romans 8:13-14:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 

Again, Paul in Colossians 2:20-23 said:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

 

The self-control of the flesh is strict adherence to rules and regulations.  In contrast, the self-control from the Holy Spirit gives us restraint based on God’s strength, not on ours. 

 

We tend the garden of our heart by the exercise of self-control so that the weeds of the world cannot transform our garden into a jungle which is out of control and outside of God’s plan for us.

 

 

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.  

CLIMBING, HIDING AND SECURITY!

Do you ever feel like climbing the walls?  We saw a literal example of this several years ago when our grandsons would climb the wall – or rather door frame.

Climbing the walls
Climbing the wall, or the door frame, literally.

 

There certainly is no way I could do that, when I was his age or now (at a significantly older age!).   But, the fact that I cannot literally climb the wall is not an indication that I have never wanted to do so!  Tension, anxiety, questions, financial problems, health issues, decisions, worries, … you fill in the blank for your situation … all pile up and I would want to climb the wall, mentally if not physically.

 

Another response to tension or difficulty is the head in the sand attitude.  In our house, it more precisely should be called the MinPin in the blanket response because each of our canine daughters will go to the blankets on the floor, lap or chair and, literally, wrap themselves up, sometimes with a nose sticking out, but most often they will be totally covered.  [It is rather humorous when they begin walking out of the blanket, it looks like a blanket-ghost going along the floor!]

 

Snickers in blanket
Snickers wrapped in blanket with her nose sticking out, curious about what is going on outside the blanket.

 

I have felt like that too.  “Couldn’t I just stay in bed and not face the day?  It’s too hard, and there are too many problems to deal with, I just don’t want to face it … I can’t!”

 

Ralph Ransom is an American painter from Saint Joseph, Missouri who died in 1908, likely from tuberculosis, certainly struggled with problems.  He said:

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”

 

I would take Mr. Ransom’s statement one step farther.  For the Christian, “the very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid may be a major building block in our conformation to the image of Jesus Christ.

 

In the Christian life, we often find that the time we struggled and had to work hard through a situation or problem was, in fact, the time when we grew the most in our understanding of the love, mercy, and all-sufficient grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 8:29 says:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and sometimes it takes difficulties to bring us into that image.  The April 6, 2016, Presidential Prayer Team devotional, Vantage Point, was entitled the “Master Sculptor” and spoke to the connection between suffering and growth in our Christian life.  In part it read:

A little boy watched a sculptor begin chiseling a large block of marble. The sculptor worked meticulously until the slab looked like the face of Abraham Lincoln. “How did you do that?” the little boy asked. The sculptor said with a smile, “All I have to do is chip away everything that doesn’t look like Lincoln.”

Pain, persecution, stress and accusations are some of the struggles that believers in Christ often endure.  At the time, it may not be known exactly why the Lord has allowed them.  However, the loving Father uses trial to chip away at flaws in character.  He uses great care and thoughtfulness so that the end result will look like His Son.

Thank God, the Master Sculptor of your soul, for His work in your life and His dedication to your future. Whatever difficulties are happening with you personally (and in the nation), practice patience and trust that He will do His work carefully and creatively. Pray also that America’s leaders who are Christians will allow their trials to draw them to a closer relationship with the Lord and conform their lives to His purposes.  [Emphasis mine]

 

When we want to climb the wall, when we want to hide under the blanket, when we just don’t want to face the difficulty any more – turn your eyes to the Father and thank Him for the problem.  Take your eyes off the condition that confronts you and see the One who is in control of that condition.  See the Father working in your life to conform you to the image of His Son.

 

As unbelievable as it sounds to the unregenerate person, thank God for the difficulty and rest in Him to carry you through it. 

 

The reason we can thank God for whatever comes our way is the security that we have in Jesus Christ.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35.

 

Paul himself answers these questions in the following verses:

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 8:38-39

 

Life in this world is difficult … but we can be confident that the love of Christ will carry us from this world to an eternity with Him.  This world is short-lived and temporary; eternity is forever, which by the way is a very long time!

 

During difficult times we tend to focus on ourselves and our dastardly plight!  But, pull your eyes off yourself and look to the cross … look to the Savior … look to the Father who has you in His hands … look to the Son of God who secures you in Him.

 

Christian, be confident in the knowledge that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

 

Nothing.

 

Father, help me to remember that You are sovereign and in control of my life and all that happens to me.  Help me to recall, during difficult trials, that I am secure in Your love because of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Give me strength to face difficult times as I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.

LAUGHTER, JOY AND LOVE.

We live very close to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

Smoky Mountains vista
Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Picture taken of vista that is seen from Cades Cove.

 

In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a town at the entrance to the Park, there are many things for tourists to do, and among them is having your picture taken while you are dressed up in old-time garb. The resulting picture in sepia tones appears to be very old, perhaps of people who bear a striking resemblance of you but who lived generations ago.

 

One of the requirements when the picture is taken is that you have to look serious. I am told that holding a smile for a period of time is more difficult than holding a frown. Before the days of fast shutter speeds or digital photography, it took time for the image to be exposed, for example, for a tin-type. In short, you had to be still. If you smiled, your mouth would be a blur – if you frowned, or at least were serious, your mouth would be in focus.

 

Here is one picture where the children had an incredible level of seriousness, while Mom, who probably glanced at them just before the camera snapped, seemed to be ready to laugh.

 

old time family picture
Tourist picture of family taken by photographer at an “Old Tyme” studio in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Laughter – Joy – Love. What blessings from the Lord!

Laughter

When I think of laughter in Scripture, the first thought is of Sarah laughing when the angel of the Lord told her husband that she would have a child in her old age. See Genesis 18.

 

Actually, the word for “laughter” is not often used in the Scripture, but the Bible is replete with times that people reveled in the joy that the Lord their God gave to them. I can’t help but think that, in the midst of the glorious joy that they had, the people in Scripture laughed – not in derision, but in sheer joy!

Joy

What can be more infectious than a child’s joy!

 

Happy baby girl (C)
Smiling baby girl showing her joy at her surroundings.

 

The Psalmist wrote numerous psalms about joy, of which this is an example:

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11 [ESV]

 

Paul wrote in Romans:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 [ESV]

 

Luke characterized the disciples as follows:

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 [ESV]

 

What can be more infectious than the joy of a small child? The Joy that the believer has in his/her Lord and Savior. It is a glorious gift from the Holy Spirit.

Love

The number of Scripture passages that deal with love are myriad – the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the love we should have for each other – love is written throughout the pages of Scripture. For example:

 

The Psalmist says:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6 [ESV]

 

When I think of God’s love, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, the cross. But the image that speaks to me about Jesus’ love for His sheep is this one that is hanging in our study at home. The lamb is resting so comfortably on His shoulder and it is being held so tenderly by the nail scarred hands of the Lord.

 

Picture hanging in our office
Picture representing the Lord Jesus holding a lamb on His shoulder. His nail pierced hand is shown and the lamb is secure in His loving grip.

 

Paul, in Romans 5, provides this picture in words when he says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8 [ESV]

 

Sometimes we want to laugh but the occasion does not warrant it – but even then, our eyes can shine with the joy that we are experiencing. God did not create us without feelings – He clearly wants us to experience laughter, joy and love.

 

While the world experiences a type of joy and love, the fruit of the Spirit encompasses joy and love on an entirely different level. It is joy that is not based on circumstances but on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Spirit that indwells the believer. We will consider the fruit of the Spirit next week when the new series begins on The Ruminant Scribe blog site.

 

Ask the Lord to give you glimpses of His joy and His love through His Spirit. You will be glad you did.

 

Father, thank You for granting to us the incredible blessing of emotions and feelings so that we can experience the summit of love and waves of joy. And, thank You for being with us when we experience difficulties and trials, too. Thank You, Sovereign Lord, for providing us with the Holy Spirit Who gives to us your joy and love now and for all eternity.  We praise your holy name.