FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

When we were in England, we had the opportunity to visit the city of Bath.  It was a fascinating day as we saw the Roman baths, the wall around the city, and the Abbey.

 

Bath 6
Looking down a street in Bath, England

The town is quaint — who could resist this shop of Cornish delicacies!

Bath 5

The hot springs that existed there were known to people in the area for centuries prior to the Romans’ arrival.  According to the Victorian churchman Edward Churton, Bath was known as “Akemanchester” (translated “aching men’s cry”) during the Anglo-Saxon period, this name referencing the reputation the baths had for healing the sick.  

However, the city of Bath became a world-renowned spa in 60 A.D. when the Romans built public baths and a temple. 

Bath 13

Massive sculptures of Roman gods and soldiers line the colonnade around the baths, dwarfing the tourists visiting the area. 

Bath 19

In the Pump Room, the restaurant that is attached to the baths facility, there is this fountain which provides hot drinking water for those who desire it.  The thermal springs that made Bath famous thousands of years ago are still providing warm rejuvenation for people in the modern era. 

Fountain of hot spring water at Bath England
Fountain of hot spring water from the thermal spring that has provided hot water for millenia.

Of course, one of the most imposing structures in the city of Bath is Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th century.   An incredibly ornate, beautiful building complete with leaded stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings.  

100_3127
Bath Abbey

We were mesmerized by the town, its history and its beauty.  But we are not the only people who loved the place!

Folliott Pierpoint [1835-1917], a classical scholar who lived a rather leisurely life, loved his hometown of Bath, England.  It is thought that the loveliness of the area inspired Pierpoint to write this hymn in 1864 when he was 29 years of age.  While he wrote other hymns and poetry, this is his most remembered and cherished hymn.

It was originally written as a Eucharistic hymn with the title “The Sacrifice of Praise”.  The repeated refrain was :

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
This, our sacrifice of praise.

Later, the refrain’s text was changed to read:

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

And, it is these words, rather than the original words, that we find in most hymnals today.  The hymn praises God for a host of beauties, indeed, they are things that we encounter in everyday living, but which we often fail to appreciate:  the beauty of the earth and skies, the beauty of each hour, the joy of ear and eye, and the joy of human love.  Moreover, it includes thanksgiving for the church and for our Christ. 

Listen to this hymn that began in Bath, England and marched around the world in celebration of the great gifts from our God and our Savior Jesus Christ.  

In lifting your heart and your voice in thanksgiving, you are acting in accordance with both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.  Consider these passages from Psalms and 2 Corinthians:

” To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 30:4

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Psalm 57:9

“Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”

Psalm 145:10

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11-2

This Thanksgiving holiday, stop and thank God for the multitude of blessings that He has bestowed on us each and every moment of every day. 

Then, make it a priority to give thanks to our God each day, not just on the secular day of Thanksgiving.  Make gratitude your “default position” … putting thanksgiving at the top of your list daily.  You will be edifying our God and you will be encouraging your own heart in so doing.  And, the Holy Spirit will be able to work in you in ways that will surprise and excite you.

Be thankful in all things.  Bless His Holy Name!

Father, may we see Your blessings and gifts to us every day.  Open our eyes so that we can recognize the gifts that you so bountifully grant to us moment by moment and then may we give thanks in humble gratitude and recognition that we cannot do anything on our own, it is all through Your grace and love that we even exist, let alone thrive.  Thank You Father.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE, PART TWO

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 14

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART TWO

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

 

What does Scripture say?

 

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

 

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

Exodus 34:6

 

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

Jonathan Edwards expressed it like this:

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Genesis 50:20

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

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

  • We meekly bear with the injuries received from others.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Psalm 18:25, 26

 

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

Matthew 6:14-15

 

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

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

CONTENTMENT – A BIBLICAL POSTURE!

We see something on television about a new product that makes us consider whether our older version of the same thing is still a viable alternative for use. Or, we see something that our neighbor has purchased and it appears to be better than what we have so we want to “upgrade”, shall we say!

 

You know the feeling … that discontent with what we have or with what we are doing?

 

We compare ourselves with others and, somehow, we way too often come up lacking.

  • If only I had that job instead of this one…
  • If only my hair would …
  • If only I had received that promotion …
  • If only I had that house, or car, or dress, instead of this one …
  • If only I was as slender as that lady …
  • If only my children were like theirs …
  • If only …

 

Our canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers, illustrate this discontent quite often when they both vie for the same toy even though the toy box is filled with other playthings, sometimes even a duplicate of that which they are fighting over.

 

Cuddles and Snickers tug of war
This is mine! Get your own!

 

Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when people are mistreated and abused and there is a legitimate reason for the hurt that is felt. We must work to resolve those issues and/or injustices.

 

I am referring to discontent that is also known as covetousness. I can hear the voices now. “I know that the tenth commandment is ‘Thou Shall Not Covet’!  I don’t do that!”

 

Really?

 

That was my first response when I was reading an article entitled “Thou Shall Not Covet” by Jason Helopoulos in the June 2015 Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries.   His words were convicting in the first order. In speaking of the reason that coveting is so harmful, he states:

Coveting pulls the heart down into the pit of self-seeking and the muck and mire of envy, slander, adultery, pride, dishonor, murder, thievery, and idolatry. It has rightly been said that when we break any of the first nine commandments, we also break the tenth commandment.

 

For us to combat covetousness, first we need to follow Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6:33:

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

 

As a youth, I sang a song  that said something like this:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  When our eyes are on the Lord and His gracious gifts to us, the things of earth will begin to dim in our eyes.

 

Second, we need to follow the example of Paul:

I have learned in whatever situation to be content.

Philippians 4:11b.

 

Contentment is not something we can buy, fight for or grab – it is something in which we should rest. God is sovereign and He, therefore, knows exactly what we need and His grace is sufficient for every trial.   Quoting Rev. Helopoulos again:

If God thought it was good for us to have more, he would give us more. Every Christian rightly seeks to maintain this mind-set. And when this is the case, what joy contentment brings to the Christian life.

 

Third, we should be thankful. Thankfulness forms a hedge around us enabling us to focus on God rather than on the transient things that form our world.   It is hard to be thankful when you are coveting that which others have. Likewise, it is hard to be discontented when you are thankful for the blessings provided by our Sovereign God.

 

As a result of polio, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis (twisting of the spine) when I was 6 years old. When I was 9 years of age, I was put into a body cast and then had surgery to try to stop the twisting that would otherwise have taken my life by age 25.  Although I was in the body cast for over a year, I didn’t miss any school because I had a home-bound teacher from the Chicago school system.

Linda on hospital cart revised
This was me in the body cast. It began behind my head and then it encompassed my body all the way down to my hips and then to my left knee.   I could not raise my head, even to read a book or see television.  That is why I wore prism glasses so I could look through them and see what was in the room, rather than just the ceiling.

 

Rather than being thankful for the healing that was going on in my body, I was crying one day when she came into my room .  Rather than giving me a shoulder to cry on, she demanded “What’s wrong with you!” My response was a feeble, “Because I’m in a body cast!” She then taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten over the 55 years since she spoke these words:

“You are crying over a temporary thing. A child down the street has brittle bones and there is no cure … she breaks a bone when she turns in bed and she is constantly in excruciating pain. Now, what is wrong with spending some time in bed … you have a determined end to your procedure, she does not! So I ask you again, ‘Why are you crying?’”

 

Although I could not articulate it then, through the decades since she said those words, I have found them to be true … when you are hurting, when there are problems and difficulties that are overwhelming, just open your eyes and look around and you will find others who have problems far more difficult than your own. This will put your burdens in perspective.

 

While it is tempting to keep your eyes on your own pain and problems, engaging in self-pity is never productive. Step back from the situation. Don’t become discontented. Rather, look to the Lord, rest in God’s unfailing grace and give Him thanks for His loving hand that encompasses you even when you are not aware of it and problems abound. Psalm 139 states that God knows our every move, word and action. And, nowhere in scripture are these verses revoked.

 

When things are difficult, when pain has set in and when your world is in a cataclysmic nose-dive, you can trust that your Lord has you in His hands and that God knows exactly what is going on.   I don’t mean that he will immediately fix whatever the situation is, but you can rest assured that His grace and comfort will be poured out to help you through the trial.

 

Discontentment – while it often is a reality, it is always sin. I must acknowledge that it is a sin and then repent, look to my Lord and give Him thanks for the salvation that He provides to me. Indeed, even the breath that I breathe is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult our life is on this earth, it is for a short time – eternal life granted by our Lord is for, well, eternity!

 

Now, what about you?

 

Discontented? Confess, repent and allow His comfort to encompass you. Praise His Name and be thankful. Discontentment will vanish, and you will be able to live life to the fullest in His grace and love.

 

Father, forgive me for whining and crying about my circumstances when You have them in your control and your grace and mercy has lifted me above my circumstances.  Forgive me when I sink in the muck and mire of discontentment rather than realizing that You have already lifted me into your Courts through Christ my Lord and Savior.  May I praise your Name today.